SUNDOWN, DECEMBER 7 – DECEMBER 15, 2023 AT SUNDOWN
The eight day festival of Hanukkah will begin this year at sundown on December 7th, (25th day of Kislev). Most Christians have little appreciation for the festival of Hanukkah even though it was clearly observed by Jesus (John 10:22-23). The festival has unusual significance to us today because it marks the first real battle of God’s people against humanism. The real purpose of the festival is to remember that God intervened on behalf of His people, Israel, in the struggle against humanism and, indeed, caused a great miracle to occur in conjunction with their victory. To understand Hanukkah, we must consider the history of the Greek Empire following the conquest of Alexander the Great.
When Alexander the Great swept across the world, conquering all the civilized world of his day, he attempted to impose Greek civilization and lifestyle on conquered lands and peoples. Following him, the Greeks proceeded, with evangelical fervor, to impress their lifestyle wherever they went. They believed that they had truly developed a superior way of life and were determined to “minister” this lifestyle to the barbarians. It is interesting to note that Alexander left Israel relatively undisturbed when he initially conquered this area. His successors, however, did not.
After Alexander died, his kingdom was divided into four sub-kingdoms. The Fertile Crescent was divided under Seleucis (Mesopotamia) and Ptolemy (Egypt). The land of Israel and its immediate surroundings fell between these two sub kingdoms and fell under the jurisdiction of either one or the other depending on who was strongest at any given moment.
In 198 BC, a new and ambitious Seleucid ruler, Antiochus III, came to power. He was determined to unify the Greek Empire and renew the Hellenization (implementation of Greek lifestyle) process of the civilized world. Israel lay within his province, yet, it had resisted Hellenization more completely than any other conquered people. Antiochus was determined to Hellenize Israel. When Antiochus III died, he was succeeded by Antiochus IV, otherwise known as Antiochus Epiphanes, who pushed the process even more vigorously than his predecessor had. Antiochus Epiphanes outlawed the practice of Judaism, placed a statue of Zeus (in his likeness) in the Temple at Jerusalem, and defiled the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. This was followed by forcing the Jews to submit to paganistic rituals.
When this was attempted in the small town of Modi’in, just north of Jerusalem, the Hasmonean family resisted.Judah Maccabee – Soon Judah, one of the Hasmonean sons, distinguished himself as a military leader in this resistance. Jews from throughout the Land rallied to him as armed opposition to the Greeks began. The name Maccabee (“hammer”) was soon applied to Judah because it was said that God smashed the Greeks with Judah, His hammer. Therefore, those struggling against the Greeks were known as the Maccabees. Judah and those fighting alongside him prepared for battle by fasting and praying. God’s anointing was obviously on them because they were successful against overwhelming odds. Eventually Jerusalem was taken from the Greeks and the Temple was rededicated.
The Temple Menorah was lit as the Temple was rededicated, and an eight-day festival was instituted. Hence, the festival of Hanukkah, or “Dedication”, lasts each year for eight days beginning on the 25th of Kislev, as the deliverance from the Greeks is remembered.
What is the significance of Hanukkah to us today? The Hellenization process which the Maccabees resisted has since engulfed the entire world. Indeed, our society today probably exemplifies ancient Greece more fully than any other in history, i.e., American society is almost entirely humanistic. The influence of Greek thought is just as destructive today as it was during the era of the Maccabees. We can see just how strong this influence is when we consider the general lawlessness of our society, the practice of abortion, and the opposition to Biblical views in education.
Today, the struggle is between those who call on the name of God and those who do not. The person who has reverence for the Holy One of lsrael and His Torah (law) conducts his life relative to this law because he knows that he is now and will ultimately be accountable to God for all that is done in this life. The humanist knows no reverence for God and scoffs at the concept of accountability to anyone except himself.
So the original battle that resulted in the Jewish observance of Hanukkah foreshadowed the coming struggle in the whole earth. This pattern is often seen in Jewish history. The first point of resistance, and hence the first battle, came in Israel.
The battlefield has now spread over the whole earth. It is not a new battle, but simply a continuation of the same old one, The Nations vs. Israel: The Coming Final Conflict – the conflict is exactly the same. The ultimate conflict will come in Jerusalem. As Israel understands more of her position in God’s purpose and acts to implement His purpose the struggle will become more and more intense. It has already begun. Zechariah said that God would cause Jerusalem to be a cup of reeling for all the nations (Zechariah 12.2). Ezekiel said that all the nations will come up against Israel and Jerusalem (Ezekiel 38 and 39). When they do, His Glory will break forth and destroy the invading armies and all the earth will know that the Holy One of Israel is God alone. This will be the end of Greek philosophy, Hellenization, and humanism. Again Zechariah states that after this time all nations will go up annually to worship in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14.16).
Faithful believers in Israel are beginning to arise and take their stand. As followers of Messiah Jesus, we should not think of ourselves separate from Israel in this matter. The battle for reverence of God in matters such as abortion and respect for law here is exactly the same as the battle for Israel. Real believers both in Israel and in this country are being isolated and villainized. These, indeed, are awesome days. We believe that these are precisely the signs expected just prior to the coming of our Lord. Are you prepared to stand up in this struggle?
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