Devotional: ‘Something Worth Dying For’

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It was said of Judah the Maccabaeus that he was “like a lion in his exploits…” [1] Through a series of strategic attacks, he began to chip away and weaken the great Grecian army. Finally Antiochus Epiphanes had enough of this rebellion and he brought together his entire army for the purpose of destroying the Maccabees. He incorporated elephants as a part of his army and he promised his soldiers a full year’s wages in advance. It was Antiochus’ intention to wipe the memory of the nation of Israel from off the face of the earth forever.

The Maccabees were overwhelmingly outnumbered. Therefore, like so many of their Jewish ancestors who had faced similar situations, they committed themselves to fast and pray, pleading for God to help them. Just before the battle, Judah said to his men, “Better for us to die in battle than to watch the ruin of our nation and our Holy Place.” [2] Not knowing what would happen, Judah and his men fought in faith and by the miraculous power of God, they defeated their enemy.

The story of Judah Maccabees is told a hundred times in the Bible in a hundred different ways. We read from the book of Hebrews –

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

The power belongs not to Judah Maccabees, or Samson, or even someone like David. The power belongs to God. Consider these words spoken by Moses to the nation of Israel –

Deuteronomy 20:1 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4 for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’

Judah Maccabees and his army defeated their enemy because they believed in God. May his story and the stories of so many others encourage us to have faith as well.

[1] 1 Maccabees 3:4

[2] 1 Maccabees 3:59

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