Synopsis 1Maccabees 14:38-15:6 3/10/2021
Conclusion of the Jewish celebration of Simon’s glory on tablets.
Elders and Jewish leaders met in an assembly. And there, they permanently conferred authority for Simon to lead the nation. They codified this authority by writing down the extent of his powers on bronze tablets. And they hung these near the temple on Mount Zion.
At this time, Trypho ruled over the Syrian Empire. King Demetrius died in battle when he took his army into Persia. But his son lived in exile on eastern Mediterranean Islands. His name was Antiochus.
So, after his father’s death, Antiochus declared himself king. And he wrote to Simon concerning his plan to return to Syria and rule in his father’s place. In this letter, Antiochus affirmed Simon as the leader of Judea and granted greater levels of sovereignty.
Leaders Empowered Simon
Political power in a social contract community depends entirely on the community. And Simon was empowered by the will of the leaders of the community.
Transcendent Authority Comes from God Alone
But transcendent authority comes from God alone.
When Jesus walked on the earth, he was often asked by what authority he acted. And His response always pointed to God the Father. He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. (John 5:19)
So, the authority I have on earth is entirely dependent on the attention I pay to what God is doing. And, on my willingness to do likewise.
“But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Synopsis 1Maccabees 14:24-37 3/9/2021
As a gesture of goodwill, Simon sent a valuable golden shield to Rome. His intent was to affirm the Jewish commitment to their alliance. At the same time, it was part of a request from Simon that the Romans warn Israel’s regional adversaries against attack.
Meanwhile, the Jews in Jerusalem made an inscribed bronze tablets commemorating Simon and the Maccabees. The tablet was a memorial that celebrated all that had been accomplished during Israel’s fight for independence from Syria.
Judea Expressed Gratitude
The Jews celebrated Israel’s peace and prosperity. And they acknowledged the Maccabees for facilitating their success. So, even though only Simon survived, the memorial recognized the contribution of Mattathias, Judas, John and Jonathan as well.
Entitlement is an expectation grounded in the belief that I am owed.
But gratitude expresses the spontaneous realization that everything I have is a gift.
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praise to your name, Most High. To proclaim your love at daybreak, your faithfulness in the night, With the ten-stringed harp, with melody upon the lyre. For you make me jubilant, LORD, by your deeds; at the works of your hands I shout for joy.” Psa 92:1-3
Synopsis 1Maccabees 14:4-23 3/8/2021
There was a long period of peace under Simon’s rule.
Meanwhile, word finally reached Rome that Jonathan had been killed by Trypho. And so, they expressed grief at the death of their ally. But they were encouraged the Simon had ascended to reign over Israel in his brother’s place. Accordingly, they affirmed Simon’s and continued the treaty between the nations.
Judea Sat Under the Fig
“The land was at rest all the days of Simon who sought the good of his nation.”
During Simon’s reign, every man sat under his own fig tree. There was peace in Israel. And there was abundance. Under Simon, God’s blessings filled the nation with all that was good.
But this only happened because Simon “sought the good of his nation”.
Sitting Under the Fig Tree
Love is outpouring. It happens when I see the good possibility in another person and work to make the potential become actual.
“The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the just.” Prov 13:22
Synopsis 1Maccabees 13:40-14:3 3/5/2021
After King Demetrius affirmed Simon’s authority, Simon sent his army to Gazara. Once there, he besieged the city. Eventually, his men captured one of the towers. Almost immediately, the people came to the city wall. Together, they begged for mercy. So, Simon gave mercy. But he evicted all those who fought against Israel.
In a similar way, he besieged the citadel overlooking Jerusalem. Eventually, the foreigners living there begged for mercy. And so, Simon sent them away in peace.
Afterward, the Jews purified the citadel. And then, they took possession of the enclave with a great celebration.
However, by this time, Simon was growing older. So, he made his son John general over all Israelite forces. And John set up his residence in the strategic city of Gazara.
Meanwhile, King Demetrius was killed by King Arsaces of Parthia.
Jerusalem Finally Relieved
Decades before Simon was born, Seleucid kings built the citadel in the oldest part of Jerusalem. It was a fortress built inside Jerusalem’s city walls. And by filling it with foreign troops loyal to the Greek kings, Jerusalem was kept under control. The Jews there were never fully free.
So, when Simon evicted the foreigners, the entire city rejoiced.
Jesus once said, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
Awesome thought: Heaven rejoices whenever I leave my wickedness and return to God.
“When the just prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.” Prov 11:10
Synopsis 1Maccabees 13:19-39 3/4/2021
Trypho collected a large ransom payment from Simon. But then, he reneged on his promise to return Jonathan. And almost immediately, with hostages in hand, Trypho began to ravage Judea. However, as he prepared for a winter invasion of Jerusalem, he was surprised by a deep snowfall that ruined his plans.
So Trypho withdrew to the north. Along the way, he murdered Jonathan and his two sons. Afterward, he killed the boy-king Antiochus. Thus, he made himself king over Syria.
Simon grieved Jonathan’s death and set up memorial to his family in Modein. It was an elaborate memorial intended to remind the people of all that the Maccabees had done for Israel.
Afterward, Simon focused his efforts on construction and preparation. He continued to build up Jerusalem. And he built even more strongholds throughout the land.
At this point, King Demetrius lived in exile and on the run. But despite past differences, he wrote a letter to Simon. In it, he affirmed Simon as leader and High Priest over Judea. And he further recognized Judean sovereignty.
Miracle of Snow
It is written as a simple matter of fact…”Heavy snow so Trypho’s plans were foiled.” But it was, of course, miraculous.
However, the real miracle is in having the eyes to see. Try this:
“A blanket of heavy snow came. And so Trypho abandoned his plans to invade Israel”
“God sent a heavy snow. The severe weather prevented Trypho’s forces from invading. And this saved Israel from the destructive ambitions of a madman.”
Which way do you read it?
Perhaps more importantly, how do you see God working in your own life?
“Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Mark 10:27
Synopsis 1Maccabees 12:51-13:18 3/3/2021
Tyrpho tricked Jonathan at Ptolemais. So, Jonathan was captured along with one thousand of his men. Immediately, Trypho killed the men. But he held Jonathan hostage. Afterwards, he sent his army against Simon in Galilee. But Simon and his men put up a fight. So, the enemy departed. And then, Simon made his way back to Judea.
Since Jonathan was captured, the people elected Simon to lead them. Immediately after, Simon sent forces to capture the coastal city Joppa. In response, Trypho marched from Ptolemais toward Judea. And so, Simon positioned his forces to meet him.
Trypho recognized that Simon’s forces were still too strong for him. So, he offered to exchange Jonathan for one hundred talents of silver and Jonathan’s two sons.
Although he believed Trypho would most likely renege, Simon paid the ransom.
The strength of the Israelite army had not changed. And yet, the people feared Trypho after he captured Jonathan. In fact, the people nearly panicked until Simon was chosen leader.
I am not God. This is the lesson from the Garden of Eden. I cannot lead myself in any absolute sense. Thus, I am created to follow.
Now, to “Christ follow” means to be led by the Holy Spirit. So, there is a sobering implication to discipleship. My good-faith attempt to follow the Holy Spirit – is the light of the world.
Others are watching. And hoping.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1Cor 11:1
Synopsis 1Maccabees 12:34-50 3/2/2021
King Antiochus was the son of Alexander. However, he was only a boy living in Arabia. So, Trypho brought the boy-king back to Syria in order to fight a rebellion against King Demetrius. Together, Trypho and Antiochus defeated Demetrius. And soon thereafter, Trypho brought a large army against Judea.
For his part, during the civil war, Jonathan spent the quiet times building up strongholds. Together, he and his brother Simon strengthened the walls of Jerusalem and built strong outposts throughout the land. They also built up their army.
So, when Trypho brought his forces near Judea, Jonathan brought out a large army to meet him. As a result, Trypho chose to avoid direct conflict. Instead, he deceived Jonathan by offering him honors. And he even affirmed him in his position over Judea. Furthermore, he invited him to a conference in the city of Ptolemais.
Jonathan accepted Trypho’s offer. So, he travelled to Ptolemais with one thousand men. And, he sent an additional two thousand men with Simon to Galilee. But when he arrived in Ptolemais, Trypho ambushed Jonathan and killed his men.
Jonathan failed to discern Trypho’s true motives. As a result, he stepped into his own destruction.
It is my inability to recognize the signs of the times that ruins me. It’s not stupidity. But it is a deficit of attention. And it’s an overdependence on my assumptions.
“My people are ruined for lack of knowledge! Since you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from serving as my priest; Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.“ Hosea 4:6
Synopsis 1Maccabees 12:12-33 2/26/2021
In Syria, a civil war raged between King Demetrius and King Antiochus. The war constantly threatened to spill over into Judea.
So, Jonathan wrote to the Spartans. He wanted to renew their mutual alliance to put pressure on the rival Syrian leaders. And the Spartans agreed to continue their treaty.
However, this did not deter Demetrius. Instead, he sent his forces against Jonathan. But Jonathan heard about the advancing army before they entered Judea. So, he sent his own out to the field. He did not want the enemy to gain a foothold in Judea.
At this time, what remained of Demetrius’ army were foreign mercenaries. And Jonathan had planted spies amongst them. So, he was generally aware of their plans.
As a result, one particular night he repelled a surprise night attack by keeping his forces positioned instead of setting up camp. When the enemy realized their plan had failed, they fled in the darkness.
In the morning, Jonathan was not able to catch the fleeing forces. However, as they withdrew, Jonathan’s forces expanded the territory they controlled. In fact, Jonathan marched into Damascus. At the same time, his brother Simon marched into Ashkelon near the coast.
Jonathan Expands in Victory
Because Demetrius and Antiochus were fighting a civil war, neither attempted to govern the southern part of the Syrian Empire. As a result, Jonathan’s victory over the enemy created a power vacuum. So, Jonathan and Simon filled this vacuum by expanding their authority over the region.
Expand in Victory
Sometimes my tendency is to relax when things seem to be going well. But in the end, God’s call is for complete victory. In creation, he has given me a sabbath each week to rest. And that’s the time to rest.
But He gives me the other six days to work. The goal is to go from strength to strength. And so, when I have a victory I commit myself to keep going. With the guidance of the Holy Spirt, I mean to press into the challenges that remain.
“Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God” Heb 6:1
Synopsis 1Maccabees 11:68-12:11 2/25/2021
With the help of Trypho, King Antiochus began his reign. From Antioch, he ruled the Syrian Empire. And he confirmed Jonathan Maccabeus in his role as ruler and High Priest in Judea.
As a result, the army of King Demetrius attacked Jonathan. Although his most of his men deserted him, Jonathan remained and prayed to God. After his prayer, he and the remaining men fought with unmatched ferocity. This turned the tide on the battle.
Soon, the deserters returned to Jonathan. Together, they reengaged in the battle and fought off Demetrius’ forces.
Afterward, Jonathan did as his brother Judas had done several years before. He sent envoys to Rome and Sparta to affirm the treaties that Judea had formed with these power allies.
Jonathan & Faithless Friends
Judea was caught in the midst of a long running civil war. In fact, the Syrian Empire often looked like it might be coming apart. And with the ebb and flow of that war, Jonathan felt challenged. It was never obvious who was trustworthy. And it was never clear who would retain power.
In this case, he fought against King Demetrius’ forces. This was the man who only months earlier had begged Jonathan to save him from his own army. And so, Jonathn looked to Rome and Sparta to find a faithful friend.
My tendency in life is to put everything in order. Like a child with a pile of blocks, I want to arrange in my environment just where I want it. And, while I retain the right to change things as I choose, I invariably feel frustrated if someone else makes the changes for me.
I’m looking for faithfulness. But I define faithfulness entirely from the perspective of my own desire.
There is a certain presumptuousness in thinking the universe should bend to my will. I can live with that. But taking offense when the universe resists my will, that’s just pathetic.
“God’s will be done”. With this prayer, I refrain the question. And his faithfulness becomes obvious.
“What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar,* as it is written: “That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged.” Rom 3:3-4
Synopsis 1Maccabees 11:51-67 2/24/2021
Because of layoffs, the Syrian army revolted. As a result, King Demetris sent messengers to Jonathan for help. In response, Jonathan sent an army to quell the revolt. And, the Jewish army was successful.
Because of Jonathan’s faithfulness, Demetrius promised favor. Despite this, he quickly reneged on his promises.
Meanwhile, Trypho brought King Alexander’s son back to Syria. In a short time, he declared the boy Antiochus the rightful king.
Almost immediately, Trypho brought an army against King Demetrius. He won the battle. But King Demetrius escaped. Still, Trypho’s forces occupied Antioch. And King Antiochus began his rule from there.
As one of his first acts, King Antiochus wrote to Jonathan. In the letter, he confirmed that Judea would remain semi-independent. And he affirmed Jonathan as both leader and High Priest over the region.
Meanwhile, King Demetrius reformed his army. And this time, he sent them against Jonathan. But Jonathan had prepared well. And so, without hesitation he positioned his army for combat near Galilee.
Jonathan Constancy in Chaos
Syria was chaos. For many decades, the Syrian Empire lurched from the leadership of one king to another. Each king competed with predecessors for power. But all of this civil warfare depleted the nation of needed resources. And it created chaos that disrupted commerce and brought instability to the region.
Yet, Jonathan successfully ruled Judea in the midst of this chaos. That’s not to say that the Maccabees lacked internal enemies. Some Jews chose to embrace Greek culture. And these often sided against him.
Despite this, and despite the Syrian chaos, Jonathan’s leadership bound the nation together. He had a clear vision of how things should be. And so, he determined to fulfill this vision.
Constancy in Chaos
Determination comes from having a clear focus. And if my focus is on agreeing with God’s purpose, then chaos is just the raw material for a new possibility.
“The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame” Isa 50:7