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Hanukkah – One Christian’s Perspective

on November 21, 2012

What Is Hanukkah

Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Lights, is an annual festival celebrated on eight successive days to honor the restoration of divine (true, Holy) worship in the temple after it had been defiled by heathens (162/163 BC). The restoration occurred in 165 BC. Hanukkah occurs on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev. Kislev is the third month in the Jewish calendar.

History of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah)

After the Jewish people returned to the land of Israel from Babylonia they rebuilt the temple. During this time they were subject to the reigning powers, first to the Persian empire and later to Alexander the Great. According to history books, Alexander the Great was a kind and generous ruler to the Jews. After his death his kingdom was divided. Judah was caught in the middle and ended up subject to Greek kings who reigned from Syria, the Seleucid dynasty.

Antiochus IV was Judah’s new king. He worshipped false gods, Greek gods. He did not allow the Jewish people to worship YHWH, the only true God. During the years of Greek power many of the Jews embraced the Greek culture and its pagan way of life. These Jews helped Antiochus abolish every trace of the Jewish religion, then he took the holy treasures from the temple. He also outlawed the Jewish people from observing their traditions and from observing their Sabbaths. After a period of time he banned the reading  and studying of God’s Word.

When things looked like they could not get any worse, Antiochus went into the temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar, then the Jewish people were required to bow down before the pig. If they refused to do so they were killed. Things looked very bleak for the Jewish people. The temple had been desecrated, innocent people were being put to death, they were being heavily taxed, altars were erected in every city and in the temple to false gods, and pigs were being sacrificed every day on the altar in the temple.

If the Jewish people practiced their Jewish religion they were beaten or put to death. If their sacred books were found they were destroyed. Overseers were appointed to help persuade the people to adhere to the kings orders.

Many Jews complied with the kings orders. Some did so voluntarily, and some out of fear. Some of the ones that accepted the Greek ways even changed their names. During this dark time even, the high priest changed his name from Joshua to Jason. He was a wicked and sinful man who depressed and demoralized his fellow Jews. Jason readily accepted and forced others to participate in pagan customs and immoral acts.

After a period of time Jason was replaced. In his anger over being replaced, he gathered an army and attacked the city, slaughtering many Jews. The disturbance was viewed as a revolt by Antiochus causing him to send armies into Jerusalem. The armies of  Antiochus plundered the temple and killed thousands of the Jews. After this even more idols and altars were erected for worship to the pagan Greek gods and goddesses. They were everywhere – every town, every city, and every village. Antiochus’ soldiers forced the Jewish people to make offerings to these false gods and goddesses. The people were also forced to eat food that God had forbidden them to, and to engage in ungodly and immoral acts.

Despite what goes on in the world, God has always had and will always have a remnant. These people will chose to listen to Him and follow Him, no matter what the cost. This was true during this dark time in Jewish history. There were some Jewish people who refused to follow the Greek practices and the pagan activities. They would not bow down to the false gods. These people chose to obey God and to follow His ways. This remnant of Jews organized a group of people to fight against the evil leaders. This remnant, under the leadership of Judas Maccabee, gained control of the temple.

The temple had to be purified, because it had been defiled, before it could be used again to worship the one and only true God. The altar was torn down and rebuilt and new vessels were made. When everything was finished they hung the curtain and put the bread of presence on the table. On the twenty-fifth of Kislev they rededicated the temple unto God. They poured all the oil the oil that they had found into the menorah, however, it would only enough to last for one day. They lit the menorah and miraculously the oil lasted for eight days, the exact time it took for new oil to be made!

Just as the temple had to be purified, we to, as the temple of God must be purified.

James 4:17-10  NKJV    

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

1 Corinthians 3:16  NKJV    

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Something To Think About…Conception Of Jesus / Angel Visits Mary

John 1:1-9  NKJV    

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”

     Something to think about…Was the Light of the World conceived during the Festival of Lights? Some Bible scholars believe that Jesus, the Light of the World was conceived during the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah).

Luke 1:26-36  NKJV   

  “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.”

     When Elizabeth was six months pregnant an angel visited Mary to tell her that she had been chosen to carry the Son of God. The angel even told Mary how she would become pregnant. The Bible does not specifically give the date of Jesus’ birth, however, we can use clues in the Bible to arrive at the approximate date. We must remember that December 25 is not mentioned in the Bible anywhere – it is a date picked pout by man, not God. In fact, during Biblical times birthdays were only celebrated by people who worshipped false gods and idols. One clue that the Bible gives is that Jesus’ birth did not occur in the winter. There were sheep in the pasture at the time Jesus was born. During this time period sheep were not left in the pasture during the winter.

Luke 2:8  NKJV   

  “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

     Starting at the first night of the Festival of Lights, the 25th of Kislev, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, you will arrive at what some Bible scholars believe is the approximate time of Jesus’ birth, the Festival of Tabernacles. The Festival of Tabernacles is a Biblical feast that celebrates God tabernacling (living) with us. When Jesus was born He was referred to as Emmanuel, God with us.

Matthew 1:23  NKJV   

  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Hanukkah Celebrations

Today people celebrate Hanukkah  in many ways. Some, but not all, are:

* Having festive meals for eight days

* Lighting candles in the menorah

* A devotion is read each night

* Songs are sung in remembrance of miracles and redemption

* Praises are read from Psalms 115-118

* Giving gifts and/or money to relatives or the needy

* Children play a game called “Spinning The Dreidel”

* Foods with a lot of oil are cooked

To a believer in Christ, Hanukkah is…

… about true worship being restored unto God.

… a wonderful time to reflect on past miracles.

… about rededication.

…about God’s miracle working power.

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