Hanukkah means dedication, and it is a remembrance of the dedication of the altar. It is the story of how a conquering force overran the land of Israel and how Hellenism compromised the faith of Israel. It is the story of how a small band Jewish rebels called the Maccabees threw off an overwhelmingly powerful imperial army. It is the story of how through God's deliverance, they overturned the invaders and recaptured the city of Jerusalem. It is the story of how they cleansed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which had been converted into a Temple of Zeus, and re-dedicated it to the service of the LORD. It is the story of dedication.
We celebrate it by lighting candles or oil lamps, one for each day in order to remember the great miracle of Hanukkah.
The great miracle of Hanukkah is the salvation and deliverance which God worked for his people in those days. "For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host; but strength cometh from heaven." The miracle of Hanukkah is that a rag-tag rebel band of Jews were able to prevail against all odds.
Hanukkah and Hebrew Roots
But what does Hanukkah mean to disciples of the Master? If you are Jewish, the festival has a lot of meaning of course. But what might it mean to Gentile disciples of this Jewish Messiah? After all, the festival is not one of the Biblical Appointed times. It is not even a Torah festival. What might it mean to believers? A great deal!
The message of Hanukkah is the very message of discipleship. Within it is the very basis for our return to the rich Jewish origins of our faith.
The Abomination of Desolation
We read in the book of Maccabees that the wicked King Antiochus set out to profane the Temple of God. He set up an idol, an idol of a pagan god in the Temple of the LORD. He sacrificed swine to Zeus on the altar of the LORD. The writer of Maccabees called this idol "the abomination of desolation." Those very events were specifically prophesied in the book of Daniel, chapters 11 and 12. They happened just as Daniel had predicted. The Master referred to these things when speaking of a coming time of tribulation. When he spoke of the coming time of trouble and the work of the False Messiah when he said, "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak." (Matthew 24:15-18)
His words are direct allusions to both the book of Daniel and the book of Maccabees . In the book of Maccabees, when the Abomination of Desolation was set up and the priests were told to sacrifice to it, they left their possessions and fled to the mountains. "So he and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that ever they had in the city." (1 Maccabees 2:28)
The Living Temple of God
In the second chapter of Acts, when the believers were gathered in the Temple to worship and pray on the day of Shavuot (Pentecost), the Holy Spirit came to rest and to dwell within the believers. The Holy Spirit of God took up residence within the believers. They became the New Temple of God. We are the Temple of God! The Kehilah (Church) is a living Temple.
But if we look honestly at ourselves, we have to admit that we are like Israel in the days of the Maccabees. We have been thoroughly Hellenized. Our world is one of Greek thought, Greek philosophy, Greek theology and Greek values. We have even incorporated Greek mythology and paganism into our faith. These are all characteristics deeply rooted among us in the Church. We have been thoroughly Hellenized since the earliest centuries of our existence. We are much like Israel in the days of the Maccabees.
As a Temple of the LORD, we have been defiled as well.
Even in the days of Paul, the Spirit of Antichrist was at work among the church. Paul himself said so. He called this False Messiah the Man of Lawlessness, that is the Man of Torah-less-ness. (2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7) If the "Man of Torah-less-ness" was at work in the church even in the First Century, how much more so now!
Antiochus the Antichrist
King Antiochus Epiphanes was the "Man of Torah-less-ness" in the days of the Maccabees. King Antiochus defiled the Temple and set up the Abomination of Desolation in the Temple. He also made several new laws for the Jewish people. Consider for a moment the decrees Antiochus made for Israel.
1. You shall profane the Sabbath.
2. You shall profane the Festivals and Holy Days.
3. You shall set up idols.
4. You shall eat unclean animals.
5. You shall not circumcise your sons.
6. You shall forget the Torah.
As the Temple of the Living God and as part of the Commonwealth of Israel, we believers must ask ourselves which of these laws of Antiochus have we, as the church, failed to keep? The laws of Antiochus sound like much of our traditional theology. But each one of them is pointedly anti-Torah.
Hear the words of the Master, "When you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." We do not need to wait for these words to be fulfilled. They have been fulfilled even in our midst. We are the living "holy place." The spirit of Antichrist, which is the spirit of Torah-less-ness, has long been at work among us. He is standing in our very midst. We see these things with our own eyes. The Master commands us to flee to the mountains.
Flee to the Mountains
When all Israel was turning away from the Torah and when the Temple of God was defiled, the Maccabees said, "Whosoever is zealous of the Torah, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me." (1 Maccabees 2:27-28) The saints in the book of Revelation are described in almost identical language: "Those who obey God's commandments and hold to the covenant of Yeshua."
The Macabees fled to the mountains in order to form their resistance. The Master commands us to do the same. Not that we must literally flee to any place, but that we must join together to resist the forces of Antichrist. He has had his way with the Church of Messiah too long!
True disciples must heed the call. We must join the resistance and endeavor to cleanse the Temple of God. We must return our hearts to the Torah and root out the seeds of lawlessness that have been planted in our hearts. We must find zeal for the Torah and the Covenant.
Let us be like the Macabees, and fight for the Temple, fight for Israel, fight for the Torah, fight for our people and fight for the Church! The odds are overwhelmingly against us, even as they were against Judah Maccabee in the days of his resistance. But remember the passage that says, "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to the covenant of Yeshua." (Revelation 14:12)
Who is the Enemy?
We must keep in mind that our enemy is not the Church, nor is it other Christians and Believers. Our enemy is Anti-moshiach. Our enemy is the Adversary and his lies and his laws.
The odds are overwhelmingly against us, but remember the words of Judah Maccabee, "It is no hard matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few; and with the God of heaven it is all one, to deliver with a great multitude, or a small company: For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host; but strength cometh from heaven." (1 Maccabees 1:20-25)
The Festival of Lights
When one lights a Hanukkiah menorah, it is traditional to set it in a window so that it will be seen by others. The Menorah of the Temple was called the Light of the World., Yeshua said, "I am the light of the world." He also said to his disciples, "You are the Light of the World."
How should we fight in this battle? What are our weapons? How should we dispel this darkness? The Master said, "You are the light of the world. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead they set it in a stand and it gives its light to everyone in the room. In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds (your mitzvahs) and praise your father in heaven. . . . . ." (Matthew 5)
What is the light we are to shine? It is the commandments. It is the mitzvahs. It is our good works! In the next verse, he goes on to say, "Don't think that I came to do away with the Torah . . . whoever does these commandments and teaches others to do so also will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5)
A single candle can dispel a lot of darkness. So too, a single Mitzvah can dispel a lot of darkness." Our Master said, "Let your light--your mitzvahs--shine before men."
How should we fight this war? We should light candles and lamps. Through walking out our convictions, living out the Torah, our brothers and sisters will be drawn to the light.
The commandments and the covenant of Yeshua, the Torah and the Testimony of Yeshua, are lights in the darkness.
The Oil Did Not Run Out
There is a traditional story that is told about the oil. The tradition is that when the priests cleansed the Temple of the idols and pagan things, they could find only one cruz of undefiled oil, and that was only enough to burn the menorah for one day. Why bother lighting the menorah? It would only burn out anyway. But in obedience to the commandment to continually burn the menorah in God's presence, they did as best they could. They lit the menorah and miraculously the oil lasted for eight days, which was long enough to procure more oil. The Hanukkiah menorah is a remembrance of this miracle of the oil.
All we have to do is light the lamp. Keep the commandment. The Master supplies the oil. The miracle is in the oil.
Olive Oil , speaks of anointing. He is the Anointed One, the Mashiach, the Messiah, the Christ. He is the oil, and he will never run out.
What does Hanukkah mean to us? It means this. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.