People look to great leaders to be an example to them. In theory, anyway, that’s how it’s supposed to work. So it comes as no surprise, really, that those enforcing the apostasy wanted Mattathias and his sons to enthusiastically sacrifice to the pagan gods, according to the order of the king. Because if Mattathias gave in to the apostasy, others would find it easy to do so also. Then, they told him, he would be known as one of the king’s friends.
But Mattathias remembered where his leadership came from. He knew that it was a gift from God, and that he as a leader could only do God’s work. So he refuses to give up and give in, to go along with the king’s order, even to make a pretense of it so that they would get off his back. Instead, he is consumed with zeal, and on seeing one of his countrymen giving in, strikes him dead on the spot and leads the righteous in the nation in rebellion.
Mattathias knew which king he wanted as his friend. He knew that God alone was worthy of worship, and his Kingship was greater than the rule of a mere mortal man. A leader needs to keep his or her priorities in order, and needs to know the source of the gifts he or she possesses. Keeping focused on the One who is the giver of those gifts helps us to lead rightly, to the honor and glory of God.