Many Jewish people really do not know the history and facts of Hanukkah. Christians also are unsure or uninterested in Hanukkah as well. The fact of the matter is that Hanukkah has great significance to Christians. I want us to consider two areas related to Chanukah which have to do with the idea of Dedication and the miracle of the lights.
Alexander the Great established his Empire. He sought to unify his empire in language, culture and religion this movement is known as Hellenization. Upon his early death his empire as prophesied was divided into 4 different pieces. In Daniel 11:3-4 we see that God foretold his fate.
Each section was ruled by one of 4 generals. Lysimacus ruled Asia Minor, Canssander the Agean Penisula or what is now Greece, Ptolemy Northern Africa centered in Egypt and Selucid ruled over Assyria. Israel was caught in the middle of constant fighting between the Ptlomaic kingdom and the Selucid.
Egypt led by the Ptolomeys allowed Israel to worship and obey the God of Israel. The Selucid king Antiochus, wanted Israel to assimilate and embrace Hellenization. He believed that this was the key to absorbing Israel into his kingdom. Forced Hellenization began in 171 B.C. Antiochus hastened this process in 168 B.C. with his desecration of the Temple and the erection of a statue of himself, claiming that this was their true God.
Then he forced priests to sacrifice a pig on the altar. Then Antiochus sent garrisons to every Jewish village to force Levites or Priests to sacrifice a pig in the town square to the gods of Olympus. They came to the village of Modin, which was the home of a Levitical family led, by Mattathias and his sons. When a young man who favored this new age movement of Hellenism volunteered to sacrifice a pig, Mattathias killed him.
He and his sons overthrew the garrison and began a guerilla type war. They would pounce on the Syrians and came to be known as the Maccabees, which means “hammerers” in Hebrew.
Because of internal problems at home Antiochus gave up his Hellenization project for Israel. The Maccabees recaptured the Temple, cleansed it, and according to the book of Maccabees dedicated it on of the 25th Kislev 165 B.C.
It was at this time that tradition describes the Miracle of the Menorah. The word Chanukah is Hebrew for dedication. It is named for the dedication of the Temple in 164 B.C. after it’s desecration by Antiochus. Chanukah also known as the festival of lights.
One of the significant aspects of Chanukah is the miracle that occurred in the lighting of the Menorah in the holy place. The Menorah in the Holy place was to be always lit if the Temple was to be functional. Antiochus defiled everything that was exposed when he sacrificed the pig on the altar.
The oil used in the Menorah had to be pure olive oil, which had been consecrated in a procedure outlined in the priestly responsibilities. When the Maccabees retook the Temple they were only able to find one cruse of oil that was sealed. It would fill only the seven bowls of the Menorah for one day. According to the Temple procedure it would take one week to prepare more. The miracle according to tradition was that the cruse was full on the second day.
There is precedence for such a miracle in Scripture in 1 Kings 17:8-16. On Chanukah we light an 8 stemmed menorah to commemorate each day of the miracle. In John 8:12 on the feast of Tabernacles Jesus declared Himself to be the Light. The Light of World came to bring God’s Light to mankind. In fact the only mention of Chanukah in Scripture is found in John 10:22. Yeshua is also described as the Light of the World John 1:4-9.
Jesus said that we are to be the light of the world. Matthew 5:14-16 When the children of Israel kindle the Chanukah menorah they light first the Shammes and the Shammes lights the rest of the candles. The word Shammes means servant and God sent His Shammes, His servant to illuminate those who will allow themselves to be illuminated. If we earnestly desire to bring the light into a very dark world we must first be illuminated by God’s servant and then go and do likewise. Philippians 2:3-9
The Second aspect of Chanukah has to do with dedication. One of the reasons that Abraham became the father of the faithful is because of his willingness to offer his son Isaac to God. God tested Abraham by seeing if he would lay on the altar his only son. The heir of all the promises. If he would dedicate his son to the Lord. Isaac also was asked to make the ultimate sacrifice.
He was called to lay his body upon the altar while his father would lift a knife to kill him. Isaac was asked to dedicate his life to the Lord. Chanukah means dedication. It is a day we celebrate the victory of the Maccabees, and the dedication of the Temple for service unto God. When we allow the Shammes to light us we too became part of the New Temple.
1 Peter 2:4-5. We are called to dedicate our lives to the Lord who had redeemed us. Romans 12:1-2. On this Hanukkah may we be used of God to be light, and may we surrender our lives as a living sacrifice that God might lead and use us. The Maccabees were willing to die against tremendous odds that the Temple of God might continue to be a testimony to all Israel and to the Nations. Are we willing to be the Maccabees of today?