By: Joyce Picker
December 2023 Blog
Even though Chanukah is not technically part of the Biblical Feasts and Festivals. I still want to talk about it because we know from the Book of John, Chapter 10, that Yeshua celebrated it declaring Himself to be the Light of the World. In my mind, anything our Messiah did and does is worthy of deeper discussion for His Believers.
Here is the story of Chanukah from Jews For Jesus. It’s an excellent article.
Chanukah Quick Facts Hebrew Meaning of Name: “Dedication” or “Consecration” English Name: Festival of Lights Western Calendar Month: Begins November or December Jewish Calendar Date: Begins on Kislev 25 Duration: Eight days Establishment of Chanukah: 165 B.C.
Purpose of Chanukah
Much more than the “Jewish alternative” to Christmas, Chanukah, meaning “Dedication,” recalls a dark time in the history of our people and our miraculous deliverance from that darkness. This eight-day holiday commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the army of Antiochus Epiphanes, when God preserved and protected His people through the heroic actions of a small band of Jewish guerilla fighters.
For those of us who are Jewish believers in Jesus, the “Festival of Lights” reminds us that the spiritual deliverance we have is through Yeshua— the one who called himself “The light of the World” (John 8:12).
Origin of Chanukah
All through our history, Jews have been dogged by the issue of assimilation. In the face of hostility, in ancient times and in the present, we have asked ourselves: should we uphold the faith of our ancestors, even if that means risking life and limb, or should we just conform to the surrounding culture?
The question became particularly pressing during the Hellenistic period (approximately fourth to second centuries B.C.), after Alexander the Great conquered the Western world. The Apocryphal books of First and Second Maccabees recount the battle of assimilation vs. anti-assimilation that raged during this period of Hellenization (“Greek-ifying”) that swept the Near East.
During the time of the Maccabees, the Israelites were wedged between two of the kingdoms established after Alexander’s death: Ptolemaic Egypt and Selucid Syria. With the ascent of the chauvinistic Selucid Antiochus IV, who called himself “Epiphanes” (lit. “visible god”), the delicate balance of power tipped in the direction of the Syrians and the fragile position of the Jews became even more precarious. A certain Jason bribed Antiochus and obtained the position of High Priest. Jason proceeded to dress Jerusalem in Grecian trappings but did not tamper with Jewish ritual and religion to the extent that more radical Hellenizers did.
Three years after the start of his reign, Antiochus deposed Jason and replaced him with Menelaus, a staunch Hellenist who out-bribed Jason. Jason laid siege to Jerusalem, but Antiochus’ army quashed his forces, later pillaging and slaughtering the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
During the time of darkness that followed, the Selucids slew many Jewish people, all the while defiling and pilfering the Temple in Jerusalem and attempting to scrub out all traces of Jewishness. To show his utter contempt for the Jewish faith, Antiochus sacrificed a sow in the Temple to the Greek god Zeus.
Through heroics actions, the Maccabees regained Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and restored the practice of Judaism.
These abuses continued until Mattathias and his son, Judah Maccabee, led a revolt to bring us out of Antiochus’ darkness into light. Through the heroic actions of a band of guerilla fighters, the Maccabees (as Judah and his brothers were called) regained Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and restored the practice of Judaism. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple after its defilement under Antiochus. 1 Maccabees 4:59 tells us: “Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (NRSV). Moreover, Chanukah originally resembled Sukkot, partly because the Maccabees were forced to celebrate Sukkot in the wilderness. 2 Maccabees tells us: “They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals” (2 Maccabees 10:6, NRSV). Hanukkah was thus established to echo Sukkot and to commemorate the triumphs of an ancient band of brave Jews who stood up for their way of life and faith in the one true God in the face of overwhelming odds. According to later rabbinical tradition (not to be found in 1 and 2 Maccabees):
When the rule of the Hasmoneans prevailed and they defeated the Hellenes, they searched and finally found a tiny pitcher of oil which bore the seal of the High Priest. In it was enough oil to last no more than one day. And a miracle occurred—it endured for eight days! For this reason, a period of eight days was marked off for thanksgiving and praise. The oil miraculously burned for eight days which was the necessary time to prepare a new supply of sacred oil for the temple menorah.
The center candle on the Chanukiah is the One that is used to light one candle at sundown for the eight nights of Chanukah. They are lit from left to right. There are blessings that are recited along with lighting the candles. Now that you know the History of Chanukah, that it is the Festival of Lights and why we celebrate it, I wanted to tell a story about how each one of us needs to be a light to the world, especially in today’s world. It’s a beautiful reminder to all of us.
Matthew 5:14 says You are the light of the world like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:15 states the obvious. Why would anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket? When a lamp is lit it’s usually for the purpose of shedding light to an otherwise dark space. This brings up a valid point, what is a light for but to bring out light and expose the darkness? People should be able to see the light of Messiah in us. This means that when we enter a room, there should be a difference to our presence.
How can I be a light for the world to see?
I think the first way is to love them. When you truly exhibit the love of Messiah, there is no room for negativity. Yeshua said to love your neighbor as yourself.
Then we must forgive our brothers and sisters who have hurt us. Try to reconcile and bring peace to a situation if you can.
Then we should try to encourage one another. There is nothing more beautiful than to see someone who is downcast and when they are encouraged, it lifts their spirits.
Be in touch with the Holy Spirit. A gentle prompting can come from the Holy Spirit showing us what we need to say or do. You can never go wrong if you listen.
Don’t gossip. Unkind words can hurt and once they are released you can’t take them back. Instead, be kind and humble.
Be a light and people should notice and ask questions, which gives an opening to share the “True Light of the World” with them. Be a shamash candle!
The story of Chanukah reminds us that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and His promises are yes and amen. It’s a beautiful story of victory and tenacity and a reminder that Yeshua is the Shamash (servant) candle which lights all the other candles. We have His light within us. It’s a supernatural occurrence when we proclaim and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. This means we are candles filled with light to bring to a lost and dying world (which is very much needed today).
Will you share your light with someone today?
Thank you Father that I am a light to the world and I can spread joy to this world at all times. Thank you for the true light of the World; Yeshua. We are blessed to have the One true light. Thank you that during this season, we remember why we exist.
Blessings in Yeshua!
Please take a look at our other blogs on the website. We pray they minister to you wherever you are. We are coming up on the Fall Feasts of the Lord. take a look at some of the past Blog Teachings which explain what the Feasts of the Lord are and how relevant they are today.
Scripture is quoted from ESV version.