Photo courtesy of historic.brussels on Flickr.
By Lisa Nordell-Detres
Over the past few months, I have been reading accounts of Christians in the Middle East, Asia, India and Africa who are being killed for their faith in Jesus. As I read through II Chronicles 24 the other day, I read about what appears to be the first martyr, a man named Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the Jewish high priest, who lived during the end of the reign of Joash. All stories of martyrdom are sad, but this seems to mark a turn for the worst in the life on Joash, who was crowned king of Judah at the age of seven and spent the better part of his life serving God and rebuilding the Temple.
Apparently, after Jehoiada died, Joash lost his way and allowed idol worship in Judah. The Bible says that “wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespasses,” (II Chronicles 24:18b) and that God sent prophets to them to try and bring them back to Him, but they would not listen. after that, Zechariah boldly stood before the people and told them that the source of their troubles was because they had forsaken God. This led to Joash ordering his death, in the Temple! Jesus even mentioned this tragic murder in Matthew 23:35. What stands out about this first Biblical account of martyrdom is that it was ordained by a good king gone bad and carried out by Zechariah’s own countrymen.
While it is impossible to know how many faithful men and women have been martyred since Zechariah’s time, the fact is that it still happens today. Hebrews 11:35-38 discusses the fate of some of the martyrs and then beautifully summarizes those who made the ultimate sacrifice: “The world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:38a, NIV) We need to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering right now for their faith in Christ and remember the example of those who have gone before us, faithfully serving God to the very end.
Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to two boys with a third on the way (!), a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside.
Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon.