Synopsis 2Maccabees 3:36-4:10 3/24/2021
King Seleucus sent Heliodorus to Jerusalem to confiscate the temple treasury. However, angels intervened. So, he was unable to complete his task. And he left empty-handed. When he returned to the king, he testified about the divine power resident in Jerusalem.
At this time, Onias was still the High Priest. For Jerusalem, he was the protector and benefactor. But, because of his enemies, he intended to appeal to King Seleucus to leave the temple treasury alone.
Unfortunately, King Seleucus died. Afterward, King Antiochus took the throne.
Antiochus auctioned the High Priest position to Jason, Onias’ brother in exchange for a large sum of money. Additionally, Jason promised to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem. He also promised to introduce Greek culture to the Jews.
High Priest for a Price
Jason traded the wealth of the temple in exchange for being named High Priest. What’s more, he committed to normalizing Greek culture in a way that threatened traditional Judaism. His barter injured the community for decades.
Exchanging Life for the World
Jesus once asked, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” (Matt 16:26)
How much more true is this for the person who uses religion as a way to gain worldly power or resources for their own benefit?
“No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” Heb 5:4
Synopsis 2Maccabees 3:20-35 3/23/2021
Heliodorus approached the temple to confiscate the treasury. King Seleucus had sent him. So, he went to the temple with his large group of bodyguards. Although the priests begged him to leave the treasury alone, Heliodorus persisted.
Suddenly, a band of angels appeared out of nowhere. And together, they flogged Heliodorus until he was lying on the ground almost dead. And his bodyguard had been decimated. So, men picked him up and put him on a stretcher.
Although the entire city was terrified in the presence of the angels, they rejoiced at God’s power. After the angels departed, one of Heliodorus’ companions begged Onias to pray for him.
So, Onias prayed for Heliodorus. And he offered a sacrifice to atone for his sin. Suddenly the angels returned. They healed Heliodorus. And afterward, they commanded him to testify what he had experienced.
After he was healed, Heliodorus offered sacrifices to God. And he made a solemn vow not to disturb the temple again. Then he returned to the king.
Heliodorus received an angelic beating. And this was followed by an angelic healing.
The Hands of the Living God
It is strangely easy to forget that God is the God of all Creation.
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Heb 10:31
Synopsis 2Maccabees3:5-19 3/22/2021
Simon was a priest. And he was responsible for the care of the temple in Jerusalem. However, he quarreled with the Onias the High Priest. Specifically, Onias had prevented him from regulating the city market.
So, Simon approached Apollonius, who worked for the king. In order to undermine Onias’ authority, Simon falsely reported that the temple treasury contained too much wealth. Furthermore, he offered to help transfer the temple treasury into the hands of the king.
Apollonius reported the situation to the king. And so, the king commissioned a wise man from his court. The man’s name was Heliodorus. So, his job was to confiscate the temple treasures. .
Almost immediately, Heliodorus went to Jerusalem. As an esteemed representative of the king, Onias received him graciously. But then, Heliodorus announced his intent to take the treasury money. Of course, this news devastated Onias. And so, all of Jerusalem lamented that the king intended to confiscate the temple treasury.
The priests reserved funds for helping widows and orphans. And Heliodoris intended to take these funds. Also, there was money on deposit from wealthy patrons. So, all the priests and ordinary Israelites living in Jerusalem cried out to God with a great lament.
Simon the Envious Priest
Simon envied the authority of Onias. He wanted to do what he wanted without the constraint of his authority. As a result, the entire community suffered.
Envy has the power to overwhelm my attention. It happens when I covet another person’s stuff. But more than just coveting, I also convince myself that the other person does not deserve what they have.
Then, my mind obsesses over the apparent injustice. I can’t let it go. And so, it becomes like a cancer in my soul. This more than any other moral failure threatens the salvation of my soul.
Envy and anger shorten one’s life, worry brings on premature old age.” Sirach 30:24
Synopsis 2Maccabees 2:19-3:4 3/19/2021
The author gives a preface to the story of Judas Maccabeus. In it, he makes a distinction between professional history and this work. His stated hope is to make the work more accessible than other accounts of Judas’ life.
Making the Story Available
The author acknowledged that another, longer, telling of this story existed. However, he wrote this book in order to make the story more available.
Making God’s Story More Available
The wisdom of God resides in His revealed word. But it’s power remains dormant unless it is shared with people who do not know Him.
So, it is up to me and you to share this treasure.
“Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” Rom 10:17
Synopsis 2Maccabees 1:36-2:18 3/18/2021
From a letter written to Jews living in Egypt. The author intended to encourage Egyptian Jews to celebrate the feasts. He did this by reminding them of the words of Jeremiah the prophet just prior to the first exile. At that time, Jeremiah encouraged the people to hold fast to the law of Moses.
He also revealed how Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant in a cave in Mount Nebo. What’s more, God made the entrance untraceably hidden. Accordingly, God will not reveal the exact location until a final gathering day.
The author also mentions the collection of written works available in Jerusalem. Nehemiah, Judas Maccabeus, and others had begun assembling a collection of important written works. And these were available for all Jews to use.
The letter concluded with a simple message. God preserved Mosaic law, the priesthood and the Israelite kingdom for the good of all Jews.
God Preserved Chosen Israel
This message was for the Egyptian Jews and God’s Chosen People, no matter where they were located. The call was to begin celebrating the culture once again. The reminder was that God has preserved everything necessary for restoration. And that He was preparing for an ultimate reunification of his holy people.
Nothing can thwart God’s plan. So, we have this confidence. He has preserved and provided everything needful for life and for Godliness. And the work that He is doing in you and through you will be fully completed.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. “ Phil 1:6
Synopsis 2Maccabees 1:17-35 3/17/2021
This is part of a letter exhorting Egyptian Jews to celebrate the Feast of Booths. In it, they were also encouraged to celebrate the purification of the temple.
As a part of this celebration, the Egyptians were reminded of the way Nehemiah recovered the fire from the first temple.
As it is written, when the eastern people invaded and destroyed the temple, some of the priests preserved fire from the alter in a dry cistern. In the cistern, the remnant of fire turned into a fluid.
So, then, when Nehemiah returned to rebuild the temple, this fluid was rediscovered and placed on the sacrifice. By the light of the sun, the fluid burst into flames and consumed the sacrifice.
This was reported to the King of Persia. As a result, the king declared the spot a holy place.
God Made Nehemiah’s Sacrifice Holy
In Solomon’s Temple, God brought fire from the sky and consumed the sacrifices that were offered there. So then, in the second temple, God preserved some of the fire from the first temple and used it to continue the sacrifice in the second.
So, the people brought their offerings. But, God alone made the sacrifice holy.
God Makes the Sacrifice Holy
Just like the ancients, I bring what I have to offer. Of course, nothing I bring could be worthy before the Holy God of all creation.
But if I bring the thing most cherished, God can work with that. If I bring a broken and contrite heart, then He can turn brokenness into a pleasing sacrifice.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.” Psa 51:19
Synopsis 1Maccabees 16:22-2 Maccabees 1:16 3/16/2021
John was Simon’s son and general over the army. He definitively crushed Ptolemy’s rebellion. And afterward, he went on to rule for many years.
In the next book, the leaders in Jerusalem wrote a letter to the Jews in Egypt. In it, they encouraged the Egyptian Jews to celebrate the Feast of Booths in accordance with the Law of Moses.
After this, another letter was preserved from the time of Judas Maccabeus. In it, he reported to King Ptolemy how the Persians had killed King Antiochus.
John Crushed Rebellion
Ptolemy had married Simon’s daughter. But he was envious. And so he meticulously planned to assassinate Simon. Afterward, he killed Judas and Mattathias. But John discovered the plot before the assassins could get to him.
And so, he crushed the rebellion.
God’s intention is to crush rebellion once and for all. And yet, He is so careful not to uproot the righteous with the unrighteous. Of course, this process can make for some uncomfortable moments.
But whenever it looks like the rebellion might win the day, remember that the battle always belongs to the Lord.
“All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves. For the battle belongs to the LORD, who shall deliver you into our hands.” 1Sam 17:47
Synopsis 1Maccabees 16:3-21 3/15/2021
Simon commissioned John and his brothers with the defense of the nation. And, although his brother was injured in the battle, John secured the victory. Cendabius and his army fled the battlefield.
After this, there was peace in the land.
Ptolemy was Simon’s son-in-law. Simon had appointed him governor of Jericho. But Ptolemy was ambitious to rule over all Judea. So, he plotted to kill Simon and his sons.
On a certain night, after Simon and two of his sons had eaten with Ptolemy, he had his men kill them all. At the same time, he sent assassins to kill John at his home in Gazara. But loyal servants who witnessed Simon’s murder ran ahead to warn John. As a result, he was prepared when the assassins arrived.
Simon had shared his wealth with Ptolemy. What’s more, he gave him an important political position.
And yet, Ptolemy plotted to kill Simon.
I have so much in this life to be thankful for. And yet, I still complain. I still envy. And I still resent others who have more or better things than I do.
So, what should I do? I will praise God.
I have found that actively expressing gratitude is the only sure way to avoid the pitfalls of envy and greed.
“My strength, your praise I will sing; you, God, are my fortress, my loving God.” Psa 59:18
Synopsis 1Maccabees 15:28-16:2 3/12/2021
Athenobius was a Syrian official. So, King Antiochus sent him to meet with Simon in Jerusalem. While there, he demanded the return of Gazara and the Citadel.
But Simon refused. Instead, he explained to Athenobius that Gazara was always a part Israelite territory. Additionally, he pointed out that the residents there had provoked Israel with unjustified attacks. And finally, he offered a small amount of money to appease the king’s wrath.
About this time, Trypho escaped Antiochus’ blockade. Frustrated, King Antiochus quickly commissioned a governor general for the region. And then he took his forces in pursuit of Trypho.
The general was Cendabius. Before he departed, Antiochus ordered the general to provoke conflict with Judea in retaliation for Simon’s refusal to pay for Gazara.
So, Cendabius moved his forces north of Galilee to Jamnia. From there, he began making raids into Judea. He intended to destabilize Simon’s government.
At this time, Simon’s son John was living in Gazara. So, he reported the incursions to Simon and all the leaders in Jerusalem.
Cendabius’ job was to destabilize Simon’s government. And so he tormented the Jews who lived on the northern frontier of Judea. His hope was to breed discontent.
Spiritual warfare is a very real thing. And so is my adversary.
His desire is to break my relationship with God. His goal is to sow discontent.
So the torments come. Inconveniences and disappointments show up. And the manner of my response determines the outcome.
I will either collapse in resentment toward God. Or I will respond in love to the challenge of each and every moment.
Synopsis 1 Maccabees 15:7-27 3/11/2021
Just as he had promised Simon, King Antiochus invaded Syria. And almost immediately his forces attacked Trypho. Of course, Trypho fled to the city of Dor. As a result, Antiochus blockaded the port by both land and sea.
About this time, Rome’s warning arrived to the nations. In a letter they sent to all regional leaders, the Romans pledged to support Israel against all invaders.
About this same time, Simon sent support to King Antiochus as his forces besieged Dor. But Antiochus unexpectedly refused the support. So the forces returned to Jerusalem.
Antiochus Changed His Attitude
King Antiochus refused Simon’s support. He was willing to allow Judea to have some autonomy. But he later expressed his frustration that Simon had taken over Gazara and the Jerusalem citadel. Additionally, once he returned, he quickly amassed a large army. And so, he no longer needed Simon’s support to establish his monarchy.
As a result, Antiochus changed his attitude toward Simon and Judea.
God is Faithful
Unlike any man I’ve ever known, God is faithful – even when I am not.
God is faithful. It’s so easy to write. And yet his faithfulness challenges everything I know about being a person.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Heb 13:8