SHOULD WE CELEBRATE HANUKKAH?
My purpose in this episode is to highlight the lessons to be learned from Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication; and to encourage you to consider the importance of these lessons to your path of righteous living and building your faith. We can all stand to have more faith because without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
In Malachi chapters 1-4, we hear Yahovah speaking through the prophet Malachi listing His displeasure against the Levites and Jews, as if in a divorce decree. He declares His love and favoritism towards Jacob (Israel) and the children of Israel, but they have NOT reciprocated His love!! They had agreed to keep the covenant He made with them in the wilderness. They had agreed to love, worship, and honor and obey Him. Instead, they broken their covenant with Him. Yahovah holds the priests (Levites) responsible for the poor spiritual condition of the nation as seen in Malachi 1:6-14.
In 200 BC the region of Judea fell in the hands of the Seleucid Empire. These Seleucids were Syrian- Greeks whose main agenda was to Hellenize the Jews by replacing their Hebrew culture with the Greek culture. The agenda to Hellenize in Jerusalem was partially successful, except for a devout family of Levite priests, the Maccabees, who practiced their Hebrew culture, and remained faithful to Yahovah and resisted the conversion.
In 167 BC King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes dismantled the Hebrew temple worship and desecrated the altar by sacrificing pigs’ flesh to the Greek gods. He authorized his men to offer the reward of economic, social and political gain as an incentive to voluntarily adopting the Greek lifestyle, in exchange for eating the flesh of the sacrificed pig! Otherwise the penalty for refusal would be death. As High priest, Matathias Maccabeus vehemently refused to eat the pig on behalf of himself and on behalf of his family, in the face of death. When a Jew in the crowd yielded to the temptation to eat the abomination, Matathias, the high priest struck him down and killed him in righteous anger. This was the beginning of the revolt because the king’s men did not take kindly to this and Matathias also killed one of the king’s men, causing them to retreat and reconsider their strategies.
This escalated into war between the Jews and the Syrian Greek armies. The attack against the Jews included their practice of circumcision and their observance of Torah. The Greeks punished the Jews by killing the circumcised babies and hanging the dead babies around the neck of each mother. The other area of attack was on the obedience to Torah, which contains Yahovah’s instructions for righteous living to His people. Thus the Jews were forced to abandon the Feasts of Yahovah and not keep the weekly Sabbath holy. In the face of persecution, the Maccabees revolted for three years, at the end of which they defeated the Syrian-Greek armies which outnumbered them in men, weapons and resources.
From the details of this war which lasted for three years, we learn about the actions taken by the Maccabees to demonstrate their faith in Yahovah. The prophet Malachi singled them out and listed their responsibilities, holding them accountable for the poor spiritual condition of the people. They had learned from their past experience, and took their responsibility as Levite priests, very seriously.
In Malachi 2:1-3, & 7-8 reads: 1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
– 2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
– 3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.
– 7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
– 8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.
They did not yield to the offer from the King to receive power, wealth and high social status because they were on high spiritual alert .
– They learned from past failures and from history that this offer is the hallmark of Satan.
– Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise for yielding to such an offer appealing to pride.
– The children of Israel for centuries fell into captivity repeatedly because living like the gentiles appealed to their pride.
– The last Hebrew prophet, Malachi, had just prophesied against the priests and held them responsible for the poor spiritual condition of the nation as stated in Malachi 1:6-8. “6A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?” 7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. 8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.”
King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had hijacked the Torah and was making a common practice of desecrating the altar in the Temple by sacrificing unclean animals on the altar to the Greek gods. In honor of Yahovah and their covenant to Him, the Maccabees took matters in their own hands and led the devout Jews to participate in a revolt against the king to reclaim their sovereignty and reclaim the Torah and the Temple.
The Seleucids hoped to control the people of the region by removing their cultural identity; but they could not break the stronghold they encountered from the devotion, commitment and influence of this small group of Jewish people, zealous for the commands of their God, Yahovah. Hellenization attacked the core of the Hebrew culture by attacking the religion and covenants of the Hebrew people with Yahovah:
- Yahovah covenant of circumcision with Abraham as outward show they are the descendants of Abraham
- Keeping Torah as a demonstration of their love and worship of Yahovah as their God.
- Keeping Yahovah’s weekly Sabbaths, and annual Feast Days as a covenant sign that they are His people.
By standing up to the enemy in honor of Yahovah, they were strengthened as Yahovah empowered them to defeat their enemies. They were few in number and minimum in resources, but they trusted in Yahovah for their victory and they experienced a miracle of overwhelming victory over the enemy. They had to work hard for it but Yahovah rewarded their courage by helping them. They held fast to the promises of Yahovah as their strong tower and He kept His promises to them. They regained their sovereignty and rededicated the altar and temple to Yahovah. There is no better place to be and no greater experience than to be in the presence of Yahovah.
In spite of being outnumbered by Syrian-Greek armies of the King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, they encouraged each other and stepped out in faith knowing that Yahovah would honor their faith to give them the victory over their enemy. Yahovah provided them with strength and wisdom and defeated the enemy, to show Himself strong on their behalf. In 164 BC they took back the Torah, the temple, rededicated the altar to Yahovah’s service, and reestablished their sovereignty where they were once again free to worship their God and teach their children to do the same. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BC to 63 BC. Later, the Jews invited the Romans to come in and rule over them and do away with the Hasmonean dynasty. Israel gave up is sovereignty allowing Rome to govern them. Thus, Yahoshua was born under Roman rule.
As worshippers of the Hebrew God, Yahovah, and disciples of His Son Yahoshua, we are drawn to the things and events that show evidence of Yahovah’s presence and intervention. We take pleasure in being identified as His people. In our quest to know Him, learn about Him and experience His presence; we find ourselves reading the Bible, searching out literature, sermons, and people who know Him and have had encounters with Him so that we will know the path. We know we cannot out love him but we do our best to demonstrate our love and worship for Him by telling others about Him and His love; by our obedience to his commands, and by spending time in prayer, meditation and Bible study to draw closer to Him.
We gravitate to all things concerning Him like the fans of celebrities gravitate to anything that pertains to that celebrity. That is why I became curious about how the Bible was canonized. What were the standards that led to the decisions to exclude or include books that make up the current canon of the Bible?
I have read the Book of Jasher and the Maccabees I & II and I am convinced that these three books should not have been removed from the Old Testament. I believe that removing them has done a disservice to Christians who are seeking to have a better understanding of how to recognize the works, movement and intervention of Yahovah in a believer’s life. Since reading these books my faith in Yahovah has grown tremendously. I live with new confidence having a stronger identity of who I am and the power of the Spirit of Yahovah who lives in me. When I pray and meditate, I move in the spirit realm with increased confidence because I know what my father in heaven will do for me and through me and those who worship and obey His commands.
The eight day celebration for Hanukkah comes from the timing of the seven day purification process as commanded in the Torah for the altar, which coincided with the appointed seven days Feast of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles; and Last Great Day which is the eighth day. The Jews had gone all year without observing the feasts as a result of being heavily engaged in warfare with the Syrian-Greek armies and having no temple. But now that they had won the war and recaptured the temple and the Torah, the priests led the people to re-establish their sovereignty by rebuilding the temple and purifying the altar to rededicate the temple to Yahovah.
The significance of the celebration of Hanukkah for us today is that Yahovah requires our sanctification and consecration if we desire to be vessels of honor dedicated to worship Him. Also, if we set our hearts to honor Him and worship Him, he will come to our aid to grant us the desire of our hearts. When the Maccabees encouraged the Jews, they reminded them of the mighty and powerful acts of Yahovah in the lives of their ancestors as proof that He would come to their aid. The priest reminded the people of Yahovah’s covenants with their fathers and the promises He made to their forefathers, believing in their hearts that He is a God of honor, He cannot lie and what He promised with His mouth He will accomplish with His hands. Yahovah honored their faith and declarations and helped them in their efforts to defeat their enemies and reestablish the temple and their sovereignty.
Based on the statistics of the number of Jews, available weapons and the supplies they had, they should have been a statistic of defeat but they were victorious over the Syrian-Greek armies that outnumbered them many times over in number of soldiers and weapons. This is a great reason to celebrate Hanukkah today because it reminds me that I am the temple of the living God and I must rededicate this temple to Him as a place of worship, where He can place His name and meet with me on a daily basis to communicate with me and show His strength through me. They pleased Him with their faith, and He rewarded them with many miracles as they defeated their enemies in many battles at significant points leading to a miraculous victory in the end.
The Dreidle, while it looks like an insignificant toy, is a covert spiritual weapon used to train children to trust the promises of Yahovah and not to gamble with obedience to keeping Torah. On it is written a simple message in Hebrew “A Great Miracle Happened There”. This game piece was used to teach powerful lessons to the future generations about the many battles the Maccabees fought for three years; and to remind them that Yahovah did miracles by coming to the aid of Jews who purposed in their heart to serve Him and take action on that purpose. Other great miracles happened because a few faithful men put their trust in Yahovah and He gave them the power to overcome the great armies of their enemy who outnumbered them with men and weapons. Do not be intimidated when the enemy comes in like a flood, because Yahovah will raise up a standard against the enemy and deliver those who stand for Him.
On each Dreidle, there are four Hebrew words written as a reminder. It is a message about Hanukkah. Though it appears as a gambling game, it is only a decoy in case the enemy walked in during the teaching. As a result, the Hebrew words on the four sides of the dreidle are translated to say, “a great miracle happened there”. The miracle is that a few outnumbered many and got DELIVERANCE for the nation. When the armies of men trust in their natural defense mechanisms of weapons and armies, the people of Yahovah trust in the power of Yahovah to destroy and overcome the armies of men. We must not be intimidated by the threats and enticements of the world to force us into submission, because our Yahovah is greater in power and might than the wicked authority and He will fight for us if our goal is to honor Him and not ourselves.
Though these three serious covenants came under attack by the enemy, the Maccabees would rather be tortured and die than break covenant with the creator of the universe, Yahovah. If the Maccabees had not reclaimed and rededicated the temple there would not have been a temple for Yahoshua to walk into 200 years later and confirm that he is the Messiah as seen in John 10:22-30
To the Greek minded believer, Torah is not valuable. But to the Hebrew minded believer we guard them at all costs. It is Yahovah who gave victory to the Maccabees. He used the Maccabees to preserve the sovereignty of Israel and reestablish the temple. If not, Yahoshua would not have a place to come to preach to His sheep and fulfilled the plan of salvation as was prophesied. This three year war was recent history for the Jews. As worshippers of Yahovah, it is important to be the people who keep covenant!
The Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Christian church are based on Greek philosophy because they have been instrumental in getting the nations to break covenant with Yahovah by not obeying Torah. The Christian church separated itself from its Hebrew roots, which is its history. The Roman Catholic Christian and the Protestant Christian both have a Greek mindset which is different from the Torah mind set. Torah recognizes our covenant with Yahovah and that He is our supreme head; whereas, Christianity recognizes the supremacy of the church and the Pope.
For many years, I would stall my actions while I pray to find out if it was God’s will and wait to see some kind of sign before I would move forward. After reading these books, scriptures such as “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord”, became three dimensional and personal. This has caused me to start moving with confidence and start taking action instead of wasting time on my knees wondering what action to take. It is He who gives me the desires of my heart so I need to take action because time is of the essence. As long as my motive is to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto me. But I must do my part and take action for nothing will be added unto me if I decide to sit back and wait. “Faith without works is dead!” These books have propelled me into taking action and not wasting time being complacent. We are more than conquerors through Yahoshua! If I believe that then I will stop talking and start doing.
Christianity tells us that Yahovah was silent between Malachi and Matthew. That is because they do not know about the mighty acts of Yahovah on behalf of His people during this period. Maccabees I & II teach us to fight to the death for Torah and to not compromise. We must live and die for the Torah that Yahovah gave us as instructions for righteous living. This confirms that Yahovah has not done away with Torah.
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