victory

Hanukkah Day 8: Jesus as the Word

The Story – Jesus as the Word

Each night, we are reminded that Jesus is the Word of God as we read from the Word of God as we light our candles. Once again, come with me, and again imagine standing in Jerusalem, near the Temple in Solomon’s Portico with Jesus. This beautiful portico runs along the Eastern side of Herod’s temple, and it is beautiful decorated. This place will later be the location where Peter preaches his sermon and thousands will dedicate their lives to Jesus the Messiah.

 

But for now, far away from the busy pandemonium of the city streets, this place is quiet and snow falls lightly. Just a handful of people enter the gate into the Temple, hardly making a noise in the silence of the snow. Wind blows and the clouds hang low over the sky. Jesus is pacing quietly by himself, thinking and praying to himself in this quiet oasis in the middle of the Great City. Today is Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication.

 

All of a sudden, a huge group of religious leaders ambush Jesus and crowd around him, preventing his escape.  “Why do you keep us in suspense?” they cry. “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly!”

 

Jesus takes a deep breath. “I told you, and you did not believe.”

 

“I told you, I am the Son of God, I told you, I am the fulfillment of the scriptures. I told you, I came from Heaven. I told you, I am your Savior from sin.”

 

Jesus had already told them, but they did not believe. “I and the Father are One.” Jesus boldly claimed. “Do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

 

As Jesus spoke, every Jewish man cried out in horror and immediately tried to drag him away to stone him because he had claimed to be deity! But they could not touch him.

 

THE THEME: JESUS AS THE WORD

 

“In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus was the creator of our world, and the creator of all that is good.

Jesus made the claim to be deity, because he was God! Though Antiochus had falsely claimed godhood, Jesus proved he was the one and only true God.

 

The significance of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in the Temple cannot be passed by, because it is so key to understanding the holiday of Hanukkah. Jesus said he was the one whom the Father had consecrated and sent into the world. Jesus had been sanctified and dedicated by his Father in heaven to come to earth!

 

Jesus was not only claiming to be deity, but a deity that had been sent into the world to save it. Jesus was claiming the feast of Hanukkah pointed directly to HIM! Jesus was the ultimate dedicated and consecrated priest who would intercede on behalf of his people for miracles, even when his own people would not stay dedicated to him.

 

Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication as he was reminded of his own dedication to his Father in Heaven. The conviction he carried took him all the way to the cross as he died on behalf of all humanity for their sins.

 

What an incredible picture of Jesus’ love for us in the celebration of Hanukkah, and what an incredible God we serve!

 

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Hanukkah Day 7: The Menorah and Jesus as Light

The Story – The Menorah

Each night of Hanukkah, we light a Menorah, or a Hanukkiah. A Menorah with candles is lit each night to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. As we light these candles and pray over them, we are reminded of God’s goodness to us.

 

Imagine standing in Jerusalem again, this time in the period of the Roman occupation, hundreds of years after the Maccabean revolt. Jesus is standing before a blind man. This man has been blind since his birth, and everyone in Jewish culture knows, if you are ailing from some terrible illness, you or your parents must have sinned! Most physical ailments were attributed to spiritual causes in the day of Jesus, and Jesus was well aware of this.

 

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” his disciples asked curiously.

 

Jesus turned to his disciples: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

 

Jesus bent down, spit in the dirt and made a paste with the mud. He put the mud on the man’s eyes and sent him away to wash it off. The man walked away completely healed.

 

Imagine the glimmer of first sight as the blind man opens his eyes, and a whole new world reveals itself! The small world of darkness he had lived in now gone, and a whole new world within his reach. He sees color for the first time, he sees movement for the first time, he sees people’s faces for the first time! Imagine this man seeing his parents for the first time and sharing about the incredible Rabbi Yeshua who has saved him! Imagine the wonder he feels as he cries uncontrollably at this incredible gift Jesus has given to him.

 

His entire world has been opened up because this man Jesus took the time to display the works of God in his life. His small life was important to the Savior of the Universe. Jesus had displayed his light to this man, and so today, Jesus displays his life to US! Even as we light the candles of the Menorah, we are reminded to look to Jesus as the light of the world.

 

THE THEME: JESUS AS LIGHT

Jesus is the Light of the World! Several times in Jesus’ ministry, he claimed to be the Light of the World, and to truly understand our part in this, we must understand the significance of this claim.

 

Jesus was the creator of the Universe, the very one who created our world, us, and the LIGHT! Light is the beginning of all things: plants grow from light. We are warmed by light. The Sun, moon and stars shed light on us during the day and at night, for navigation, for sight… light permeates every crack and crevice of darkness everywhere it goes. It cannot be contained.

 

For Jesus to claim that he was the light of the world, he claimed to be the illumination of all that we are as humans. We are dependent on Jesus for life. We are dependent on Jesus for knowledge. We are dependent on Jesus for direction. Jesus claimed “I AM.” Light is a characteristic part of his very nature. In this story, Jesus claimed to be a LIGHT to the world while he healed a man who was blind from birth! This miracle gave substance to his claim and proved it as a part of his very nature!

 

In Hanukkah, we see the element of light as a strong theme in the story, and we can compare the light of the candelabra in the Temple to Jesus, the light of the world. Jesus shines bright on behalf of his people, lighting their way, providing all they need, and sustaining them.

 

Today, we can remember that Hanukkah clearly points to Jesus, and as we light the candles on our Menorahs, we see Jesus in that very light. We believe in Jesus that much more as the light glistens in our eyes.

 

As we continue the Hanukkah story, ask yourself these questions:

 

  • In what ways has Jesus’ light brought blessing to you?
  • How is Jesus calling YOU to be a light to the world?
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Hanukkah Day 6: Dedication and Hanukkah Prayers

The Story – Hanukkah Prayer

Each night of Hanukkah we say a Hanukkah prayer as we light candles. Our prayer at Hanukkah reminds us of our dedication to God. Imagine standing in Jerusalem, at the beginning of a newly independent nation after Antiochus has been expelled. Once again, you walk the busy streets through the marketplace, hearing the lowing of bulls in your ears, and the sound of sheep baaing. You smell smoke as the priests once again pray and burn sacrifices in the Temple. The capital is bustling and growing. This city center is again the heart of the religious world for the Jewish people, and it is your home. You love this city, and the people in it.

 

Because the Jewish people had fought for so long, they had missed many celebrations and holidays, so they commemorated the season of Sukkot late in the year. They spent eight days celebrating Tabernacles in the month of December, commemorating God’s goodness and rededicating the Temple, just as King Solomon had done when he dedicated the Temple hundreds of years before.

 

The conviction and bravery of the Jewish people once again proved their dedication to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God in return had upheld his covenant to protect and provide for them. As the city returned to normal life, and again practiced their tradition and holy rites, they were reminded of the reason for their dedication and tradition. God’s miracles, and their faith reinforced their values of freedom, faith, integrity, and selflessness. So, as we light the Menorah each night, we too pray a Hanukkah Prayer, so we can remind ourselves that we are to be dedicated to God always.

THE THEME: DEDICATION

We are called to be dedicated to God! During the time of Jesus, Hanukkah became known as the celebration commemorating our deliverance and rededication to God (John 10:22).

 

As the Temple was dedicated, so the people dedicated themselves to God and His ways. The lives of Mattathias and Judah Maccabee are testimonies of men who realized obeying God was more important than obeying man. The fight against the kingdom of darkness and the surrounding culture is not just to be free, but also to embrace God and the holiness He has called us to. Today we’re called to dedication to God’s ways, regardless of the sacrifice. Many of those who stood against assimilation were killed. Some gave up their livelihood, position and popularity. Our dedication to God’s ways may cost us the same things, but God will stand with us for His glory. God is willing to give His supernatural power to us if we will seek to be dedicated to Him by His Spirit.

 

Hanukkah is considered the time to rededicate our lives to His ways no matter the cost. When the Messiah came, this spiritual lesson became a living reality. Through the life and ministry of Jesus, the people of His generation saw the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah. Now we dedicate our entire lives to walking in His ways no matter what the cost might be.

  • How is God calling you to be dedicated in this season?
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Hanukkah Day 5: Miracles, Donuts and Latkes

The Story – Miracles, Donuts and Latkes

Each year, we fry donuts and latkes in oil. While this is mainly a tradition based on a legend, the reminder of miracles is quite relevant. After the Maccabean revolt, the battle had been won! Antiochus had underestimated the strength of the Maccabean movement! The Jewish people would maintain their independent country for over a century after this incredible revolt, and Judah Maccabee went down as the greatest military commander in Israel’s history!

 

The miraculous victory was all the more impressive because Antiochus had been a world power. His thousands of soldiers, horsemen and armored elephants had fallen to the Jewish soldiers! Antiochus never again attempted to take the nation of Israel back, and the humiliated King later died attempting to conquer the Arabian coast. The man who had boasted of being god incarnate on the earth had been bested by a ragtag group of soldiers under the authority of the one true God, Yahweh!

 

The Jews took back the Temple from the Syrian Empire in an enormous victory, and tore down every Greek statue, altar and gymnasium! They cleaned up the Temple in Jerusalem and began to piece together their Temple.

 

As legend would have it, as they picked through the remains of the Temple, they found one jar with sacred oil for their candelabra. The menorah was supposed to stay lit constantly according to Levitical law, and to their dismay, they only had enough oil to last for one day! It would take eight more days to make new oil! How could they ever finish it in time?

 

Not to be deterred, they decided to light the oil they had and make new oil for the lamp. Legend would have it that the oil in the lamp burned for eight days straight as they prepared new oil for the Menorah! Though this is subject to legend, it brings more power to the incredible miracles Yahweh performed on behalf of the Jewish people! Today, as we eat donuts and fry potato pancake latkes, we remember the miracles God did for the Maccabees.

THE THEME: MIRACLES

God did wonders on behalf of his people Israel during Hanukkah. Through Hanukkah, we can again believe in miracles! The point of a miracle is that it doesn’t make sense. Moses parting the Red Sea, miraculous battles won on behalf of Israel, babies being raised from the dead: Sometimes, God chooses to act in a way that we can’t fully comprehend as humans. We describe these moments as unexplainable, because we cannot attribute them to science or natural law.

 

Our God is one of incredible miracles! Miracles was one of the ways Jesus proved his deity. Miracles show us that our God is exalted above all else, and not one person can resist his authority over all earth and heaven, the natural and the spiritual realm!

 

Today, we have the power to perform miracles, because Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to us! When we believe in the power of God who is our salvation and strength, we too can perform miracles even greater than the miracles Jesus did on earth!

 

As we continue the story of Hanukkah, ask yourself,

 

  • What miracle have seen Yahweh do in the last year, in your life, or the lives of others?
  • What miracle are you contending for in the next year?

 

 

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Hanukkah Day 4: Victory and Dreidels

The Story – Dreidels

Mattathias fled to the wilderness of Northern Judea with his family, now wanted criminals. But what began as a flight for their lives soon turned into the journey of many Jews searching for a safe haven! Similar to the later legends of Robin Hood, a ragtag group of Jewish countrymen and soldiers formed a band of religious zealots anxious to take back their country and traditions! The Jewish people were not to be outdone by the political forces in Jerusalem. In rebellion, hundreds of Jews fled to the wilderness to join Mattathias.

 

Today, we play the game dreidel, the spinning top game that used to be played by the Jewish people. Each of the four sides of dreidels have Hebrew letters on them: nun, gimel, heh, shin. The letters say “A Great Miracle Happened There.” Legend has it that dreidels were played by the men who were studying Torah as a way to divert the attention of the soldiers. The very gambling game of dreidels represents the zealous rebellion of the Jewish people to compromise to the culture.

 

Though the Hellenization of Antiochus spread across the nation of Israel, so the rebellious Jewish army in the wilderness grew! The Jews started small skirmishes to annoy the Syrian soldiers, then disappeared into the wilderness undetected. Their brave leader Mattathias died in the wilderness, but his eldest son Judah took charge of the Jewish forces.

 

Judah was an incredible warrior, comparable to the famous rebellion leaders like Spartacus of Greece and William Wallace in Scotland! Judah was a genius war strategist, and he began the first recorded guerilla warfare in history! He was known to fight so hard and win so often, he was called Judah Maccabee, or Judah the Hammer!

 

Skirmishes increased until Judah’s army of 600 defeated a group of 2,000 Syrian soldiers in a small battle. Antiochus grew increasingly irritated with the Jewish revolt, so he sent 4,000 Syrian soldiers to a small town called Beth Heron, fifteen miles outside of Jerusalem expecting to wipe out Judah’s army easily. But with less than 1,000 soldiers, Judah outmaneuvered the cumbersome Syrian army and picked them off one by one! The lightning-fast Jewish army defeated the soldiers easily!

 

Though Antiochus had dismissed the revolt as a minor irritation, he grew embarrassed at how easily Judah had won the battle, and he challenged the untrained wilderness soldiers to a full-fledged war! Antiochus sent his three best generals, 6,000 soldiers and a huge cavalry against Judah’s ragtag army. But Judah sent spies into the camp, discerned their strategy, and in a miraculous victory, Judah again won the battle!

 

Battle after battle raged! The war increased, until Antiochus was regularly sending 55,000 soldiers with armored elephants and cavalry to the battlefront, yet each time the Maccabees miraculously won!

 

Though these Maccabean soldiers knew they were up against great odds, they knew they had Yahweh on their side. Judah and his army fought with victory in mind. Though the battle was difficult for untrained Jewish farmers against the well-equipped Syrian soldiers, each battle was a miracle of Yahweh on the side of his people!

 

Against all odds, on the 25th of Kislev, the Maccabees won back Jerusalem and the Temple that had been desecrated by Antiochus. Their survival under these terrible circumstances is a firm testimony of God’s faithfulness, especially in light of the Bible’s repeated promises to the people of Israel.

 

 

THE THEME: VICTORY

During the Holocaust, a small family of Polish Jewish farmers and soldiers set up a camp for Jews who were fleeing from the Holocaust during World War II. They camped out in the Naliboki forest in Poland. They ultimately saved the lives of over 1,200 Jews in Poland! Similar to the Maccabees, the story of these Jews in the Holocaust is an incredible miracle of God!

 

Tuvia Bielski, the leader of the camp said “Our revenge is to live. We have all chosen this – to live free, like human beings, for as long as we can. Each day of freedom is a victory.”

 

Today, we can be reminded in the Hanukkah story, and in the story of the Bielski brothers that we are victorious! Yahweh is our King over all the earth. When we remember our freedom is through the death of Jesus, we are victorious.

 

Just as Jesus saved the Jewish people over and over again in history, so he is our Savior and victorious King. When we call to our God and King when we are in trouble or danger, we know he will save us from death and destruction! So we do not compromise to the culture, but stand firm in our victory and conviction as we spin our dreidels.

 

As we continue the story of Hanukkah, ask yourself,

 

  • What is one way you’ve seen Yahweh’s victory in your life?
  • What have Yahweh’s victories taught you about His kingdom?

 

 

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