Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Maccabees 2 and 1 Timothy 3

1 Maccabees 2 - Mattathias of a priestly family and his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan—are all desolate because of the shame to Israel this desecration of their Temple has brought. The king’s commissioners come to their town, Modein, and approach Mattathias about being the first to comply with what the Jews consider an “apostasy” so as to make a “good example” to others, who are also being asked to conform their religious practices to what the Seleucid rulers demand.

They promise him riches, but Mattathias refuses to comply. “Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its obserances . . . We will not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left” (2:20-22).

Furthermore, when another man does step forward to comply, Mattathias is overcome with righteous fury and “slaughters” him AND the king’s representative. Then he, his sons and other similarly-sentimented go with them into the desert.

A detachment of soldiers goes after them and finds a group. That group decides it is fitting for them to die for the testimony they wish to give, but they do not fight. They say, Let us all die innocent; let heaven and earth bear witness that you are massacring us with no pretense of justice” (2:37).

They are all killed with their wives, children and cattle on the Sabbath.
News of this reaches Mattathas. They decide that if they pursue this non-violent resistance policy, they all will be destroyed. So they decide if anyone attacks them on the Sabbath, “whoever he may be, we will resist him; we must not all be killed” (2:41).

They are joined by some Hasidaeans (devout who had resisted Hellenization even before the time of the Maccabees). They organize themselves into an armed force and start to go around forcibly circumcising boys, overthrowing the altars and hunting down “upstarts.”  The time of turmoil is the time when the godly should have a “burning fervour” (2:50) for the Law.

Men must remember their ancestors and try to live up to their example. The heroes are set before them—Abraham, Joseph, Phinehas, Joshua, Caleb, David, Elijah, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, Daniel—“Do not fear the threats of the sinner, all his brave show must come to the dunghill and the worms” (2:62). Mattathias, at the end of his time, appoints his son Simeon to lead them and Judas Maccabaeus to be their general. He dies in 166 BC.

1 Timothy 3 – The chief “elder” must be a man of “impeccable character” (3:2). He can’t have been married more than once; he must be “temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher, not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but kind and peaceable” (3:3). He must lead his own family well and bring his children up well. He should not be a new convert, and he should have a good reputation outside the church as well.

The requirements for becoming a Deacon are also gone over in some detail. But here women candidates are also mentioned – a little surprising after what was written earlier in the letter. They must be respectable and reliable.

Paul writes that is hoping he will be with them soon, but he wants them to know his thoughts on these matters in case he should be delayed.

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