Now Gor′gias took five thousand infantry and a thousand picked cavalry, and this division moved out by night 2 to fall upon the camp of the Jews and attack them suddenly. Men from the citadel were his guides. 3 But Judas heard of it, and he and his mighty men moved out to attack the king’s force in Emma′us 4 while the division was still absent from the camp. 5 When Gor′gias entered the camp of Judas by night, he found no one there, so he looked for them in the hills, because he said, “These men are fleeing from us.”
6 At daybreak Judas appeared in the plain with three thousand men, but they did not have armor and swords such as they desired. 7 And they saw the camp of the Gentiles, strong and fortified, with cavalry round about it; and these men were trained in war. 8 But Judas said to the men who were with him, “Do not fear their numbers or be afraid when they charge. 9 Remember how our fathers were saved at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh with his forces pursued them. 10 And now let us cry to Heaven, to see whether he will favor us and remember his covenant with our fathers and crush this army before us today. 11 Then all the Gentiles will know that there is one who redeems and saves Israel.”
12 When the foreigners looked up and saw them coming against them, 13 they went forth from their camp to battle. Then the men with Judas blew their trumpets 14 and engaged in battle. The Gentiles were crushed and fled into the plain, 15 and all those in the rear fell by the sword. They pursued them to Gazar′a, and to the plains of Idume′a, and to Azo′tus and Jam′nia; and three thousand of them fell. 16 Then Judas and his force turned back from pursuing them, 17 and he said to the people, “Do not be greedy for plunder, for there is a battle before us; 18 Gor′gias and his force are near us in the hills. But stand now against our enemies and fight them, and afterward seize the plunder boldly.”
19 Just as Judas was finishing this speech, a detachment appeared, coming out of the hills. 20 They saw that their army[a] had been put to flight, and that the Jews[b] were burning the camp, for the smoke that was seen showed what had happened. 21 When they perceived this they were greatly frightened, and when they also saw the army of Judas drawn up in the plain for battle, 22 they all fled into the land of the Philistines. 23 Then Judas returned to plunder the camp, and they seized much gold and silver, and cloth dyed blue and sea purple, and great riches. 24 On their return they sang hymns and praises to Heaven, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever. 25 Thus Israel had a great deliverance that day.1 Maccabees 4:1-25 (RSV)
Life is filled with many battles. There are physical battles, mental battles, and spiritual battles. At times, a combination of the different types of battles can be happening at simultaneously. These battles come in all shapes and sizes. Facing a battle can seem overwhelming and impossible. A defeatist attitude can creep into the mind when a battle seems daunting. The key to facing and going through the battle is knowing one does not go it alone.
Today’s passage from 1 Maccabees presents the Israelite army up against a much larger army of Gentiles. Having snuck away from their home camp after hearing about a sneak attack by a division of the Gentiles, the Israelites stand on the plain before the Gentile camp. At first light, the Israelites see how outnumbered they are for this battle. Judas, the leader, gives a pep talk. He recounts for the soldiers, God’s saving act for their ancestors at the Red Sea. He states that God is capable of doing the same for them. The Gentiles come out to meet the Israelites in battle. The Gentiles were crushed and fled, as did the returning division when they saw their camp burning. The Jews claim the plunder of silver, gold and fine linens. They return home singing a song of praise to heaven for their success.
Like the army of Israel, we can become afraid when facing the battles within our lives. The prospect of engaging in our battle and being able to stand afterwards can appear dim to us at times. We need to be reminded of the multitude of situations where the Father has saved those who preceded us and the number of times we have been saved. Through words of Scripture, believers who are in our lives, and reflections on our own journey, we can obtain the strength in the knowledge that God can make the impossible happen. Not all battles end in what we might define as success. But no battle which we face is absent of our Lord being at our side.