The Gospel of Hanukkah: “Does Its Message Burn Brightly in Your Life Today?” (Part 2/2)

In the first part of this study, we examined how aspects of the Temple and story of Hanukkah picture for us the Gospel message.  In this second part, we will look at the application of our study in our lives as believers.

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 and New Testaments. 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 “without holiness, 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 Jesus [Yeshua] today reject the Old Testament, specifically the Pentateuch [first five books of the Bible] , the very Scriptural basis and foundation which teaches us about the need to be “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 God commands us to be holy, not only in the Old Testament, but also in the 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 Old and New Testaments, 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 (“God’s Teachings, guidance and 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 agenda and 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’s 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 Your sight, I and Your people?  Is it not by You going with us, so that we, I and Your 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 you not that you 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 been baptized in water for the remission of their sins, and who then continue to seek intimacy with God and to walk in obedience to Him are in His kingdom.  Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus’ [Yeshua’s] 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 Sinai, and in the Gospel of John, Jesus [Yeshua] identifies Himself as the same “I Am” (John 8:58).  Consequently, then it was the same Jesus [Yeshua] in His pre-incarnate state, who gave to Moses and the children of Israel the Torah and the commandments on Mount Sinai, and then centuries later, it was the same Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus [Yeshua] 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, and by our public testimony of being baptized in water,  but as a result of our salvation, our obedience to His commandments/Teachings is expected of all 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, Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus [Yeshua] whom you read about in the Gospels is the same one who gave Moses and the children of Israel the commandments on Mount Sinai?  If that’s the case, then how can the teachings in the Gospels be in conflict with the teachings and commandments given by God to Moses, which I have heard some ministers teach, when they come from the same source?

It is the Torah (His Teachings, guidance and 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 12:1, 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 Jesus’ [Yeshua’s] renowned teaching, the “Sermon on the Mount,” He taught the crowds, “You 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.  Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus [Yeshua] taught us 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 Jesus [Yeshua] in me, or does my life only reflect me, my wants, my needs, my dreams?”  Because if people do not see Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus [Yeshua]?

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.  Jesus [Yeshua] 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 Jesus [Yeshua] this coming year!

 

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