Synopsis 2Maccabees 8:5-18 4/8/2021
Judas Maccabeus organized fellow Jews into a militia. And the militia fought successfully against the foreign armies sent by King Antiochus. He succeeded, in part, by attacking the enemy at night.
Eventually, Philip sent Nicanor and Gorgias to fight against the Maccabees. The goal of this army was to capture more Jews and make them slaves. And the plan was to then sell the slaves to raise money.
Judas Maccabeus discovered the enemy plot. And he shared the information with his followers. However, many deserted from the militia. And so, he was left with only six thousand men against the enemy force of over twenty-two thousand.
Judas encouraged his men by reminding them that they were fighting for the ancestral land and the Jewish way of life. He observed the enemy’s trust in the size and sophistication of their army.
But, in contrast, we trust the Almighty God who controls the outcome of every battle.
Trust in the Lord
God controls the outcomes and circumstances of my life. In truth, this flows in respect and response to my free choice. But, in the end, God remains in control.
“Some rely on chariots, others on horses, but we on the name of the LORD our God.”Psa 20:7
Synopsis 2Maccabees 7:28-8:4 4/7/2021
King Antiochus outlawed all Jewish religious practices. For enforcement, he executed anyone who refused to renounce Judaism.
As a part of his effort to repress Judaism, he personally oversaw the torture and execution of seven brothers. The brothers were murdered in front of their mother in age order beginning from the oldest. Each, in turn, confessed their faith in God. And none of them renounced Judaism.
As the last son died, he expressed hope. Of course, part of his hope was in the future resurrection. But another part of his hope was that his sacrifice would somehow help to “end the wrath of the Almighty”. After the last son died, his mother was also executed.
From his hiding place in the mountains, Judas Maccabeus observed all that was happening in Jerusalem. And so, he came to his kin at night and began quietly enlisting a militia. When the men gathered, they cried out to God for relief from the foreign invaders.
Brothers Sacrifice for the Community
The brothers hoped that somehow their sacrifice might contribute to appeasing God’s wrath. And so, they willingly died. In this way, they meant to preserve their integrity. But they also hoped that their suffering somehow helped the community of their fellow Jews.
Sacrifice for Community
It is a deeply mysterious idea. In this life, you and I can hope that somehow the afflictions we suffer in faith contribute to the wellbeing of the church at large.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” Col 1:24
Synopsis 2Maccabees 7:12-27 4/6/2021
King Antiochus directed the torture and killing of seven Jewish brothers. They were all sons of one mother. And the king forced her to be with her sons. He wanted her to see them killed one by one.
The king had outlawed the Jewish religion. So, his purpose in torturing and killing the brothers was to get them to renounce Judaism. He thought eventually one would capitulate.
However, the mother urged her sons to remain faithful even in the face of torture and death. And so, the first six died terrible, painful deaths. The king finally came to the seventh son. At this point, he began to marvel at their courage and faithfulness. But he wanted to make an example of them. So, for the seventh son, he offered to release him if him renounced Judaism. But more than that, he offered him riches and power.
Still the seventh son refused. And so, he was killed. And finally, King Antiochus directed the mother to be executed.
Faithful Seventh Son
The king was desperate for a convert. And so, he offered liberty as well as riches and power. And yet, the value he offered was not enough to move the seventh son.
“Knowing Jesus Christ is the highest good.”
Of course, if this is true, it will be obviously manifest in my manner of life.
“More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Phil 3:8
Synopsis 2Maccabees 6:29-7:11 4/5/2021
King Antiochus outlawed Judaism. So, anyone who refused to renounce the Jewish religion was tortured and executed.
Eleazer was a scribe who refused to renounce Jewish faith. And so, he was mercilessly killed.
Not long after, there was a Jewish woman with seven sons. King Antiochus personally directed the torture of her sons. However, as she witnessed the horrible treatment, she encouraged her sons to remain faithful.
And the sons did remain faithful. Eventually, one by one, each of them died. As they did, each one confessed their faith in God’s goodness despite their terrible circumstances. Specifically, they professed faith in their anticipation of resurrection life.
Resurrection of the Seven Sons
One hundred eighty years before the Christ’s birth, faithful Jews expressed belief in resurrection life. They believed that in a final reckoning day, faithful men and women would be restored to full bodily life through resurrection.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And He said, “Remain in Me as I remain in you.”
This is the choice each of us has to make.
“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live” John 11:25
Synopsis 2Maccabees 6:12-28 4/2/2021
King Antiochus outlawed all Jewish religious customs. He intended to destroy Jewish religion forever.
As the author points out, this was not because God intended to destroy the Law of Moses or the people. To the contrary, God’s purpose was to chastise Judea because of its sins. God intended to purify Israel through this chastisement.
After King Antiochus declared Jewish worship illegal, local leaders devised tests and trials to identify and execute faithful Jews. One of these tests required the Jewish people to eat pork. Should a Jew refuse the pork, then he was tortured to death.
In Jerusalem, there lived a faithful old scribe. He was revered by all men, even the tormentors. When it came for his time to eat pork, he refused. This alarmed the tormentors. And so, they took Eleazer off to the side to speak with him. They offered to bring some meat from a ceremonially clean animal that would not offend him. All they asked was that he pretend the meat was pork. Then, he could eat some of the ceremonially clean meat and be done with the scrutiny.
However, Eleazer refused. He knew the meaning of his example. And he anticipated that God would reward him in the resurrection for his faithfulness.
Eleazer persevered in well-doing even though it cost his life.
In its essence, faith means to treat Jesus like the person He is. It means to believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
“Because of it the ancients were well attested.” Heb 11:2
Synopsis 2Maccabees 5:22-6:11 4/1/2021
King Antiochus sacked Jerusalem. And he stole all the wealth from both the city and the temple. Afterward, he left Philip, Andronicus and Menelaus behind to harass the Jews.
Not long after this, the king sent Apollonius with a large army. Apollonius led his army into Jerusalem. Once there, he pretended not to threaten the Jews. However, he deliberately waited for the sabbath day to launch an attack. On that day, he massacred all the Jews who refused to flee or fight. He knew that faithful Jews would not defend themselves on the sabbath.
But Judas Maccabeus and his family heard about the destruction in Jerusalem. So, they escaped to the mountains. In order to avoid contact with the invaders, they lived like wild animals eating only what they could find.
Meanwhile, the king’s men trampled the temple. Specifically, the temple was defiled by unclean sacrifices and debauchery.
After this, King Antiochus altogether outlawed traditional Jewish worship in Jerusalem.
Not long after the first proclamation, the regional governors outlawed Judaism throughout Seleucid Empire.
The empire outlawed the practice of Judaism.
The persecution that comes from the Synthetic Community has two effects. First, it sorts faithful followers from unfaithful followers.
And second, it manifests God’s power by contrasting it in the face of humankinds’ envy and hatred.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” 2Cor 4:8-10
Synopsis 2Maccabees 5:7-21 3/31/2021
Jason was the old High Priest. After Menelaus betrayed him, he fled Jerusalem. And he went to live in Ammon. However, when Menelaus offended the people, Jason attempted to replace him. But, his efforts failed. So, he fled once again.
Jason ended up living out his days in Sparta. In that far off foreign city, he died alone. There was none to bury him or mourn his death.
Meanwhile, King Antiochus invaded Egypt. But the Romans prevented him from sacking the wealth of the nation. Unfortunately, it was during this time Jerusalem rioted. Antiochus wrongly interpreted the riots as rebellion against the empire instead of protest against Menelaus.
As a result, King Antiochus departed Egypt with his army bound for Jerusalem. When he arrived, he sacked the city and looted the temple. With Menelaus’ assistance, he stole unimaginable wealth and took it to Antioch.
Antiochus Sacked Jerusalem
King Antiochus stole the wealth of the Jewish nation. This devastated the people.
Everything is Lost
There is nothing more difficult than accepting the loss of everything you imagined your life would be. Freedom looks different than I ever imagined.
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matt 5:4
Synopsis 2Maccabees 4:40-5:6 3/30/2021
Lysimachus and Menelaus continued to steal from the temple. As their thefts became known, the people of Jerusalem acted. Specifically, they rioted. In the riot, Lysimachus was killed.
So, at a trial, the king judged between Menelaus and the leaders of the riot. In the end, he found the rioters guilty and Menelaus not guilty. The leaders of the riots were executed. And Menelaus returned to the high priesthood.
Before Menelaus outbid Jason for the job, Jason served as the High Priest. As a result, after Menelaus became High Priest, Jason went into exile in Ammon. So, after the chaotic trial, Jason perceived that Menelaus was weak. So, he returned and attacked Jerusalem with foreign troops. However, Menelaus took refuge in the citadel. In the end, Jason returned to his exile after killing many Jews.
Menelaus impudently violated the temple. And this rightly offended the people.
They hated Menelaus’ evil. But because of the king’s injustice, the people felt powerless to do anything about it. As a result, a power vacuum formed. Systemic injustice is the Achilles’ heel of the synthetic community.
My temptation is to look at the injustice common in our world and wonder. I want to blame someone or something.
So, I hear myself saying, “Where is God? Why doesn’t He make things right?”
“How long, LORD, shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked glory?” Psa 94:3
Synopsis 2Maccabees 4:26-39 3/29/2021
Jason outbid his brother Onias to become the High Priest. Later, when it was time for Jason to pay tribute, he sent Menelaus to the king. Menelaus was his ambassador.
However, Menelaus was ambitious. And so, while he was with the king, he outbid Jason for the high priesthood. As a result, Jason sought asylum with the Ammonites. After this, Menelaus commissioned Lysimachus as his ambassador.
But Menelaus failed to pay the king the promised amount. So, through a series of mishaps, Menelaus and Lysimachus stole gold articles from the temple. And then, Onias discovered the theft and reported it.
In order to stop Onias, Menelaus persuaded one of the king’s friends to kill Onias. However, when the king heard of the assassination, he grieved. So in response, King Antiochus executed the assassin.
Despite all of this, Menelaus and Lysimachus continued to steal from the temple.
Menelaus Priest of Ambition
In all Israelite history, selfish ambition was never so raw as Menelaus. Not content with the high priesthood, he used his position to increase his wealth and power. But even this was not enough. Instead, he deliberately worked to undermine and destroy Judaism.
Selfish ambition blinds me like no other force. When I reign solo as the king of my own little universe, I legitimize a billion other universes to do the same.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.” Psa 1:1
Synopsis 2Maccabees 4:11-24 3/25/2021
With money from the temple treasury, Jason purchased the High Priesthood. In this way, he displaced his brother Onias. And almost immediately, he set aside the Law of Moses. What’s more, he introduced Greek customs to the Jewish community.
As a result, the priests became indifferent to the Jewish sacrificial system. The cultural emphasis shifted to adopting Greek ways. Of course, this included the gymnasium and other practices that were disgusting to orthodox Jews.
Oddly enough, despite the popular move to become more Greek in their customs, the Jews became despised by the very people they worked to emulate. And, in the end, Jason was supplanted by his own ambassador Menalaus.
Highest Bidder Priesthood
God originally established the High Priesthood through the Law of Moses. Of course, since the time of Moses, only Aaron’s descendants served as High Priests. But when the Greek speaking Seleucid Empire controlled Israel, the king chose the High Priest.
As a result, the priesthood became a sovereign appointment. And the king chose whoever was willing to pay the most.
In this way, the Synthetic Community attempted to control the Authentic Community.
But authentic leadership makes present the possibility of salvation to the sinner. So, there is no room for selfish ambition. Its entire purpose is to introduce the mercy of God.
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1Cor 1:18