Synopsis 1Maccabees 7:16-35 1/26/2021
King Demetrius ruled the Syrian empire. Soon after he became king, he appointed Alcimus as be High Priest in Jerusalem. And, he sent Bacchides, a military officer, to enforce the appointment.
As High Priest, Alcimus used his authority to take advantage of the people. And so, Judas Maccabeus soon opposed him. Specifically, he made it impossible for those men taking advantage of the people to safely travel from one town to another. As a result, Alcimus fled Jerusalem and returned to King Demetrius to complain about Maccabeus.
King Demetrius sent a ruthless governor named Nicanor to fight Judas and his brothers. However, Nicanor was unable to stop Judas militarily. So, he went to the temple. And he demanded that they give Judas Maccabeus to him as a prisoner. If they failed his demand, he threatened the destroy the temple.
The Law of Moses made provision for the priests and the Levites whose work was to minister in the temple. As recipient of the tithe, they received a substantial income for their efforts.
But Alcimus used his position as High Priest in order to take advantage of the people. His sin was similar to to sons of Eli, who used their position to take more than the portion God had assigned to priests. And they also used their position to gain inappropriate power and pleasures from the people.
A Worker Worth His Wage
God calls me to be content with what He provides. So, true freedom means embracing His will by eliminating the expectation that what He has given will always be pleasant.. And this alone allows God’s purpose to work in me and through me.
“But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” Matt 20:25-27
Synopsis 1Maccabees 6:58-7:15 1/25/2021
After his father died, King Antiochus Eupator became king. He ruled with the help of his tutor, Lysias. Together the two men decided to crush the Jewish rebellion once and for all.
So, they assembled a massive army of more than one hundred twenty thousand men. And then, they invaded Judea.
Antiochus’ forces greatly outnumbered the Jews. Although the Jews fought valiently, Judas ended up leading his forces in retreat back into the mountains. So, Antiochus took Jerusalem without resistance.
However, the temple had been fortified. So, Antiochus besieged the temple mount. Although it looked hopeless for the Jews in the temple fortress, political intrigue changed everything.
During the siege, a man named Philip attempted to take over as king. So, Antiochus and Lysias quit their siege and made peace with the Jews so they could return to their capital and deal with Philip.
As a result, the Jews regained the right to practice their traditional religion.
When they returned to the capital, Antiochus and Lysias killed Philip. However, the next year another contender for the throne showed up. His name was Demetrius. And this time, Demetrius killed Antiochus and Lysias.
Almost immediately, Demetrius assigned Alcimus as the Jewish high priest and sent a military governor to enforce the assignment.
Philip swore and oath to Antiochus to help his son lead. And the king trusted Philip. However, Philip decided to use the opportunity to make himself king. This eroded Antiochus Eurpator’s authority. And it made him vulnerable to Demetrius.
In ironic contrast, the Jews trusted in God alone. So, Antiochus conducted a terrible siege against them. But in the end, God’s people prevailed because Philip was unfaithful.
Trusting in the faithfulness of another man always comes with risk. Will the other be faithful to their promises?
But a Christ follower knows that God is always sovereign, even in the affairs of men. And so, right conduct focuses on pleasing God even when conducting earthly affairs. In this way, even if other human beings fail, there is room for the wisdom and righteousness of God to form a testimony concerning His faithfulness.
Synopsis 1Maccabees 6:37-57 1/22/2021
King Antiochus Euraptor was the son of King Antiochus who had persecuted the Jews. After his father’s death he ruled with Lysias
Because Judas Maccabeus was so effective in past battles, foreigners living in Jerusalem were ejected. As a result, the foreigners complained to the new king. And the new king, along with Lysias, decided to solve the problem. So, they assembled an unimaginably large army equipped with the latest technology.
Judas Maccabeus and his forces went out to fight this army. And initially they killed about six hundred. However, they subsequently retreated and fled as the full force of the army moved against them. As a result, Antiochus’ army ended up capturing Jerusalem.
Almost immediately they began a siege of Mount Zion and the Temple Mount, which Judas had reinforced. And almost immediately, the food began to run out in the temple. And yet, just in time, Antiochus and Lysias received word that Philip had arrived back in Antioch. And he was threatening the new king’s reign.
So, the king and Lysias decided to withdraw.
God Saves Maccabeus Just In Time
No human effort could have resisted Antiochus’ army. And yet, Judas Maccabeus was faithful. He fought. Then, the Jews resisted in the besieged temple. As a result, God delivered them through political intrigue.
This was an unimaginable outcome for the Jews. In their minds, they could not have conceived that God would save them from a terrible siege by creating a political enemy to threaten these enemies of the Jews.
Just In Time God
In Isaiah, it is written that God declares the outcome before anything is actually done.
There is freedom in letting go. There is a remarkable, faith-building joy in seeing God consistently meet the needs and challenges before me, sometime just in the moment I desperately need them.
But, there is a cost to gaining freedom. And part of this cost is remaining committed to act in harmony with God even though I realize that He remains in control.
Judas Maccabeus went out to battle even though he trusted that God controlled the outcome. Likewise, may I act intensely in accordance with what I know God has asked of me in this moment. And then, may I be willing to accept what comes generously from His hand in accordance with His good plans for my life and the lives of others.
“At the beginning I declare the outcome; from of old, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every desire.” Isa 4:10
Synopsis 1Maccabees 6:15-36 1/21/2021
Depressed and ashamed, King Antiochus died after his failed campaign in Persia. But before dying, he empowered his friend Philip to lead the empire and advise his son. However, back in the capital city, Lysias had already crowned his son as King Antiochus Eupator.
Meanwhile, back in Judea, Judas Maccabeus stormed the citadel and captured it. This displaced the last foreign soldiers in Jerusalem. As a result, the foreigners living in the region complained to Lysias and the new king.
As a result, the new king, together with Lysias, assembled a huge army and invaded Judea a second time. The army was unlike any invading army previously sent. It was comprised of one hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty-thousand calvary, and thirty-two elephants specially trained for war.
The presence of the vast, professionally trained army was terrifying. Even so, Judas advanced his undersized army to a nearby camp in preparation for battle.
Facing the Military Giants
Judas Maccabeus was familiar with fighting oversized armies. In previous battles, he explained to his soldiers that God alone determined the outcome of battle. And so, he trusted God alone for the outcome as long as he was doing God’s will.
However, Eupator and Lysias’ army was an ultimate test. Not only was it vast in numbers, but it enjoyed the most advanced military technology of this time period. So, by any human measure, standing against this army was utter foolishness.
And yet, Judas had the temerity to stand.
The Victory Belongs to the Lord
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve questioned whether God was trustworthy. In the end, they decided He wasn’t. This was the true essence of their sin.
And I inherited this natural tendency to mistrust God.
So, as His response in grace, God gives me opportunities to learn to trust Him. Of course, he doesn’t start me out facing unimaginably large armies determined to kill me. Instead, he starts me out in a little way. In a moment that seems to mean little in the context of my overall life, He gives a person in need of love.
And if I trust Him enough to respond in love to what He has given, then I’m on my way. With that, I begin to learn to trust Him. So, in trusting him, I become what God always intended.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” 1John 4:18
Synopsis 1Maccabees 5:65-6:14 1/20/2021
Judas Maccabeus had forced the Seleucid army out of Judea. And he had brought back the Jews living east of the Jordan to the safety of Judea.
After these things, he attacked the Edomites, who had helped Lysias and his generals fight against Israel. At this time, he captured Hebron and destroyed the Edomite strongholds. Then he led his army west to Azotus. This city was formally known as Ashdod located along the Mediterranean Sea. After he conquered the city, he led his army back to Judea.
During this time, King Antiochus was in the eastern provinces of his kingdom. He had taken his army for conquest in order to raise money for his treasury. However, he failed to conquer Elam, the wealthy Persian city.
About the time of this loss, he received the reports concerning the rebellion of Judea. Because of these reports, the king lamented how poorly he had treated the Judeans. As a result, he fell into a deep emotional depression from which he did not recover. So, he transferred his powers as king to Philip.
In separate wars, King Antiochus lost to the Persians and to Judas Maccabeus at about the same time. Upon reflection, Antiochus lamented his behavior against the Jews. He recognized that his injustice against them provoked their revolt.
So, he knew the whole time his behavior was morally wrong. But he repressed this in order to expedite his vision for the kingdom. However, as he faced death, his former pretense was stripped bare. As a result, he became aware that he was responsible for his own demise. In the end, he felt ashamed.
My tendency is to justify and dismiss the sinful things that I do. But this habit only leads to anxiety because of the unresolved shame that lurks beneath my conscience. I sometimes repress my guilt so thoroughly that I remain consciously unaware until something, or someone, provokes my memory. And then the shame becomes palpable and seemingly inescapable.
Perhaps I’m not alone in this.
What I’ve learned is the ancient tradition of examination of conscience, confession and reconciliation. If more people understood the grace of this sacrament, the world would be an entirely different place. Specifically, there would be less anxiety and less shame. And there would be greater freedom to love and forgive.
I keep the LORD always before me; with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.” Psa 16:8
Synopsis 1Maccabees 5:45-64 1/19/2021
After defeating the Greek forces in Gilead, Judas gathered all the Jews living there. He had them load up their families and belongings. And then the entire community began to march toward Judea.
The road led through Ephron, a city east of the Jordan. But the people there would not allow the Jews to pass. So, Judas attacked the city and destroyed it. Then the Jews passed through. Afterward, they crossed the Jordan. And then they went and offered sacrifices at the temple because not one man had been killed.
However, while Judas and his brothers were away, Joseph and Zacariah decided to attempt their own military adventure. They called the home forces together and formed an army to attack the Greeks stationed at Jamnia. However, the Greeks soundly defeated the Jews. In fact, nearly two thousand Jews died killed in a single day.
Return to Judea
Gilead was a pleasant land. So much so that the tribes of Reuben and Manasseh chose this place as the alternative to entering the Promised Land with the rest of Israel. Now, it’s not clear that Judas Maccabeus was working with actual descendants from those tribes. But, these Jews had chosen to live far away from Jerusalem and God’s presence in the temple.
So, after defeating Timothy’s army, he strongly encouraged the people to relocate to Judea. Together they returned to the safety and proximity of God’s presence.
Returning to God
This world offers many pleasantries. So, it is an easy trap to become attached to one worldly delight or another. But the deepest security and satisfaction are the result of staying close to God. In the Word, in the Eucharist, in the daily experiences of life – seek God first!
Synopsis 1Maccabees 5:27-44 1/18/2021
Timothy was a Seleucid general. Twice he had been defeated by Judas Maccabeus. So, for a while, he withdrew his forces from Judea. But then, he began to persecute Jewish communities that lived as minorities in nearby regions.
Of course, Judas Maccabeus heard the report of Timothy’s persecution. So, he set out for Gilead. He and his forces marched several days. Upon arriving, they attacked Bozrah. The city fell in a single day. Afterward, Judas led his army to the Jewish stronghold. They marched all night after fighting all day. In this way, Judas arrived early in the morning. As Timothy’s army attacked the Jews, they were unaware that Judas had arrived. So, Judas attacked Timothy’s forces from the rear. As a result, the Greeks were quickly defeated. They lost eight thousand men that day.
But Timothy escaped. He regrouped and formed yet another army. This time he encamped near Raphon. Once again, Judas Maccabeus marched toward Timothy’s camp.
Somehow, Timothy realized Judas’ tactical advantage. As Judas approached, he anticipated victory if the Jewish army encamped across the river before attacking. However, he anticipated defeat if Judas came across the river without resting.
Of course, Judas drove his army relentlessly. Specifically, he stationed leaders at the edge of the river with order to let no one encamp. And then he personally crossed the river and led his army into the battle.
Timothy’s army was once again defeated. They were routed and fled in disarray. Judas pursued them to Carnaim. There, his army captured the city and burnt the temple.
After this, Judas met no more resistance.
Judas Acted Immediately
Judas Maccabeus pushed himself and his army to act immediately. As a result, he achieved victory
Act Right Away
Creation is action. Salvation is action. God is a God of action.
And so, He commands action. There is no victory without action.
“Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom; For though she has no chief, no commander or ruler, She procures her food in the summer, stores up her provisions in the harvest.” Prov 6:6-8
Synopsis 1Maccabees 5:6-26 1/12/2021
After Judas Maccabeus defeated Timothy, he returned to Judea. But soon afterward, reports came from both Gilead and Galilee that the Gentiles were persecuting the Jews in both places.
So, Judas conferred with his brothers and other leaders. They decided that Simon should attack in Galilee. And Judas selected his brother Jonathan to accompany him to Gilead. The brothers left two men in charge of the forces in Jerusalem. They were Joseph and Azariah.
Simon quickly defeated the enemy in Galilee. In fact, after the route, Simon pursued the gentile army all the way to Ptolemais in the north. But Judas and Jonathan traveled three days east beyond the Jordan River. Here, they encountered Nabateans, who informed them that the situation for the Jews was much more widespread and serious.
In desperation, the Jews living in Gilead and Galilee cried out for Judas to come and save them. Through messengers, they begged for help from the only person they knew who might be able to save them.
And Judas, along with his brothers, answered the call.
The world cried out to God for a savior. And He sent His only son to save.
Synopsis 1Maccabees 4:48-5:5 1/11/2021
Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the priests restored the temple for use. Because he had successfully defeated the armies of Antiochus and Lysias, they temporarily withdrew their forces from the region.
So, Judas used the time to secure Jerusalem and the Temple from additional foreign invasions. When the work was done, Judas and the priests rededicated the temple in a celebration that lasted eight days.
However, when the nations around Jerusalem realized that the Jews had repaired the temple, they were furious. And because they could not raise a force necessary to successfully attack Israel, they began mistreating the local Jewish populations who lived as minorities in their own communities.
But, Judas heard about these abuses. And so, he began to take action against the nations.
Maccabees Serving God’s Chosen
Judas Maccabeus believed that God called him to serve all of God’s chosen people, not only those in Judea. So, when he heard that nearby kingdoms had persecuted and abused their Jewish populations, he intervened.
Serving God’s Chosen
God has called us to serve and bless other people. But Jesus makes clear that my call to service should serve all people, especially the poor.
“Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.” Luke 14:12
Synopsis 1Maccabees 4:28-43 1/7/2021
Although vastly outnumbered, Judas Maccabeus defeated Lysias’ forces led by Gorgias and Ptolemy. So, the following year, Lysias invaded a second time with an even bigger army. And despite the enemies superior force, Judas prayed to God for victory. And then, the Jews defeated the army.
After this defeat, the invaders withdrew from the region. And then, Lysias began the search for mercenaries that might be more successful against the Jews.
As a result, Judas took the opportunity to rededicate the temple. As his forces returned to Jerusalem, he tasked some of the warriors with attacking the citadel the foreigners had built in the City of David.
But he tasked the priests and Levites with cleaning and restoring the temple. So, Judas’ men repaired the temple. And they replaced the altar of sacrifice because the gentiles had defiled it.
In Hebrew, Maccabee means “Hammer”. Judas received this nick-name because he was so aggressive in battle. He consistently led his men to great victories by concentrating his forces and ruthlessly attacking his targets.
The ability to deliberately focus attention may be the greatest single key to successful decision-making.
One of the best ways to grow closer to God and increase your capacity for deliberately focusing attention is some form of silent prayer.
“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matt 6:6