Thursday, September 13, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Maccabees 3 and 1 Timothy 4

1 Maccabees 3 – It is 166-160 BC. Judas, called Maccabaeus, now steps forward to lead the fight for Israel. “He extended the fame of his people. He put on the breatplate like a giant and girded on his war harness; he engaged in battle after battle, protecting the ranks with his sword” (3:3)

Someone named Apollonius, governor of Samaria and commander of the Seleucid army in that region, gathers Gentiles together to fight him, but they are beaten. Apollonius’ sword becomes the one Judas uses for the rest of his life.
Seron, commander of the Syrian army, thinks to make a name for himself by fighting Judas. Judas’ men fret about the size of the Syrian army, but Judas tells them, “victory in war does not depend on the size of the fighting force; it is from heaven that strength comes” (3:19-20). And so the Syrians too suffer defeat.

When Antiochus hears these stories, he gathers a huge force. He has some financial problems and wants to go to Persia and collect more money from there, so he leaves Lysias in charge of affairs in the area. He leaves Lysias half his forces and orders him to “crush and destroy” the Israelites, to banish all memory of them from the place. Lysias sends Ptolemy, Nicanor and Gorgias with 40,000 troops and 7,000 cavalry to deal with them. They camp near Emmaus.
Seeing the huge force building against them, the Jews gather to be ready and to pray. Jerusalem is occupied, so they gather at Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem. There, “they fasted and put on sackcloth, covering their heads with ashes and tearing their garments” (3:47). Despite their need, the faint-hearted, the newly married and those in process of planting vineyards are told to go home as the law requires. The rest went and encamped south of Emmaus.

1 Timothy 4 – Paul reminds them that “during the last times there will be some who will desert the faith and choose to listen to deceitful spirits and doctrines” (4:1). The note explains that the constant references to “the last times” should not ONLY be seen as an early Christian certainty that history was soon going to end with Christ return. We can see reference to “end times” as “eschatological” and not historical. Eschatology could also be interpreted as having to do with a spiritual dimension of everyone’s life – having to do with the ultimate realities of life and death, judgment and consequence of all our spiritual choices.

Paul is definitely concerned with some who are going around, making up all kinds of strange doctrines – people who will “say marriage is forbidden, and lay down rules about abstaining from foods which God created to be accepted with thanksgiving by all who believe and who know the truth” (4:3). We need to remember that ALL of God’s creation is good; “no food is to be rejected, provided grace is said for it” (4:4).

The faithful should avoid all the myths and “old wives’ tales” (4:7) that people spread. The thing we must all remember is to “put our trust in the living God . . . he is the savior of the whole human race but particularly of all believers” (4:10).

Young people should not accept peoples’ disregard of them and of their ideas. They should “be an example to all the believers in the way [they] speak and behave, and in [their] love, [their] faith and [their] purity” (4:12).

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