The town of Antioch on the Mediterranean Sea was an early center of Christian ministry. This was the church that sponsored Paul and His pioneering outreach to the Gentiles.
During the third century, the beloved Christian Babylas, was martyred. His body was buried in a grove by the Orontes River. His burial place was the former site of a shrine to the pagan god Apollo. In the fourth century, the emperor Julian came to power. Julian was a pagan and wanted to steer the empire back to the pagan gods. Part of his strategy involved sprucing up pagan worship centers – like the one on the banks of the Orontes River. For that to happen, Babylas’ body had to be removed (it would not do for such a notable Christian to be buried on a pagan god’s temple site). Julian ordered the exhumation.
It is said that when the Christians dug up his body and moved it to another site, they chanted Psalm 97. Here is just a portion of what they proclaimed: “Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods. Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Your judgments, O LORD. For You, LORD, are most high above all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods. You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name” (Psa. 97:7-12).
In essence, they were saying, “You can have your Apollo. We have a God who rules over all the earth. You can make us move our dear beloved’s body, but we know where his soul is. You can make life difficult for us, but we have a source of light and joy you know nothing about. The Lord protects us, and so we are happy in Him.”
What a great message for us. Sometimes the forces of unbelief and paganistic practices cause us difficulty upon the earth. But, always remember, if we are faithful to God we have something greater. “The Lord reigns” (Psa. 97:1). Does He reign in your life?
Broadway church of Christ