Day 205 – 2 Maccabees 8:21-10:23; Psalm 24:12–22; Proverbs 4:24–28; Acts 24

2 Maccabees 8:21-10:23

21 With these words he gave them good courage and prepared them to die on behalf of their laws and their homeland. Then he divided his forces into four parts. 22 He appointed his brothers, Simon and Joseph and Jonathan, each to command a division, putting fifteen hundred soldiers under each. 23 In addition, he appointed Eleazar to read aloud from the holy book and gave the watchword, “The help of God.” Then he led the first division himself and joined battle with Nicanor.
24 When the Almighty became their ally, they slew more than nine thousand of the enemy, and wounded and crippled most of Nicanor’s army, and forced them all to flee. 25 They seized the money of those who came to buy them as slaves. After they pursued them for some distance, they were compelled to return because of the hour; 26 for they did not continue their pursuit because it was the day before the Sabbath. 27 So when they had collected their arms and stripped the spoils from their enemy, they kept the Sabbath, greatly blessing and giving thanks to the Lord, who had brought them safely through the day and appointed it for them as a beginning of mercy. 28 Then after the Sabbath they gave a portion of the spoils to those who were tortured and to the widows and orphans, and distributed the rest among themselves and their children. 29 When they had done this, they made a common supplication and besought the merciful Lord to be reconciled at last with His servants.
30 Moreover, of the forces on the side of Timothy and Bacchides, who contended against them, they killed more than twenty thousand of them and became the masters of exceedingly high fortresses. They divided a great many spoils, giving shares equal to their own to those who had been tortured and to the orphans and widows, and also to the aged. 31 After they collected the enemy’s weapons, they organized them all carefully in convenient places, and carried the rest of the spoils to Jerusalem. 32 They killed the commander of Timothy’s forces, a most unholy man and one who had greatly troubled the Jews. 33 While they were celebrating the victory in the city of their fathers, they burned those who had set fire to the temple gates: Callisthenes and some others, who had fled into one small house; so they received a recompense worthy of their impiety.
34 The thrice-sinful Nicanor had brought the thousand merchants for the purchase of the Jews, 35 but he was humbled with the help of the Lord by the opponents he regarded as of the least account. Thus, after he succeeded primarily in the destruction of his own army, he took off his glorious military apparel and made his way inland alone like a fugitive until he reached Antioch. 36 There, he who had undertaken to establish taxes for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a Defender, and therefore were invulnerable, because they followed the laws appointed beforehand by Him.
God Punishes Antiochus
1 About that time, it happened that Antiochus returned in dishonor from the region of Persia. 2 For he had entered the city called Persepolis and attempted to rob the temples and control the city. Therefore when the citizens rushed to the city’s aid with arms, Antiochus and his men were routed; and it came about that Antiochus was put to flight by the citizens and made a shameful return home. 3 Now while he was in Ecbatana, news came to him about what had happened to Nicanor and the forces of Timothy. 4 Swollen with rage, he supposed that he would also vent upon the Jews the evil done to him by those who had banished him. Wherefore he commanded his charioteer to drive without stopping to complete the journey. But the judgment of heaven came upon him, for in his arrogance he said, “When I arrive there I will make Jerusalem a common burial place of the Jews.”
  5 But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him with an incurable and unseen plague. For as soon as he stopped speaking, a deadly pain seized him in his inward parts, with sharp internal torments— 6 and this very justly, for he had tortured the inward parts of others with many and unusual afflictions. 7 Yet by no means did he cease from his haughtiness, but was even more filled with arrogance, breathing fire in his rage against the Jews and giving orders to hasten the journey. So it came to pass that he fell out of his chariot as it rushed along, and the fall was so hard that it tortured every limb of his body.
8 He who had just been thinking that he could command the waves of the sea because of his superhuman arrogance, and imagined he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter. Thus he conveyed plainly to all the manifest power of God. 9 Accordingly, worms swarmed up from the ungodly man’s body, and his flesh rotted away while he was still alive, anguishing and in pain. Because of his odor, the whole army was repulsed by his rottenness, 10 and because of his intolerable smell no one was able to carry the man who a little while before thought he could touch the stars of heaven. 11 Then he was broken down, and began to cease from much of his arrogance and to come to a recognition of the divine scourge; for he was bent over with pain at every moment. 12 When he could no longer endure his own stench, he spoke these words: “It is right to be subject to God, and no mortal should think that he is equal with God.”
13 Then this disgusting man prayed to the Lord, who would no longer have mercy on him, 14 saying that the holy city, which he had been hastening to level to the ground and make into a common burial place, he was now proclaiming to be free. 15 Moreover, the Jews, whom he did not consider worthy of a burial place, but to be thrown out along with their children for the wild animals and the birds to eat, he would make them all equal to citizens of Athens. 16 Furthermore, the holy temple, which he had plundered in times past, he would adorn with the finest offerings, and restore—many times over—all the holy vessels; and the taxes assigned to the sacrifices he would pay from his own revenues. 17 In addition to this, he also would become a Jew and visit every inhabited place to proclaim the might of God.
A Final Letter to the Jews
18 But when his sufferings did not cease at all, for the judgment of God came upon him justly, he was driven to despair over what had happened to him. Thus he wrote the Jews the letter recorded below, in the form of a supplication. It contained the following words:
19 “To the good Jewish citizens, Antiochus your king and general sends many greetings and good wishes for your health and welfare. 20 If you and your children are strong and your interests are served, then I am glad. With my hope in heaven, 21 I kindly remember your respect and goodwill.
“Now as I was returning home from the region of Persia, I was struck with a difficult illness and now consider it necessary to be concerned about the common safety of all. 22 But I am not giving up hope for myself, for I have great hope of escaping from this illness. 23 Nevertheless, I observed that even my father, when he led his army into the upper countries, appointed his successor, 24 that if anything unexpected should arise or any unwelcome news should come, the people throughout the realm would not be troubled; for they would know to whom the government was left.
25 “In addition to this, I understand how the rulers, close at hand and the neighbors of my kingdom, keep watching for opportunities and waiting to see how things will turn out. Thus I have appointed my son Antiochus to be king. Oftentimes when I hastened off to the upper provinces, I entrusted and commended him to most of you. So I have written to him what is written here.
  26 “Therefore I urge you and request that you remember my acts of kindness for both the common and private good, and maintain your present goodwill toward me and my son. 27 For I am persuaded that he, following my policy, will treat you kindly and considerately.”
28 So the murderer and blasphemer suffered very grievously, as he had treated others. For he died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land. 29 Then Philip, who grew up with him, took his body home. But fearing the son of Antiochus, he went instead to Ptolemy Philometor in Egypt.
Judas Maccabeus Purifies the Temple
1 With the Lord leading them on, Maccabeus and those with him received back the temple and the city. 2 They took down the altars fabricated in the marketplace by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts. 3 When they had purified the temple, they made another altar and, striking fire out of stones, they offered sacrifices—the first in two years. They offered incense and lit lamps and set out the bread of the Presence.
4 When they had done this, they fell prostrate and besought the Lord so as never again to fall into such calamities, but if they should ever sin, they might be chastised by Him with gentleness and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations. 5 It happened on the anniversary of the same day the temple was profaned by the foreigners, that the purification of the temple took place: on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev. 6 They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the Feast of Tabernacles, remembering how a short time before they had spent the feast living in mountains and caves like wild animals. 7 Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands, beautiful olive branches, and even palm branches, they offered hymns of praise to Him who made possible the purifying of His own place. 8 They decreed by a common edict and vote that the whole Jewish nation should celebrate these days every year. 9 Such then was the end of Antiochus, called Epiphanes.
The Reign of Antiochus V Begins
10 Now we will tell what took place under Antiochus Eupator, the son of that ungodly man, and will set forth and encompass briefly the calamities of the wars. 11 For this man inherited the kingdom and appointed a certain Lysias as chief governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia. 12 Then Ptolemy, called Macron, led the way in protecting the rights of the Jews because of the wrongdoing that happened to them, and he attempted to maintain peaceful relations with them. 13 For this reason he was accused before Eupator by the king’s friends. He heard himself called a traitor at every turn because he abandoned Cyprus, entrusted to him by Philometor, and defected to Antiochus Epiphanes. Since he could not exercise his noble authority honorably, he took poison and ended his life.
The Idumeans Fall to Judas
14 When Gorgias became governor of the region, he maintained mercenary troops and attacked the Jews at every turn. 15 At the same time, the Idumeans, in possession of vital strongholds, were harassing the Jews. They received fugitives from Jerusalem and endeavored to keep up the war. 16 But Maccabeus and his men made supplication and implored God to be their ally, then rushed against the strongholds of the Idumeans. 17 They attacked them aggressively, gained possession of the places, and drove back all who fought upon the wall. They slaughtered everyone they encountered, killing no fewer than twenty thousand.
18 But at least nine thousand fled into two very strong towers, which were well equipped, containing everything necessary to withstand a siege. 19 So Maccabeus left behind Simon, Joseph, and also Zacchaeus and those with him, a force sufficient to besiege them. Then he went to more urgent places. 20 But those around Simon, who were money lovers, were bribed by some of those in the towers. When they had received seventy thousand drachmas, they allowed some of them to slip away. 21 When news of what happened reached Maccabeus, he gathered the leaders of the people and accused them of selling their brothers for money by releasing their enemies to fight against them. 22 Then he killed these men who had become traitors and immediately seized the two towers. 23 Faring well at arms in everything he undertook, he destroyed more than twenty thousand in the two fortresses.
Psalm 24:12–22

12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?

He will instruct him in the way He chooses.

13 His soul shall dwell among good things;

His seed shall inherit the earth.

14 The Lord is the strength of those who fear Him,

And to those who fear Him, His name is the Lord,

And He will show them His covenant.

15 My eyes are always toward the Lord,

For He shall pluck my feet out of the trap.

16 Look upon me and have mercy on me,

For I am only-begotten and poor.

17 The afflictions of my heart have been widened;

Bring me out of my distresses.

18 Look on my humiliation and my pain

And forgive all my sins.

19 Look on my enemies, because they multiply,

And they hate me with unjustified hatred.

20 Keep my soul, and deliver me;

Let me not be ashamed, because I hope in You.

21 The innocent and the upright cleave to me

Because I wait upon You, O Lord.

22 Redeem Israel, O God,

Out of all his afflictions.

Proverbs 4:24–28

24 Let your eyes look straight forward,

And let your eyelids assent to righteous things.

25 Make straight paths for your feet

And direct your ways aright.

26 Do not turn aside to the right or to the left,

But turn your foot from an evil way;

27 For God knows the ways on the right hand,

But those on the left are perverse;

  28 And He shall make your paths straight

And guide your steps in peace.

Acts 24

24 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul.

And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and [a]prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your [b]courtesy, a few words from us. For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, [c]and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.” And the Jews also [d]assented, maintaining that these things were so.

10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection [e]of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

17 “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say [f]if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ”

22 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” 23 So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.

24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” 26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, [g]that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.

27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

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