“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice and fulfill your vows to the Most High; Then call upon me in time of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.”
One striking contrast in the readings is the difference in responses to sin in the two stories. One shows a human zeal for the law response, which brings murder. The other shows a response of Jesus' compassionate concern.
We can admire the courage of Mattathias to resist what must have been an incredible temptation. We can also admire his leadership in drawing a community of followers apart to live faithfully in spite of an oppressive regime. His story may help us to reflect on the temptations we face to sacrifice to other gods for the sake of security or recognition. Our idolatry comes in much more subtle forms than a physical sacrifice at an altar. What do we sacrifice with the hopes of achieving security or peace? Are we sacrificing family, friends, health, service to others, and/or worship time chasing after something? How do we fight those temptations? Zeal for the law in this case provides a means to fight the temptation, but also leads to fury and killing. It perhaps leads him in the end to do the very thing he pledged not to do (forsake the law and the commandments by killing a fellow Jew who gave in to the temptation to sacrifice to the king). As I was reflecting on this, I just happened to notice a verse from Ezekiel (33:11), “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live.”
The verses from Luke echo the theme of God’s compassion found in the verse from Ezekiel. Jesus mourns over our inability to know what makes for peace. The contrast between this story and the story of Mattathias shows us how God’s ways are far above our ways. God loves us deeply and longs for us to turn to Him and find peace. His mercy and compassion are beyond our understanding.
The Psalm reminds us that our praises are appropriate sacrifices to God. It also reminds us of our need to rely upon the saving power of God. Investing time and energy in praising God and remembering the faithful love of God, the saving power of Jesus, and the empowering of the Spirit makes for a sacrifice that is pleasing and brings peace. We see this formula for peace through the bible – remember, praise, acknowledge your need for God’s help, and put your hope in God’s compassion and power. We are not only promised “peace that surpasses understanding” and “help in time of trouble” for ourselves, but the Psalm reminds us that when we rely upon God’s help we also bring glory to Him.
Let’s offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving throughout the day today. Let’s put our hope in God’s saving power to fight temptation and to find what makes for peace.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook