Many of you have heard the background story of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication of the altar, and the Festival of Lights, and also the fact that the primary source – the 2nd Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha (not part of the Scriptures, but valuable historic books of the period) – makes no mention of the “miracle” of the one-day supply of oil for the Temple Menorah lasting for eight days. It was initially established after the pattern of the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles, since they were unable to celebrate that properly due to the war. (2Macc 10:5-8) But, praise God for His sovereign wisdom for the Messianic symbolism in the hanukkiah (the Hanukkah menorah) that the Jewish tradition has for us who believe in the Messiah, Yeshua! God has left for Himself a testimony in the traditions of His people (such as, also, in the Kiddush on Friday evenings for the Sabbath; and in the afikomen in the Passover seder).
The Macabbees had great courage, initiative, endurance. There is a time to be brave, heroic, and to take the fight against the enemy and to stand your ground, even to take some of the enemy’s. Having done all against the enemy, stand firm in the Lord. The priestly Hasmoneans/Maccabees did not stand firm, but took position and authority for themselves by force what was not lawful to do, according to the Law of Moses; and they invited the Romans to come in to keep order. Pride and power always corrupt and lead to a downfall.
There is also a time to be brave, to endure, and to lay down our lives as a willing sacrifice in order to defeat the spiritual enemy – including and especially death — through death. This is what Yeshua/Jesus did in freely offering Himself to death on the cross for our sins. He defeated death, and we know that because He rose from the grave! (Rom 6:7-9; Col 2:15) Our blessed hope is in the resurrection of the dead as a believer in Yeshua as our Savior and Lord. Death and Sheol/Hades can not overcome us! (Mt 16:18; Jn 18:4-11, 36; Eph 6:10-18; Rev 11:1-13; 12:10-11; 13:5-8)
This victory is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says YHVH of Hosts. (Hos 1:7; Zech 4:6) This is an expression that is recited by the Jewish people during Hanukkah. It is true: The battle is YHVH’s; and so is the victory in His name, whose name under Heaven has been given to us as Yeshua/Jesus!
Yeshua was speaking to His people (the Jews), telling them that the Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptizer]. Then He said that violent people take the Kingdom of God by force. There are battles in our lives for the sake of God’s Kingdom in the world, that we must take by faith and action, particularly in matters of righteousness and justice, including mercy. But the Kingdom of God can never be taken by force. It is given by the Father to those who believe in and love His Son. (Mt 11:12-13; Lk 16:16-17) He gives the kingdom to the saints, and we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken and will never pass away! Jacob had to learn – and his descendants are still needing to learn — that he can not inherit the promises and receive the everlasting inheritance by his own way and ingenuity. No, he will only get it YHVH God’s way, He who cut the covenant and made the promises. (Lk 12:29-34; Heb 12:25-29; Dan 7:25-27; Mt 10:21-23; 5:10-12, 43-48; Gen 28:10-22)
Holidays and special celebrations are important elements in any religion or culture. We even make holidays, like birthdays, in our families. We know that God has given Israel certain appointed times that we normally call “holidays”, even though all are not celebratory. There is a certain prophet in the Tanach (the Old Testament), whose name means, “My Celebrations”: Haggai. “My celebrations”. “Whose” celebrations?
In the book of the prophet Haggai, YHVH gave a prophecy concerning the 24th day of the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar (Chislev/December; The first month of the year to Israel is the month that Passover is remembered and celebrated – Nisan/April.), a day of which He had already said to the prophet that He would bless Israel from that day forward. (Is 9:6-7; Lk 2:8-20) He speaks of shaking Heaven and Earth, which makes the prophecy a Messianic one. Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, whom YHVH chose to be His signet ring, appears in both of the Messianic Davidic lines in the genealogies given by Matthew and Luke. The testimony of Yeshua/Jesus is the spirit of prophecy . (Hag 2:6-7, 18-23; Rev 19:10)
Hag 2:6-7, 18-23
6 “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says YHVH of Hosts.
18 ‘Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid—consider it: 19 Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.’ ”
20 And again the word of the Lord came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying:
‘I will shake heaven and earth.
22 I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms;
I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms.
I will overthrow the chariots
And those who ride in them;
The horses and their riders shall come down,
Every one by the sword of his brother.
23 ‘In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the Lord, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says YHVH of Hosts.”
What does that date mean to you, the 24th of the ninth month? It so happens to be the first night of lighting the first Hanukkah candle, and the 25th is the first day. Is that the fullness of this prophecy? Did the Heavens and the Earth shake with the laying of the foundation stone of the second Temple in Jerusalem? (Yeshua is the Cornerstone of God’s ultimate Temple, and is greater than the temple. Is 28:16; Jn 2:13-22; 1Cor 3:9-17; Rev 21:22-23; Mt 12:5-6) With Judah Maccabee, and the victory over the Greeks in the year 164 BC? Or could another event be in God’s mind – a genuine Messiah event — an event when the uncreated true Light came into the world, and began to push back the darkness and to overthrow the kingdoms of this world? (Is 9:7; Lk 1:46-55) And the true Light that gives light to every person coming into the world, and tells His disciples that they are the light of the world. The Creator of the Heavens and the Earth had come down to redeem and to save His people from their sins, not just from Gentile pagan oppression and defilement. (Jn 1:6-14; Lk 2:25-35; 3:3-6)
Yeshua was in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) – and it was Winter — perhaps to celebrate it (and the celebration of the holiday then was much different than now), but mainly to draw attention to Himself – not to the Maccabees: He drew attention to Himself as being the Messiah; to Himself as the Shepherd and Savior of His sheep; to Himself as the Father’s Son, and therefore, understood by the priests, to be God (YHVH) with them. For this He was accused of blasphemy and condemned to death. (Jn 10:22-39; Is 43:10-13)
There is this same battle raging today, even within the Body of Messiah – just as it was within Israel then and until today — regarding the unique deity of Messiah Yeshua. Many accept Him as only divine, being the “Son of God”, but not also being YHVH in the mystery that is the holy triune God: Hear, O Israel, YHVH our God, YHVH is one! The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “Shema, Israel, YHVH Eloheinu, YHVH echad!” (Eloheinu is a plural construct.)
There is none like Him! He is not to be compared to another, only contrasted. He alone is holy. There is none like Yeshua. We are not sons and daughters to the same “way and degree” that Jesus is. YHVH will not have a “high place”, where we worship in Yeshua’s name along with others who are worshipping their gods in their names or ways; or where we syncretize our worship of Him with elements of other religious faiths. The Maccabees were fighting over the true worship of the true God in their battle against Antiochus Epiphanes and the Hellenists among the Jews.
The Maccabees were fighting to purify the altar that the Greeks and the Hellenists had defiled. After their victory they rededicated the altar to God’s service, from which we celebrate that Dedication/Hanukkah. We must fight that same battle in the spirit today, and to offer sacrifices acceptable to God, we certainly must know who it is that died on the altar of God and to purify true and spiritual worship. The altar has been defiled by those who do not know God, or who do not honor Him in the sight of others when we serve Him. (Lev 10:1-3) Yeshua came to restore – in fact, to more fully reveal — the true knowledge of YHVH, that all will know Who He Is.
God will once more shake the heavens and the Earth (when did He do it before?!) (Heb 12:26-29), when Yeshua comes a second time to judge the nations, to save His people, and to establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth with His throne in Jerusalem, that the Father’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Even so, come, Lord Yeshua! Amen.
Happy Hanukkah, but consider the greater celebration that is GOD’s through His prophet Haggai (“My celebrations”). With all the honor due to the Macabbees, Yeshua deserves far greater in this celebration connected with the 24th of the ninth month! It is about HIM. The appointed times to Israel are not actually the Feasts of Israel, but of YHVH. They speak of Him and of His mighty works on behalf of His covenants and of His Son, the Messiah.
There is still a war against the altar of YHVH God in His Temple (and every born-again believer is a temple of God, which we need to rededicate in our hearts and minds, and like John the Baptiser, be a witness of the true light who has lit us to be light in the world.
There is still a war against YHVH and His Anointed (Ps 2). There is war against the Kingdom of God and of Yeshua being the King of the kingdom. There is war against the holiness of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ.
Other altars are being allowed with and alongside the altar of the one true living God in our service and worship of Him. The altar is defiled, and the battle in the Spirit by faith to sanctify the Lord in our hearts is fierce. May we so know our God that we will do exploits to honor and glorify His holy name! Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of Hosts!