The story of Chanukkah is exciting with many spiritual lessons to help encourage us and continue to give us hope through even the most challenging seasons in our lives.
Chanukkah is recorded in the New Testament. John 10:22-39 recounts that during the winter feast, Jesus went to the temple. The Hebrew word for dedication is Chanukkah. We also find the Jews questioning Jesus at this time, if He really was the Christ, or Messiah.
"Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” ( vs. 22-30)
We see that Jesus referred to His works in this passage. Chanukkah is a time to reflect on the miraculous things that God has done. Jesus also talked about the protection that He has for each one of His sheep - He not only grants salvation and eternal life, but The Father sees that we are safe and secure in His hand.
The history of Chanukkah is truly fascinating. The Bible refers to the events surrounding it in Daniel and Matthew 24. In Hebrews 11, the martyrs during this time period are recognized for their outstanding courage and example. As succinctly as I can, here is the outline of the events. Between the time of the "old" and "new" testaments, Greece was vying for power in a series of wars throughout the known world. A ruler came into power around 167 BC, who called himself Antiochus Epiphanes, meaning God manifested. Israel was right in the middle of all these battles. After Antiochus was defeated in a battle with Rome, he turned his anger on Israel, murdered and tortured thousands including women and children and desecrated the temple in Jerusalem. He sacrificed a pig on the altar and erected a statue of zeus. There was a priest who refused to bow to the demands of false worship. His son was known as Judah Macabee, who ultimately cleaned out and restored the temple. It would have been impossible to overcome, but Judah and those with him, experienced divine miracles as The One True God gave them victory after victory in battle.
During the re-dedication of the temple, they only had enough consecrated oil to last one night; however, the oil lasted miraculously for eight nights. This is what many celebrate during Chanukkah time by lighting their menorahs each night for 8 nights. However, there is so much more that can be celebrated!
I am amazed at how many truths are in this story. First, God IS Light. Jesus said He was The Light of the world (John 8) and commanded His disciples to be salt and light in the earth (Matt. 5). James 1:17, says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." Psalm 27:1, "The LORD is my Light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 119:105, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light to my path." In John 1, we see that not only is The Life of God equated to the Light of men (vs. 4), but that the Light is also the same as The Word, Who existed from the beginning. John the Baptist came and gave witness to this Light, Who was The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. (John1:1-16 - http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NKJV )
You may wonder why I choose to celebrate the Jewish feasts and festivals. I think I'll reserve a more detailed answer for another post. Suffice it to say for now, that Jesus Christ, The Messiah, came as a Jew. All of the festivals, which incidentally are called The LORD's feasts in the Bible, represent Him on many levels and we can learn about God's goodness and different aspects of His character through participating in them. They have never been revoked, and we see in Zechariah 14:16 that someday everyone will participate. "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship The King, The LORD of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles."
It's never too late to start understanding the ways of The Lord. May you experience His Light and His salvation during this joyous season! If you have never dedicated yourself (your temple) to Jesus, The Light of the world, now is the perfect time.
John 3:16-21, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in The Name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that The Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates The Light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to The Light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”