Friday, September 14, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Maccabees 4 and 1 Timothy 5

1 Maccabees 4 – Gorgias, a commander under Lysias, comes against the Jews at Emmaus, but finds no one there. Judas has moved his 3000 to the plain nearby. He is terribly short of armor and supplies but he reminds his men of how God helped their ancestors in the desert.

The Jews advance on the Seleucid army; they fight and the Gentiles are crushed. They pursue those who retreat for a time, but Judas tells them not to be greedy for plunder, for another battle awaits them. Later, when the rest of Gorgias’ men flee from them, they do plunder the camp.
When Lysias hears that his army has been defeated, he is shocked and dismayed. The next year, they muster 60,000 infantry and 5000 cavalry, a force that Judas meets with only 10,000. Lysias’ troops again are defeated. He goes off to seek mercenaries for an even larger army.

Judas and his brothers go to cleanse the sanctuary and re-dedicate it. It is a mess and they grieve over it. They must fight men posted at the sanctuary. They cleanse the Temple, tear down the altar of burnt offerings so as not to use one that was defiled. They store the stones of the desecrated altar in a convenient place “until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them” (4:46). They take new, unhewn stones and build a new altar. They also rebuild the sanctuary and interior of the Temple and consecrate its courts.

In 164 BC, they rededicate the Temple with songs and harps, lutes and cymbals. They celebrate for eight days. They decide that they will celebrate this rededication every year for eight days. This is the origin of Hanukkah. They also fortify Mount Zion with high walls and strong towers.

1 Timothy 5 – Paul urges Christians to treat other people as if they were your family members – not strangers. And then he moves on to a lengthier discussion of widows in the church. Apparently, in the early church, widows were treated as if they were a separate “order” of sorts – like the elders, presbyters and deacons. They were to be “enrolled” but only if they were over 60, had only been married once and were known to be good women. Paul thinks women whose husbands die when they are young should probably not be included in this group because they would be happier and more productive marrying again and having children.
Elders are important to the church in preaching and teaching. They have authority in the church, so no accusation against them can be effective unless supported by two or three witnesses. The church obviously had a governing role in the lives of members and a growing discipline that was to be observed.

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