The books of Maccabees are very important books for people of the Twelve (12) tribes of Israel. They are important because they document a lot of our history, demonstrate how mighty we are as a nation when we keep the commandments of our God, highlight some of the true holy days that Israel must celebrate, help us to understand what the enemies of God’s people took from us and why they did so, and these books also help us to identify our enemies – no wonder they were removed from the bible!
If you read previous chapters of this book, 1 Maccabees, you will come to realize how heathen nations have taken crafty counsel (Psalms 83:3) against Israel and have slain many of our people in an effort to trap us in sin and out of the favours of The Most High God. You would also uncover how God delivered Mattathias and the house of Israel using a very small number of men. The Feast of Dedication, which is celebrated by Jews, is as a result of all these victories won by the Israelites by the power of God. 1 Maccabees 4:58-61 “Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away.Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness. At that time also they built up the mount Sion with high walls and strong towers round about, lest the Gentiles should come and tread it down as they had done before.And they set there a garrison to keep it, and fortified Bethsura to preserve it; that the people might have a defence against Idumea”.
Now you know exactly why we celebrate Hanukkah! During the celebrations we also recall to memory the accomplishments of the Israelite/Hebrew Prophets, 1 Maccabees 2:51-61, Call to remembrance what acts our fathers did in their time; so shall ye receive great honour and an everlasting name.Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness?Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment and was made lord of Egypt.Phinees our father in being zealous and fervent obtained the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.Jesus for fulfilling the word was made a judge in Israel.Caleb for bearing witness before the congregation received the heritage of the land.David for being merciful possessed the throne of an everlasting kingdom.Elias for being zealous and fervent for the law was taken up into heaven.Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, by believing were saved out of the flame.Daniel for his innocence was delivered from the mouth of lions.And thus consider ye throughout all ages, that none that put their trust in him shall be overcome“.
After the Feast of Dedication celebration was ended the heathen nations heard tales of the splendour of the rebuilt Sanctuary with fortified walls and were very displeased. They vowed among themselves that they would surely destroy the descendants of Jacob who lived among them.Judas and his men had already taken four (4) heathen cities under the direction of God, when they learned of the horrors Israelites living among the Ammonites/Japanese were faced with. Judas Maccabeus in chapter 5:19 gave a commandment unto Joseph and Azarias, captains of the people “saying, Take ye the charge of this people, and see that ye make not war against the heathen until the time that we come again”. After giving the commandment, Judas took eight thousand (8000) men to Galaad, where Israelites were being persecuted. They fought many battles and victoriously took five (5) mighty cities, returning to Judea with the same head count they left to war with. Upon their return they went up to Mount Sion with joy and gladness, where they offered burnt offerings, because not one of them were slain until they had returned in peace.
While Judas and the other men were out at war, Joseph and Azarias heard of the victories and rumours of how mighty Judas was and noticed the fame that was being attached to his name. They instantly forgot that it was by the grace of God, and forgot the commandment they were given. They said to themselves “let us go get us a name, and go fight against the heathen that are round about us”. They were commanded to watch over the people of God but disobeyed the commandment to go seek a name or fame. They took 2000 men with them and went out to war against the heathen and were all murdered by the heathen.
In everything we do, or are about to do, we need to have a quick conversation with ourselves and assess our prospective actions. We need to question who will get glory from the things we do. Will it be God? Or was it done for human attention? Am I boasting or am I showcasing the work or wonders of God? The answers to those questions are very important to a person who has already repented- turn from sin and dedicate one’s self to the amendment of one’s life to alignment with the laws of God. For the power of God to be fully manifested in our lives, our Actions and desires should bring glory to Him. When Jesus was here on earth He did not operate at his own will, John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will , but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
We have to be cognizant of the significance of Jesus’ presence on this earth. He came not only to die for our sins, but live the Laws and be an example unto us. Many groups today teach that it is not possible for us to live according to the Laws of God and that is where the life of Jesus, and a few other men of God, contradicts them. First and foremost! The reason we think living by the laws are unattainable is because we allow the people to whom the laws were not given to set the trends and create the norms that we so badly want to emulate. To sin is to disobey the laws of God, and to repent is to return to the laws.
Despite all I have written here, all I really wanted to say is; do not look at the good works of others and feel the need to do the same in an effort to get recognition. Do what you do to glorify the Lord and not to bring glory to yourself as Joseph and Azarias did.
Mordecai Amon Israel