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Then came Hanukkah; it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade.” — John 10:22-23 .

Chanukah:

As we approach Christmas each year, many events come to mind. Where I live, holiday season is near, school is finished for the year and the usual Christmas shopping frenzy has started. Children come to sit on Santa’s lap in shopping centers and people are getting ready for their big Christmas dinner, decorating their Christmas trees and partying.

Christians like myself are thinking of the time when we remember the birth of Jesus. I like the tinsel and glitter of Christmas, but for me, what is of paramount importance is remembering Jesus’ birthday. I like having a christmas tree in my home and part of the pleasure received is decorating it.

Jewish people are also making their preparations for a wonderful event. It does not have any real religious significance in that scripture does not specifically talk about it, but it is nevertheless an important event.

I am talking about Chanukah. It is known as The Festival Of  Lights and is a Jewish festival of rededication. I believe that more Christians should adopt such an attitude.

Hanukah is an eight day festival commencing on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. It is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays because of its proximity to Christmas. Many non-Jews think of this holiday as the Jewish Christmas, adopting many of the Christmas customs, such as elaborate gift-giving and decoration.

It is a wonderful time, but its roots are bitter. This season holiday has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and suppression of Jewish religion that began in the reign of Alexander the Great.  He conquered SyriaEgypt and Judea, but allowed the people under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Many Jews assimilated and adopted much of the Hellenistic culture he introduced.

When Antiochus IV was in control of the region more than one hundred years later,  he began to oppress the Jews severely. He appointed a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacred Jews and prohibited the practice of the Jewish religion. He desecrated the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs (a non-kosher animal) on the altar.

A revolt by two groups opposed Antiochus. One was led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee. The other group  was led by a religious group known as the Chasidim, who were the forerunners of the Pharisees.

 The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.

Look for a moment at the Pharisees. They became the spiritual fathers of modern Judaism. Their main belief was in the Oral Law that God gave to Moses at Sinai along with the Torah or Written Law. We could describe this law as their constitution that was open to interpretation. The Pharisees believed that God also gave Moses the knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be applied. This oral tradition was codified and written down about 300 years later in what is known as the Talmud.

The Pharisees also maintained that an after-life existed and that God punished the wicked and rewarded the righteous in the world to come. They also believed in a messiah who would herald an era of world peace. I have discussed these matters because of the significance to our christian faith. The Messiah did indeed come, but not in the way they expected. The Pharisees maintained their beliefs  after the destruction of the Temple, including such things as individual prayer and assembly in synagogues.

According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the rededication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, that was supposed to burn throughout the night every night.

The original lamp was built when God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle. The account is seen in Exodus chapter twenty-five.  Verses 31-40 give detail of the menorah.

There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days.

An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory. Jews do not glorify war.

Chanukah is not a very important religious holiday. The holiday's religious significance is far less than that of the other festivals of  Rosh HashanahYom KippurSukkotPassover, and Shavu'ot all of which have great significance to Christians.

The only religious observance related to the holiday is the lighting of candles. The candles are arranged in a candelabrum called a Hanukia. Many people refer to the Hanukia incorrectly as a menorah. The name menorah is used only to describe the seven-branched candelabrum that was housed in the Jewish Temple. The Hanukiah holds nine candles: one for each night, plus a shamash (servant) at a different height. On the first night, one candle is placed at the far right. The shamash candle is lit and three berakhot (blessings) are recited.

They are: l'hadlik neir (a general prayer over candles), she-asah nisim (a prayer thanking God for performing miracles for their Jewish ancestors), and she-hekhianu (a general prayer thanking God for allowing Jews to reach this time of year).

The first candle is then lit using the shamash candle, and the shamash candle is placed in its holder. The candles are allowed to burn out on their own after a minimum of 1/2 hour.

Each night, another candle is added from right to left (like the Hebrew language). Candles are lit from left to right (because you pay honor to the newer thing first).

Because of the law prohibiting the lighting of a fire on Shabbat, Chanukah candles are lit before the Shabbat candles on Friday night, and they are lit after Havdalah on Saturday night.

Gift-giving is not a traditional part of the holiday, but has been added in places where Jews have a lot of contact with Christians. The only traditional gift of the holiday is “gelt,” small amounts of money.

Chanukah gelt is a Jewish custom rooted in the Talmud that states  that even a very poor person must light Chanukah lights, even if he can’t afford it. A person with no money is required to go ‘knocking on doors’ until he collects enough to buy at least one candle for each night of Chanukah. The Torah concept of charity  (tzedakah) requires Jews to help the recipient in the most dignified manner possible. Therefore, the custom arose to give gifts of money during Chanukah so that someone who needs extra money for Chanukah candles can receive it in the form of ‘Chanukah Gelt.’

Another tradition of the holiday is playing dreidel that is a game played with a square top.
 

A dreidel is marked with the following four Hebrew letters: Nun, Gimmel, Heh and Shin.


This supposedly stands for the Hebrew phrase “nes gadol hayah sham,” meaning a great miracle happened there, but really has little such significance. It relates more now to the general rules of a game. 

The last thing I want to share is that a traditional song of this holiday called “Maoz Tzur” is sung.


It is better known to Christians as “Rock of Ages”. 


To recap, the origins of Chanukah date back to the conquest of Judah by the Greeks, demanding that all Jews be “Hellenized”, or absorbed into Greek culture.  That meant forcing the Jews to abandon many of the practices and prohibitions that made them a distinct people. The most devoted among the Jewish People refused.
The final straw for the resisting Jews came around the year 165 B.C. when Antiochus erected an image of Zeus in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. He then demanded that a Jewish priest sacrifice pigs on the altar in the Holy of Holies, and that all the priests bow down to the idol.
Most of the priests refused, saying they’d rather die than desecrate the altar with pig blood. Among those stubborn priests was a man named Mattathias; his son, Judah; along with four other sons.

Judah and his brothers ultimately led a successful military uprising that drove the Greeks out of Jerusalem. The Temple was reclaimed and cleansed. And an eight-day festival of celebration and consecration was declared.

Let us bring this into our time.

The world system, that is ruled by the devil and his cohorts, is trying to force its value structure on us. I want you to know that they cannot succeed, but the influence is there. The world system to which I refer is built on a Babylonian foundation that is doomed to fail.

Chanukah is also called the “Feast of Dedication” because it marked the rededicating of the Temple and restoration of sacrifices there. That first eight-day celebration was marked by a miracle of provision. 

It is also an event when candles are lit, dispelling the darkness. Another name is the Festival of Light.

The important thing we need to remember is that God can, and does, offer miraculous provision to His people as they carry out His redemptive plans and purposes in the Earth. The Jews celebrate His provision of oil and they needed it.

We can celebrate God’s supernatural provision for the things we need to carry out His work on the earth.

This is not the only important truth we find in this event.  Some of those Jews were prepared to die for their belief. They refused to compromise. They gritted their teeth and stood up in the midst of darkness with a Supernatural Resolve.

The Jewish People’s stubborn resistance to assimilation is one of the key reasons they have survived as a distinct people through the millennia.
One of the important lessons we need to learn from Chanukah is that, in the days in which we live, we all need this kind of stubbornness—a supernatural resolve to say no to the encroaching forces of darkness all around us. Perhaps we Christians should follow the example set by this festival and rededicate ourselves to God. We sure need it. We sure need dedication and commitment because it is dark out there and getting darker. In simple terms, it is getting darker because the god of this world has blinded people’s eyes who do not believe to deliberately keep them in the dark.

For the god of this world has blinded the unbelievers' minds [that they should not discern the truth], preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (the Messiah), Who is the Image and Likeness of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4. 


Light overcomes darkness:

The image above states that Chanukah is about light overcoming darkness. That is true, but it is not Chanukah that is the agent—Jesus is. He came to this world in time of great darkness. He will return to this world that just might once again be in great darkness.

When Jesus came, John explained it this way-

IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.
He was present originally with God.
All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being.
In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.
And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]. 

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.
This man came to witness, that he might testify of the Light, that all men might believe in it [adhere to it, trust it, and rely upon it] through him.
He was not the Light himself, but came that he might bear witness regarding the Light.
There it was—the true Light [was then] coming into the world [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] that illumines every person. John 1:1-9 

The darkness could not stop it. It could not do a thing to hinder it. It cannot do a thing about it today, because light always overcomes darkness. You can prove that yourself by lighting a match in the darkness. It can be seen from a long distance. In fact, you can light a match at the bottom of a coal mine at midnight and that flickering, sometimes feeble light will shine in the darkness, even if momentarily.

The only light that may be seen in that darkness is the light we reveal! I will share more on this shortly.

Let me share several passages of scripture now.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.
And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.
All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.
But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” 

John 3:16-21.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12

I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. John 12:46

It is evident from those few verses that anyone without Jesus is living in darkness.

Different Kinds Of Darkness:

Darkness can take on more than one form. There is the natural of course and there is the spiritual of which I sometimes wonder if spiritual darkness also has more than one form. Allow me to explain. In Genesis chapter one, the creation story reveals that a gross darkness existed.

In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth— the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness is on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters.

And God saith, ‘Let light be;’ and light is. And God seeth the light that it is good, and God separateth between the light and the darkness, and God calleth to the light ‘Day,’ and to the darkness He hath called ‘Night;’ and there is an evening, and there is a morning—day one. Genesis 1:1-5.

The darkness mentioned is ḥōshek. It refers to the dark. It was literal darkness; misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness, darkness, night and obscurity. That darkness was evil itself. I am of the opinion that it was not merely literal absence of light but spiritual darkness—evil itself.

When God commanded, “Light... Be”, light was and that light was ʾôr. This kind of light was bright and clear. It was literal illumination in every sense, but embraced happiness etc.

The dark produced everything we associate with evil, but the light not only provided natural illumination such as the sun, but the very essence of life itself that is to be enjoyed to the full. Jesus brought light into a darkened world.

We were once in that darkness before we met Him. Paul explained this in many places, but he too was in darkness before Jesus came into his life. His conversion is recorded in Acts chapter nine. He was traveling on the road to Damascus when a bright light from heaven shined down upon him as Jesus appeared. Paul testified of this many times.

My own conversion experience was along similar lines, albeit not as dramatic. I think that this is one source of the saying, “Seen the light”. Later Paul spoke more of this light. His prayer  in Colossians 1:9-14 is excellent.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be 
partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Who hath 
delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (emphasis mine)

He spoke about redemption through Jesus’ blood, being strengthened, being filled with knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, all because God has delivered us from darkness and made us to be partakers of His light. God is light. See 1 John 1:5.

In Ephesians chapter five and verse eight, Paul explained that we were once not in darkness but were darkness.

For you at one time were dark, but now are light in the Lord:

Throughout that chapter he told us to live properly and disassociate ourselves with all manner of evil. See also 1 Peter 2:9.

John said in his epistle that we are to walk in the light, as He is in the light. He added a condition. It is the love factor.

...we are now writing these things to you so that our joy [in seeing you included] may be full [and your joy may be complete].
And this is the message [the message of promise] which we have heard from Him and now are reporting to you: God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him at all [no, not in any way].
[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents].
But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. 1 John 1:4-7.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the message which you have heard [the doctrine of salvation through Christ].
Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true (is realized) in Him and in you, because the darkness (moral blindness) is clearing away and the true Light (the revelation of God in Christ) is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now.
Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin.
But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:7-11.

We can know these things because the Holy Ghost reveals them to us in the word of God. Peter stated-

...we were not following cleverly devised stories when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty (grandeur, authority of sovereign power).
For when He was invested with honor and glory from God the Father and a voice was borne to Him by the [splendid] Majestic Glory [in the bright cloud that overshadowed Him, saying], This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased and delight,
We [actually] heard this voice borne out of heaven, for we were together with Him on the holy mountain.
And we have the prophetic word [made] firmer still. You will do well to pay close attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dismal (squalid and dark) place, until the day breaks through [the gloom] and the Morning Star rises (comes into being) in your hearts.
[Yet] first [you must] understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of any personal or private or special interpretation (loosening, solving). For no prophecy ever originated because some man willed it [to do so—it never came by human impulse], but men spoke from God who were borne along (moved and impelled) by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:16-21.

The Light Of The World: 

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16 

We know what salt is and what it does, so I will not elaborate on that. I want to look at the aspect of light.

We are the phōs of the world, but how can that be if Jesus is the phōs of the world? The answer is simple. He lives within us—Christ in you the hope of glory.  Paul stated-

...we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:5-7 

Whilst we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. When we are born again, He makes His abode in us. His light shone into our innermost beings and  gave us this knowledge of the God of light. It is like a treasure that is hidden inside a clay pot.

If the pot is broken, the light inside can be revealed to a darkened world.

Jesus said that we are not to hide our light by sticking it inside an old earthy container, but put it up in a prominent position to enable those in the darkness to see.

When He told us to let our light shine, the Greek word seen is lampō. I think you can see a familiar word derived from lampōIt means to bring to the light, to lighten, to shine, to be shining and to be like a beam that radiates brilliancy.

The reason is so that those who are in the darkness can see. The reason we are to do that is to testify to the love and goodness of God. The reason we are to do that is to give those who are lost, sick and dying a glimmer of hope.

Many of those people will never darken the doorway of any church. Most of them may never read a bible. How then can we do that? Perhaps Paul gave the answer-

Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.
Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.

People might never go to a church, but they could come to The Church and that church is you and me. Peter said-

You, as living stones, are being made into a house of the spirit, a holy order of priests, making those offerings of the spirit which are pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5. 

As I close, please think of Moses when he was called up to the mount to meet face-to-face with God. He came down off that mountain and it is said that his face shone so brightly that the people could not look at him. He covered his face in their presence but removed that vail when with God.

That was under the Law, but we are in a time when the glory of God has been revealed, firstly by Jesus and now by the Church. That glory (call it light) faded away and a Jewish scholar said that Moses placed the veil over his face, not to hide the light from the people, but to disguise the fact that the light was fading away!

My friend, if no one reveals this light, some people will die without Jesus or those who are already saved could live well below the standard God has for them. A portion of  Romans 10 that is often used as a salvation appeal message states-

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him.
For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:9-15.

We therefore have to tell them, but in the telling we must also ensure that we qualify to do so. People are watching us.

I hope that they see the light. Having said that I also do my best to ensure that I qualify and my preaching is effective.

I like what Paul said about this-

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.
When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.
When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ.

Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.
I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.
So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:19-27.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1. 

As we approach Hanukkah, please remember the reason it was introduced. Those Jews refused to compromise. They would not adopt the world standards. They remained pure and holy. They dedicated themselves to God.

Can we not do likewise? Allow your light to shine, but also help someone else’s light to shine!

Keep walking by faith

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