The Hanukkah Story
Today begins the first day of Hanukkah in 2021, when we begin to light candles and tell the story of Hanukkah and the Maccabees. Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication is a captivating story of bravery, courage, miracles and victory! But what is the Hanukkah Story? Why is Hanukkah explained from this story in history? Hanukkah was a defining moment in the life and history of God’s people. A small band of Jewish rebels changed the course of an entire nation! These brass soldiers decided Yahweh was more important than anything else.
The story of Hanukkah began in the 400 years between the writing of the Old and New Testaments. God was not silent in those years. He was still at work fulfilling His promises and preserving His people, as the story will show.
Now, as we step into the story, imagine yourself as a Jew living in Jerusalem in the 2nd century B.C.. You walk the busy streets through the marketplace, cows lowing in your ears, and sheep baaing. You smell smoke as the priests burn sacrifices in the Temple to Yahweh. The bustling city is the heart of the religious world for the Jewish people, and it is your home. You love this city, and the people in it.
But over time, this beautiful city becomes transformed as the Hellenistic Greek culture seeps in. The changes are slow at first and you hardly notice them. But as time passes by, you see an Acropolis pop up next to the Jewish temple. You see pigs in the streets instead of sheep and cows. Greek culture, statues, clothes and sports begin to dominate the Jewish city. Soldiers enter the Holy City of Jerusalem, and the entire capital is thrown into chaos! You hear people screaming, animals in a panic, and the yell of soldiers rushing through the streets trashing the marketplace! Your entire life has changed as fires burn high in the sky: your beloved city transformed into ruin right before your eyes.
But how did we get here? How did this happen? The story begins just a few decades earlier in Babylon, as Alexander the Great, the ruler of the known world dies of typhoid fever in his tent at the young age of 32. This death set off a series of actions that would affect the nation of Israel, just a few hundred miles away. When Alexander died, his kingdom was divided into four sections and given to his four best generals. One of these generals was the founder of the Syrian Empire, and he passed on his empire to his grandson, Antiochus IV.
Like many rulers before him, Antiochus vowed to conquer nations! He began this through the assimilation of Hellenistic culture through the powerful leaders like the High Priest Jason, and when the nation of Israel rebelled against the assimilation, they were forced into it instead. And so it was Antiochus who entered Jerusalem on that fateful day, capturing the nation of Israel.
THE THEME: STORY
Story: Yahweh reveals his kingdom through stories! Stories change lives; stories challenge; stories inspire. Story is a part of every culture and it always captures the deepest parts of our hearts, because we see ourselves in the characters. We hold our breath as the protagonist Christian journeys to Heaven in Pilgrim’s Progress. We cheer when King George slays the dragon in the classic fairytale, and we cry in relief with Frodo and Sam when they finally destroy the ring and return to their home in the Shire.
Narrative story is the powerful medium God chooses to reveal his Word in the Bible, and it is through the stories of God’s miracles in these historical accounts that our lives are forever impacted. The Hanukkah story show us how God revealed himself through incredible miracles as he saves his people from annihilation.
As we begin Hanukkah, ask yourself these questions:
- What story has your life told so far?
- What story do you want your life to tell by the time it’s over?