Many Jewish people have a hard time figuring out what Christmas is about. When I was a young Jewish kid growing up in Catholic-Protestant Quebec, I loved the winking tree lights, the holly and the ivy wreaths, the fact that many people were getting tipsy and acting especially friendly to each other. As a musician, I knew that during the Christmas season there would be paying gigs at parties and dances. But the Christmas message I was hearing focused mostly on Santa, joie de vivre, Nativity scenes, saxophone-soaked Christmas muzak and shopping frenzies. Only after I had a life-changing personal encounter with Yeshua the Messiah of Israel did I begin to discern the real meaning of the Messianic faith, the reason for the season – the prophesied birth of the Jewish Messiah, and His coming to earth in order to give His life as an atonement for all peoples (but with priority to His own Jewish people – Romans 1:16), a Yom Kippur gift to pay for my sins and to wash away my rebellious ways.
Most Christians (and many Jews too!) are similarly confused about the message of Hanukkah. The official line proclaimed by most Jewish religious authorities is that a miracle occurred long ago in the Jerusalem Temple: a one-day supply of kosher candelabrum-oil supernaturally lasted eight days – hence the eight day traditional holiday commemorated by lighting a total of eight little candles. Problem is, that traditional miracle is nowhere to be found in contemporaneous Jewish historical sources.
Some Jewish traditions are based on ‘fake news’
The ‘fake news’ Hanukkah miracle was added on 400 years after the Maccabean revolt of 168 B.C., a sleight-of-hand tradition ascribed by scholars to a later Pharisaic development. By that time the Maccabees were no longer a revival movement; they had gotten co-opted by the very Greek Hellenistic spiritual forces that they had originally opposed. The Pharisaic rabbis wanted to downplay the Maccabean role in Jewish history (see https://davidstent.org/maccabees-wanna-bes-and-fake-news-the-real-story-of-hanukkah/; https://davidstent.org/when-glory-shatters-the-night/). Their ‘creative’ re-interpretation of Hanukkah thus sidestepped the Maccabean military deliverance, focusing instead on an unconnected ‘miracle’ unknown to Jews of that day.
But Hanukkah is in the Bible and was prophesied by Daniel the seer nearly 400 years before it happened. Read about the heroic Maccabean special forces in Daniel 11:31-32a (also see Hebrews 11:32-28, which quotes from 2 Maccabees 6:21-30; 7:7-36). These flesh and blood Jewish warriors had been raised up by the God of Jacob to wage an all-out guerilla war against the Seleucid (Syrian-Greek) military forces – pagans whose goals included the crushing of Jewish independence, the destruction of the Scriptures and the adulteration of the pure worship of YHVH. Had these Greeks been successful, Messiah might never have been born, nor would the Jewish people have survived as bearers of God’s light to the world.
- The Maccabean commandoes are an amazing prophetic foreshadowing of the soon-to-come Last Days Jewish army of Ezekiel 37:1-11.
The Broadway musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’s rousing theme-song ‘Tradition!’ spotlights the love and warmth that Jewish people have had for their religion and feasts. Without question Jews and Christians have many sweet customs connected with the December holidays. But let’s make sure that the traditional stew stays biblically kosher. What Messianic and biblical emphases should be remembered and celebrated at Hanukkah?
Remember to fact-check Greek cynicism and its scorn for Biblical truth
The Greek civilization of Alexander the Great saw itself as the zenith of human achievement. Hellenistic society held out the option of many gods to be worshipped, many expressions of sexuality to indulge in, and many philosophical perspectives on truth (see John 18:38). The Jews, however, were seen as barbarians (βάρβαροι / barbaroi), a nation who did not speak Greek or follow Greek customs. Greek philosophers and pundits scoffed at those who believed in YHVH as the only true God, the Bible as the only accurate book of divine revelation, and the Jewish people as God’s chosen nation. For a Jew to hold his own in such an overwhelmingly pagan and cynical climate took guts and courage. Refusing to bow the ideological knee in political correctness required spiritual backbone. The words of Thomas Paine can well be applied here: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink” back from the clash of empires and worldviews (see Hebrews 10:38-39: “But we are not among those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith for the safekeeping of the soul”).
Alexander the Great’s ‘Great Grecian Reset’ is not YHVH’s goal
Alexander of Macedon had a dream. He would establish a ‘one world’ culture, and the glue to unify his world dictatorship would be Greek – Greek language, art, philosophy, education, town planning, local government, religion, etc. Persia (modern Iran) and Galatia (modern Turkey) were the laboratory for his first experiment – a ‘Great Grecian Reset’ for the planet. Alexander planned to homogenize the populations of Asia and Europe into one huge world-encompassing Hellenistic empire.
Later Roman leaders saw Alexander as their role model. Pompey searched conquered lands of the east for Alexander’s 260-year-old cloak, which he then wore as a sign of greatness and authority. Julius Caesar had an equestrian bronze statue dedicated, replacing Alexander’s head with his own. Only the Jewish people were the stubborn ones who refused to go along with Alexander’s Greek dreams.
Israel refused to bow the knee to Greece because they had already bowed the knee to YHVH and His strategy. For the God of Jacob also had a dream, and His prophetic dream predates and supersedes Alexander’s. He gave gifts and a calling to the Jewish people, and promised that they would bring life from the dead to the entire planet (see Romans 11:28-29). YHVH marked every Jewish male with an indelible marking called circumcision, and vowed to make Jerusalem the capitol of the world. The God of Jacob’s biblical and prophetic description of this future vision could be called His ‘Great Hebrew Reset.’ Most Christians have not yet grasped the Jewish reality of this, preferring to use all Jewish biblical prophecies as de-ethnicized devotional tools to encourage fellow Christians. But YHVH of armies makes an unshakeable promise: “In those days ten people from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zechariah 8:23).
Jewish Special Operations Forces are heroes in the Bible’s Hall of Fame
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” The Bible does not shrink from revealing that the God of the Hebrews is a God who is prepared to fight His enemies and defend His children:
- “YHVH is a warrior; YHVH is His name!” (Exodus 15:3)
- YHVH “put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head. And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will He repay: wrath to His adversaries, retribution to His enemies. To the coastlands He will deal retribution” (Isaiah 59:17-18)
The Maccabees were descendants of Aaron, called by God to be priests in Israel. Their forefather Phinehas son of Eleazer was also an Aaronic priest who responded to the challenge and established God’s plumbline in Israel at the point of a sword (see Numbers 25). YHVH commended him, declaring “Behold, I am giving him My covenant of peace. And it shall be for him and for his descendants after him, a covenant of a permanent priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel” (Numbers 25:17-18).
Hanukkah is the feast when we say ‘Amen!’ to King David’s bold declaration – that believers can also be stalwart warriors:
- If only You would put the wicked to death, God! Leave me, you men of bloodshed! For they speak against You wickedly, and Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, YHVH? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred. They have become my enemies. (Psalm 139:19-22)
- But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a saber, but I come to you in the name of YHVH of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day YHVH will hand you over to me, and I will strike you and remove your head from you. Then I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that this entire assembly may know that YHVH does not save by sword or by spear. For the battle is YHVH’s, and He will hand you over to us!” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
The motto of the Monarch of the United Kingdom echoes these biblical sentiments in the words “Dieu et mon droit!” (see Edward Coke , ‘The Fourth part of the Institutes of Laws of England: Concerning the Jurisdiction of Courts’; “The ancient Motto of the King of England is, God and my right hand shall me defend”).
Quoting the Book of Maccabees, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says that the Maccabees “quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Hebrews 11:34). “ And all these … gained approval through their faith,” he concludes (Hebrews 11:39). Hanukkah celebrates their deeds and their testimony, and gives thanks to YHVH Lord of the battle who upheld their right hand.
They who are faithful to the covenant
In his scroll, the prophet Daniel describes the Hanukkah scenario, looking down the prophetic corridors of time. Antiochus Epiphanes IV would strengthen the hand of Hellenistic Jewish apostates, those who sided with Alexander’s Greek ‘one-world vision.’ God describes those assimilated and ‘secularized’ Jews as those “who abandon the holy (Mosaic) covenant and act wickedly toward it.” But those who were faithful to YHVH and to His covenant commands were valiant in teaching, as well as courageous on the battlefield.
- So he will come back and pay attention to those who abandon the holy covenant. Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice . . . And by smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will be strong and take action. And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many. Yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days. (Daniel 11:30, 32-33)
The writer of Hebrews leaves us with an encouraging exhortation based on the Maccabees:
- “Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Yeshua, the originator and maturer of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Kosher feast, kosher calling, kosher light
Isaiah foresees what will happen when the Jewish people embrace Messiah their Light, and then spread that light across the globe in a ‘Great Hebrew Reset:’ “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHVH has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples. But YHVH will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3). The fulfilment of Hanukkah is on its way!
How should we then pray?
- Pray for Jews and Christians everywhere at this season to receive a kosher revelation of the real message of Hanukkah
- Pray for those messengers who hold forth the good news of the Light of the world – for their anointing, success and provision
- Pray for the raising up of the Ezekiel 37 prophetic army among the Jewish people
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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