In chapter four we once again see Judas and his Israelite army have to bunker down and fight off the gentiles. After defeating the first fleet, Lysias went away angered and increased his army six fold and returned one year later to wage battle. Through this entire time, Judas reencouraged his fellow Jews with unshakeable hope and trust in God. Let's take one more look at his powerful prayer “So now let us cry to Heaven in the hope that he will favor us, remember his covenant with our fathers, and destroy this army today. All the Gentiles shall know that there is One who redeems and delivers us.” (1 Maccabees 4:10-11) Judas recalls how generous and loving God was to their ancestors and how he wasn’t going to let them suffer a different fate. The goal of the fight wasn’t to plunder their land and riches but to show them that God redeems and saves his people and keeps his covenant if you obey the law.
Lysias lost almost 5,000 men in battle and began to recognize the tenacity of Judas and how they were all ok with being martyred if it meant not disobeying the law, and retreated back to Antioch leaving the Jewish people victorious. Now that their enemies have been defeated, Judas and his camp returned home to fix the damage done by the Gentiles.
Judas instructed the most blameless and zealous priest in his camp to rededicate everything exactly according to the law. They removed the vandalized altar and built a new one. The burned incense, lit the lamp post, built up the walls, and hung new curtains. They made new priest vestments out of the finest materials. When this was all done they sacrificed and worshipped God, their deliverer for eight straight days. A tradition they’d keep every year on the anniversary to recount the dedication of their altar and the defeat of the gentiles. Does eight days sound familiar for another Jewish tradition? This feast would eventually develop into Hanukkah which is a tradition held by Jews to this day.
Not only does chapter four give us the roots of Hanukkah, it shows us the uncanny faith and trust the Israelites had in God and how greatly they were rewarded. Today, pray for the souls lost in battle to defend their religious freedom, something still not granted in every country. Let us take Judas as a great example and live our lives with the faith he did.
For Wednesday, read chapter 5.