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The Story of Chanukah:
Judea was part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt until 200 BCE when King Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated King Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt at the Battle of Panion. Judea became at that moment part of the Seleucid Empire of Syria. King Antiochus III the Great wanting to conciliate his new Jewish subjects guaranteed their right to “live according to their ancestral customs” and to continue to practice their religion in the Temple of Jerusalem. However in 175 BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus III invaded Judea, ostensibly at the request of the sons of Tobias. The Tobiads, who led the Hellenizing Jewish faction in Jerusalem, were expelled to Syria around 170 BCE when the high priest Onias and his pro-Egyptian faction wrested control from them. The exiled Tobiads lobbied Antiochus IV Epiphanes to recapture Jerusalem. As the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells us “The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months.” When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted and the services stopped, Judaism was effectively outlawed. In 167 BCE Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. He banned circumcision and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple.
Antiochus’s actions proved to be a major miscalculation as they were massively disobeyed and provoked a large-scale revolt. Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. Judah became known as Yehuda HaMakabi (“Judah the Hammer”). By 166 BCE Mattathias had died, and Judah took his place as leader. By 165 BCE the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted by Judah Maccabee and his brothers to celebrate this event. After recovering Jerusalem and the Temple, Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. But there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.
Chanukah is Hebrew for dedication or rededication. This name was given for the festival because of the eight days it took to rededicate the altar and temple and make it holy and sanctified once again. In Exod. 29:37 / 2 Chron. 7:9 it states that it takes seven days for the altar to be consecrated and then it can be in use on the eighth day.
Yeshua Kept Chanukah: John 10:22-23 “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Yeshua walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.”
Yeshua taught from the themes of Chanukah:
It was a tradition that the Chanukiahs would be lit and put in windows facing the streets and in doorways opposite the Mezuzahs so that the miracle of Chanukah would be broadcasted throughout all of the land wherever they were in the world. This light was not to be hidden. Listen to what Yeshua teaches about this:
Luke 11:33 “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth [it] in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.”
Matt. 5:14-16 “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.”
Yeshua is the light of the world… John 8:12 “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.” I thought Yeshua spoke in Matt. 5:14 that the disciples of Yeshua were the “light of the world?” John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Torah is light? Does scripture tell us that the Law or Torah is light in the darkness?
Pro 6:23 KJV – For the commandment [is] a lamp; and the law [is] light; and reproofs of instruction [are] the way of life:
Isa 8:20 KJV – To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.
Isa 51:4 KJV – Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
Chanukah is a time of letting your light shine. It is also a time of rededication and a time to reprioritize your life to share the gospel and bring the light of Torah to the nations.
1 Corinth. 6:19 “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”
We are not to be hidden or ashamed of the truth that is in us but just as the Chanukiah is lit and put in plain view for all to see, so are our lives supposed to be lived out for all to see. Maybe your light has been obscured by life’s challenges or perhaps unbelief has put a blanket over your light? Now is the time to Chanukah or rededicate your life to Messiah. 2 Cor. 4:4 “…the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Messiah, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
Don’t let HaSatan (the god of this age) put out the light that is in you. It’s time to let Yeshua who is the image of God to shine in you and draw others out of darkness. He was the light of the world when He was on the earth and now we are the light of the world because He is in us. This is why we need to have an answer for the hope or light that is in us. It is not us but it is HIM. This Chanukah let the shamash or the Helper candle (the Holy Spirit) light the fire again in us…brighter and hotter than ever before.
2 Cor. 4:6 “ 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 Yeshua Messiah.”
1 Peter 2:9 “But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”
8 ways to shine for Yeshua:
1. Dedicate or Rededicate your life to Yeshua as your Lord (Adonai) and Master. If you have walked away from him then confess with your mouth and Teshuv or return to him. He wants nothing more than to restore you to a loving relationship with the Father. Sin and uncleanness separates us from the Father but through repentance (Teshuvah) we return to our Father like the prodigal son and He covers us with a robe of righteousness (Yeshua’s blood) and a ring of authority (the seal of the Holy Spirit/Ruach HaKodesh).
2. Study to show yourself approved- Get to know the one who created you and loves you and desperately wants to reveal Himself to you. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, the Father wants to walk in the garden in the coolness of the evening. The sages believed that it wasn’t the Yahweh Himself that walked with Adam but the Word of God (Devar Elohim) that Adam walked intimately with. Daniel 11:32 says that “them that know their God shall be strong and do great exploits” just like the Maccabees who rededicated the altar in the midst of tyranny.
3. Love your neighbor as yourself- The second greatest commandment is the one that draws men to the Father. Jhn 15:12-13 KJV – “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It is kindness that the Father uses to draw men to repentance. Be kind and remind. Let everything you do remind others of the love and kindness of the Father.
4. Give to the poor- Share of the blessing that God has given you. As freely as you have received, then freely give. You can’t “outgive” God. In fact, His promise is that the more you give you shall receive the same measure. It is a Torah commandment to give to the poor. Deu 15:11 KJV – “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”
5. Do not forsake the fatherless- Do you know someone that has a broken home? Being an orphan or fatherless doesn’t necessarily mean they have to live in an orphanage. How many children do you know that have a missing father through divorce or death? This is a great opportunity to be a role model and to help fill that gap in the home. Maybe it’s playing sports outside or watching a movie together. Maybe its inviting them to church or synagogue or to youth events or maybe having a weekly Bible study? Ask the Father how you can help!
6. Do not forsake the widow- Jam 1:27 KJV – “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.” According to the Torah a brother-in-law would step in as husband and father if the husband of a wife died. In our society today this does not happen so in many cases widows are left broken, needy and lonely. Do you know of a family that lost a father in combat? Help them in their affliction. We are commandment to mourn with those who mourn and to laugh with those that laugh. Bring groceries or a cooked meal and be that listening friend with ears and arms wide open.
7. Stand in the evil day- In this day and age lawlessness abounds both in religious circles and outside religion. When it seems like everyone else is running in one direction to do evil be the one that stands against the grain. Though there may seem to be thousands of voices speaking blasphemies and swelling words against God and His Torah be the one that stands firm on the Rock of our Salvation (Yeshua). Pro 1:15-16 KJV – “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.”
8. Let your works shine before men- Mat 5:16 KJV – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. When we keep the commandments of God by faith we are demonstrating in a real and tangible way that our Father is real and working in and through us. Faith is the evidence of things unseen so when we give to the poor, help the widow and fatherless, keep the feasts, etc. we are declaring the unseen invisible God until He comes and that which is invisible will be visible. For ages men have turn their attention to idols which are images of unseen gods or mighty ones. Yeshua was the invisible word made flesh, the image of God. We today bare witness of the invisible God as Messiah is formed in us and the image of God is chiseled and crafted in our beings.
1Jo 1:1-7 KJV – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen [it], and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.