I think Hanukah is widely misunderstood to be a Jewish version of Christmas in miniature. Each day candles are lit and small gifts given to the children. But is that all?
One candle is added each night with a Hebrew prayer. Often we sing the age old song:
“One for each night they shed a sweet light to remind us of days long ago.”
What are those days and why remember them? After all isn’t Jewish history filled with painful memories of slavery, idolatry, captivity, pogroms, holocaust and aimless wandering? Are we supposed to forget those things?
The clue is in the “sweet light.” There is something to the menorah, which holds eight candles in a row and one separate candle which is used to light the others. The candles are typically very colorful and somewhat mesmerizing when lit. They do have a quieting effect which gives room for reflection.But the days of remembrance were filled with oppression and fear and destruction leading up to the night of remembrance.
The people of Israel were experiencing internal strife to the point of civil war when the King of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes conquered their land. He outlawed all Jewish practices, defiled their Temple-erecting a statue of Zeus in its midst, and sacrificed pigs on their sacred altar.
This was the last straw for the Maccabees. Led by Judah, one of the sons of Mattathias, they successfully revolted against all odds and took back Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple as a sign of Re-dedication to the God of Israel.The eight candles are symbolic of the eight days of re-capturing the Temple where the eternal light commanded by Moses had only enough oil for one more night.
The miracle of Hanukkah is not in the fight, but the light.
The oil stayed lit long enough for one of their own to return from his long journey to procure suitable oil.
Each day of our celebration a candle is added and the light grows brighter. To me, this is the significance of Hanukkah and the cause for rededication to the Living God who said in Israel’s earliest days,
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 )
Why is that?Israel was called to be a blessing to all mankind. Some think that was only to bring Jesus onto the scene and then the church would take over from there.What they miss is that the church was entirely Jewish when it began. The initial population consisted of 120 disciples in the upper room. (Acts 1:15)Sadly that began to change as false teaching began to enter the church and spread into the Roman world. Gradually Jewish practice was again outlawed and Jews could no longer attend without renouncing their heritage.
The “light” which the prophets spoke of and the disciples affirmed (Acts 13:47), began to be snuffed out and has remained nearly invisible for centuries.
So what does this have to do with Hanukkah? Certainly it has nothing to do with Jesus! Or does it?
In John 10:22,23 we read:
“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.”
If your Bible was written in Hebrew the word for “Dedication” would be Hanukkah. Jesus was in the Temple during the celebration of Hanukkah.And why wouldn’t He? He was Jewish and Hannukah was a great time of celebration to remind them of days long ago. For Jesus it was less than two centuries (think 4th of July).
When Jesus was in Jerusalem at another time, it says;
“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.”Matthew 12:20 NLT
What is the big deal about a flickering candle and why is it in the Bible?It’s the same reason why the Feast of Dedication is mentioned at all. These things matter to God and they should to us.
Today, the candle which represents the light that the Jewish people were to shine into the Nations has remained dim. Yes, they have made significant advances in the world of science, medicine, technology, research and even entertainment, which has resulted in many blessings, but that is not the full extent of the “light.”
In the menorah, the candle which provides the flame to light the others is called the “Shammas,” or Servant. It is very easy to see this as symbolic.
Jesus said He was the “ Light of the world.” He also taught His Jewish disciples that they were the “light of the world.” They could not light themselves, He was their source. Jesus could have lit up the whole world alone, but He didn’t. It was not His will to do so. He included them and later assigned them the task to light up the world, not hide under a basket.
The “light” is the Gospel. The good news to the Jewish people though, is still quite dim. But, there is a candle and it burns beautifully in Israel and elsewhere amongst Jewish Believers.The ‘menorah’ however, needs more oil to bring more light.
The Messianic community in Israel is in need of Gentile Believers to come alongside with oil as they wage war against the forces of darkness that not only want to destroy Israel, but the Jewish people worldwide. This is a spiritual battle and has always been one. If the enemies of Israel had their way though time, the Jewish people would not even be a memory. Jesus did not put out that flickering wick because the candle represented Israel and His ultimate plan includes Jewish Believers and the Land of Israel. Without a collaborative effort of Gentile Believers though, the eternal purpose remains a dream in the mind of God.
It is critical to reverse the trends of the enemy who has kept the Jews from the liberating truth of their Messiah and bring the oil of God’s Presence, the ”Ruach Ha Kodesh,”—which is the Holy Spirit— into the center of Jewish life and prove God to be true to a world so desperately in need.
I urge you to ask Him what does this mean to you personally.
May God bless you and keep you and make His light to shine upon you.