When people talk about the Chanukah story, and the heroes who fought so that Israel could be free to worship God again, people talk about Judah Maccabee. Judah was the leader of the army when they regained control of the Temple, but it was his father Mattathias who began their fight for freedom. The historical account of what happened in Israel is recorded in the Book of Maccabees. Let’s take a look and see what it says.

1 Maccabees 2

17 Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias: You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city, supported by sons and kinsmen. 18 Come now, be the first to obey the king’s command, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those who are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons shall be numbered among the King’s Friends, and shall be enriched with silver and gold and many gifts.”

19 But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: “Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him, so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king’s orders,

20 yet I and my sons and my kinsmen will keep to the covenant of our fathers.

21 God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments.

22 We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.

27 Then Mattathias went through the city shouting, Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!

28 Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions.

29 Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom went out into the desert to settle there,

I would like to remind you today that we need to be Modern Day Maccabees and use our influence for God, just like Mattathias did. When the Syrians arrived in a city, they looked for a man of influence. A person who could be used to lead other people to abandon their faith. In this particular city, Mattathias was the man. They offered Mattathias a very nice bribe to be the first person to abandon his faith. But Mattathias would have nothing to do with this. He not only would not abandon his faith, but he decided to use his influence to get other Jews to remain faithful to God.

Mattathias spoke loudly so all could hear; both Syrians and Jews. Mattathias really did have much influence and many people followed him. After Mattathias passed away, his son Judah continued their fight for freedom. Judah received the nickname “Maccabee” which means “hammer.” Since he was the leader of the army, all the freedom fighters became known as “Maccabees.”

Today, even in America, there is an attack on religious freedom. I would like to encourage all of you to be a Modern Day Maccabee and remain true to your faith in God.