Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
2 Mc 1 — LETTERS TO THE "CHURCHES"
"We shall be celebrating the purification of the temple on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, so we thought it right to inform you, that you too may celebrate the feast of Booths and of the fire that appeared when Nehemiah, the rebuilder of the temple and the altar, offered sacrifices." 2 Maccabees 1:18
In 1 Maccabees, the letters are written to governments and kings as part of diplomatic relationships. In 2 Maccabees, the letters are to the "churches" (see Rv 2 and 3). Note that 2 Maccabees reports on many of the same events as 1 Maccabees, but from a more spiritual perspective.
Prayer: "May God bless you and remember His covenant with His faithful servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. May He give to all of you a heart to worship Him and to do His will readily and generously. May He open your heart to His law and His commandments and grant you peace. May He hear your prayers, and be reconciled to you, and never forsake you in time of adversity" (1:2-5).
Promise: "Since we have been saved by God from grave dangers, we give Him great thanks for having fought on our side against the king." 1:11
2 Mc 2 — PREFACE
"Here, then, we shall begin our account without further ado; it would be nonsense to write a long preface to a story and then abbreviate the story itself." 2 Maccabees 2:32
This book is a digest of a five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene. Despite this, the personality and faith of the one who prepared the digest shines through.
Prayer: Father, may this series of Simple Reading Guides to the books of the Bible express faith and joy in the Lord.
Promise: "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading." 2:25
2 Mc 3 — GOD CAN TAKE CARE OF HIMSELF
"For there is certainly some special divine power about the Place. He Who has His dwelling in heaven watches over that Place and protects it, and He strikes down and destroys those who come to harm it." 2 Maccabees 3:38-39
The governor Apollonius sent his official, Heliodorus to expropriate the wealth of the Temple. "People rushed out of their houses in crowds to make public supplication, because the Place was in danger of being profaned" (3:18). "It was pitiful to see the populace variously prostrated in prayer and the high priest full of dread and anguish" (3:21). When Heliodorus approached the treasury, "the Lord of spirits Who holds all power manifested Himself in so striking a way that those who had been bold enough to follow Heliodorus were panic-stricken at God's power and fainted away in terror" (3:24). Heliodorus was attacked by a horse "mounted by a dreadful rider" (3:25). Two other men flogged Heliodorus unceasingly until he had to be carried out on a stretcher. "While he lay speechless and deprived of all hope of aid, due to an act of God's power, the Jews praised the Lord Who had marvelously glorified His holy Place" (3:29-30). Heliodorus was saved from death only by the intercession of the high priest Onias.
Prayer: Father, manifest Your sovereign power in my life. Do anything You want, even if I don't understand it.
Promise: "The man who a moment before had entered that treasury with a great retinue and his whole bodyguard was carried away helpless, having clearly experienced the sovereign power of God." 3:28
2 Mc 4 — PRIESTLY CATASTROPHE
"The craze for Hellenism and foreign customs reached such a pitch, through the outrageous wickedness of the ungodly pseudo-high-priest Jason that the priests no longer cared about the service of the altar." 2 Maccabees 4:13-14
The high priest Onias was murdered. The office of priesthood went to the highest bidder. The priests were more interested in sports than in worship. The gold vessels of the Temple were stolen. And all hell broke loose.
Prayer: Lord, have mercy.
2 Mc 6 — ABOMINATION
"This intensified the evil in an intolerable and utterly disgusting way." 2 Maccabees 6:3
"The Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; they amused themselves with prostitutes and had intercourse with women even in the sacred court" (6:4). "A man could not keep the sabbath or celebrate the traditional feasts, nor even admit that he was a Jew" (6:6). "Two women who were arrested for having circumcised their children were publicly paraded about the city with their babies hanging at their breasts and then thrown down from the top of the city wall. Others, who had assembled in nearby caves to observe the sabbath in secret, were betrayed to Philip and all burned to death" (6:10-11). "Now I beg those who read this book not to be disheartened by these misfortunes, but to consider that these chastisements were meant not for the ruin but for the correction of our nation. It is, in fact, a sign of great kindness to punish sinners promptly instead of letting them go for long" (6:12-13).
Prayer: Father, give me the courage to die rather than compromise my faith.
Promise: "He never withdraws His mercy from us. Although He disciplines us with misfortunes, He does not abandon His own people." 6:16
2 Mc 7 — "ENOUGH" (7:42)
"Like my brothers, I offer up my body and my life for our ancestral laws, imploring God to show mercy soon to our nation, and by afflictions and blows to make you confess that He alone is God." 2 Maccabees 7:37
The old man Eleazar, seven brothers, and their mother each underwent gruesome tortures and death for the sake of the true faith. In our day, even more people are suffering martyrdom. The quota of martyrs is being filled as we near the end of the world (Rv 6:11).
Prayer: Father, thank You for the blood of Jesus and His martyrs.
Promise: "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by Him." 7:14
2 Mc 8 — MORE SPIRITUAL WARFARE
" 'They trust in weapons and acts of daring,' he said, 'but we trust in almighty God, Who can by a mere nod destroy not only those who attack us, but the whole world.' " 2 Maccabees 8:18
Judas miraculously defeated the Seleucid general Nicanor. In 2 Maccabees, there is more emphasis on spiritual warfare than in 1 Maccabees as well as greater emphasis on prayer and observing the sabbath. (Compare 1 Mc 2:41 and 2 Mc 8:26-27.)
Prayer: Father, may I keep holy the Lord's Day.
Promise: "The Jews had a Champion, and...they were invulnerable for the very reason that they followed the laws laid down by Him." 8:36
2 Mc 9 — "THE STENCH OF HIS CORRUPTION" (9:9)
"When he could no longer bear his own stench, he said, 'It is right to be subject to God, and not to think one's mortal self divine.' " 2 Maccabees 9:12
Antiochus got what he deserved. "The body of this impious man swarmed with worms, and while he was still alive in hideous torments, his flesh rotted off, so that the entire army was sickened by the stench of his corruption" (9:9). "So this murderer and blasphemer, after extreme sufferings such as he had inflicted on others, died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land" (9:28). The Lord knows how to bring down "the mighty from their thrones" (Lk 1:52).
Prayer: Father, thank You for not giving me what I deserve. Thank You for Your mercy.
Promise: "Besides all this, he would become a Jew himself and visit every inhabited place to proclaim there the power of God." 9:17
2 Mc 11 — INVINCIBLE
"He did not take God's power into account at all, but felt exultant confidence in his myriads of foot soldiers, his thousands of horsemen, and his eighty elephants." 2 Maccabees 11:4
"When Maccabeus and his men learned that the Seleucid general Lysias was besieging the strongholds, they and all the people begged the Lord with lamentations and tears to send a good angel to save Israel" (11:6). "Suddenly, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white garments and brandishing gold weapons. Then all of them together thanked God for His mercy, and their hearts were filled with such courage that they were ready to assault not only men, but the most savage beasts, yes, even walls of iron" (11:8-9). "Lysias was not a stupid man. He reflected on the defeat he had suffered, and came to realize that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God was their Ally" (11:13).
Prayer: Father, may I ally myself with You in every circumstance.
Promise: "Now that the Lord had shown His mercy toward them, they advanced in battle order with the aid of their heavenly Ally." 11:10
2 Mc 12 — PURGATORY
"But the Jews, invoking the Sovereign Who forcibly shatters the might of His enemies, got possession of the city and slaughtered twenty-five thousand of the people in it." 2 Maccabees 12:28
Judas and his army were in authority over their enemies when they were under the authority of the Lord. When some of the soldiers sinned, they were killed in battle. Judas had a expiatory sacrifice offered in Jerusalem. "Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin" (12:46).
Prayer: Father, I pray for the poor souls in purgatory.
Promise: "For if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought." 12:44-45
2 Mc 13 — THE POWER OF PRAYER
"When they had all joined in doing this, and had implored the merciful Lord continuously with weeping and fasting and prostrations for three days, Judas encouraged them and told them to stand ready." 2 Maccabees 13:12
Antiochus and Lysias were "with a large force" (13:1). "They led a Greek army of one hundred and ten thousand foot soldiers, fifty-three hundred horsemen, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes" (13:2). "When Judas learned of this, he urged the people to call upon the Lord night and day, to help them now" (13:10). By God's power, Judas defeated the enemy, who sued for peace because of problems in their government.
Prayer: Father, may I drive out demons by prayer and fasting (Mt 17:21).
Promise: "Leaving the outcome to the Creator of the world, and exhorting his followers to fight nobly to death for the laws, the temple, the city, the country, and the government, he pitched his camp near Modein." 13:14
2 Mc 14 — MAKING AND BREAKING TREATIES
"When the Jews hard of Nicanor's coming, and that the Gentiles were rallying to him, they sprinkled themselves with earth and prayed to Him Who established His people forever, and Who always comes to the aid of His heritage." 2 Maccabees 14:15
Nicanor was sent again to fight Judas (8:9). Instead of fighting, he made a peace treaty and became a good friend of Judas. But this didn't last long. Soon Nicanor was hunting down Judas, blaspheming the Temple, and murdering the faithful Jew Razis.
"Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh" (Jer 17:5). "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord" (Jer 17:7).
Prayer: Father, may I make a peace treaty with You by repenting of sin and surrendering my life to You.
Promise: "Therefore, O Holy One, Lord of all holiness, preserve forever undefiled this house, which has been so recently purified." 14:36
2 Mc 15 — HEAVENLY INTERCESSION
"Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said 'Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall crush your adversaries.' " 2 Maccabees 15:15-16
Nicanor planned to slaughter the Jews on the sabbath. Because they would not break the sabbath by fighting, they would be easily killed. "Nevertheless he did not succeed in carrying out his cruel plan" (15:5). "Maccabeus remained confident, fully convinced that he would receive help from the Lord" (15:7). He had a dream that Onias the high priest and Jeremiah the prophet were interceding in heaven for the Jews. "Nicanor and his men advanced to the sound of trumpets and battle songs. But Judas and his men met the army with supplication and prayers. Fighting with their hands and praying to God with their hearts, they laid low at least thirty-five thousand, and rejoiced greatly over this manifestation of God's power" (15:25-27). The book ends in triumph.
Prayer: Father, may I ask my brothers and sisters both on earth and in heaven to pray for me.
Promise: "So a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. Let this, then, be the end." 15:39
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratsch, June 20, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 1996
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