Welcome to the Maccabean Revolt!!
There are books here that many of you in the Bible in a Year community have never read
The Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church believe these books to be part of the canon
They are part of the Deuterocanonical Books
We talked a little bit about them when we read Judith, Baruch, Tobit, and parts of Daniel and Esther that are not necessarily in Protestant translations of the Bible
These books are REALLY INCREDIBLE
They are considered inspired FROM THE VERY BEGINNING OF CHRISTIANITY
The Bible was really codified in maybe say 350 or 398 AD with the Councils of Rome and Carthage
When this was challenged in the 1500s, the Council of Trent said that these 73 books, including the books in the Septuagint are CANON
We will get deeper into this later on
All the chapters in Maccabees are longer
So settle in, brew some tea
Enjoy this story
IT IS REMARKABLE!!
IT IS INCREDIBLE!!
IT IS DRAMATIC!!
IT IS PHENOMENAL!!
IT IS COURAGEOUS!!
SO ENJOY THE STORY!!
1 Maccabees is what we are reading the next few days
2 Maccabees is kind of the same story but told in different ways
Kind of like Numbers and Deuteronomy were the same story told in different ways
We’ll get there when we get there
So what happened in Maccabees?
There’s this guy named Alexander and he was pretty great
He conquered the known world
This is the very beginning of Maccabees Ch 1
As he is dying, he does not have any heirs
They don’t inherit his kingdom
So he divides his kingdom among four generals
The descendant of one of those generals is Antiochus Epiphanes
Around 175 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes begins this severe persecution against the Jews
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT
Up to this point, we had the Babylonians, the Persians, and even a little bit with Alexander himself
There was religious tolerance
Obviously we had Daniel in the lion’s den
We also had Mordecai
There were times where the Jews refused to bow down to the gods of their conquerors
But for the most part, there was religious tolerance towards the Jewish people
He comes to Jerusalem and he has hard totalitarianism
He also has SOFT TOTALITARIANISM
Soft totalitarianism means, “You know what, things get along if you go along,”
Things get easier if you LOOK LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
Things get easier if you LIVE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
This is the same hold, same old temptation that we saw the moment the children of Israel walked into and were led into the Promised Land
Let’s be like the Canaanites
Let’s be like the Hivites
Let’s be like the Jebusites
Let’s be like the Moabites
And now in this case, let’s be like the Greeks
Greek civilization at this point was a pretty big deal
It was super advanced
Of course, there were Asian civilizations at the same time that were flourishing in some remarkable ways
Greek civilization was kind of a high point here
So the Jews see this incredible Greek civilization
One of the things that happens is this gymnasium is built in Jerusalem
Do you know the etymology of the word gymnastics?
It means NAKED DANCING or NAKED EXERCISE
That’s because the Greeks would exercise naked so they would call it gymnastics
Why is Fr. Mike making this point?
If you build a gymnasium in Jerusalem and you exercise naked, then it becomes REALLY CLEAR to everybody who is Jewish and who is not Jewish
Who is CIRCUMCISED and who is NOT CIRCUMCISED
So it’s on display who is a person of the Covenant and not a Gentile, not a Greek
Maccabees 1:15, “...removed the marks of circumcision…” (skin graft, I suppose 🤔)
Basically, they APOSTATIZED
They turned away and said, “No I do not belong to the God of Israel.”
THIS IS REMARKABLE!!
“I want to blend in so much that I will submit myself to this new surgery that will cover up the mark of circumcision.”
They wanted to fit in that much
That is SOFT TOTALITARIANISM
They wanted to fit in and be like everyone else
The HARD TOTALITARIANISM comes along with the Installation of Gentile Cults
Not only does Antiochus Epiphanes come into Jerusalem and steal much from the Temple
He also erects the desolation of abomination
What is that?
Some people say it is a statue of Zeus that Antiochus Epiphanes put up in the Temple
On the altar dedicated to the Lord God, they set up worship of Zeus
SUCH A DISTORTION!!
INCREDIBLE FALL AND PRESSURE THAT WAS PLACED UPON THOSE FAITHFUL JEWS IN JERUSALEM!!
This is an interesting thing because we hear it briefly described that there were Jews that refused to eat the food that was prohibited from them
Things get really bad
Maccabees 1:57-58, 60, “...the decree of the king condemned him to death. They kept using violence against Israel, against those found month after month in the cities….According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung their infants from their mothers' necks.”
CAN YOU IMAGINE??
Again, this is Antiochus Epiphanes
The last three verses of Maccabees Ch 1 are SO POWERFUL AND NECESSARY FOR US
Maccabees 1:62-64, “But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die…”
MAN!! (OH MAN!!)
We are going to hear some ACTUAL STORIES in 2 Maccabees where they unpack what that incredible courage and faithfulness really looked like during this time of persecution
Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego aka Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael? (If you don’t, go read Day 239: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in The Bible in a Year Study Guide for a refresher on who they were 😁)
Where they said, “You, O king, you can throw us into the fiery furnace and God can save us. Yet even if he will not, know that, O king, we will never bow down before you.”
And then God saved them
We have Esther
Mordecai said to Esther, “Yeah, you can not stand up for the Lord, but God will still deliver the people of Israel while you won’t be part of that.”
She does stand up and God spares her life
Here are these Jewish people in Jerusalem and they chose to die rather than be defiled by food or profane the holy covenant AND THEY DID DIE
We are going to hear these stories of COURAGE AND INCREDIBLE FAITHFULNESS
For today we just got the groundwork for what is going to happen with the REBELLION against the Greek occupation of Jerusalem
Now on to Sirach
OH MY GOSH!!
YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO LOVE SIRACH!!
FR. MIKE LOVES IT SO MUCH!!
IT IS INCREDIBLE!!
Sirach is roughly the same time, maybe a little bit after the Maccabean Revolt
It is FULL OF WISDOM
It is ALL ABOUT WISDOM
It is all about FEAR OF THE LORD
THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM
Sirach 1:14, “To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...”
Sirach 1:16, “To fear the Lord is wisdom’s full measure...”
Sirach 1:18, “The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom...”
Sirach 1:20, “To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom…”
There is something so POWERFUL about this
What is the fear of the Lord?
IT IS NOT BEING SCARED OF GOD
IT IS NOT SHRINKING BACK BECAUSE WE THINK THAT GOD IS A TYRANT
IT IS NOT SHRINKING BACK BECAUSE WE THINK THAT GOD IS A VILLAIN
IT IS NOT SHRINKING BACK BECAUSE GOD IS SO POWERFUL AND HE IS GOING TO USE HIS POWER TO DOMINATE US OR TO RULE US
GOD IS NOT A TYRANT!!
GOD IS NOT SOFT OR HARD TOTALITARIANISM!!
GOD IS A GOOD GOD!!
HE IS STILL GOD!!
So the FEAR OF THE LORD in the most basic way you can say it IS TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY
That’s the simplest way to possibly put it into words
What is the Fear of the Lord at its most basic?
Now, there are better ways to say it
But at its most basic...
THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY AS GOD HIMSELF
How do we do that?
If the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, how do we get wisdom?
Sirach 1:26, “If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord will supply it for you.”
HOW FOOLISH DO WE BECOME WHEN WE DO NOT KEEP GOD’S COMMANDMENTS??
Sirach 1:28, “Do not disobey the fear of the Lord; do not approach him with a divided mind.”
Oftentimes, that’s what we do
We approach God with a DIVIDED MIND
“I want to do your will, but I don’t really want to do your will.”
“I want to follow you, I want to obey your Commandments, but I don't really want to obey your Commandments.”
THAT IS A RECIPE FOR FOOLISHNESS!!
WITH GOD’S GRACE WE CAN CONTINUE TO WALK IN FAITHFULNESS!!
One of Fr. Mike’s favorite verses IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE is Sirach 2:1, “My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, remain in justice and in fear, and prepare yourself for temptation.”
Sirach 2:3, “Await God’s patience, cling to him and do not depart, that you may be wise in all your ways.”
Sirach 2:4, “Accept whatever is brought upon you, and endure it in sorrow; in changes that humble you be patient.”
Sirach 2:5, “For gold and silver are tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.”
Sirach 2:6, “Trust in God and he will help you…”
Fr. Mike’s favorite TRANSLATION is from the New American Bible that we read at Mass
The RSV-2CE that we have been reading for the last 282 days is PHENOMENAL, a GREAT TRANSLATION
The New American Bible is also a VERY GOOD TRANSLATION
Here is the New American Bible translation: “My son, when you come to serve the Lord prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not, thus will your future will be great. Accept whatever befalls you. In crushing misfortune, be patient. For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust in God and he will help you. Make straight your ways and hope in him.”
In Sirach Ch 3 we have Duties toward Parents and Others
There is something SO POWERFUL about being reminded of the duty we owe to HONORING OUR PARENTS
The one who HONORS their father is HONORED
The one who HONORS their mother is HONORED
The one who DISHONORS their father is DISHONORED
The one who DISHONORS their mother is DISHONORED
There is something SO POWERFUL about hearing it again and again all throughout Sirach Ch 3
It’s worth it because maybe in our day and age there is an element where it is really easy to MOCK PARENTS
WE DISMISS PARENTS
WE DON’T HAVE THE SAME KIND OF RESPECT THAT OTHER CULTURES HAVE FOR THEIR ANCESTORS, THEIR PARENTS, THEIR ELDERS
Here in Sirach Ch 3 we get reminded of HOW IMPORTANT IT IS
The Fourth Commandment, Honor Thy Father and Mother, is the ONLY COMMANDMENT that comes with a BLESSING, THAT LONG LIFE MAY BE YOURS
Here in Sirach Ch 3 we get reminded of that once again
We will be journeying for the next thirty days or so in Maccabees, Sirach, Wisdom, and these books about the Maccabean Revolt
Then we will launch into the New Testament
This is the great beginning of our last little phase before we enter into the New Testament period and the Gospel of Luke as well as Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of Paul and the others
But today, we are beginning a new phase before our last phase
It is the PENULTIMATE TIME PERIOD before we get to the end
WHAT A GREAT BLESSING!!
WE ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE END!!
OH MY GOSH!!
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER