In chapter three we finally see the author of Maccabees, Judas, take command after the passing of his father. Judas was a fierce warrior placed by his father and God in this position for this moment. The first group of people he had to defeat in battle was the army from Samaria led by Apollonius who was the Mysian commander. Judas defeated his army and killed Apollonius. Word spread throughout the kingdom that the Israelites were uprising against the gentiles and the king so Seron, commander of the Syrian army, gathered a group of people to try and end the fight. Once again Judas and his Israelite army defeated the gentiles.
Now word really began to spread and people feared Judas and the power he was given by God. The king, Antiochus, took the best of the best from the kingdom, paid them a year's wages, and told them to ransack and destroy Jerusalem and the entire Israelites' way of life. Then Judas uses this great line saying “Let us restore our people from their ruined estate, and fight for our people and our sanctuary!” (1 Maccabees 3:43) It’s a lovely reminder of how genuine Judas was as a leader. He wasn’t trying to take over land and money and power but he fought valiantly for his people, the people of God and the covenant and restoration of everything given to them by God.
Judas gathered all the faithful and made his way to Mizpah, the ancient sanctuary because the sanctuary in Jerusalem had been destroyed and made unclean by the blood shed. Judas brings the priest, sacrifices, and everything else they need and shouts out to God “What shall we do with these men, and where shall we take them? (1 Maccabees 3:50). He wants to do everything he can to bring the Israelites to a clean and purified sanctuary for it is according to the law. He sends home all those not needed to keep them safe and prepares his men for battle with the closing line “It is better for us to die in battle than to witness the ruin of our nation and our sanctuary. Whatever Heaven wills, he will do.” (1 Maccabees 3:59).
Judas shows an extreme zeal for the law and trust in God. He can’t stand the idea of his church being destroyed so he realizes he must die trying to protect it. How can we arm ourselves to fight against things that may try and destroy our faith?
For Monday, please read chapter 4.