The holiday season is in full throttle. Good food, good cheer, trees and lights, and nine-branched menorahs abound. Dreidels and potato pancakes, fruit cake and egg nog overflow on groaning tables. Tis the season for snowmen to be jolly!
In the West Jews and Christians celebrate holy days and remember stirring events. Does anything bind these two holidays together? Is there any specific and timely lesson to be found in these ancient and well-loved stories for today’s fast-paced world?
Christmas – a Jewish holiday?
For most Jews, Christmas is a Gentile celebration. Perhaps it is the holiday ham or the oyster and bacon canapés, but somehow Jews feel like strangers at the table. Most manger scenes depict a definitely Northern European holy family, and the beautiful carols and hymns don’t sound exactly like Middle Eastern tunes. Some Jews look longingly at the Christmas table but in their heart of hearts they know that they would never fit in unobtrusively.
On the other hand, Hanukah may have a good reputation but it just has not garnered the same public acclaim that Yuletide has managed to do. A hanukkiya candelabrum or Israeli jelly donuts have just not swept over the West to the same degree as Santa Claus.
Yet the prophecy of Messiah’s birth in Luke 2:34-35 has Shimon ha-Tzaddik (Simeon the righteous one) declaring that the birth of Baby Yeshua would be a sign specifically for the Jewish people: “And Simeon/Shim’on blessed them and said to Mary/Miriam His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’ ”
The birth of the Jewish Messiah would be a sign to Israel. As a result of His advent, many in Israel would fall, but many would also rise. God offends the mind to reveal the heart. This principle applies not only to Gentiles, but also to Jews.
- Herein lies the heart of the Christmas message!
Lord of the Holidays
In the quasi-democratic West, much is made of elections and fickle support for one political party or another. Many see a vote for their favorite party as a vote for God, and cannot believe that God could raise up ungodly or sinister leadership over a country. Yet Zechariah the father of John the Immersor /Baptizer describes the God of Jacob as above and beyond these limitations – One who brings down and raises up kings while remembering His everlasting promises to restore the Jewish people:
- “He has done mighty deeds with His arm. He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1:51-55).
In much the same way, Samuel’s mother Hannah gave glory to God over a thousand years before the birth of the Anointed One:
- “YHVH brings down to She’ol and raises up. YHVH makes poor and rich. He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust. He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are YHVH’s, and He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness. For not by might shall a man prevail. Those who contend with YHVH will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens. YHVH will judge the ends of the earth. And He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His Anointed/Messiah” (1 Samuel 2:6-10).
Daniel the prophet settles the matter. God reveals secrets of the heart, raises up some leaders but causes others to come crashing down. He is in charge. He is sovereign. He sits enthroned above the machinations of men.
- “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs. He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things. He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:20-22).
The Maccabees who fought against ungodly oppression by the Seleucid Greeks of Syria were commended as divinely sanctioned warriors. Daniel prophesied about the Maccabees while he still lived in Persia, and the writer of the Book of Hebrews commended the Maccabees as heroes of the faith:
- “But the people who know their God will display strength and take action. 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. Now when they fall they will be granted a little help” (Daniel 11:32-34)
- “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of (those who) … from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:32-38)
In each case these men and women believed God’s word and heard His call. They saw the prophesied future as a reality soon to come, and willingly spent their lives to see those days come to fulfillment.
But I didn’t vote for God!
The history of mankind is a history of divine invitation, human rejection of God’s gifts and rebellion against Him, God’s rejection of men’s sinful strategies and then His judgment on them. From the Garden of Eden to the generation of Noah, these themes have been indelibly stamped on mankind’s collective memory. Moses, Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah witnessed the same dynamic in their own day:
- “YHVH said to Moses, ‘How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?’” (Numbers 14:11)
- “YHVH said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them’” (1 Samuel 8:7)
- Isaiah was told by God, “Inasmuch as these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah” (a prophetic and poetic synonym for YHVH the Protector of Jerusalem; Isaiah 8:6)
- Jeremiah was told by God, “The wise men are put to shame. They are dismayed and caught. Behold, they have rejected the word of YHVH, and what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9)
As a result of over 800 years of the majority of Jewish people pulling away from the guidelines of YHVH’s prophets and teachers, YHVH Himself declared that judgment had come:
- “They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which YHVH had commanded them not to do like them. They forsook all the commandments of YHVH their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah pole and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of YHVH, provoking Him. So YHVH was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight. None was left except the tribe of Judah. Also Judah did not keep the commandments of YHVH their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced. YHVH rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight” (2 Kings 17:15-20)
From Adam to Isaiah, and from Jeremiah to Yeshua, both the sons of Adam and the sons of Jacob ending up rejecting the call of God and His purposes on their lives: “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been immersed by John” (Luke 7:30).
The message of both Christmas and Hanukkah calls upon men and women, both Jew and Gentile, to re-embrace God and His will for our lives, to bow before Him and to commit ourselves to follow His ways and His way.
Worldwide rejection, worldwide judgment
As believers struggle with ungodly political and social trends, we are faced with the temptation to curse God, to blame Him for negative developments. The Scriptures offer us wise words to meditate on at this season:
- “Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from YHVH, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’”? (Isaiah 40:27)
- “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
- “It shall come about when they say, ‘Why has YHVH our God done all these things to us?’ then you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours’” (Jeremiah 5:19)
- “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
A call to the wall
Asaph the psalmist cries out to YHVH, “O God, have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?” (Psalm 74:1).
The Holy Spirit-birthed call to intercession is a key to the release of God’s heart and plans.
The body of Messiah is being fogged by the enemy and the nations into declare falsehood concerning God’s election and love for Israel, “Have you not observed what (ed. they) have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which YHVH chose, He has rejected them’? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight” (Jeremiah 33:24).
God’s response to man’s rejection of Him and His ways involves both the stick of judgment and the carrot of prophetic promises.
- “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2)
- “You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts, and said to you, ‘You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you” (Isaiah 41:9)
- “For YHVH has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected, says your God” (Isaiah 54:6)
- “I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. And I will bring them back, because I have had compassion on them. And they will be as though I had not rejected them. For I am YHVH their God and I will answer them” (Zechariah 10:6)
God’s answer to the intercessory cry of His people throughout the ages is answered first in sending His Messiah, the Rejected Stone, to the spiritual and physical builders of His Temple and His nation:
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is YHVH’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22-23)
This Messiah who is also the Rock has not been rejected by the God of Israel His Father, but is His delight:
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1)
Therefore let Israel and the nations take heed at this holiday season, and bow low before King Messiah, King of the Jews and Savior of the world!
“Now therefore, O kings, show discernment! Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship YHVH with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way. For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:10-12)
How shall we then pray?
- Pray for the revelation of Messiah Yeshua to Israel and to her leaders
- Pray for the protection and victory of Jerusalem and her Jewish leaders
- Pray for the soon return of Messiah Yeshua
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
Donations can be sent to:
FINAL FRONTIER MINISTRIES
BOX 121971 NASHVILLE TN 37212-1971 USA
Donations can also be made on-line (by PayPal) through: www.davidstent.org