All posts by Chris L. Verschage

Chris L. Verschage is the co-founder and President of Following Messiah Ministries. Chris is a writer, ordained minister, and ex-community college English & Humanities Professor, enjoys exploring various topics, particularly those dealing with the Scriptures, Judaism and Christianity. Chris' wife, Karen, is the founder and author of her own blog, Karen's Shofar. Chris & Karen have been married since 1981, and are the parents of four children and grandparents of five grandchildren.

Did Jesus Draw Courage from Hanukkah’s Account of Chana & Her Seven Sons

“At that time the Feast of Dedication [i.e., Hanukkah] took place in Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (John 10:22-23)

In part 1 of this Hanukkah series, we looked at the prophetic background and the historical event that Hanukkah remembers, but in this second part of the series, I would like to explore some questions regarding this point in Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) life.

But have you ever wondered why John felt this moment in Jesus’ (Heb. Yeshua’s)  life so significant to place it here in his gospel?  Personally, I know for many years, I never thought to ask the question why something was done or said.  Like most Christians growing up, I went to church, attended Sunday School, Wednesday night Bible studies, and I listened when certain passages were discussed or preached about, but I never really took the time to wonder “Why?”  Why is Jesus (Yeshua) here in Jerusalem?  Why is He observing Hanukkah (i.e., the Feast of Dedication)?  And what is the connection between this moment in Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) life and the celebration of Hanukkah?

Unfortunately, most of these questions the Scriptures are silent.  However, I do believe that there is a connection between this moment in Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) life and Hanukkah. And as I was sitting here contemplating this moment in His life, and Him walking through the portico of the Temple during this feast, just three months before His betrayal, brutal death, burial, and bodily resurrection, I began to wonder what He was thinking during these moments as He walked through the Temple complex?  Was He thinking back over the many stories and accounts told during this feast, or was He thinking back to a particular account?  But since the New Testament does not say, it is impossible to assert anything in particular, but I would like to speculate that He might have been thinking back at others who had likewise given their lives, rather than compromise the commandments of God?

CHANA & HER SEVEN SONS

One of the stories that’s told during the Hanukkah season is that of Chana and her seven sons.  According to the account, Chana and her seven sons were devout Observant Jews who were captured and tried for being Torah-observant.  They were then found guilty by Antiochus Epiphanes and the Seleucid Greeks and then sentenced to die (their graves  are located in the cave pictured above).

First, Antiochus and his Seleucid-Greek soldiers tortured her first-born son in front of Chana and her other sons, but he refused to recant his faith in God.  So they killed him.  Then they took her second son.  He stood for his faith and said he was as faithful as his older brother.  He too then was tortured and killed.  Then they did the same to the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

Finally, it came time for her youngest son to die.  The soldiers asked Chana to reason with him, so that she might keep at least one of her sons alive.  She pretended to comply, but instead, she encouraged him to be strong in his faith in God.  The youngest then went forward and proclaimed his faith in God and in His Torah.   The soldiers were so angry that they tortured him more than the others, killing him as well.  However, before they killed him, Chana yelled out to him, “When you meet Father Abraham, tell him that he was told to offer one son on the altar, but I have offered seven.”

Then according to the online article “The Inner Lights of Chanukah,” by Chana Katz, she writes, “after the last of her seven sons was tortuously killed, she went to the roof and jumped to her own death, and as the story is related in the Gemara, a heavenly voice called out that she was an “Eim Simaicha‘ (“a joyful mother”).  Other Jewish people were also killed during this time for various acts of obedience to God, such as circumcising their boys or in studying the Torah.

It is hard for me to imagine the amount of devotion to God and His Torah that Chana and her sons had to the point where they would rather be tortured and killed than to disobey God’s commandments.  It is the same type of love and devotion we see in Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego), who would rather be thrown into a fiery furnace than to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (Daniel 3:12-18), or even Daniel, who would rather be thrown to the lions than to stop praying for thirty days (Daniel 6:10-11).  Yet all of them were willing to sacrifice their lives than to disobey God.  The difference, of course, is that Daniel and his three companions were delivered from death, but Chana and her seven sons were not.

LOOKING BACKWARD & FORWARD

I tend to think Jesus (Yeshua) during these moments in the Temple portico was thinking back to those who had died rather than to disobey God, such as Chana and her seven sons, but I also believe He was looking forward to what He would soon be facing in just a few months.  And as He was looking back and forward, I believe He drew strength and courage from what His people (the Jews) had faced in the past to help Him face what He was about to in the next few months during the upcoming Passover; that is, His own brutal death.

Some may wonder at this, but if we look just a few months in advance, we find Jesus (Yeshua) praying in the Garden of Gethsemane in anguish as He prepares for what is to happen.  In fact, when Jesus (Yeshua) and His disciples arrive in the garden, He tells them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38).

THE SOURCE OF HIS ANGUISH

What was it that caused Him such anguish that night?  Was it that He was about to face crucifixion, or was there another reason?  The anguish He was experiencing was so intense that it physically traumatized Him to the point where He literally sweat drops of blood.  But the question is, why?

I believe that there were two other reasons besides the cross for His anguish.  First of all, I believe He knew His own human nature.  Both the names “Yeshua” (Aramaic/Hebrew) and “Jesus” (from the Greek) are alternative forms of the name “Joshua.”  In the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), Joshua was the greatest military leader Israel had ever known.  He was the one who took over the leadership of the nation with the death of Moses and led the people into the Promised Land.  Jesus (Yeshua) was given the same name for a reason; he’s a warrior by nature, a fighter.  We see glimpses of this when He overturns the moneylenders’ tables, and then binds together a whip and chases the moneylenders out of the Temple, as well as when He stands up against the religious leaders and condemns them for their hypocrisy, their rebellion against God, and for their disobedience to the Scriptures.  And we will see this in its fullness when He comes again and fights against the world’s military (Revelation 19: 11-19).  I believe He knows if He does not pray His warrior’s heart and will into submission, when the Romans begin to mock and beat Him, He is going to want to fight back and then God’s will regarding His death could very well be jeopardized.  Consequently, He prays it fervently into submission.

Does this mean that Jesus (Yeshua) was not loving?  No, He immensely loved the Jewish people, His Jewish family and His Jewish friends.  It was the Jewish children that He said not to prevent them from coming to Him, for such as these made up the kingdom of heaven. Did He get frustrated and angry at the leaders at times?  Yes, of course, but we should remember that we tend to get the angriest at those we love the most. So I do not believe we can superficially look at these accounts of harsh judgment and criticism and think Jesus (Yeshua) did not love the Jewish people; on the contrary, He loved (and continues to love) them passionately.

But another reason for His grief and anguish, I believe, is that He knew He would face God on the cross in a way He never had before – as His judge.   Jesus (Yeshua) had lived His entire life in complete holiness, not disobeying a single commandment of the Torah. He violated certain groups’ interpretations of the Scriptures, sure, but He did not violate the written commandments themselves.   In fact, Jesus (Yeshua) even states,

When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall you know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father [God] has taught Me, I speak these things.  And He that sent Me is with Me; the Father hath not left Me alone; FOR I ALWAYS DO THOSE THINGS THAT PLEASE HIM.  (John 8:29)

Here He connects His death (being lifted up; i.e., crucifixion) as proof that He is who He claimed to be, Israel’s Promised Messiah, the Son of Man, and as proof of His complete and total obedience to God.  However, now as He approaches that moment, He will also now experience the judgment of God against sin.  Not for His sin, but for ours, as Isaiah prophesied,

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:3-5)

His death is pictured and prophesied throughout the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). For example, in Luke 24:27, it says,

And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He [Jesus/Yeshua] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Yet in this death, He would take our place and experience the complete wrath and judgment of God.  And in doing so, He would not only forgive us of our sins, but He would liberate us from the power and control of sin over our lives.  Yes, His death opened up the way of forgiveness and liberation, as well as the doorway into the kingdom of heaven, but it was also a lesson in obedience that Jesus (Yeshua) had to learn:

Who made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant [lit. “a slave”], and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  (Philippians 2:7-8)

And so what was His reward for His life of obedience, even to the point of dying on the cross for humanity’s sin and rebellion against God?

Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Indeed, Jesus (Yeshua) has been highly exalted and made the Lord of all of creation.  Just as Joseph remained faithful to God and the Torah, yet he still suffered in Egypt to bring about God’s redemption of both Jews and non-Jews.  In like manner, Jesus (Yeshua) remained faithful to God and His Word, yet He suffered horrible pain and humiliation in His death to bring about God’s redemption for both Jews and non-Jews alike.

It is through Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) own willingness to lay down His life and suffer a slave’s death of intense pain and humiliation on the cross that God is able to use and then work through in order to “reconcile us to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

WHICH LAW?

Unfortunately, mainstream Christianity teaches that Jesus (Yeshua) died to do away with the Law of God; however, they have traditionally confused two laws: the law of God and the law of sin.  Jesus (Yeshua) did not die to do away with the Torah, the “Law of God,” but the law of sin and death.  The Torah was given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai to be a blessing, so why would He die to do away with it?  And there’s absolutely no proof in the teachings of Jesus (Yeshua), the disciples, or of Paul that any of them had any thought, intention or belief that the Torah, the Law of God, had been brought to an end by Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) death, burial, or resurrection.  Although the Greek New Testament has been misinterpreted to communicate that idea in many English translations, when one looks back into the original Greek text and puts the New Testament back into a 2nd Temple era context of the first century, C.E., one can see that this interpretation is not correct.

CONCLUSION

During this Hanukkah season, let’s remember that this feast is about remembering that we are engaged in a battle, a battle to maintain the freedom to worship God as He has commanded us in His Word.  Throughout the years, many people have already died in the fight for that freedom.  Let us not forget their sacrifice; let’s keep the battle going so that we might continue to walk in the freedom to follow God.

It is important for us to remember that the Torah (“Law of God”) was not brought to an end by the death of the Messiah Jesus (Yeshua), but instead, He came —

  1. to correct some wrong interpretations that were being taught;
  2. to give a deeper, more complete meaning to its teachings;
  3. to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and
  4. to move the Torah from being founded on a “promise to the fathers” to being founded on a historical event:  His own death, burial, and resurrection.

In doing these things, He made the Torah even more meaningful and relevant to people’s lives.

So at this Hanukkah season, can we look to Jesus (Yeshua) and accept the gift that He has provided us by His death, burial, and resurrection, which is the forgiveness of sin and our liberation from sin’s power and control over our lives?  Also, we should remember that through His death and resurrection, He has opened the door for us to become a part of God’s kingdom, so that we might experience true intimacy with God and be able to have the power to walk the way of Torah with all of our heart.

In addition, can we follow Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) example this Hanukkah season and look back to the lives of Chana and her seven sons, Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego), and others, and draw strength and encouragement to remain faithful to God and His Word, in spite of the struggles and challenges that may lay before us?   As all of these people have shown us within the Scriptures, through God’s leading and His Presence in our lives, we CAN live our lives in obedience to God and His Word:

So that the righteousness of the Law (Torah) might be fulfilled in us who [continue to] walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:4).

PRAYER

Please pray with me this Hanukkah season and begin a new life of faithfulness with God.

“Father, in Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) name, I ask you to forgive me of my sins. Forgive me for not remaining faithful to You and to Your word.  Help me to become daily dependent on You to walk in obedience to the leading of Your Spirit and to Your commandments.  Help me to be strongly committed to You like the people discussed in this article, and let me demonstrate my love for You in all that I say, do, or think.   Thank You, Lord, that You’ve promised to never leave me nor to forsake me.  And I am looking forward to our new relationship and to an even greater intimacy with You.  Amen.”

If you have prayed that prayer or have been blessed by this blog article, please feel free to let me know.

 

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The Prophecy & Story of Hanukkah: Its Historical Fulfillment

In just nine days, we will be celebrating Hanukkah, “the feast of lights” or “the feast of dedication.”  In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus was down in Jerusalem for “the feast of dedication [i.e., Hanukkah], and it was winter.  And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon’s porch” (John 10:22-23).   Hanukkah is not like Christmas at all, even though they occur during the same month.  Instead, it is closer to our July 4th celebration.  For July 4th, we celebrate our victory over the British, and the beginnings of our country, the United States.   Hanukkah is a celebration of Israel’s victory over the Seleucid-Greeks, who tried to force them to adopt Greek culture, Greek ways, and Greek worship.  But not only does it celebrate Israel’s victory, their freedom, it also celebrates the dedication  of the Temple and themselves again back to God and to the keeping of His commandments.  So in this blog article, I would like to begin by looking at the historical account of Hanukkah, but not with Antiochus and the Seleucid Greeks, but with Daniel and the Jewish people being in the land of Babylon.

A COMPARISON OF DREAMS

In Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, a dream regarding the future kingdoms of this world in the form of a statue of a man made from various metals.  These kingdoms are Babylon (the head of gold), Medes & Persians (chest and arms of silver), Greece (belly and thighs), Rome (legs), and a future end-time global empire (feet of iron and clay).  As we can see, as we move down the statue, we not only forward in time from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, but the quality of the metals go down as well.

In Daniel 7, Daniel likewise has a dream regarding the same empires, but in Daniel’s dream, they appear not as a statue of a man, but as wild beasts: Babylon (a lion with eagle’s wings), Medes & Persians (a bear raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth), Greece (a four-headed leopard with wings), and Rome (a dreadful and terrifying beast with iron teeth).  However, after the fourth beast, it mentions, not a fifth beast but “another horn,” who had “the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts” and who pulled out “three horns” (Daniel 7:8).

WHY THE DIFFERENCE IN DREAMS?

I believe the dreams present a look at the same time period differently because God presented to Nebuchadnezzar a view of the kingdoms from the outside.  From the viewpoint of people, these were wondrous kingdoms to behold; however, to Daniel God gave a view of these same kingdoms from the inside, a look at their heart and spirit, and from an internal perspective, they were “wild beasts.”

A SUBSEQUENT DREAM

In Daniel 8, Daniel is given a subsequent dream to his previous dream during the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, the king of Babylon. Daniel has a dream of two specific beasts: a ram with two horns (Medes & Persians) and a male goat (Greece).  In his dream, he says he saw the following:

And I saw him [the male goat] come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered the two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him.  So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. (Daniel 8:7)

This prophecy of “the male goat” is a perfect picture of Alexander the Great.  He conquered the empire of the Medes & Persians (the ram with the two horns) quickly, as well as all of the known world at that time.  He won battle after battle, war after war, with no one being able to stop him. But then in verse 8, the prophecy continues:

Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly.  But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns towards the four winds of heaven. (Daniel 8:8)

According to world history, Alexander the Great rose to great power, “magnifying himself exceedingly,” but then at the age of 33, on June 10, 323, B.C., he died suddenly.  To this day, there is an ongoing debate among historians about how he died, theories include poison, murder, or a relapse of Malaria.  When asked, though, as he was dying, who would get his kingdom, he replied, “the strongest.”  As a result, his empire was fought over for forty years by his four generals (the “four conspicuous horns”).  But then continuing on in the prophecy, we learn the following:

From one of these, the small one, sprang a horn which grew to great size toward the south and east and toward the land of Splendor….It magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. (Daniel 8: 9, 11)

Then Daniel heard a voice in his vision ask, how long would this be allowed to happen, and the response was 2,300 evenings and mornings, and “then the holy place will be properly restored” (Daniel 8:14).  This prophecy of the “little horn” regards Antiochus Epiphanes and the events that the feast of Hanukkah commemorates.

HANUKKAH: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

The historical account of the war between Israel and the Seleucid Greeks is found in the book of I Maccabees.   Although this book is in the Catholic Bible, it is not in the Hebrew Tanakh or in the Protestant Christian Old Testament. So for the convenience of readers who are not familiar with the account, I have provided the following summary.

Approximately 148 years after the death of Alexander the Great is when the historical events that Hanukkah commemorates occurred.   It begins when Antiochus IV, “a sinful shoot,” became ruler of the Seleucid Greek dynasty in 175 B.C., a region which included Israel (I Maccabees 1:10-11). Afterward, there were some Jews who saw financial advantages to adopting a Hellenistic (or Greek) lifestyle, and so they abandoned God and His Torah (Teachings, Instructions).

PLUNDERING JERUSALEM

After winning a battle against Egypt in 170 B.C., Antiochus turns his sights on Israel, particularly Jerusalem.  He plundered the city and the Temple, taking the holy items and the Temple treasures, “leaving the place a shambles” (I Maccabees 1:25).    Also, he took the women and children as slaves, stole their cattle, and then burned the city (I Maccabees 1:32-33).

MANDATING A GREEK LIFESTYLE

Antiochus then issued a proclamation that everyone was to adopt a Greek lifestyle, including the worship of the Greek gods (as well as himself as a god).   Due to his own “god complex,” he ascribed to himself the name “Epiphanes” (“god manifest”).

PERSECUTING TORAH-OBSERVANT JEWS

Antiochus also forbad the Jews from practicing any form of Judaism, such as prohibiting any of the following:

  1. Any form of Temple worship;
  2. All biblical feasts, including the weekly Sabbath; and
  3. All Torah study and observance, including the following of the dietary laws and circumcision of boys at eight days old.

Instead of obeying God and His Torah (Teachings or Instructions), they were to worship the Greek gods, eat unclean food, and sacrifice pigs on the altar.  Anyone found worshipping the God of Israel or keeping the Torah, or practicing any of its teachings, would be killed (I Maccabees 1:46-52).

INTENSIFYING THE PERSECUTION

On the 15th day of Chislev in 167 B.C., the statue of Zeus was erected above the altar, as well as other altars to him around the surrounding towns of Judah (I Maccabees 1:57-58).    In addition, any copies of the Torah that were found by the Greek soldiers were torn up and burned (I Maccabees 1:59).

KILLING WOMEN AND CHILDREN

Also, any woman who was found to have circumcised her baby was killed, along with her male infant, in accordance to the edict, and her dead baby was hung around her neck.  Also, any other member of the household who participated, along with the one who circumcised the infant, were killed as well.

SOME ENDURE – SOME DO NOT

Although the persecution was intense, there were many who remained faithful to the God of Israel and His Torah; many chose to die rather than to profane God’s “holy covenant” (I Maccabees 1:62-66).  Unfortunately, though, there were also some who did not remain faithful but chose to abandon God and His Torah, rather than endure any further persecution.  They adopted the Greek lifestyle and began worshipping the various Greek gods.

MATTATHIAS AND HIS SON REVOLT

When Antiochus’s men came to the town of Modein to make the Jews there offer a sacrifice to the god Zeus, a priest by the name of Mattathias and his sons refused to participate.   Mattathias told them:

Even if every nation living in the king’s dominion obeys him [Antiochus], each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors.   Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law [Heb. Torah] and its observances.   As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we will not swerve from our religion either to the right or to the left.  (I Maccabees 2: 19-23)

Upon completing this statement, a Jew was going to betray God by offering a pig on the altar, but Mattathias killed the man and began a rebellion, killing as well the king’s men who were also there.   Then he ran through the town, rallying the people to join him in their fight against the Greeks.  They then took refuge in the hills (I Maccabees 2:25-28).

JUDAH ASSUMES COMMAND

After a year of fighting, Mattathias died in 167 B.C., but before he did, he placed his son Judah in charge of the war against the pagans (I Maccabees 2:66).   Judah was nicknamed “Maccabees” (“hammer”) because of how he “hammered” at the enemy.   Eventually, after two more years, Judah and his troop won their battle against the Greeks.

A SHOCKING DISCOVERY!

Upon the Greeks’ final defeat in 165 B.C., Judah and his men went to Jerusalem to re-dedicate the Temple.  However, when they arrived,

they found the sanctuary [Temple] a wilderness, the altar desecrated, the gates burned down, and vegetation growing in the courts as it might in a wood or on some mountain, while the store rooms were in ruins.   They tore their garments and mourned bitterly, putting dust on their heads.  (I Maccabees 4:38-40)

CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

After a time of mourning, Judah selected priests who were faithful to God and blameless in their observance of the Torah to clean and purify the Temple, to remove the stones that had been used to construct the altar to Zeus, as well as the stones of the Temple altar that had been profaned by the blood of the pig that the Seleucid Greeks had offered on it (I Maccabees 4:42-45).

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THESE STONES?

Judah and his men were not sure what to do with the Temple altar stones once they had been removed, so they took them outside the Temple and set them in “a suitable place on the Temple hill to await the appearance of [the] prophet [i.e., the Messiah] who should give a ruling about them” (I Maccabees 4:46).

Could these be the same stones that Yeshua (Jesus) alluded to when He rode into Jerusalem, and when the religious leaders tried to get Him to silence the crowd, He told them, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:40)

REDEDICATING THE TEMPLE

Once the stones had been removed, they selected rocks that were naturally cut by the weather and sand, and built a new altar where the old one had once stood (I Maccabees 4:47).   They cleaned the Temple, replaced the vessels and items that had been stolen, and set up the items in the Temple as God had instructed in the Torah (I Maccabees 4:47-51).

INSTITUTING THE OBSERVANCE OF HANUKKAH

Then on the 25th day of Chislev (which occurs from mid-November to mid-December), in the year 165 B.C., they re-dedicated the Temple back to God and to His service.  They “made it a law that the days of dedication [Heb. Hanukkah] of the altar should be an annual celebration for eight days beginning on the 25th day of Chislev with ‘rejoicing and gladness’” (I Maccabees 4:52-61).

THE MIRACLE OF THE OIL

According to most books that are written about Hanukkah, as well as the story as it is told within most synagogues today, the celebration is observed for eight days in remembrance of the miracle of the oil.  This account is not found in I Maccabees, but in the Talmud.  According to this account, when the priests were cleaning the Temple, they were looking around for the oil used to re-light the Temple menorah (or lampstand).  However, there was only enough oil for one day.  But in obedience to the Scriptures, the priests went ahead and re-lit the menorah.  However, the next day the priests discovered that the Temple menorah was still lit.  And the next and the next, until eight days had passed, giving the priests time to make more oil, so that the menorah could remain lit.  This is why Jews during Hanukkah eat foods fried in oil in order to commemorate this miracle.

BUT DID THE MIRACLE OF THE OIL REALLY HAPPEN?

According to Rabbi Michael Strassfield, in his article “What’s Hanukkah?” outside of the Talmud, there is no mention of the miracle of the oil.  It is his belief that the miracle of the oil was invented to get the attention off of the miracle that a small band of men held off and beat a large army.  Many Jewish men died fighting the Roman troops, believing that what God had done for the Maccabees, He would also do for them.

However, according to I Maccabees, Hanukkah was instituted specifically for eight days – not because of the miracle of the oil – but because it was modeled after the feast of Tabernacles (Heb. Sukkot), which the Maccabees could not observe while they were still battling the Greeks from the mountains of Judea (Strassburg).

GOD FULFILLED HIS PROPHECY

Indeed, God did keep His prophetic word.  The “little horn” did rise to great power and for a time did gain power over the “land of Splendor” [Israel], but his time came to an end, and the Temple was, indeed, properly restored, as God promised.

If anything, the celebration of Hanukkah should remind us of the following:

  1. That our God is a faithful God who keeps His Word, even in the hardest of circumstances;
  2. The freedom to worship and honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by obeying His Torah from our hearts is something that must be fought for continually since today we see that freedom being slowly taken away from us.
  3. We must also remember that the Torah is not “bondage” or some “legalistic hardship,” as I hear mainstream Christianity teach, but it is a blessing from God that we have been given to teach us about God, Messiah, holiness, and what it means to be “the people of God.”

So let us always strive to remember the faithfulness of our God and to hold on to the freedom that God has given to us to walk in His ways.

 

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My Introduction to Hebrew, Jews and Judaism

When my wife and I got married, I was nineteen and she was eighteen, about to turn nineteen at the end of that month.  I was working at a Pizza place and she was working at Meijer Thrifty Acres, a store similar to that of Wal-Mart.  Sometime within the first six months of our marriage, she said that she found a bunch of records on sale at the Christian bookstore.  They were all Lamb albums.  Lamb, I discovered later, was a Messianic Jewish group. It was a type of music I had never heard before, but I found myself drawn to them, their songs, as well as the Hebrew words that were there in their songs.  I found myself listening to them over and over again.  There were times, I’m sure, I drove my wife nuts listening and re-listening to these albums as much as I did.

It was around this same general time period when the pastor of the church that Karen and I were attending discussed the difference in how Christians viewed the soul and how the ancient Hebrews viewed it.  The Christian view is that man is a spirit with a soul living in a body.  The soul being that part of a person that doesn’t die but continues to live on forever.  However, the ancient Hebrews viewed it differently,  In Genesis 2:7, it says,

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

From his teaching, he said that the Hebrew point of view was not that man possessed a soul, but that man is a soul.  In other words, in the Christian view, if we save someone’s soul, then we’re saving that part of him that will live forever, but in the ancient Hebrew view, if we save someone’s soul, then we are saving the whole person, who that person is physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. In other words, every aspect of that person.

This really got my mind wondering what other differences there were between how Christians have traditionally viewed things versus how the ancient Hebrews, as well as the Jews today (the modern Hebrews) viewed them.  My curiosity was ignited, and as I began to read and study about Jews and Judaism, I discovered other things, which led to more curiosity, and more reading and studying.  However, although I was reading about them, I had never actually met one, at least as far as I knew.

Then about six months after we were married, I lost my job and she was a little more than five months pregnant.  We were fortunate enough, though, to be able to move in with her parents for a short time. During that year, I went out looking for work, and I did manage to get some temporary part-time jobs here and there, but nothing full time.  We ended up having to sign up for welfare and food stamps.  While I was still looking for work, I was told as part of the requirements for receiving food stamps I needed to attend these classes that they were putting on that would teach me the techniques and resume writing skills that I would need to help me find full-time employment.  It was at these meetings that I met an Orthodox Jew for the first time.

I remember how fascinated I was at seeing him.  Although he wasn’t that tall, he had dark hair and a bit of a beard.  We started talking, and we became friends.  Sadly, though, I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that he drove a Saab.  Through our acquaintance and beginning friendship, I discovered that I liked Jewish people.  He was a very nice and polite man.  Even during the lunch break when he would try to get alone to pray with his prayer book, I followed him.  He probably wondered why this strange goy (non-Jew) kept hanging around with him, even while he was trying to pray, but I sat there and quietly watched.   And for the first time, the word “Jew” was no longer just a word to me, it took on form and life, and in a rather strange way, my friendship with him made my Bible and studies seem more real to me.

When I met him, I was at a point in my life where things were seemingly falling apart.  I couldn’t find work, I had to drop out of college for awhile, and my marriage was beginning to feel rather rocky.  God at this point felt distant, and I was doubting whether He actually loved me at all.   And then I met this Jewish man there at the class sessions.  But in the back of my mind, I thought if I could like this guy who is Jewish, then maybe, I could like Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) too.  From that “aha” moment, I had a renewed interest and reason to find out as much about Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) and Judaism as I could.   Some may wonder at what I am about to say, but the thing that has really attracted me the most to Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) has not been His divinity, but His humanity, and more specifically, His Jewishness. It was like the more about “Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) the Jew” I discovered and learned, the more I about Him I liked and the more intrigued I was with Him.

The first activity we did as “Messianic believers” was to throw a Purim party.  We had a friend who said we could use the clubhouse at their apartment complex, and so we all dressed up in costume, brought food, and had an extremely fun time celebrating Purim, which commemorates the bravery of Queen Esther (Heb. Hadassah) in saving her people from extermination.  During the celebration, I read the book of Esther, while the kids and adults sat around listening.  Little did I know that it would be the first of many presentations regarding the various feasts found in the Scriptures.

Now here it is thirty-four years later, and I find myself even more intrigued, even more passionate for Him.  In fact, my passion and love for Him grows daily.  I’ve come a long way since back then, and my marriage today now gets better and stronger with each passing day.   I never really understood what drew me to the Jewish people and Jewish studies, I just knew that I was drawn to them.  However, at the beginning of this month (November), the Lord spoke to my wife and gave her this revelation about me:

Don’t let there be any doubt or unassurance to what I have been calling you to do.  I know you love Me, I know you love My Torah and commandments.  How do I know this, My son?  I am the One who implanted it inside of you and have put this desire inside of you for such a time as this.  I want you to go and tell My story to the nations, telling them that I am real and that I am coming back, and I have not deleted anything from My Torah, says the L-rd G-d Almighty.

It was through this and other messages that the Lord has spoken to us that so many things in my life have suddenly made so much sense.  God has moved in my life through so many things to bring me to the place that I am today, and one intricate and very close person in my life that God has used has been my wife.  She has become my closest friend and companion in this journey we’ve both been called to travel. In fact, the Lord has shared with us that it was He who brought us together.  It was all part of His plan for our lives.

It was God who implanted within me my love and passion for Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), the Jewish people, as well as their culture, history, values, and beliefs.   And it was God who shared with us that it was He who put us on this journey together, a journey that He ignited through these events.  It is my hope and prayer that you will find these memories a blessing, and that God has implanted within you – as He did us – a passion for Him, His Word, and His people.  However, if He hasn’t yet,  then I pray that God will grant you to have your own series of experiences that will ignite that same passion and love within you.  May God richly bless you and direct you in your walk with Him and the Messiah Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus).

 

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