PONDERING THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
On Tuesday; December 12th through Wednesday, December 20th of 2017 many Jewish and some Christian families will be celebrating The Miracle of Hanukkah.
But what is Hanukkah?
Isn’t it only a Jewish celebration?
Why would a Christian want to be thinking about celebrating Hanukkah?
This is what I would like for us to ponder together in this series called EXPLORING THE HISTORY AND THE MYSTERY OF HANUKKAH.
IT IS ALL ABOUT THE HISTORY
You can’t even think about Hanukkah though until you understand the history of Hanukkah.
Just what happened way back then; and why would we think Jesus would approve of Hanukkah anyway?
Let’s look back a bit:
JESUS CELEBRATED HANUKKAH
Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, the same as the Festival of Lights we now call Hanukkah.
It was winter and Jesus walked in the Temple of Solomon’s porch.
He had come to bring light into the darkness.
The light that Jesus brought into the world was a continuation of the light that God formed when He first created the world. The light was the miracle that made all other miracles happen. Do you remember that “in the beginning?”
John 1:1-5 says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
In the beginning of every glimmer of hope we must find light.
So Jesus taught about the light, straight from the Torah. He read from Genesis and told people that He was the light of the world.
Did they understand the Master?
Did they understand the book?
He reminded them of the importance of the book and how they should always keep the words of the book.
JESUS DESIRES THAT THERE BE OTHER LIGHT-BEARERS
He desired for everyone to be a “light bearer.”
Perhaps as He walked over the steps of Solomon’s porch, He pondered how that first Hanukkah happened so many years before His birth, and the time that He came to live inside the flesh of a man.
His presence must have been there at the first Hanukkah too, you see; it had to be, because He is the maker of all miracles and He is always there when a miracle happens.
A might miracle happened here! Right inside this time of the first Hanukkah.
THE END OF THE SILENCE
Those were the days of the silent years.
It was a time when no prophet was given any words to speak.
God was waiting on something.
Perhaps He was waiting on the hearts of men to change.
THE HOPE FOR THE NEW
Those were the years between the old and the new.
It was a dark time on the earth.
Yes, it definitely seemed that God was waiting on something.
A DARK MAN LIVING IN A DARK TIME OF HISTORY
Out from the darkness rode Alexander The Great who had a vision to conquer the world.
His conquests brought all things Greek, Greek language, Greek thought, Greek customs and Greek philosophy.
Greek education became the standard for all the earth.
From the Greeks emerged theaters and chariot races, gymnasiums and stadiums.
When Alexander conquered a people these things were brought to them. When Alexander conquered a people, he also conquered the culture of the people.
SOME WERE NOT BEING TRUE TO THE BOOK
Many Jews accepted his culture with open arms.
They wanted to be “modern.”
They began to forget the words of the Book.
“Why do we need to keep following the Torah?” they asked the more dedicated ones who tried to remind them. Those who stayed faithful always answered. Because this is who we are! We are the people of the book! We cannot compromise and follow another culture’s ways.
THE TRUE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK COULD NOT COMPROMISE
So there was a split and the people grew weaker from it.
All of the nations became weaker.
At age 23 Alexander came charging through time like a goat shattering everyone and everything in his path. He conquered all that could be conquered. Finally he had conquered the whole world. Part of that world had previously been Jewish. Part of that part still was.
THE SPREADING OF THE GREEK CULTURE AND THE COMING OF AN EVIL FALSE GOD
About 323 B.C. Alexander The Great died. He was gone but the Greek culture lived on and continued to spread.
Without Alexdander to rule, the empire was split into four pieces that were governed by four generals. One of the generals ruled over an area that later became Syria.
Many years went by and another man came to rule this area. His name was Antiochus. Antiochus was evil and crazy.
He declared himself “Epiphanies” which means “god manifest.” The mad man was actually stating that he was god.
He had statues of himself everywhere and he ordered the people to worship him. He even put a statue of himself inside the temple.
He made Greek language and Greek religion mandatory in the land.
People embracing the Greek culture were called Hellenist. These were people who glorified themselves instead of God. They glorified the human body both in sport and in art.
THE WORSHIP OF MEN INSTEAD OF GOD
During this time many Jews forsook their Jewishness for money, power and prestige. They worshiped men instead of God.
One day Antiochus lost a battle that he really wanted to win. He was a poor loser. He was enraged.
In his horrid anger he ordered Jerusalem destroyed.
Houses were burned.
The walls of the city were broken down.
Many were sold into slavery, even those who had accepted the Greek ways.
THE DESECRATION OF THE TEMPLE
The soldiers went to the Temple and destroyed the porches and the gates.
They stripped the Temple of its vessels and treasures, including the table of the altar, the incense and the menorah.
Antiochus erected a statue of Zeus on the Holy Altar.
On December 25th, the birthday of Zeus, Antiochus offered a pig to Zeus on the altar. He sprinkled its blood in the Holy of Holies and poured its broth on the scrolls. Then he had the sacred scrolls cut into pieces and burned. This made the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies desecrated and defiled.
The temple was converted to a shrine for Zeus and only pigs were sacrificed.
FORBIDDING THE JEWS TO PRACTICE THEIR RELIGION
Antiochus made it his goal to abolish every trace of the Jewish religion.
He forbid circumcision and Sabbath worship, kosher diets and Torah study.
Those found living out the words of Torah were put to death.
Mothers were hung for human crosses with their babies being hung from their necks.
AT HANUKKAH WE REMEMBER THE FAITHFUL
So each year at Hanukkah when we light the candles we remember those who gave their lives for Torah.
There was another One who was born to give His life in this way. His name was Jesus Christ, and He became the Light of the World.
There were many who followed the words of the book that Jesus Christ suffered and died for, even before He walked the earth. Some of these were the light-bearers that Antiochus murdered.
THE LEGACY OF THE LIGHT-BEARERS
These precious light-bearers made it possible for the Word of Torah to be passed on to us.
They helped us to have the light of truth. It cost them their lives. They thought the Word to be this worthy.
They pointed the way to Jesus Christ even before they knew Him.
They brought light and life into a very dark and dying world.
WE TOO MUST BECOME LIGHT-BEARERS
We too must bear our lights and bring the light of Messiah into a dark and dying world. We honor them each time we light the candles. We also honor Christ, The Messiah;The Light of the World.
We remember the ninety year old man named Eleazar who was tortured to death for not eating pork.
We remember a woman named Hannah who had seven sons that were arrested for refusing to stop studying the Torah.
We tell our children their stories so that they may pass their stories on to their own children.
We should never forget their courage and faithfulness.
REMINDERS OF THE HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION
Hannah was forced to watch as all of her sons died.
They were one by one boiled alive in cauldrons.
After Hannah had reminded her last son of the hope of the resurrection as she watched him die, she too was put into a cauldron and boiled alive.
There were many like her who also died awaiting a better resurrection.
It will come.
We will see them again in the resurrection of the saints of God.
Until that day, we remember them at Hanukkah.
We must never forget.
REMEMBERING A MAN NAMED MATTATHIAS
In those days, hidden away in the mountains, lived a man named Mattathias. He and his sons were from a priestly line of Aaron. Legend holds that the disciple named Matthew was named after this man.
Mattathias would not compromise.
Soon, with his influence, a small army was formed to fight for the truth of Torah.
THE FORMATION OF THE MACCABEES
Before Mattathias died he passed his leadership role on to his son, Judah. Judah and his freedom fighters came to be called the Maccabees. Maccabee was NOT Judah’s last name; as many have mistakenly thought. Maccabee means “hammer.”
The freedom fighters were just common men.
They were farmers, workers and servants.
They lived simple lives and were just common people willing to take a stand for the things that are right.
They were willing to give up all that they had to keep from compromising the Word of God.
They knew they were outnumbered, but they also knew that God was in charge.
TRUSTING THE STRENGTH THAT COMES FROM HEAVEN
Judah taught them that the victory in war did not depend upon the size of the army but upon the strength that comes from Heaven. Judah and his army went out and won many battles.
Israel has continued to win many battles since that day.
These brave soldiers did not fear those who could kill the body but could not harm the soul.
They DID fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
GOD BRINGS THE VICTORY
In a clear miracle from heaven, The Freedom Fighters found that battle after battle was won where the few were victorious over the many, and the weak overtook the strong.
When they were willing to stand and not compromise, God gave them the victory.
The Freedom Fighters regained control of the Temple and began to purify it.
RESTORING THE TEMPLE
The altar was torn down and rebuilt.
The Temple was restored and new vessels were crafted.
The Temple courts were consecrated.
The altar of the incense and the table were brought back.
They burnt the incense on the altar, put the sacred bread on the table and hung the curtains back again.
They prepared the house of God for His presence.
ONE DAY’S WORTH OF OIL
Everything was ready except they found only one small cruse of oil. This was just enough to light the holy lamps for one day. The festival lasted for eight days. They decided to light the lamps anyway.
To their amazement the menorah miraculously burned for eight days until new oil could be made!
THE OIL LASTED; IT WAS A GREAT MIRACLE – THE MIRACLE OF HANUKKAH
Little is much when God is in it.
Hanukah teaches us to stand for the truth of Our God and be of good courage.
We learn not to compromise when it comes to the things of God.
We learn how to overcome because God is on our side.
We know the hope of overcoming evil with good.
All of God’s people should always remember the message of Hanukah.
We need to all go out and be light-bearers.