The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz)

In The Bible in a Year podcast, Fr. Mike Schmitz walks you through the entire Bible in 365 episodes, providing commentary, reflection, and prayer along the way.

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Each 20-25 minute episode includes:

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The Bible contains adult themes that may not be suitable for children - parental discretion is advised.

Day 303: Eleazar's Martyrdom (2022)

October 29, 2022

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Fr. Mike offers a recap of Eleazar's martyrdom and marvels at Eleazar's courage to avoid both sin, and the temptation to lead others into sin. As we begin reading the book of Wisdom today, we also learn three valuable lessons; God did not create death, death entered the world through sin, and we are wise when we walk in the truth but foolish when we walk in evil. Today's readings are 2 Maccabees 6, Wisdom 1-2, and Proverbs 24:21-26.

For the complete reading plan, visit ascensionpress.com/bibleinayear.

Please note: The Bible contains adult themes that may not be suitable for children - parental discretion is advised.

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Transcript

Hi, my name is Father Mike Schmitz, and you're listening to the Bible in a Year podcast, where we encounter God's voice and live life through the lens of Scripture.

The Bible in a Year podcast is brought to you by Ascension.

Using the Great Adventure Bible Timeline, we'll read all the way from Genesis to Revelation, discovering how the story of salvation unfolds and how we fit into that story today.

It is day 303.

We're reading 2nd Maccabees, chapter 6.

We're also starting a new book.

It is essentially our last Old Testament book.

It's the book of wisdom, and we're reading wisdom chapter 1 and 2, also Proverbs, chapter 24, verses 21 through 26.

When I say it's the last Old Testament book, I mean it's the last like new book we're going to read from the Old Testament until we jump into the New Testament, kind of with both feet and everything.

As I've always said, the Bible translation we're reading from is the revised Standard Version 2nd Catholic Edition.

I'm using the Great Adventure Bible from Ascension.

If you want to download your own Bible in a Year reading plan, you can visit ascensionpress.com slash Bible in a year.

You can also subscribe to this podcast and receive daily episodes and updates.

It's day 303.

We're reading 2nd Maccabees, chapter 1 and 2, and Proverbs, chapter 24, verses 21 through 26.

The 2nd Book of the Maccabees, chapter 6, The Suppression of Judaism.

Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God, and also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and call it the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerasim, the Temple of Zeus, the Friend of Strangers, as did the people who dwelt in that place.

Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil, for the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallyed with harlots and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit.

The altar was covered with abominable offerings which were forbidden by the laws.

A man could neither keep the Sabbath, nor observe the feasts of his fathers, nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew.

On the monthly celebration of the king's birthday, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices, and when the Feasts of Dionysus came, they were compelled to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus, wearing wreaths of ivy.

At the suggestion of Ptolemy, a decree was issued to the neighboring Greek cities that they should adopt the same policy toward the Jews and make them partake of the sacrifices and should slay those who did not choose to change over to Greek customs.

One could see, therefore, the misery that had come upon them.

For example, two women were brought in for having circumcised their children.

These women they publicly paraded about the city with their babies hung at their breasts, then hurled them down headlong from the wall.

Others who had assembled in the caves nearby to observe the seventh day secretly were betrayed to Philip and were all burned together because their piety kept them from defending themselves in view of their regard for that most holy day.

Providential Significance of the Persecution Now, I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities, but to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people.

In fact, not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately is a sign of great kindness.

For in the case of the other nations, the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins.

But He does not deal in this way with us, in order that He may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height.

Therefore, He never withdraws His mercy from us.

Though He disciplines us with calamities, He does not forsake His own people.

Let what we have said serve as a reminder.

We must go on briefly with the story.

The Martyrdom of Eleazar Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine's flesh.

But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, as men ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste even for the natural love of life.

Those who were in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside because of their long acquaintance with him and privately urged him to bring meat of his own providing, proper for him to use, and pretend that he was eating the flesh of the sacrificial meal which had been commanded by the king, so that by doing this he might be saved from death and be treated kindly on account of his old friendship with them.

But making a high resolve worthy of his years and the dignity of his old age and the gray hairs which he had reached with distinction and his excellent life even from childhood, and moreover, according to the holy, God-given laws, he declared himself quickly, telling them to send him to Hades.

Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life, he said.

Lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his 90th year has gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age.

For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die, I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty.

Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.

When he had said this, he went at once to the rack, and those who a little before had acted toward him with good will now changed to ill will because the words he had uttered were in their opinion sheer madness.

When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said, It is clear to the Lord in His holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating.

But in my soul, I am glad to suffer these things because I fear Him.

So in this way he died, leaving in his death an example of nobility and a memorial of courage, not only to the young, but to the great body of his nation.

The Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 1, Exhortation to Uprightness and Avoidance of Evil Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth.

Think of the Lord with uprightness and seek Him with sincerity of heart, because He is found by those who do not put Him to the test, and manifest Himself to those who do not distrust Him.

For perverse thoughts separate men from God, and when His power is tested, it convicts the foolish.

Because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin.

For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will rise and depart from foolish thoughts, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.

For wisdom is a kindly spirit, and will not free a blasphemer from the guilt of his words, because God is witness of his inmost feelings, and a true observer of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.

Because the Spirit of the Lord has filled the world, and that which holds all things together knows what is said.

Therefore, no one who utters unrighteous things will escape notice, and justice, when it punishes, will not pass him by.

For inquiry will be made into the counsels of an ungodly man, and a report of his words will come to the Lord, to convict him of his lawless deeds.

Because a jealous ear hears all things, and the sound of murmurings does not go unheard.

Beware then of useless murmuring, and keep your tongue from slander, because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul.

Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands, because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.

For he created all things that they might exist, and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For righteousness is immortal.

Not ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned to death, considering him a friend they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party.

Chapter 2 For the reasoned unsoundly sang to themselves, Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end, and no one has been known to return from Hades, because we were born by mere chance, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been, because the breath in our nostrils is smoke, and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.

When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes, and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.

Our name will be forgotten in time, and no one will remember our works.

Our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud, and be scattered like a mist that is chased by the rays of the sun and overcome by its heat.

For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and there is no return from our death, because it is sealed up and no one turns back.

Come therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in our youth.

Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower of spring pass us by.

Let us crown ourselves with rose buds before they wither.

Let none of us fail to share in our revelry, everywhere, let us leave signs of enjoyment, because this is our portion and this is our lot.

Let us oppress the righteous poor man, let us not spare the widow, nor regard the gray hairs of the aged, but let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.

Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions.

He reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training.

He professes to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child of the Lord.

He became to us a reproof for our thoughts, the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others and his ways are strange.

We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean.

He calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his Father.

Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life, for if the righteous man is God's Son, he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance.

Let us condemn him to a shameful death for, according to what he says, he will be protected.

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls.

For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity.

But through the devil's envy, death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.

The book of Proverbs chapter 24 verses 21 through 26.

My son, fear the Lord and the King, and do not disobey either of them.

For disaster from them will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?

These also are sayings of the wise.

Partiality in judging is not good.

He who says to the wicked you are innocent will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations.

But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will be upon them.

The who gives a right answer kisses the lips.

Father in heaven, we give you praise and thank you so much.

Thank you for this day, and thank you so much for hiding your gospel, hiding your goodness and truth in the Old Testament, in the Old Covenant.

Lord God, for those of us who are going through wisdom for the very first time in our lives, we thank you for this book.

This book that has been a mystery, unknown to so many for so long.

And thank you, Lord, for this book, and thank you for the truth that you revealed to us.

Through this book, but also through your entire word, especially through the word made flesh, your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In his name we pray, amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Wow, okay, you guys.

So let's just start with 2nd Maccabees, chapter 6.

As I mentioned yesterday, we have a couple chapters of martyrdom.

We have a couple chapters of this incredible witness that the people of Israel, the children of Israel are giving to the world, but to each other, really.

And the story of Eliezer is just an incredible gift.

The context, of course, is what comes right before the martyrdom of Eliezer.

What comes right before the martyrdom of Eliezer begins in chapter 6, verse 12, where it's subtitled Providential Significance of the Persecution.

Remember, as I mentioned this yesterday, the pedagogy, like the teaching of God is, okay, when you're unfaithful, I will allow you to experience this suffering, I'll be even maybe bring it upon you, not to destroy you, but to discipline you.

And here's what we have, oh gosh, spelled out here in 2nd Maccabees 6, verse 12 and following.

It says here, now I urge those, this is a little brief moment.

Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities.

Listen for something like that at the end of chapter 7.

It's also going to be something really powerful.

But to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy, but to discipline our people.

And in fact, but to punish them immediately is a great kindness of God.

He said, he goes on to say, wait for other nations to reach the apex of their sinfulness and then destroy them.

Here's God who comes to us to correct us, not to destroy us, but to discipline us, and not to crush us, but to correct us.

And that's just, man, that's the context.

That's the context that we get to experience these horrible things we're going to about to hear.

We're going to hear the one horrible thing today in Eleazar's life at the end of his life, but also tomorrow we're going to hear it even more.

I don't know, could it be even more?

I think it is even more tragic story and more glorious story pointing to God's goodness and to witnessing for truth.

Here's Eleazar, 90 years old.

And gosh, think about all the ways in which there's little subtle points of this story that just, we could pray about for a long time.

And I invite you to pray about this.

It says that Eleazar, he was honored.

He was respected by the people who were saying, hey, Eleazar, you're our pal.

We respect you.

We honor you.

And they're very kind to him, they're very genteel to him.

You want to say it like that?

Very gentle with him.

Until he says no, until he flatly refuses.

And then it says those who had goodwill towards him immediately began to have ill will towards him.

And that's the thing, the voice of the evil one, the voice of the evil one is so seductive, right?

It's so sly.

It's so kind of like, hey, I'm on your side.

Why would you?

Why would you not do this sin?

Why would you not say no to the Lord?

Of course, that just makes sense.

And yet when we say no, then the evil one turns on us because he never loved us in the first place.

He doesn't care about us.

He hates us.

And the people who are involved in this story with Eleazar are a symbol of that.

They're a symbol of the evil one.

They're not Satan himself.

But Eleazar, what was the deal they were going to cut with them?

They were going to say, hey, listen, the whole deal is you need to eat pork in public.

We know you're not going to eat pork.

So instead of eating pork, how about you come forward with whatever meat you want to eat, whatever you're okay with eating and eat that?

That'll be enough.

We're not going to tell anybody it's not pork.

We'll let everyone believe that it is.

And then, but you don't have to break the law yourself.

And if Eleazar did that, of course, he wouldn't be doing anything wrong.

I mean, at least not wrong in when it comes to violating the Lord's law.

But Eleazar, he has those words.

I love how it's described as well.

It says, he goes to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh as men ought to go, who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste even for the natural love of life.

And he says, such pretense is not worthy of our time of life, lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his 90th year has gone over to an alien religion.

And through my pretense for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me while I defile and disgrace my old age.

Ah, there's something so powerful about this.

And what it's called is the sin of scandal.

You know, we'd like to think that we're independent.

You know, a lot of us are coming from countries where independence is a real thing, where human individual sovereignty is a real thing.

Good.

That's great.

But because of that, we tend to think that we don't actually belong to each other, that the sin of scandal or leading someone else into sin is not really my, that's not my problem.

Why would my actions have any, any impact on what someone else does?

And yet we know that the Lord Jesus himself even says, if any of you would cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it'd be better for you if a great millstone were placed around your neck and you were cast into the sea.

The sin of scandal of leading others into sin is horrible, right?

You can go to hell for that kind of thing.

And here's Eleazar who essentially says, nope, I would never, I have never, I will never do that, even if at the price of my own life, which is just incredible.

Tomorrow we're going to hear another story that as I said, is even more incredible.

But let's look at the wisdom of Solomon.

And this is just so good.

Couple things to note, wisdom of Solomon.

I'm going to, let's, let's highlight three things just really briefly because they come up in the first and second chapters.

Number one, chapter one, verse 13, God did not make death and he does not delight in the destruction of the living.

One of the things people will often ask is the question of like, where does death come from?

Where does evil come from?

The God who made life also make death.

And the wisdom says very clearly, nope, God didn't make death.

Does he delight when people are destroyed?

No, next line, he does not delight in the death of the living, for he created all things that they might exist and the creatures of the world are wholesome and there is no destructive poison in them.

And the dominion of Hades is not on earth for righteousness is immortal.

There's this massive key.

And if you want to understand, how do we know the truth of God that he is not evil?

He is not death.

He is not bring about evil or death is wisdom.

Chapter one, verse 13 and following.

So important.

Where does it come from then?

Well, verse 16, this is monumental.

Like the verses that we've read today are monumental because they give such clear direction by the word of God here.

Remember these part of the Deuteronial Canon, right?

The second Canon, but legit Canon.

This is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And the next line is verse 16, but ungodly men with their words and deeds summoned death, considered him a friend.

They pined away and they made a covenant with him.

And this is so critical.

Where did that come from?

He did not make death.

He doesn't delight in the destruction of the living, but ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death, considered him a friend and pined away from him.

And that's just, this is, this is our story, right?

God doesn't want us to choose evil.

He doesn't want us to choose death, but we choose evil.

We choose death.

Next little piece, chapter two, just bonkers.

Please I invite you, my brothers and sisters, please pray with chapter two, verses 12 and following and ask yourself, who does this make you think of?

Let us lie and wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions.

He reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training.

Okay, you think of someone going into the temple and maybe making a whip out of the cords and overturning some tables?

It goes on to say, he professes to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child of the Lord.

He became to us a reproof of our thoughts.

The very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others and his ways are strange.

You know, think about when you're around a truly holy person, there's a goodness.

There's a joy there.

There's a goodness there, but there's also, it makes you uncomfortable if you're not willing to let go of sin in your life.

Goes on to say, he avoids our ways as unclean.

He calls the last end of the righteous happy and boasts that God is his father.

This is one of the things that one of the accusations leveled against Jesus in his life is that he claims that God is his father, making himself equal to God.

So here's what we're going to do.

Let us see if his words are true.

Let us test what will happen at the end of his life for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

What does it say?

If you are the son of God, come off that cross, right?

Oh my gosh, you guys, honestly, if you've never read the Lewis Solomon, here we are.

And I hope that your hearts are on fire right now with this love of God, like realizing, I've never knew this, that here the scribes and Pharisees shouting out at Jesus, goes on looking yelling at Jesus saying, if you are the son of God, come down off that cross.

That's the fulfillment of wisdom chapter two.

Let us see if his words are true for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him.

Goes on to say, let us test him and insult with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make a trial of his forbearance.

Let us condemn him to a shameful death for according to what he says, he will be protected.

Wow, you guys, oh my gosh, last two keys and I never, never done.

It says in verse 21, Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, and their wickedness blinded them.

This is one of the themes of the book of wisdom is we are wise when we walk in the truth, and we are foolish when we walk in evil.

Their foolishness, their wickedness blinded them.

And then if you want a reminder that God did not make death, the end of chapter two reasserts this, for God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of his own eternity.

And then this is the verse 24, But through the devil's envy, death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.

But through the envy of the devil, death entered the world.

That's one of the reasons why we suppose, why did Lucifer rebel?

Well, one of the sins of Lucifer was pride, of course, but also very possibly envy, well, not possibly says here, right?

But through the devil's envy, death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.

Gosh, I hope that these first two chapters of wisdom have been not just they're beautiful, they are beautiful, but not just beautiful, but enlightening.

I hope they set your heart on fire by realizing here is we have the next, you know, I don't know, 10 days or so of just being able to listen from this book of wisdom that has so much to offer that we maybe have never heard before.

And so take it in, soak it in and let God's word set your heart and my heart on fire.

I am praying for you.

Please, please pray for me.

My name is Father Mike.

I cannot wait to see you tomorrow.

God bless.