Despite not being considered as highly as the books of the Old Testament, the pages of the Apocrypha are still of great value. Because, whilst the church doesn’t rely on the Apocrypha alone for any of its teaching, it still has much to teach.
Take the story of Bel—one of the additions to the book of Daniel. The story of Bel teaches us of our need for guidance, the need for us all to have some help. And that is particularly so in our journey of faith. Because there are some things that can look genuine, but they are not right or genuine at all.
Now Cyrus of Persia was convinced that Bel was a god—that he was genuine. And the reason he was convinced, was that each night Bel seemed to eat and drink all the food and drink that had been given. And he would have happily continued in his ignorance, if it were not for the fact that Daniel, a godly man, became involved in the search for the truth. Indeed, Daniel revealed that Bel wasn’t a god at all—that the whole thing was a charade. Furthermore, it was something that even Cyrus should have seen.
Now, whenever someone tells me that they are a believer, but they just don’t feel the need to go to church, I shudder. Whenever people say that they don’t need church, warning bells start to ring. Because in the world that we live in, there are plenty of people who have no scruples, and it is very easy to get taken in. Indeed, there are plenty of ideas about, that sound perfectly plausible in a particular light, but in the cold light of day are not very plausible at all.
Now I can’t tell you how many versions of the Christian faith I’ve ever heard. Dozens, if not hundreds of versions. And yet the bible teaches us that there is only one version. The others are all false. So, on a technical point of view, yes, we can be believers without going to church—because we’re saved by faith, not by works. But with all the deceit and lies we face, it’s not easy to get it right. And as the story of Cyrus demonstrates, that we too need the support of fellow believers to keep us on track.
And surely that’s what the story is about. Because at the end of the story, Cyrus the Persian realises that he had needed someone to point out the obvious—the footprints in the ashes, that had been plainly there for him to see all the time. It was obvious, but he needed someone to point them out.
So, Cyrus needed help, and from time to time we need help too. Someone to point out even the things that are plain to see. Because, in our search for religious truth, it can be so easy to be taken in by something that looks genuine (only it isn’t). So, we need to surround ourselves with godly people who can help, to show us the things that we miss. We all need to be accompanied by those who are willingly point them out.
Posted: 10th August 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis