“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chanukah

Well, I finally got around to my first post in the series regarding the Feasts. I will be spotty in my posting over the next few weeks -- starting a new job, and traveling, so bear with me...

Anyway, I thought I would start with Chanukah -- a celebration that is outside the Feasts established in the Pentateuch, but one that Messiah celebrated. I want to provide some basic background and then some thoughts about the celebration of Chanukah.

What exactly is Chanukah? Is it just a Jewish Christmas? NO! It is not; we did not 'invent' this holiday to compete for retail dollars. Chanukah celebrates a military victory that occurred in the inter-testamental period.

To understand the significance of Chanukah, we must first go through a short history lesson:

Alexander the Great was a brilliant general and leader who conquered most of the known world hundreds of years before Christ. When he was 32 years old he contracted a fever and died and the Diadochi divided his kingdom up. There were many generals and advisors who wanted a piece of this vast kingdom. In the end the kingdom was divided up amongst four generals, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and Cassander. Ptolemy ended up with the Southern Kingdom, which included Egypt. Seleucus ended up with the Eastern Kingdom, which included Babylon and Syria. Lysimachus took the Northern Kingdom, which is now known as Turkey and Cassander the Western Kingdom that included Greece. The Ptolemic and Seleucid kings were continuously battling over Judea, with the Seleucid kingdom finally taking over the vast majority of the territory.

About 167 BC the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, decided to force Hellenism on to the Jewish people. He outlawed such things as the reading of the Torah, and circumcision, and anyone found to be disobeying Antiochus' edicts were put to death immediately. Babies were hung around their mother's necks, and women were thrown off the walls of the city.. It was also during this period that the position of High Priest in Jerusalem became a political appointment, and greedy, self-centered men were able to bribe their way into the position, some even selling items from the temple to pay bribes!

Antiochus strode into Jerusalem and desecrated the temple; sacrificing a pig on the holy altar and putting up a statue of Zeus. He sprinkled the blood of the pig in the Holy of Holies, and poured the broth from the pig over the Torah scrolls before cutting them into pieces and burning them! He also began to call himself Antiochus Epiphanes, which means 'The Manifestation of God.' The Jews took to calling him Antiochus Epimanes, which means 'Crazyman!'

During this time, Antiochus sent his troops into the countryside of Israel forcing everyone in all of the towns and villages to worship at pagan shrines. This all came to a screeching halt in a little town called Modi'in. The priest of this town was an elderly man named Mattathias. When the Syrian troops attempted to force him to perform a pagan ritual, he and his five sons revolted, killing the troops and taking to the hills with a small band of supporters. Eventually his eldest son, Judah, became the leader of the revolution, and earned the nickname The Maccabee (the Hammer). The revolt came to be known as the Maccabean Revolt.

Against all odds, the band of guerrillas outfought the troops of Antiochus, eventually retaking Jerusalem and the Temple. They set about repairing the damage and reconsecrating the temple. However, (as the legend goes), when it came to the Menorah, which symbolized God's Light in the Temple, they found that they only had enough oil to keep the Menorah burning for one day. It is supposed to be kept continuously burning. The oil that was prepared for the lamp was consecrated oil that took eight days to properly prepare. The people decided to light the Menorah anyway. Miraculously, the lamp stayed lit for eight days until the oil was ready to refill the lampstand.


Now, while the legend of the oil burning for eight days is somewhat apocryphal, the rest of the story is the recognized history of Chanukah. Why eight days? Well, many think that this was due to the fact that the Jews had been unable to celebrate sukkot, being at war. So, they took the seven days of sukkot and an additional day for Shemini Atzeret and celebrated Chanukah.

Why do we celebrate it? Well, first off, you will find Messiah celebrating it: (John 10:22f). Now, this does not mean that we are REQUIRED to celebrate it, but I like to bring out the significance of this holiday for the people that attend our church.

First -- In John 10:22 we find that Jesus was walking in the Temple area at Chanukah. The people asked "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus said, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak of me...I and the Father are one."

The people were looking for a deliverer to free them from Rome, much like Judas Maccabee had done under the Seleucid rule. This would have been heavily on people's minds during Hanukkah. They would have been celebrating the rededication of the Temple, with massive lights illuminating the Temple area. How tragic it is that they did not even realize that God was walking on Solomon's portico!

They did not realize that a greater deliverance was coming. That God himself was in their midst, and His agenda for Israel's salvation was infinitely greater than liberation from Rome. Isaiah prophesied: "...in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan — The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned...For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (9:1,2 & 6).

God sent His light into a world of spiritual darkness, first, to be seen in Galilee, where Jesus began his earthly ministry. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). He came as the servant light or "shamash", (the candle which lights the other eight in the Chanukkiah), in order to give his light to us. Messiah cleanses us and dedicates us to God so that we can be His spiritual Temple.

Second -- The celebration of Chanukah might well be when Messiah was conceived. Without going into GREAT detail -- this post is already fairly long -- There is much evidence that Messiah was born during the Feast of Tabernacles (sukkot), which would put conception nine months back -- VERY near Chanukah. It seems that God would use some clear makers, i.e. the Feasts, to bring His plan about. Now what makes this very interesting is that, if this is the case, John the Baptist would have been born on Passover!

Well, there you have a brief overview of the celebration of Chanukah. I am not sure that this helps at all, but I believe as I progress through the celebrations, we will begin to see the tie of all of these festivals into God's plan.

Bugs -- I hope that some of this may help...

12 comments:

BugBlaster said...

Thanks Ray, looking forward to more. The thought that the Servant may have been conceived at Chanukah time is fascinating.

We've been patiently waiting for Marty Goetz to come back our way for a concert. His Chanukah song is one of the best pieces Christian of music I have ever heard.

BugBlaster said...

Oh yes was going to say but forgot: best wishes on your new job.

Ray said...

Thanks Bugs -- I agree about Marty's song... It is one of my favorites from him....

Libbie said...

I have a Chanukkiah. My RE teacher insisted it was a menorah, (it's probably called that too) and slapped me down for trying to explain the difference. I'm relieved to see I wasn't just a cocky kid. Although I was.

Ray said...

Libbie -- You may have been a cocky kid, but you were right if it had eight candles... A traditinal menorah has seven...

Rabenstrange said...

That was a fascinating post.

I followed a link from Bugblasters blog.

Ray said...

Thanks rabenstrange, I have lurked at your place once or twice, following Bugblasters links as well... :-)

Mike said...

Ray, I am so glad you're posting these. You are a teacher, brother. I am drinking these up. Keep 'em coming.

Ray said...

Thank you Mike -- As I stated earlier, I will be in and out this next week, so i will not be able to get the nest posting up until sometime later in the week, or even the weekend...

Solifidian said...

Ray,

I read with interest your comments on Antonio's blog regarding the outer darkness. You seem to equate Gehenna with "the outer darkness." Just out of curiousity, what is your basis for doing this? Can you direct me to some literature that makes this equation? Thanks.

Ray said...

solifidian -- There are many places where Gehenna is discussed in the Talmudic literature and Targum commentaries. Also, it is known as a place of 'darkness' in several of these.

As I stated in an earlier comment; there is no consensus on Gehenna amongst the rabbinical community. Some, in the past, have taken a annihilationist view, some a purgatorial view, and some a view that is akin to the Christian thought of hell.

One of the more consistent themes has been that the nation of Israel would be restored, and the goyim would be cast into the outer darkness (Gehenna) to suffer. That is why the passage in Matthew 8 is so startling; a goyim (and not just any goyim, but a ROMAN!) is recognized for his faith -- and the Messiah states that he will join the feast even when some of the nation of Israel will not! VERY radical thinking!

The problem with Talmudic writing is that if you try and take a piece of it and understand it, that can be fairly confusing, however if you want a start at it -- I would recommend that you read Alfred Edersheim's "Life and Times of the Messiah".

I did not feel like getting into an argument/discussion regarding this when I responded to Antonio, I wanted to simply point out that there is a historical/social context into which the thoughts of outer darkness should be placed. We (all of us) have a tendency to overlay our agenda onto the Bible, and sometimes we must peel away that agenda to see what the words meant to the original people who were being taught. Messiah was not origincally striking up a conversation with Darby, but was speaking with the common man on the street.

Bottom line -- there is not a consensus amongst rabbis regarding the after-life, however there is an anithesis between living in the presence of the Messiah and not -- it is not degrees, it is much more black and white.

Solifidian said...

Thanks for the reply.