Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication, the Festival of Light

חֲנֻכָּה Chanukah

The Feast of Dedication
The Festival of Light
25 Kislev 5775 (for 8 Days)
Light the 1st Candle Sunset 12 December 2017

Yeshua (Jesus) Celebrated Chanukah

The message of Chanukah may not be a biblically-commanded holiday, but its message is essential and timeless. Chanukah is the Hebrew word for dedication. The theme of Chanukah is dedication, faithfulness, and refusal to compromise God’s unchanging standards in an ever-changing world. The Temple in Jerusalem had been taken over and defiled by a pagan ruler. Why is this relevant to Christians? The Temple and Jerusalem had to be restored before Yeshua could come. He acknowledged this holiday as we read in the apostolic scriptures, whereas he bitterly rebuked the leading Jewish authorities for non-biblical aberrations. 
“Then came Hanukkah; it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, ‘How long will you hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!’”(John 10:22-24 TLB*)
This was the opening description of a discourse by Jesus the Messiah, just before He was to reveal that it is His works that bear witness of who He really is.

Few realize that this took place during the Chanukah celebration in Jerusalem. It was here in the Temple, more than 150 years earlier, that an event had taken place that was essential for Jesus to come, for it restored the Temple and Jerusalem to Israel. Therefore, it is easy to understand why Jesus would share in the celebration even though it is not one of the commanded biblically appointed times of the LORD from Leviticus 23.

The event that precipitated the Chanukah commemoration occurred around 168 B.C. Jerusalem had been conquered and the Holy Temple had been defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes IV and his Syrian army. Thousands of Jews had been slaughtered and Antiochus had set up an idol in the Temple, declaring himself to be god. His coup de grâce was sacrificing a pig on the altar. 

He then outlawed the reading and study of Torah, God’s sacred Word, under penalty of death. Observance of the biblical commandments, the Sabbath and holy days, and avoiding pork and non-kosher food, were also forbidden. These prohibitions have been characteristic of God’s enemies throughout history. For the Jewish People this has proved to be a stumbling block of monumental proportions when it comes to Yeshua. Christians have presented Jesus and these prohibitions as one and the same, and that is a grievous error.
European war correspondent, Pierre van Paassen found great insight to the grievous phenomena of antisemitism in "Christian" lands against the Jewish People in the words of Caspar Daubenton, a Huguenot minister that visited his family in Holland in 1910. "There is,” he said, “a mystery about the people of the Jews, a mystery which both attracts and repels us. Sometimes I think,” he went on, “that the mystery resides in the fact that they, unconsciously perhaps, as a people, are the bearers of God’s word. We know they are... We feel they are. And deep down in our hearts we hate them for it. For we hate God and do not want to follow His Law. In their mere presence there lies always, I find, a subtle, often unavowed and undefinable challenge to us, something of a reproof, an accusation. They remind us of something of which we do not like to be reminded."

Please see our brief article: WHY DO THEY ALWAYS WANT TO KILL THE JEWS? (LINK)
To survive the tyranny of Antiochus, some Jews surrendered to his pagan religion, but a small family, led by Judah Maccabee (which means “hammer”) refused to bow their knee to a pagan god, and fled to the mountains. This tiny group of Maccabees eventually routed the Syrians and reclaimed Jerusalem and the Temple.

Restoring the Eternal Light
“...command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. ...It shall be a statute forever to their generations...” Exodus 27:20-21
Their first order of business was to cleanse the Temple. Traditional Jewish history records the story of how only enough sanctified oil was found to keep the Temple Menorah burning for one day. It would take eight more days to prepare the necessary amount of sanctified oil to keep the Temple Menorah burning continuously. But a miracle occurred and the menorah burned for the full eight days at which time the additional supply of oil was ready. 

This is why Chanukah is an eight day holiday. And why a special nine-branched menorah is also used, called a chanukiah. It has eight candles -- one for each night, and a ninth candle, the shamash, which means servant, is used to light the rest. The shamash reminds us that we are servants of the LORD Most High. We are privileged to carry His Name, His Light before men, bringing that light into a dark and wicked world. 

The story of Chanukah is also told through traditional foods, which are fried in oil: potato pancakes (called latkes), and in Israel, jelly doughnuts (called sufganiyot). The oil used in the  traditional chanukiah and to fry the traditional foods help to tell the story to the next generation. Oil was a precious commodity in the ancient world, and was often scarce in poorer areas of the world in times past. However, on Chanukah, we use it extravagantly to demonstrate our trust in God to supply the oil today just as He did so long ago, as well tell the story of His faithfulness to every generation. 

The Chanukah celebration was taking place as Jesus spoke and proclaimed that it was His works that really told who He was. In John 10:25 Jesus said, “...the works that I do in  my Father’s name, these bear witness of me.” How fascinating to consider that it was works (dedication/faithfulness) that defeated the Syrians, and that it was works that restored the Temple, and re-instituted the sacrifices. We see that God rewarded faithful men with His own miraculous work -- victory over a vastly superior army, and possibly the sign of His Light in the Menorah that burned for eight days. How fitting that James says it is works that identify each of us as being a part of God’s family. (cf. James 2)

Works do tell who we are, don’t they? Each year around the world for eight days, the candles of the Chanukiah are lit in commemoration and celebration of what true dedication is. This was illustrated by a few men who stood for God against an evil generationSee what they accomplished--and how God honored their faithfulness with the miracle of His light! 

As we reflect on that story why don’t we take stock of our own Temples ... “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

Do we not face similar forces in our time … forces that compel us to compromise rather than stand for God’s holiness? 

Do we not defile our temples daily rather than standing boldly for righteousness and the sanctity of His Name? Is the call of Joshua not still ringing out, urging us to be bold, and be strong in God’s Spirit?
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:5
May the LORD God of Israel bless you with the strength and grace of Judah Maccabee and his brothers to walk as lights in your generation. May you contend earnestly for the testimony of Adonai and be zealous for His Temple -- He dwells todays in vessels of clay -- the followers of Messiah! May your temple be cleansed and undefiled that your lamp will burn brightly with His Presence, piercing the darkness of this age, amen!

Be strong in the Lord, and courageous, God is with you! 

Deut. 31:6, Josh. 1:9, Eph. 6:10 
    Richest blessings to you and yours as you celebrate the Light of the World!
Blessing over the Candles

ברוך אתה  אֲדֹנָי אלוהינו, מלך העולם 
Ba-rookh atah Adonai, El-o-hei-noo, meh-lekh hah-o-lahm
Blessed are you, LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו 
ah-sher kid-shah-noo b'mitz-vo-tahv vitz-ee-vah-noo
Who has sanctified us with His commandments and blessed us

להדליק נר של חנוכה
l'hahd-leek ner shel Chah-noo-kah. (Amein)
to light the lights of Chanukah. (Amen)

Quick Facts of Chanukah 

NAME: Hanukkah, which means 'Dedication', 'Establishing', or 'Consecration' in Hebrew.
HEBREW NAME: חֲנֻכָּה or חנוכה
TITLE: Festival of Lights, Festival of Dedication
THEME: Be strong in the Lord, and courageous, God is with you! Deut. 31:6, Josh. 1:9, Eph. 6:10
DEFINITION: An eight-day Jewish Holiday celebrated every year during the winter.
RELIGION: Ancient Holiday of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism.
HOLIDAY: A joyous, family-centered Jewish religious festival pre-dating Christianity by nearly 200 years.
FOUNDER: Judas Maccabaeus and his fellow Maccabee brothers.
RECOGNITION: A perpetual, yearly celebration marking the retaking, purification, and rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by the rebel Jewish forces of the Maccabees who defeated the Pagan Greeks. 
BEGINNING: First established and celebrated in Jerusalem on the 25th of Kislev, 165 BC.
DATES: Always begins on the 25th of Kislev and ends on the 2nd or 3rd of Tevet (Hebrew Calendar).
DURATION: Lasts for eight days with an additional candle being lit after sunset for each passing day.
LONGEVITY: Annually observed by Jews from around the world for the past 2,175 years. 
TRADITIONS: Ritual candle lighting, religious singing, specific prayers, gifts of money and games.
RECITALS: Hallel, Al-ha-Nissim, Hanukkah addition (Prayers), Brachot (Blessing), Ma'oz Tzur, Hanerot Halalu (Hymns), and Psalms 30, 67, 91, Numbers 6:22 through 8:4, Zechariah 2:14-4:7, I Kings 7:40-50 (Readings).
SIGNIFICANCE: Represents one of the most miraculous, statistically impossible, and highly implausible series of military victories in the history of the world.
REFERENCE: First Book ot the Maccabees 4:36-59, Second Book of the Maccabees 10:1-8, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XII, Ch. 5-11, by Flavius Josephus, 
Scroll of Antiochus, (Megillat Antiochus), The Gospel of John, mentioned in John 10:22 
*Tree of Life Bible