“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11 NRSV)
The story of the Maccabee’s victory over the powerful Greek army is a fascinating one.
The Greek army exerted a very heavy hand against the Jews, determining to crush the Jewish religion.
They took the statue of Zeus and mounted it in the courtyard of the Temple, banned the observance of the Sabbath on the pain of death, and banned circumcision, putting to death both child and father if it was carried out.
About the year 166 BCE, a group finally stood up to the Greeks and re-established the Jerusalem Temple as a place of true worship after it had been turned into a pagan shrine. The name, ‘Maccabee’, means ‘the hammer’, and hammer the Greeks they did.
These resistance fighters were not strong, well-trained warriors; rather they were a group more used to studying God’s Word all day. Their strength came not from their own skill and power but from another source.
The name ‘Maccabee’ also has another meaning: it is a Hebrew acronym for the phrase:
“Who among the gods is like you, LORD?” , from Exodus 15:11.
The strength of the Maccabees was from God.
It’s interesting how God frequently uses this method. He puts us in an impossible situation so that we can come to see Him and know from whom our strength comes.
Had the Maccabees been a well-trained army they may not have noticed God’s hand in the victory.
The Jewish heroes of that day were frail, outnumbered, outgunned, and yet, they were triumphant. They defeated the greatest army in the world at that time.
According to tradition, the Maccabees would recite Psalm 91 on their way to and while in battle. It was a most appropriate Psalm for their circumstances.
As they went into battle I can imagine them placing their trust in God as they recited,
‘You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day’ (v.5),
‘A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.’ (v.7)
These words remind us that while we may be surrounded by terrible danger, sure to be defeated by all natural accounts, God can still protect us. God can surround us like a shield that no one, not even the powerful Greek army, could penetrate.
They must have turned to verse 2 and said to the Lord, you are
‘my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’
The Maccabees won their war by placing trust in God, and He brought about a miraculous salvation.
Let’s remember in the battles we face that victory doesn’t always go to the mighty and powerful. God can make us triumphant no matter what our circumstances or what our weaknesses are.
If He could bring a small, weak group of Jews to defeat the mighty Greeks, surely He can bring victory to us, too.
Let’s place our trust fully in God and see what he can do.
Father, you are the God of the miraculous; in your name we trust.
Have a good week trusting in the Lord for your strength.