Day 209 – 3 Maccabees 1, 2; Psalm 28; Proverbs 5:20–23; Acts 27:21–44

3 Maccabees 1, 2

1 When Philopator heard from those who returned that the regions he ruled had been captured by Antiochus, he issued orders to all his infantry and cavalry forces, took his sister Arsinoe along with him, and set out toward the area near Raphia, where the forces of Antiochus were positioned. 2 Now a certain Theodotus, intending to carry out a plan he had developed, took the finest of the Ptolemaic weapons issued earlier to him and crossed by night to Ptolemy’s tent with the intention of killing him by himself, and in that way ending the war. 3 But Dositheus, called the son of Drimylos, by birth Jew who afterward changed his religion and apostatized from the traditions of his fathers, removed the king and put in his place a certain unimportant man in the tent. That man suffered the vengeance intended for the king.
  4 When a fierce battle took place and things were going rather well for Antiochus, Arsinoe went and exhorted the soldiers with her cries and tears. With her hair disheveled, she urged them to be brave and to defend themselves and their children and wives. She promised to give each of them two minas of gold if they were victorious. 5 So it happened the enemy was defeated in hand-to-hand combat, and many were taken captive. 6 But having prevailed against the plot, Ptolemy decided to visit and encourage the neighboring cities. 7 In doing so and by enriching their sacred precincts with gifts, he built up the morale of the conquered people.
Ptolemy Tries to Enter the Temple
8 When the Jews sent representatives to him from the senate, they greeted him, brought him gifts, and congratulated him on the way things turned out. He was favorable to them and eager to visit them soon. 9 When he came to Jerusalem, he sacrificed to the Almighty God and made thank offerings and did what was appropriate in the place. In coming into the holy place, he was astonished at its excellence and beauty, 10 and he admired the good order of the temple and conceived a desire to enter into the inner sanctuary. 11 They told him, however, it was inappropriate for him to do this, since even citizens of their own nation were not allowed to enter, nor even all the priests. Only the high priest who was first over all of them could enter, but only once a year. Ptolemy, though, was not at all persuaded. 12 Even when the law was read to him, still he would not stop insisting that he should enter, saying, “Even if others are deprived of this honor, I must not be deprived.” 13 Then he asked why nobody ever prevented him from going into all the other shrines. 14 Someone said without thinking that it was improper to take that as a portent. 15 When that happened, he said that he would enter anyway, whether they liked it or not.
16 Then the priests, fully vested, prostrated themselves and supplicated God Most High to help them in the present circumstances, to turn away the impulse of the man of evil design. The temple was filled with their cries and tears. 17 Those who remained in the city rushed out, supposing that something mysterious was happening. 18 Even the virgins who had remained in their chambers rushed out with their mothers and sprinkled dust on their hair, filling the streets with wailing and groaning. 19 Those, too, who were recently brought to their bridal chambers abandoned the modesty that was appropriate for them and raced through the city in a disorderly manner. 20 At that point, mothers and nurses even abandoned their newborns here and there, some at home and others in the streets, and without looking back crowded into the most high temple.
21 The prayers of those gathered were of varied forms because of what the king was plotting in such an unholy way. 22 Besides, more aggressive citizens would in no way tolerate the carrying out of his plan or the fulfillment of his intention. 23 They shouted to their neighbors to make a run on the weapons and to die courageously for the law of their fathers. They created a great disturbance in the place and were barely restrained by the aged and the elders. They took up the same posture of prayer as the others.
24 In the meantime, the multitude returned to prayer as before. 25 The elders close by the king made many attempts to divert his haughty mind from the plan he had concocted. 26 But in his arrogance he dismissed everything they said and began to approach the place, determined to complete his plan. 27 When those around the king observed this, they turned to one another and called upon Him who is all-powerful to come to their aid in this current struggle and not to ignore this lawless and arrogant act. 28 But because of the continual impassioned shouting of the crowds, it seemed that not only those present but also the very walls and the earth itself were echoing the cry, for they all preferred death to the profaning of the temple.
A Priestly Prayer Stops Ptolemy
1 The high priest Simon bent his knees before the temple and stretched out his hands with great dignity, calmly offering the following prayer: 2 “O Lord, Lord, King of the heavens and Master of all creation, Holy One among the holy ones, the only Ruler, the Almighty: attend to us who are grievously oppressed by an unholy and irreverent man who is arrogant in his audacity and power. 3 For You, the Creator of all and Ruler over all, are a righteous Master, and You judge those who do anything with insolence and arrogance. 4 In the past You destroyed those who acted unjustly, among whom were the giants who trusted in their physical strength and boldness, whom You destroyed by bringing the great flood of water upon them. 5 You burned up with fire and brimstone the inhabitants of Sodom, who acted in arrogance and were notorious for their evil acts, and You made them an example for those who came after them. 6 You made known Your might and power among men and brought many different acts of punishment on the arrogant Pharaoh, who enslaved Your holy people Israel. 7 For when he chased after them with horse-drawn chariots and a myriad of troops, You overwhelmed him in the depths of the sea, and brought across to safety those who trusted in You, the King of all creation. 8 So when they considered the works of Your hands, they praised You, the Almighty God.
  9 “You, O King, created the endless and measureless earth and chose this city. You sanctified this holy place for Your name and hallowed it by its magnificent appearance, even though You have no need of anything. You made its structure solid for the glory of Your great and honorable name.
10 “Because You love the house of Israel, You promised that if we should suffer setbacks and if distress should overtake us, You would hear our supplication when we come into this place to pray. 11 Indeed, You are faithful and true. 12 But often when our fathers were afflicted, You helped them in humility and saved them from great evils. 13 Behold, O holy King, how we are oppressed because of our manifold sins, subjected to our enemies and lying in helplessness. 14 In our downfall this arrogant and ungodly man continues to desecrate the holy place which is dedicated to the name of Your glory on the earth. 15 Your dwelling place, the heaven of the heavens, is unapproachable by men. 16 But since You by Your grace consented to grant Your glory upon Your people Israel, You hallowed this place. 17 Do not punish us for the defilement caused by these men, and do not chastise us for this profanity. Do not allow these lawless people to brag in their anger and exult in the pride of their tongues, saying 18 that they trampled the house of holiness as the houses of abominations are trampled.
19 “Wipe away our sins, disperse our errors, and display Your compassion at this hour. 20 Let Your mercies come upon us quickly. Grant praise in the mouth of us who have fallen and are crushed in our souls, and bring us peace.”
21 Then God, who watches over all, our Holy Forefather among the holy ones, heard this lawful supplication and scourged the man who raised himself up in arrogance and audacity. 22 He shook him on one side and the other, as a reed is shaken by the wind, so that he lay powerless on the ground. Besides being paralyzed in his limbs, he was unable to cry out, since he was struck by a righteous judgment. 23 Therefore his friends and bodyguards alike were struck by an overwhelming fear, seeing the severe punishment that overtook him. Fearing he would die, quickly they dragged him away. 24 Later, when he recovered, he still did not repent after being chastised, but went his way making bitter threats.
Ptolemy Assaults the Jews
25 Then Ptolemy crossed over to Egypt, where he increased his evil, assisted by the aforementioned drinking companions and comrades, who were unacquainted with anything righteous. 26 He was not content with his countless acts of indecency, but audaciously proceeded to spread many evil reports throughout the region. Many of his friends observed the king’s intentions and adjusted themselves to conform to his will. 27 He undertook to spread abroad a public blame against the Jewish nation, and raising a plaque on the tower at the palace, he carved this inscription: 28 “No one shall enter the temple who does not sacrifice, but all the Jews shall be gathered for a census for taxation and reduced to servant status. Those who oppose this will be taken by force and put to death. 29 Those registered are to be branded by fire on their bodies with the ivy leaf symbol of Dionysus, and they will also return to their former status.” 30 But so as not to appear an enemy to all, he wrote underneath: “If some of them prefer to join those initiated into the mysteries, they will have equal rights of citizenship with the Alexandrians.”
31 Some, then, obviously hated the price required to maintain godliness in the city. So they gave themselves up willingly, for they expected greater glory from the association they were about to have with the king. 32 But most of them prevailed with a noble spirit and did not abandon their faith. They paid money to save their lives and fearlessly exerted themselves to be saved from the census. 33 They remained hopeful of finding help, while loathing those who isolated themselves from them. They considered them betrayers of the nation, and therefore, deprived them of friendship and assistance.
Psalm 28

1 A psalm by David; the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Bring to the Lord, O you sons of God,

Bring to the Lord the sons of rams;

Bring to the Lord glory and honor.

2 Bring to the Lord the glory due His name;

Worship the Lord in His holy court.

3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;

The God of glory thundered;

The Lord is upon the many waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is strong;

The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord shatters cedars,

And the Lord shall grind to powder the cedars of Lebanon;

6 And He shall grind them fine like the young bull, and like Lebanon,

But His beloved shall be like a son of unicorns.

7 The voice of the Lord cuts through fiery flames;

8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert,

And the Lord will shake the desert of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord causes deer to calve,

And uncovers the thickets;

And in His temple, everyone speaks of His glory.

10 The Lord shall dwell in the deluge,

And the Lord shall sit as King forever.

11 The Lord will give strength to His people;

The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Proverbs 5:20–23

20 Do not be intimate with a strange woman,

Neither cling to the embrace of a woman not your own;

21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of God,

And He keeps close watch on all his paths.

22 Lawless women ensnare a man,

But each man is bound by the chains of his own sins.

23 Such a man dies with the uninstructed

And is cast forth from the abundance of his own substance;

And he is destroyed by lack of discernment.

Acts 27:21–44

21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take [f]heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

27 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. 28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and [g]prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.

33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.

39 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. 40 And they [h]let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. 41 But striking [i]a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.

42 And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.

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