Day 287: Eleazar's Sacrifice
1 Maccabees 6:1-17 Antiochus died grief-stricken over his military defeats and repentant of the evils he had visited upon Judea. He charged Philip, his subordinate, to oversee the affairs of Syria until his own son, Antiochus Eupator, was old enough to rule.
Ch 6:18-47 Judas’s forces held the Temple area but were surrounded by the Syrians. As the fighting continued, defectors and Hellenized Jews petitioned the king for reinforcements to defeat the Judean army.
Ch 6:48-63 Judas and his men retreated due to the power of the Syrian forces and the shortage of food to keep up the defense. Nevertheless, God protected the Judean forces. When Lysias, the Syrian commander, learned that Philip was in charge of Persia, he was anxious to return home. Misrepresenting the military situation as a standoff, Lysias successfully convinced Philip to grant the Jews freedom of worship and end the hostilities. Lysias then returned to Antioch, where he wrested control of the city from Philip.
Sirach 16:1-23 Some Jews viewed God as aloof and distant from people, so much so that the acts of any one individual on earth might escape his notice. On the contrary, God, who created everything down to the finest detail and arranged all of creation “in an eternal order,” has perfect knowledge of our interior dispositions, virtuous actions, and sins. (CCC 681)
Ch 16:14 Other ancient authorities add verses 15 and 16: “The Lord hardened Pharaoh so that he did not know him; in order that his works might be known under heaven. His mercy is manifest to the whole of creation, and he divided his light and darkness with a plumb line.”
Ch 17:1-32 In another statement endorsing intelligent design, the author mentions that this order and harmony in creation can lead us to recognize the God who created it since it reflects the divine intelligence. God revealed his wisdom not only through creation but also through a direct Revelation of himself by inspiring the Sacred Authors of the Old and New Testaments. God has no obligation to share his goodness and his everlasting life; however, out of his infinite love and wisdom, he created us gratuitously with the capacity to share in his goodness.
Ch 17:4 Other ancient authorities add verse 5: “They obtained the use of the five operations of the Lord; as sixth he distributed to them the gift of mind, and as seventh reason, the interpreter of his operations.”
Ch 17:15 Other ancient authorities add verses 16 and 17: “Their ways from youth tend toward evil, and they are unable to make for themselves hearts of flesh in place of their stony hearts. For in the division of the nations of the whole earth.”
Ch 17:17 Other ancient authorities add verse 18: “...whom, being his first-born, he brings up with discipline, and allotting to him the light of his love, he does not neglect him.”
Ch 17:20 Other ancient authorities add verse 21: “But the Lord, who is gracious and knows his creatures, has neither left nor abandoned them, but spared them.”
Ch 17:22 The poor and suffering are beloved especially by God, as indicated in the Beatitudes. To give alms to the poor shows true love and charity for Christ, who appears as the least of our brethren (cf. Mt 25). Almsgiving is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy along with feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. (CCC 2447)
Ch 18:1-14 God is infinitely happy and glorified within himself, and nothing outside himself can add to his glory; nonetheless, in his infinite goodness he created man and woman to share in his divine life. His love is so immense that he loves every person unconditionally and glories in forgiving all offenses as long as there is contrition.
What is man?: We possess immense dignity because we were made by God in his image and likeness and are endowed with an immortal soul. We are also unique among all creation in that we are called into communion with God and are invited to live forever in his heavenly kingdom. (CCC 1710-1715)
Ch 18:2 Other ancient authorities add verse 3: “...and there is no other beside him; he steers the world with the span of his hand, and all things obey his will; for he is king of all things, by his power separating among them the holy things from the profane.”
Ch 18:15-33 Caution is urged in all speech and conduct: think before you speak, look before you leap, and repent before you die. These proverbs not only advise against moral and spiritual laxity but also hint strongly at forming a true and sensitive conscience in harmony with moral law. A person is not culpable for a sin committed as the result of invincible ignorance; however, he or she is culpable for sins committed as the result of vincible ignorance since knowledge of the fault was certainly possible. Repeated acts against moral law can lead to a blindness of conscience. (CCC 2223)
Ch 18:30 Temperance of passions and appetites is essential to achieving self-control, a necessary condition for holiness. (CCC 1809)
Proverbs 22:17 This verse initiates the collection of proverbs from “the wise men,” which may have come from other cultures outside Judaism. They are presented as maxims that tend to be longer and more elaborate than the two-line proverbs of Solomon.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Let’s just say it, “This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!”
In Maccabees there are MORE BATTLES!!
Let’s highlight what happened
Here is the remarkable waning
It is REMARKABLE what is happening with the Jews against the Greeks
Obviously there is a lot of political intrigue happening
The kingdom of Alexander the Great was divided after he died among the four generals
There is even more drama happening
It must be pretty hard to keep a kingdom unified when you are fighting all over the place
That’s what Antiochus Epiphanes figured out at some point
Lysias and all these folks who are trying to battle against the Jews
They are also battling against a number of other people on all different fronts
This one battle is really cool, The Battle at Beth-zechariah
There’s this scene in 1 Maccabees 6:43 where Eleazar, called Avaran, is FIGHTING AGAINST ELEPHANTS!!
THIS IS NOT LORD OF THE RINGS!!
THIS IS ACTUAL HISTORY!!
THEY ARE FIGHTING AGAINST ELEPHANTS!!
IT BLOWS THE MIND!!
1 Maccabees 6:43, “And Eleazar, called Avaran, saw that one of the beasts was equipped with royal armor. It was taller than all the others, and he supposed that the king was upon it.”
1 Maccabees 6:44, “So he gave his life to save his people and to win for himself an everlasting name. He courageously ran into the midst of the phalanx to reach it…”
Just think about that...MAN!! (OH MAN!!)
1 Maccabees 6:39, “When the sun shone upon the shields of gold and brass, the hills were ablaze with them and gleamed like flaming torches.”
Here is Eleazar running into them...
1 Maccabees 6:45-46, “...he killed men right and left, and they parted before him on both sides. He got under the elephant, stabbed it from beneath, and killed it; but it fell to the ground upon him and there he died.” (Hmmm...should have taken some pointers from Legolas, eh? Legolas Slays the Oliphaunt (6/9) - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Movie (2003) - HD 🤓)
You can picture this in your mind’s eye when you hear these words
What’s going to happen is that the Greeks are going to offer terms to the Jewish people
That was great, it was going to be fine
When the Greeks entered into Jerusalem and Mt. Zion and they saw how strong Judas Maccabeus and his brothers and the people of Israel had built it up, what did they do?
THEY ATTEMPTED TO TEAR DOWN THE WALL ALL AROUND IT AND SUCCEEDED AND THEN PARTED WITH HASTE
Then you think, hmmmm 🤔
That’s a dirty trick to do that after they had already made terms with the Jewish people
As we move on, there are going to be more battles against the Greeks
But also the Jewish people are going to look towards Rome and think about maybe making an alliance with Rome
Think about this in the context, not just of history and the history of the people of Israel
And not just even preparing for the time of Jesus
Think of this in the terms of the prophecy that Daniel described to the king
Remember that prophecy?
The king had a dream of a massive statue with a HEAD OF GOLD and a CHEST OF SILVER and then BRONZE and IRON MIXED WITH CLAY
Daniel was basically able to say, “You, O king, are the king of kings. You are the head of gold, the Babylonians. Then the Persians are going to come. They are the kingdom of silver. The Greeks are the bronze kingdom. Then the Romans are the iron kingdom.” (Do you remember when we read this? Go back and read Day 241: Daniel and the Den of Lions in The Bible in a Year Study Guide for a refresher 😁)
We can see this played out here in Maccabees!!
It is PRETTY REMARKABLE as we continue to follow the story
When we get to 2 Maccabees we are going to get some of the details
We got some battle stuff
We got some drama and action
In 2 Maccabees there are more stories that are more particular to what was going on on the GROUND LEVEL
Sometimes we hear the big battles and it’s good, it’s history, it’s what we need to know, it’s GOD’S WORD!!
At the same time, the stories ON THE GROUND of people being FAITHFUL or people being FAITHLESS and we still need to HEAR THOSE STORIES
Remember, this CONTINUES TO BE THE WORD OF GOD
Speaking of FAITHLESS, let’s go on to Sirach
Sirach 16:1-2, “Do not desire a multitude of useless children, nor rejoice in ungodly sons. If they multiply, do not rejoice in them, unless the fear of the Lord is in them.”
Remember this is a FATHER speaking to his SON
This is a PARENT speaking to their CHILD
There is this word that you can HEAR the parent saying, “The thing I want more from you than anything is that I don’t just want you to be POWERFUL. I don’t just want you to be WEALTHY. I don’t just want you to be SUCCESSFUL. I WANT YOU TO BE HOLY. I want you to BELONG TO THE LORD. To be ungodly is worse than if you never existed. For me, for you to say ‘no’ to the Lord would be worse than if you hadn’t ever existed.”
We say this in such a dramatic way because so many of us in this community have family members
Maybe they are parents that have children who DO NOT WALK IN FAITH
Maybe they are children that have parents who DO NOT WALK IN THE LORD
Sometimes it’s just like, “Gosh! I love them so much. I just wish they knew the Lord. I wish they knew Christ. I wish they knew His love for them. I wish they would walk with Him.”
And you realize the PAIN
Here’s the parent speaking to their child and we can interpret it in a number of different ways
Hear the parent saying, “I want you to know how IMPORTANT this is. Here I am speaking to my child and I could have a dozen children. I could have a thousand children. And if they are not walking with the Lord, I WOULD NOT WANT ANY OF THEM.”
IT IS A DRAMATIC WAY TO SAY, “HERE IS HOW IMPORTANT WALKING WITH THE LORD IS TO ME.”
Does that make sense?
So many of us have family members who don’t walk in the way of the Lord can relate to this
So we keep praying for those family members
Keep praying for OURSELVES and FOR EACH OTHER because we know that EVERY ONE OF US can TURN AWAY FROM THE LORD
Sirach 16:14, “He will make room for every act of mercy; everyone will receive in accordance with his deeds.”
Every one of us is GOING TO BE JUDGED
Sirach 16:17, “Do not say, ‘I shall be hidden from the Lord, and who from on high will remember me?’”
We’ve said this so many times
The prophets have pointed out SO OFTEN that the temptation is, “Meh, my sins are not that big of a deal. My actions are not that big of a deal. The choices I make are not significant. Why would God care what I do with my life?”
Here is the Word of God and the words of the prophets that we have read before
THEY ARE REPEATING AND REPEATEDLY GOING BACK TO THIS REALITY
GOD SEES IT ALL!!
GOD CARES ABOUT IT ALL!!
BECAUSE GOD SEES YOU!!
BECAUSE GOD CARES ABOUT YOU!!
THIS IS SO SO IMPORTANT FOR US!!
WHICH IS WHY WE CAN REPENT
That’s one of the things that God says
Sirach 17:15, “Their ways are always before him, they will not be hidden from his eyes.”
Sirach 17:24, “Yet to those who repent he grants a return, and he encourages those whose endurance is failing…”
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO HEAR THIS!!
WE ARE ALL CALLED TO REPENT!!
WE ARE ALL CALLED TO BELONG TO THE LORD!!
WE ARE CALLED TO BE WISE!!
WE ARE CALLED TO BE HOLY!!
So last thing in Sirach Ch 18
These books of wisdom HAVE SO MUCH IN THEM!!
They deserve to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb and PRAYED WITH when you get a chance
Here are two interesting notes
Sirach 18:15, “My son, do not mix reproach with your good deeds, nor cause grief by your words when you present a gift.”
When you give a gift, let it be CONSISTENT
There is such a thing as, “I’m giving you a gift but I’m going to begrudgingly give it. I’m going to give you a gift but I’m giving it backhandedly. I’m giving you a gift, but I’m giving it to you in a way that doesn’t honor you in the way that a gift should.”
So let that WORD and that GIFT be UNITED
Let that WORD and that GIFT BOTH BE A GIFT
Last note in Sirach 18:19-22, “Before you speak, learn, and before you fall ill, take care of your health. Before judgment, examine yourself, and in the hour of visitation you will find forgiveness. Before falling ill, humble yourself, and when you are on the point of sinning, turn back. Let nothing hinder you from paying a vow promptly, and do not wait until death to be released from it.”
Before you get into this place…
Before you make a decision…
Before you act…
Before you act...LISTEN!!
Before you speak….LEARN!!
We can all learn from this and put it into practice in our lives
It’s Day 287 and it’s been a GIFT
It’s been a GRIND in so many ways
In 1 Maccabees and Sirach there is a lot of wisdom and incredible stories
At times it can be hard to keep our focus
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER THAT WE KEEP SAYING “YES” TO THE LORD
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we just give you thanks. Thank you so much, God, for your Word. Thank you for, again, continuing to unfold this history of the people of Israel in front of us. Thank you for continuing to shape us with the wisdom of Ben Sirach. We ask that you please give us your Grace this day and every day so we can belong to you and give glory to you in everything that we do. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”