The Gospel of Hanukkah: “Does Its Message Burn Brightly in Your Life Today?”

A MESSAGE FOR ALL PEOPLE

There is a gospel (or “good news”) message in Hanukkah?  There are many people, Jew and Christian, who are surprised to discover this, but I have been teaching this message now for many years to individuals and congregations, wherever I am given the opportunity to speak.  It’s a message that I believe that everyone in the world today needs to hear.

Now I know there are some who may question the legitimacy in sharing a “gospel message” in an event that happened 164-167 years before   Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) was ever conceived.  However, I am firmly convinced by the evidence that God leaves evidence behind within history of His existence and of His dealings with humanity, and that God purposely presents us with Scriptural, historical, cultural and religious pictures of Messiah and who we are in Messiah, so when we see them, there is no doubt that we serve a God who is holy and majestic, and who is not restricted by space and time.

WE ARE A TEMPLE?

According to the Scriptures, we are created to be the Temple of God.  This is first indicated at a remez level of interpretation in Exodus 25:

And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.  According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.  (Exodus 25:8-9)

The making of the physical tabernacle is the p’shat meaning, or the simple, grammatical meaning, of the text.  Growing up in the church, I was only taught, like most other Protestant Christians, to understand the Bible at its simple, grammatical meaning, or what is known in Judaism, as its p‘shat level.  We were not taught that there are other levels of understanding.  I discovered the p’shat level is only taught because the Catholic Church had abused allegorical interpretations to the point where the interpretations were beyond reason.

However, in Judaism, there are four levels of interpretation that are taught: p’shatremez, d’rush, and sodh.  These same four levels are used in the New Testament, for example, they’re used in the teachings of Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), the writings of Paul, and in the teachings of the other disciples as well.  Each of these levels presents us with levels of understanding of the text, and remez, d’rush, and sodh levels of interpretation are there to deepen our understanding of what is said or taught, but they cannot violate its  p’shat meaning, or the simple, grammatical meaning of the text.  These constraints, or rules for interpretation, keep the interpretation within reason of the context and passage, unlike the abuses that were seen for centuries within the Catholic Church.

However, when we go back and examine the two verses from Exodus 25, there is a hinting or indication within the text of a deeper reality, a deeper truth, called in Hebrew a remez, that the tabernacle represents or pictures for us.  The word translated as “among” is the Hebrew word tâvek (Strong’s #8432), which means “among” or “in the midst,” but it can also mean “in,” “within,” and “through.”  So I believe God is indicating here that His desire is not only to “dwell among” or “in the midst” of His people Israel by means of the physical tabernacle, but He also desires to “dwell in,” “within,” and “through” them as well.  In fact, as we will see, this remez level interpretation is then taught explicitly at the p’shat level within the New Testament.  However, there are a couple of problems with God dwelling within His people:

PROBLEM #1: WE ARE A DEFILED AND DESECRATED PEOPLE

Like the Jerusalem Temple, who was desecrated and defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes and the Seleucid-Greek army in 165 B.C., we’ve likewise been defiled and desecrated, not by a human military, but by our own sins, transgressions, and iniquities and, therefore, are not suitable for G-d’s Presence to dwell.

Holiness is the essence of who God is.  All other qualities flow out from His holiness.  According to Dwight Pryor, the President and Founder of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies in Dayton, Ohio, in his teaching “Holy, Holy, Holy: The Demands of the Holy,”

The essence of the English word “holy” comes from the Hebrew root kadash, which means “to divide, to separate, to set apart, to mark off,” and it speaks of God’s “otherness” from everything else in creation because He is the Creator.  It speaks of His transcendence, His separateness, His holy and explicable otherness that sets Him apart from everything that’s “common or ordinary,” which is the antonym of holy, and that’s the word “profane.”  “Profane” is what’s ordinary, common; God is unique, distinct, different, He’s holy.  It’s the term God uses to describe Himself: “I am holy, so you are to be holy, for I am the LORD your God.”

Most believers and ministers I have heard talking about the holiness of God erroneously interpret “holy” to mean morally pure, but as Dwight Pryor points out in the first half of his study on “Holy, Holy, Holy” called “The Dimensions of the Holy,”

Holiness is not an issue that’s defined in terms of ethical categories; it’s an issue that’s defined in terms of ontological categories.  What I am saying to you is that it’s not a matter of morality, it’s a matter of “being,” of God’s very “be-ing,” God’s very existence, is what Holiness refers to.

In other words, God is not holy because He does holy things; instead, God’s very being and nature is holy, so as a result, all that He does is holy. The word “holy” (Heb. kadosh) is the one term that’s repeated three times in succession in Scripture (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4: 8), which is the ultimate expression of emphasis in the Hebrew language.  Because God is holy, He shows mercy like no other; because God is holy, He loves like no other; because God is holy, He is morally pure like no other, and because God is holy, He must judge sin.  What many people don’t understand is that God’s love, mercy, compassion, and His need to judge sin all flow out from the same unique, distinctive beingness of God, His holiness.

God cannot simply dwell in sinful people; if He came inside us as unredeemed sinners in His holiness, His fullness, and He did nothing else, His own holy nature and essence would destroy us.  This is why when Moses asks to see God’s glory, God responds by saying,

I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”  And He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”  Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.  Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face [the full impact of God’s glory] shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-23)

Imagine, a Being so powerful that full exposure to His very Presence, His holy essence, would automatically destroy any human being as a result of how corrupt and sinful we are.  And I would have to agree with Dwight Pryor in this teaching that “we need to be seized by the holiness of God.  We have lost sight of this dimension of the holy” among believers today. We have so “humanized” God and “deified” humanity, that we no longer understand the difference between the two.

Since Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden, the altar of our heart has been desecrated by sin through our offering of sacrifices to idols and to other gods (the god of self, pride, greed, covetousness and material wealth, lust, slander, sexual immorality, slander, gossip, etc.).  The Bible teaches us that we were made “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26) and, therefore, to place anything else as the center or priority in our lives, even if it’s our own needs or dreams, is, in fact, an act of idolatry.

For us to become God’s Temple, His dwelling place, and for us to experience intimacy with God, the Temple of our lives and the altar of our hearts need to be cleansed, but like the Jerusalem Temple and its desecrated altar, we can’t cleanse ourselves.  We can scrub and scrub at all the defilements of our lives, but we will never clean them entirely from our lives.  Sure, we can make things look good on the outside, but not on the inside.  We can put on a front that we have it all taken care of, but it is still just a front.  In our heart and spirit, we can still hear the same words spoken to us as  Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) spoke to the Scribes and Pharisees of the first century, C.E.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisees, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like white-washed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.  (Matthew 23:25-28)

This is how God sees each of us who attempt to cleanse ourselves by our own efforts and strength.  We can clean up the outside, but the stains and desecrations on the inside remain.  We are like the Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt, we cannot cleanse ourselves.  We need someone else to come inside of us and to clean us up.

A JEWISH DELIVERER/SAVIOR?

But God has already sent us His Anointed One, His Deliverer/Savior, to cleanse us from all our sins, transgressions and iniquities.  No, He’s not named “Judah” – but He is from the tribe of Judah, and no, He is not one of the Maccabees (“Hammerers”), who fought alongside “Judah Maccabee” and defeated the Seleucid-Greek army, but He was born in Bethlehem, raised in the Galil (Galilee), and when He was in His early thirties (about 33 1/2), He was “hammered” and nailed on the cross for us on the hillside of Golgatha.  His name is Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) of Nazareth, Israel’s Promised Messiah and the Son of the Most High.

His blood was shed on the cross to wipe away our sins, our transgressions and our iniquities and rebellious acts against God, and when we invite Him into our lives as Lord, Savior and King, and ask Him to clean us up and make us a suitable dwelling place for God, He is able to come in through the Spirit of God and to begin the cleansing process.

THE CLEANSING PROCESS

although some things occur the moment we ask for God’s forgiveness and invite Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) into our lives as our Lord, Savior, and King, there are other things that occur in an on-going process.  By listening to many TV evangelists and, even many pastors and ministers, we get the impression that every part of us is automatically cleansed instantaneously.  But that isn’t true.  The cleansing of some things just take time; we call this process of cleansing, “sanctification,” which literally means “to make holy.”

The moment we ask, He is able to remove the desecrations and stains of sin, transgressions and iniquity that separate us from communion with God, but there may be many areas of our lives that are broken or shattered, and mending and healing these areas of our spirit, mind, and emotions may take some time to do.

Also, the moment we ask, He is able to remove the old altar (our stony heart) and to give us a new altar (a new heart). This is part of His Promise in the New Covenant:

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

And then in Jeremiah 31, we are told,

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33, 34d)

Ask yourselves the question, if the New Covenant is that God is going to cleanse us, give us a new heart and spirit, and put His Spirit inside of us, and then write His Torah (and commandments) on our hearts, and His Spirit is going to cause us (or give us the power) to walk in His statutes, then how can some teachers and ministers be correct when they  teach that the Torah (God’s Teachings, Guidance, or Instructions) and God’s commandments ended at the cross and believers are no longer obligated to follow its teachings?  When we compare their position to what we see here taught in the Scriptures, we must conclude that this teaching regarding the Torah is, in fact, the opposite of what we see the Scriptures teach.

But looking at the Scriptures, we learn that only God has the power to cleanse and transform us, we do not.  Some erroneously teach that God does everything in the sanctification process, and that we have no part in it, and that if we do anything, then we are trying to save ourselves through “works.”  However, when we look at all that the Scriptures teach, we discover we do have a part to play.  Our part in this process is to study His Word, spend time in prayer, and listen for His voice to tell us what needs to be done and, then, of course, to do what He says to do, whether it is spoken to us from His word or by His Spirit.

As we pray and study His Word, He will restore and set up the Table of Shewbread (His Word) within our lives, as well as the Table of Incense (our prayer life).  And as we seek Him in prayer, worship, and praise, He refills the menorah (lampstand) of our hearts with the pure oil of His Ruach (Spirit), His Presence.

THE IMAGE OF THE MENORAH

Like the wicks in the Jerusalem Temple menorah (or lampstand), we are equal in that we all need to experience the light of His Spirit and the revelation of His Word.  Until we are lit by His Spirit, we live in darkness, thinking that this physical reality is the only reality that exists, but once God has re-lit the menorah of our heart and spirit, and we begin to see the light of His Presence and His revelations contained within His Word, then we become aware that there is more to reality than the physical.

Also, in the image of the Hanukkah menorah, there are many spiritual realities that are pictured within it.  For example, one of the candles is called the “shamash” (or servant) candle.  It is used to light all the other candles within the menorah, and the candles cannot get their light from any other light than the shamash candle.

The Hanukkah menorah is a picture of the Kingdom of heaven/God because in God’s kingdom, Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) is the “Shamash candle” (or Servant of God) that’s used to “light” (provide revelation and salvation) to all others. God desire has always been that we walk in the light.  In the very beginning of creation in the opening chapter of the Bible, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).  So from the very beginning, we see God separating “light from darkness.”  And it is only as we “walk in the light” of His Presence, His Word, His ways and truths, that we can experience intimacy and fellowship with Him:

If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  (I John 1:7)

You see, just like in the Hanukkah menorah, we must receive the light from
God’s chosen Shamash [ Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus)] and not from any other source (e.g., ourselves, Hinduism, Buddha, Confucius, the Dao, Mohammad, or any other spiritual or physical influence).

The Menorah is also a picture of the Body of Messiah, for we are one body, yet with many members (Rom. 12:5; I Cor. 12:12, 14, 18-20), and the oil used to light the menorah is a picture of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Heb. Ruach HaKodesh) that God promises to all of His people (see Joel 2:28-32) and that was (and continues to be) poured out on all God’s people who seek this gift of being fully immersed in His Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, 14-21).

So then just as Judah and the others cleansed the Temple, re-lighting the Temple menorah and putting things back as they should be, in accordance to the Scriptures, they then re-dedicated the Temple back into God’s service. In like manner, once the Temple of our lives has been cleansed of sin, transgressions, and iniquities by our acceptance of the death and bodily resurrection of the Messiah Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) from the tomb, the Temple of our lives are cleansed, and the menorah of our heart are re-lit, and He is then able to dedicate our lives back to God and into His service.

BE THE TEMPLE OF GOD

However, this is where I feel where many leaders and believers are stumbling.  Most of them are good as far as getting people to come to Messiah to be cleansed, but it’s moving or transitioning from “being cleansed by God” to being taught to actually “become the Temple (or dwelling place) of God” where the problem is.   It seems “natural” for us to sin and to continue needing “cleansing” from God, but it does not seem natural for us to live holy and upright lives before God.  And yet God requires this of us in both the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) and the New Testament. It is evident that this is a major problem area because there are as many, or even sometimes more, problem areas in the lives of many believers as there are outside in the unsaved world, which is not what we would normally expect.  Therefore, I believe that’s an indication that there’s a problem here.

The main focus of many TV evangelists, for example, is on “the love of God,” or “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity.”  What you do not hear hardly anything about is the “Holiness of God,” or that as believers in the Messiah, we have been called to live a life of holiness.  In fact, living a life of holiness is so important to God that the Scriptures teach us that “holiness, without which no man (or person) shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  Yet how many churches and pulpits are quiet regarding this topic?

Obviously, since many believers in Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) today reject the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures; Old Testament), specifically the Torah (Law of God), the very Scriptural basis and foundation which teaches us about the need to being “holy, for the LORD our God is holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7-8, 26), then we can understand why this idea is not being taught.  In fact, I’ve heard many believers say that since they are “sinners saved by grace,” they cannot be holy, and to even attempt to be holy is a waste of time and effort.  They say this in spite of the fact that G-d commands us to be holy, not only in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures; Old Testament), but also in the B’rit Chadasha (Renewed Covenant; i.e., New Testament), such as in the following:

For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (I Thessalonians 4:7)

Or another we find is the following:

but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:15-16)

As we can see in both the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures; Old Testament) and the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament), we are called by God to walk in holiness.  It is a consistent message throughout; God has not “changed His mind,” nor has He “changed the program” as far as His expectations of us.  It is God’s desire for all His people to live holy and upright lives, and to run after His Torah, His Teachings (or Instructions) and to keep it.  In fact, this is the word that God has spoken to my wife and I not long ago:

I want My people to be upright and holy people who follow and run after My Torah and keep it.  This is what makes your LORD God happy and blessed.  I want for all My children to be blessed and sanctified to where they have no doubt that I love them.

On another account, God spoke to us about the need to live obediently and “not to play with fire,”

My laws and ways/commandments are not burdensome or heavy. They are easy to those who choose to obey them and want a close relationship with Me.  Don’t taste, play, or pretend you will be all right by doing wrong and sinning for a time, and then come back running and expect the door will be opened for you.  Playing with danger is destructive and dangerous, and you will get burned, and you don’t ever just hurt yourself but the ones you say you love the most. Don’t fornicate and commit adultery, it hurts Me.  I say again, keep your eyes and hearts steadfast on Me, says God, and don’t prostitute yourself around for I hate sin, and sin will destroy you and all relationships.  Trust is so hard to rebuild.  Hear My words and do them.  I love you.

So then, since God’s desire is for all His people to live in holiness before Him, and unfortunately, this is not a topic that is discussed much by believers anymore, let me go ahead and ask the “million-dollar question,” “What does it actually mean to ‘be the temple of God’”?  How do we live so that we are conscientious of our new identity as His Temple, His dwelling place?  As I sat here contemplating this question, a few of the following thoughts came to mind.

THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE SANCTIFIED AND CONSECRATED FOR SERVICE TO GOD AND GOD ALONE.

When we look at our own lives, even how we live behind closed doors, are we living for God, are we serving Him, or are we living and serving our own needs?  Who really is on the throne of our hearts and lives?  For too many years, I would go to church on Sunday, pay tithes, even help out ushering or singing in the choir, but then Monday through Saturday, I was living my life, following my dream, my wants, my needs.  Was I living as a Temple of God?  Obviously not.  I came to the awareness in my life that there’s more to living in service to God than just going to church and doing those things I did once, twice, or even three times a week.  I became “hungry and thirsty” for intimacy with God – not just “to be saved” – but to experience God in a tangible way and to experience and walk in “His righteousness.” With all my heart, I wanted (and continue to want) to know and understand what it means “to be holy, even as the LORD [my] God is holy.”

THE TEMPLE WAS GOD’S DWELLING PLACE

The Temple was where God’s Presence dwelt and was experienced.  It was by His Presence that God consecrated His Temple (Exodus 29:45).  One day, which I believe will be soon, God’s Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and then all those commandments which deal with the Temple will once again be able to be followed and obeyed. But according to the Scriptures, not only did God’s Presence consecrate the physical tabernacle, and then later on, the Temple in Jerusalem, but it is also God’s Presence that consecrates us and separates us from all other people in this world to be His living Temple:

For then how can it be known that I have found favor in Thy sight, I and Thy people?  Is it not by Thy going with us, so that we, I and Thy people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?  (Exodus 33:16)

According to Moses here, it is the Presence of God in the lives of His people that distinguishes us, separates us, from all other people on the face of the earth.  It is not what list of faith statements that we believe, or what church or synagogue we happen to attend, or even how much money we have donated to various ministries, but the thing that makes us distinct as the people of God is His Presence in our lives.  Without His Presence truly being in our lives, and we experiencing Him in a real and tangible way, then we really aren’t any different than any “unsaved” individual.  It is His living, holy Presence in us that makes the difference.  And an even greater gift is that He has chosen us to be His own special possession:

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all peoples who are on the face of the earth.  (Deuteronomy 7:6)

As God’s chosen people, He desires to dwell within each of us, as well as within us corporately, as His living Temple.  This same idea was taught by Paul  in I Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are God’s Temple, and the Spirit of God dwells in you? (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament)  Have you ever stopped and asked yourself the question, “Is God’s manifested Presence dwelling within me, consecrating me for His service?  Am I living as His Temple today, or are there areas of my life that I am still holding back from Him?”

THE TEMPLE WAS WHERE THE TORAH WAS KEPT AND STUDIED

The Torah, the “Law” of God, was placed in the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies (which was the heart of the Temple).   And when reading the Torah, the five books of Moses, it is taken from the Ark and read.  In much the same way, all of the Scriptures should be written on our hearts and minds, and when we recite and live its words, it should come from the “ark” of our hearts where it had been stored.

The problem is, of course, that there are many people who have not been storing God’s Word within their hearts and minds.  Tragically, a great many believers in America do not even crack their Bibles to read them, much less store them in their hearts and minds.  The problem with this is far reaching and can even interfere with our relationship with God.

From the Scriptures,  it is clear that not every human being belongs to God or are a part of His kingdom.  But only those who have accepted the gift of His Son’s death, burial, and bodily resurrection for them, and who then continue to seek intimacy with God and to walk in obedience to Him are in His kingdom.  Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) taught us in the Gospel of John that the way we remain in His love was through our obedience to His commandments, His teachings:

By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments (or teachings), you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments (or teachings), and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:8-11)

Unfortunately, when many believers read about Yeshua’s (Joshua’s/Jesus’) commandments, they have been taught that refers to the two commandments He quoted from the Torah: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  However, it was God, the “I Am” (Exodus 3:14), who gave to Moses and Israel the Torah on Mount Siani, and in the Gospel of John, Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) identifies Himself as the same “I Am” (John 8:58).  Consequently, then it was the same Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), in His pre-incarnate state, who gave to Moses and the children of Israel the Torah and the commandments on Mount Siani, and then centuries later, it was the same Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), in His incarnate human form, who is ministering and teaching in the Gospels.  In other words, the words of the Torah and the commandments found in the first five books of the Bible should be as much in red letters as the words of Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) in the Gospels.  Why?  Because the same individual is speaking in both places.

Therefore, I am convinced, based on my own research and study, that when Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) is referring to “His commandments,” it involves everything taught within the Scriptures – not just the two commandments He quoted.  In addition, I need to also point out that it is not our obedience to the commandments that saves us, or justifies us before God, for we are saved by grace through faith in the Messiah’s death and resurrection, but our obedience to His commandments/His Teachings is expected of those who have been redeemed and are a part of His Kingdom.  Our obedience to His commandments is like a thermostat; it measures our passion and love for God.

In fact, in John 14, Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) told His disciples,

He who has My commandments (or teachings) and [continues to] keep them, he it is who [continues to] love Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him….If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word (or teachings); and My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.  He who does not [continue to] love Me does not keep My words (or teachings); and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:21, 23-24)

When we observe and keep what Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) taught from our hearts based on our love and commitment to Him, then the thermostat of our heart indicates that we love Him, but if we do not keep and observe His teachings, then the thermostat of our heart indicates that we do not, in fact, love Him, even though we may be saying that we do with our words.  I added the phrase “continue to” in brackets in the above verses in order to indicate the verb tense that’s used in the original Greek text, which was a continuous or repeated action, not just a one-time occurrence.

Our level of intimacy with God is dependent on our level of obedience to His commandments.  This is something that I learned through experience. When I wasn’t living in obedience to God, God felt distant, far away, and it seemed like there was a “bronze ceiling” between Him and me.  There was no sense of His Presence in my life or any sense of intimacy with Him at all.  however, when I seriously committed myself to living in obedience to Him and His Word from my heart, there was a definite change.  I began to experience God in a way I never had before.

What about you?  Have you ever considered that the same Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) whom you read about in the Gospels is the same one who gave to Moses and the children of Israel the commandments on Mount Siani?  If that’s the case, then how can the teachings in the Gospels be in conflict with the teachings and commandments given by G-d to Moses, which I have heard some ministers teach, when they come from the same source?

It is the Torah (His Teachings or Instructions) that God wants written on our hearts.  This is something we see within the Psalms:

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.  The law (Heb. Torah) of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip. (Psalms 37:31)

It is also seen in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah,

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law (Heb. Torah) within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33; see also Hebrews 8:8-12)

What about in your own life?  Is the Torah written on your heart? Do you spend time studying His Instructions and learning how to walk it out in your life? There are a couple of verses in Psalm 119 that I have used as a prayer.  They are the following:

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law (Heb. Torah)… Teach me Your statutes.  Make me to understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders. (Psalm 119:18, 27)

Have you ever thought that there were “wonders” hidden within God’s Torah  (Teachings or Instructions) that He is keeping only for those who are willing to dig to find them.  Why?  Because “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but it is the glory of kings to search it out” (Proverbs 25:2).

I have spent many years digging in the Scriptures, but this past fall, God has specifically told us that we are to embrace the commandments He taught within the Torah:

Keep My Torah and My commandments because that is where you will find the rest and comfort you so much are searching after….You do good to be on My side and to follow My Torah and My commandments.  Do you know My beloved children that when you obey Me, you are doing what honors Me and pleases Me the most…. Remember to keep My Sabbaths and be careful to keep My commandments because they are still very important to Me, says God.  I haven’t changed, My people, they are important to Me for such a time as this.

God has made it clear to us that He has not changed His mind about His expectations of us, and it is clear to my wife and I what He has called us to live and to embrace.  We did not grow up keeping the Torah, but we are learning.  There were some things we had learned before, but now the learning is going deeper than we’ve ever gone before, and yet we are excited for the journey ahead, because we know who it is that is directing our path.

THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE OF WORSHIP

In addition, as God’s Temple, we are to be a place of worship.  But what is “worship”?  Is it just singing songs from a hymnal or singing choruses in church?  What is it?  Some may be surprised to discover that there’s more to worship than singing songs, choruses, or hymnals.  According to the book Prayer and Worship,

Our English word worship comes from two roots.  Weorth means “honor” or “worthiness,” and scipe means “to create” (Dawn 1995, 76).  To worship someone or something is to create an expression of honor or to attribute worth to the object of worship.  So when we acknowledge God’s infinite value in our lives, we lift our souls to Him in praise and we offer our bodies to Him as living sacrifices.  We could say this is essentially “worth-ship” (153).

God wants us to live a lifestyle of worship as His people and as His holy nation (Exodus 19:6; I Peter 2:9).  God has revealed Himself to us, and we are to respond to Him, and “in the process, we are transformed” (Prayer and Worship  153).   Further on, the writer explains that “Transformation, renewal, and living in the center of God’s will – these all combine to produce a lifestyle of worship for the believer” (154).

In consideration, then, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I live a lifestyle of worship before God, or have I limited worship to singing only a few songs on Saturday or Sunday?”  “Am I continuing to be transformed and renewed?”  “Am I living in the center of God’s will?  Do I even know what God’s will for my life even is?”  Am I presenting my body, like Paul writes in Romans 12, as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [my] reasonable service,” my reasonable act of worship before Him?

THE TEMPLE WAS “THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD”

In Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) renowned teaching, the “Sermon on the Mount,” He taught the crowds, “Ye are the light of the world, a city cannot be hid on a mountain situated” (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament).  The phrase “light of the world” was a common expression for the Temple, particularly during the feast of Tabernacles, when the Temple was all lit up with lights and could be seen for miles.  Also, the Temple was as large as a city, employing some 3,000 workers and, of course, it was located on the Temple Mount, so that people had to ascend up to go to it.   Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) was teaching the Jewish crowds who had come to hear Him that they were the Temple of God, the “light of the world.”  He also taught them in this sermon, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  What about your works?  Do they glorify God?  Are you being that light that Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) taught that we should be?

THE TEMPLE WAS “THE HOUSE OF MEETING”

Finally, the Temple was where people came to meet God.  Wherever we go, we are to present individuals with an opportunity to meet Him.  The question we should ask ourselves is, “Am I living in a way so that they can see Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) in me, or does my life only reflect me, my wants, my needs, my dreams?”  Because if people do not see Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) in us, or if we do not tell them about Him, then how will they have the opportunity to meet Him?  What changes would you need to make in your life so that your life could become that “House of Meeting” between individuals and the Messiah Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus).

SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

In looking at all these thoughts and questions about the Temple, I must ask myself, “Am I being the best Temple that I can be for God?” There are areas where I can see improvement in my life this past year, but there are other areas that still need work.  I have not arrived, but I am striving to move forward.  I am not content in simply being “a sinner saved by grace,” nor am I content in just doing the minimum for God. Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) gave His all for me, and the least that I can do is give Him my all in service to Him and to His Kingdom.  I have not attained where God wants me to be yet, but I am further along than I used to be.  God is continuing to work in my life by His Spirit, and I continue to see the changes He is doing in my life.  But what about you?  Are you being the best Temple that you can be for God at this point in your life?  Are there areas in your life where God has changed you, transformed you?  Are there areas where you still need work?

SO FOR THIS HANUKKAH SEASON, HOW ABOUT TRYING TO DO ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING:

  1. If you have not been living your life as God’s Temple, pray and ask Him to come into your life and dedicate yourself to Him for His use. Seek Him each day and strive to be His Temple in your day-to-day life.
  2. Write down those areas this year where you’ve seen spiritual growth and development, and then thank Him for Him working in your life.
  3. Write down those areas where you still need work, and submit them to Him, and open those areas of your life to Him and to His Spirit.
  4. Pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in the faith, who like Chana and her seven sons, as well as the others who through the years have died for their commitment to God and to His Word.
  5. Try reading Luke 1:26-38, the account of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary and letting her know that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, which many researchers believe occurred during the Hanukkah season.

Have a blessed holiday season, and may you experience the Presence, Power, and Holiness of God and His Messiah Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) this coming year!

 

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