Channukah

Channukah: The Festival of Lights

19 December 2022

6.4 MINS

The story of Channukah — the Jewish people’s triumph over their persecutors and restoration of the Temple of God — inspires hope in us and points to the everlasting light of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Saviour of the world.

A Time of Rededication

The Jewish festival Channukah is celebrated this year from Sunday 18th December and continues through to Monday, December 26, 2022.  It is the eight-day Jewish “Festival of Lights”, celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers, and fried foods.

This year Channukah coincides with Christmas; may we respect each other’s traditions at this time. Nothing can compare with the celebration of the birth of Yeshua, but Channukah has its own meaning with regard to rededication. This is true for us, but especially for our beloved Jewish family.

We celebrate Yeshua (Jesus) as the Light of the world, but Philippians tells us that we also shine as lights in the world.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain.
~ Philippians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Paul tells us that as “sons of God”, we are to ”shine like stars” in this dark world. Just as the stars shine in the heavens, so we, who are a heavenly people, are to shine for the Lord.

In the same way, let your light shine before people,
so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
~ Matthew 5:16 (CJB)

As we walk in Yeshua’s footsteps, we shine for the Lord, because this is the very essence of who we are.

Although Channukah is a Jewish festival, it is only found in the Bible in the New Testament and strangely enough, Yeshua is the only person found celebrating it.

Then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade.
~ John 10:22-23 (CJB)

Channukah has several names like the Feast of Dedication, Chag Ha Urim/Festival of Lights, and also various spellings, but it simply means dedication.

You may also wish to read the previous articles which I have written about Channukah. (1, 2)

Persecution and Victory

In summary, after the time of Alexander the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes gained power over the Jewish people and outlawed all Jewish religious rites; he slew many Jews who refused to capitulate. He gave them a Hellenistic (Greek-influenced) High Priest; at this time, pigs were offered as sacrifices together with other unclean offerings on the altar.

The edict went forth for all to worship Zeus as the supreme god, and he even stamped his own face on the coins with the epithet “god manifest.”

Greek coin

Coin depicting Antiochus IV adorned with a radiate crown, Greek inscription reads ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ (King Antiochus, God manifest, bearer of victory).

The following article was published on 13th December 2022, if you wish to read about more evidence of the time of Antiochus IV.

Evidence unearthed in Judean Desert of Maccabean revolt

Rare wood box containing silver coins from the reign of Antiochos IV found in an excavation overlooking the Dead Sea.

Over time, a small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian army. The leaders in this resistance were Matityahu and his son Judah Maccabee, or “The Hammer” as he was known. The Maccabees supernaturally regained their land.

They saw the Temple defiled and they proceeded to cleanse it and then re-dedicated it on the 25th day of Kislev. In order to purify or cleanse the temple, they needed oil to light the temple lamp, the Menorah. The oil supply was extremely low, there was only enough oil to burn the lamp for one day, but the miracle of the Lord came when the Menorah continued to burn for eight days. This time period gave enough time for the priests to prepare new oil for the lamp.

Is Channukah Relevant to Believers?

This story of the dedication is in the Bible for a reason, for us to know that regardless of the desecration in our lives, our congregations and our nations — it is through His miracle-working power that His light will shine through us again as we turn away from our own ways and return to the Lord’s ways.

As I have been mulling over this article and what the Lord wanted to say, the scripture from Philippians is very applicable. You and I will shine clearly as bright lights in this dark world, and just as surely as the Lord supernaturally kept the light burning on the candlestick in the temple for eight days, each one of us will just as supernaturally be empowered to shine His light in the season in front of us.

“Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr. (From his final speech)

For the Jewish people, once the temple had been cleansed and rededicated, it meant that they could return to the focus of worshipping the one true God, giving them hope and shining forth His ways.

Channukah in Australia

Even today in Australia, approximately 100,000 Jewish people will be celebrating Channukah with their loved ones and communities.

Channukah

What Do People Do?

Many Jewish Australians start observing Hanukkah on the evening before on the first day of Hanukkah.

It often starts with special blessings at sunset the day before the 25th of Kislev. Many Jewish people light the Chanukkiah (9-branched candlestick).

Hanukkah is a festive period for Jewish communities throughout Australia. Events involving meals, socialising, and games are held in venues such as parks and beaches. Meals that are offered during these events are often foods fried in olive oil, such as potato cakes, and different fried breads.

It is also a time for gift-giving, so some people order gift baskets to give to others. Hanukkah card games, board games and books are sold in Australia. A toy known as the dreidel is widely popular among both children and adults during Hanukkah.

Yeshua celebrated Channukah because it was part of His culture at that time, but the fact that God allowed this to be recorded means that it is significant for us to know and something from which we can learn.

Straight after John 10:22, the Feast of Dedication, the Jews set about to stone Yeshua; He responded by saying that His works show that He was sent by the Father and that He was the Messiah of the Jewish people.

“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”
~ John 10:37-38

As we continue to walk in Yeshua’s footsteps, we will have His oil to be His supernatural light in this dark world. It will be a supernatural phenomenon — ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 4:6b, NKJV) — as long as we stay connected, the oil will flow, and His light will glow.

Our Response

At our Celebrate Israel meeting here in Adelaide, a Messianic Jewish gentleman attends, codename Yossi. Well, Yossi came to the meeting with boxes of goodies for each person — Channukah goodies like gelt (chocolate gold foil coins), as well as a dreidel in each box, together with instructions on how to play the game Sevivon.

But more than being blessed externally with gifts, the Lord desires to bless us internally by His Spirit. He gives us spiritual gifts. In recent weeks, the Lord gave me an invitation, asking me again if I wished to have the spiritual gifts operating in my life as part of my ministry.

In this moment, when Channukah is being presented to us afresh, it is good for each one of us to reflect upon what we can learn from not only the Channukah story, but from the participation of Yeshua in this festival. As Channukah was being celebrated, Yeshua was part of the festival, and so I encourage us to take this opportunity to rededicate ourselves, our ministries, our nation of Australia, and like Israel will as well — to cleanse and purge ourselves of anything that the Lord highlights and prepare our hearts for the next season. He has great new vistas for each one of us, but we each need to be prepared for what lies ahead.

At our Celebrate Israel meeting, we did just this on the 10th of December as we met together. We learned about Channukah, participated in communion, and rededicated ourselves to the Lord. It became a powerful moment with the Lord working amongst us.

In the end, repentance and rededication are good things, because as we see in the lives of the Jewish people in this story, their Temple was restored, their national identity was restored, hope was restored and who knows that if they had not won such a great victory, perhaps the Jewish people might have been obliterated and even prevented the coming of the Messiah.

We are of the same overcoming spirit in Yeshua, where we will enter into our new season with hope for ourselves and for our land as His light remains in us and shines out to the world.

Prayer:

Yeshua, we Your family are forever grateful to You for the Light of God that entered the world and has entered our hearts. Our prayer is for Your light to shine more brightly through us so that the world may know You are the Light of the World. Amen.

___

Photos by cottonbro.

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