Dear readers, between all my packing of boxes for the move to the farm and my wrapping of presents I overlooked posting this information about Hanukkah. It is a long read but well worth the time. I hope you enjoy this contribution from Leann Wall of Rising Eagles Ministries.
Tonight [12/16/14] begins the eight day celebration of Hanukkah! Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for “dedication.” In scripture, eight days is always a pattern of dedication. For seven days the object to be dedicated was set aside, and then on the eighth day it was made holy. Some examples of this were: firstborn animals consecrated to God, the circumcision of Hebrew males, the sanctification of the original altar in the Temple, the dedication of the rebuilt Temple after Babylonian captivity (which took place during Passover and with the Feast of Unleaven Bread and lasted for eight days), and looking forward, the future altar of the millennial Temple will be consecrated on the eighth day (Ez. 43:26-27). Furthermore, Hanukkah is patterned after the Feast of Tabernacles! It is a second observance of Tabernacles celebrating the victory of the three-year war to cleanse the Temple. Today, for those who have accepted the cleansing power of Jesus Christ, it is a time to celebrate Him and His coming into the earth at this time into Mary’s womb. The King had entered the earth realm as a tiny little seed, and was about to shift an empire out of one realm of rule and into another. He came to bring the culture of His Kingdom to us, so that we might know Him, and become part of His family.
Hanukkah begins in the Hebrew month of Kislev, a month to fight against empires and cultures, and ends in the month of Tevet, a month of mercy in the midst of destruction. The celebration of this Feast of Dedication is a time to remember the Lord’s deliverance through the faithful Maccabees. According to the book of Daniel, one day, at the end of this age, we will see this battle again in the Earth realm when many within Israel enter into a covenant with a wicked ruler, named Armilus to the Jews, and Antichrist to the Christians. We must remember that God does bring mercy in the middle of destruction.
The “Four Hundred Silent Years” between the old and new testaments had produced the rise of the Sadducees and Pharisees, the domination of Rome, and the development of the synagogue. These years were deemed “silent” because God didn’t give any new revelation to His people- no prophetic words, no dreams, no visions….heaven was SILENT. And hell was preparing on Earth, because it knew Who was coming.
In the year 336 B.C., Alexander, son of Philip II, King of the Greek city-state Macedonia ascended the throne. Although he was only twenty years old, he was a brilliant commander. By the age of thirty, he had conquered all the then-known world from Europe, to Egypt, to the borders of India, unifying his kingdom through the the religion known as Hellenism. Alexander the Great died an untimely death at the age of thirty-three without an heir, and his empire was passed to his four generals who geographically divided the vast empire into four parts: Seleucus ruled Syria and Eastern Asia Minor, Ptolemy ruled Egypt, Lysimachus ruled Thrace and Western Asia Minor (Turkey), and Cassander ruled Macedonia and Greece. Because of her strategic location between Syria and Egypt, the land bridge between the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, control of Israel became key to dominance in the region. For two centuries, Israel found herself at the center of the storm.
In 171 B.C. a cruel, harsh, savage tyrant named Antiochus IV came to the Seleucid throne in Syria. Clothed in pride, he believed he was deity in the flesh, and named himself Antiochus Theos Epiphanes (Antiochus, the visible god). He was known as the “madman.” His desire was to “hellenize” his region in an attempt to unify the many religions, cultures, and languages, as in the days of Alexander the Great.
Hellenism was far more than just Greek philosophy and ordered society–it was built around Greek religion, deifying nature, and creating a pantheon of mythological gods. Two political factions developed within Israel. The Orthodox party who was committed to preserving the Judaism and the pure worship of the God of Israel, and the “progressive” Hellenist party who had little concern for the faith of their fathers and saw only the economic and social advantages of appearing enlightened and civilized. This group willingly abandoned the holy covenant.
In 168 B.C., Antiochus ordered his general to destroy Jerusalem. Houses were burned, walls of the city were breached, and tens of thousands were sold into slavery. Antiochus then turned his attention to Mount Zion. Syrian forces smashed the gates, and stripped the Temple of its golden vessels and treasures. On Kislev 15, Antiochus erected an idol of Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greek pantheon, on the Holy altar! Then on the birthday of Zeus (December 25), Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the altar–the ultimate abomination of the Jewish mind, strictly forbidden by the law of God. Antiochus sprinkled it’s blood over the Holy of Holies, and poured its broth over the holy scrolls before cutting them to pieces and burning them. The sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, and the nation was left utterly desolate. Furthermore, an edict was issued forbidding the practice of Judaism on pain of death and was enforced with house searches. If Sabbath was observed, dietary laws kept, circumcision performed, or scrolls of the law found, the whole family was put to death. Babies were hung around their mother’s necks, and women were thrown from the walls of the cities. During this time of intense suffering and persecution, the faithful fled to the wilderness to live in caves, and they were hunted like animals. Thousands sacrificed their lives to remain faithful to their one true God. The writer of Hebrews mentioned these godly believers who stood against Antiochus Epiphanes when he recorded, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection…of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise” (Heb. 11 :35-39).
One day in the tiny village of Modin (about 17 miles northwest of Jerusalem), a Syrian detachment entered and built a pagan altar to Zeus. The townspeople were assembled, and an aged priest, the great-grandson of Hasmon, a descendant of Jehoiarib, was singled out to offer a sacrificial pig to the Greek gods. He was the father of five sons–John, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and Jonathan. “Never!” he replied. At that moment, an apostate priest approached the altar and requested permission to offer the pig. Righteous indignation stirred in the heart of Mattathias and he ripped the sword from the Syrian officer and killed him. He then rushed forward and killed the apostate Jew leaving him to bleed on the altar. All five sons simultaneously engaged and slew the remaining soldiers in the commotion. They quickly pulled down the altar, and leaving all possessions behind, fled to the hills of Judea. The revolt had begun.
Daily the faithful band grew as the word of the rebellion spread. They engaged in guerrilla warfare, attacked Syrian outposts, destroyed pagan altars, and chastised apostate sympathizers. Within the year, the aged Mattathias grew sick and died. On his deathbed, leadership was passed to his son Judah, a military genius in his own right. He was called the Maccabee, meaning “hammer”. For three years the revolt raged until the Maccabees gradually frustrated the Syrian occupation. Finally, in open battle, they secured the victory at Beth-horon and Emmaus, opening the road to Jerusalem. There, in Jerusalem, they began to cleanse the Sanctuary. They removed the defilement of the Greek idol, and rebuilt the holy altar on Kislev 25, exactly 3 years to the day from it’s defilement.
In Israel today on the eve of Hanukah, marathon runners are sent to the village of Modin to light flaming freedom torches from the Hanukkah menorah there and carry them to Jerusalem where a procession is held at the Western Wall of the Temple to kindle the great menorah. This ceremony is not only a reminder of freedom but represents thee spirit of martyrdom which made it possible. Hanukkah stands today as a heroic reminder of courageous and enduring faith in God. This one quality…FAITH…is what God is looking for in men and women today. You are probably in a situation right now where you have the opportunity to stand in faith. Why does God lead us into these opportunities? The answer is because He is pleased with those who put their trust steadfastly in Him, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6). Heaven has a hall of fame for those who are willing to stand through difficult, adverse times in faith and seek God and believe in Him. God is faithful, and we can trust Him. Satan was trying to destroy God’s Word, and HIs people through assimilation and annihilation. He was trying to prevent the Messiah from coming, and from dying for us. We would have been forever lost in sin, forsaken forever. Today, we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us as we remember Hanukkah and we rededicate every part of ourselves to Him during this blessed season. Thank you Jesus Christ for who you are. You are the King of Kings! You are the Lord of Lords! Hallelujah! And YOU SHALL REIGHN FOR EVER AND EVER AMEN!!
This story was written from the book “The Feasts of the Lord” by Kevin Howard, and Marvin Rosenthal.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!