Written by my friend Aaron Gann, reproduced here with permission.
Tonight, as we light the candles and stare into the lights, let us focus on another aspect of Hanukkah: Dedication.
The central focus of Hanukkah is that of dedication, indeed that is what the very word means. It is a time when we remember that the Maccabees, those brave souls who dared to take a stand against the tyrant king Antiochus, cleansed and dedicated again the Holy Temple of the Lord. Last night we talked about resisting the world, tonight we will talk about what happened after they resisted, fought back, and won.
The rebellion that began in Modi ‘in last for about three years before they were able to return to capture the Holy City of Jerusalem. Three years spent hiding and ambushing. Hammering them in one place and then another, as a wrecking crew tears down a wall. Therefore, they were given the name of Maccabees, for they hammered their foes wherever they struck. However, even though they successfully resisted and fought back, it did not undo the damage that had been done.
When they entered the temple compound of Jerusalem, it was hardly recognizable as the holy place it had once been. A place that had been completely dedicated to The Lord. In its place stood a disaster: objects smashed, gold stripped, the altar covered with pigs’ blood and a statue of the pagan god Zeus, which stood in mockery over the altar. The temple of the Lord was no more. For all the fighting that they had done, it was for nothing if the Temple was ruined.
However, the Maccabees did not allow that to deter them from their goal. Instead, they immediately began to clean it, washing away the destruction that had been caused by their enemies. They tore down the statues, washed the walls, cleaned the altar, and began working on that which had been destroyed. They did not allow themselves to be defeated, even in the face of so much death and hatred against The Lord.
Tonight, as we stare into the candles, let us remember that our lives were once as this temple. Jew or Gentile, we were all lost and desecrated before God. Lost in our sin and dedicated to the world. Let us remember tonight that it is Yeshua who has promised that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). That just as the Maccabees did not stop until all the work was complete, so too has He promised to finish the good work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
Written by my friend Aaron Gann, reproduced here with permission.
Tonight, let us focus upon one of the major themes of Hanukkah: Resisting the world.
As we read in last’s night story, the Jewish people faced a dangerous foe, one more dangerous than any that had been encountered before. More dangerous than any Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar. More dangerous than any battle they had been in. For this enemy was not something tangible, a force of evil that could be resisted as a person, this was a foe that crept into the hearts of the people even before they themselves knew it.
When Israel was under Greek control, they began to come under the influence of Greek culture through a process called Hellenization. What this did was assimilate all that they once held dear, things that were basic foundations to their faith and began to replace them with the things that the world held dear. The latest fashion became more important than prayer, Greek philosophers such as Aristotle began to become as highly regarded, if not more so, than the works of Solomon. They even began to speak Greek as their own tongue, and many were unable to read or understand the scriptures in the way they were written in Hebrew.
The People that God had chosen had begun to lose their way of life, their way of being. Instead, giving into the world’s idea of what a person should be, becoming tolerant of things that had been understood as abhorrent to The Lord. However, The Lord did not call them to be like the world, though they were very much in it. He called them to be a peculiar people, a distinct people, a people whose lives centered around The Lord and His glory.
Tonight, as we stare at the lights of the Menorah. Let us remember that as believers in Yeshua, we too are called to be a peculiar people. We have become children of the Most High (John 1:12-13). Paul picks up this point in his letter to the Church in Rome where He writes,
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Today this idea is exceedingly difficult to obtain, we are constantly bombarded with all forms of media and advertisements which tell us what to say, do, think, and practice in our own lives. We measure our values of success based upon what the world says it is. We are called out on our faith by people who hate the very idea of God and are labeled as intolerant bigots for refusing to let go of what is deemed as archaic values. However, the Lord has not called us to be worldly people with a taste of Yeshua. Rather, we ourselves are to be a peculiar people in the world. A people that are distinct from the things around them.
Does this mean that we are to go into hiding, exiling ourselves away from the outside world? By no means, for one of the greatest commissions that The Lord has given us is to go into the world making Disciples and telling people of His glory, not just verbally, but in every action we do.
Tonight, as we celebrate the second night of Chanukah, let us be transformed, our minds renewed towards Him, our Lord and Saviour so that in these dark times, we may know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Written by my friend Aaron Gann, reproduced here with permission.
TLDR: They tried to kill us, we survived, lets eat.
Tonight, starts the Feast of Dedication, Chanukah. During these next eight days, we will celebrate the miracles that God performed on our behalf, eat fried foods, and tell the story of the Maccabees, a family of Jewish believers who refused to be assimilated into the worldly culture of the Hellenistic Greco-Syrians and instead initiated a rebellion against the antichrist-like figure Antiochus Epiphanies. It is also a time of reflection as we remember that our Messiah, Yeshua, our Eternal High Priest, is called the Light of the World and that we who follow Him will never walk in darkness. We remember that just as the Maccabees refused to forsake their God for the world, so too are we, “in the world but not of the world.”
Tonight, let us tell the story of Hanukkah.
It was a time of looming darkness; it had not been long since Israel had finally returned from the seventy long year exile of the Babylonian/Persian Empires. They had come back and rebuilt the temple and had enjoyed a time of prosperity. A time of relative peace in which they could freely worship The Lord and offer the sacrifices on the altar, so long as they lived under Persian rulership as a vassal state. But, as all earthly empires do, the Persian empire fell to the new power of the Greeks under a man by the name of Alexander the Great.
How the Greeks ruled was vastly different from the Persian Empire, which allowed people to govern themselves, instead they instigated a practice known as Hellenization. In short, Alexander began to Greekify the populace of those that he conquered. These nations would learn to speak Greek, study Greek Philosophers, go to see Greek sports and worship Greek gods. By doing so, the people would willingly follow the Greek rulers as, after the first or second generation, they became unrecognizable from the people who had conquered them in culture.
However, things were different with Jerusalem, when Alexander had begun his march against the holy city, legend has it that the high priest went out to meet him, paying him homage. He then proceeded to tell Alexander how their prophets had written about him and that they were fully aware of his coming. Alexander was so flattered, so the legend goes, that he allowed them to retain their culture, language, and worship, they simply had to offer a sacrifice to God on his behalf. Unfortunately, Alexander died, as all men do, in his early thirties and without heirs.
His kingdom, therefore, was divided amongst his four generals; Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. Though all four play a special role in history, they two most important ones are the last two, the Ptolemies in the south and the Seleucids in the north of the Land of Israel.
Israel was originally under the control of the Ptolemies in the south and now closely related to Egypt. It was during this period of Jewish history that the influence of Hellenization that had been delayed under Alexander was now beginning to take root. Not by force, but voluntarily. Many Jewish people began to dress in Greek clothes, use Greek mannerisms and even had abandoned their language in favor of Greek. It was during this phase that the Greek translation of the Torah, what we know as the Septuagint or the LXX, was written.
The Seleucid Empire, however, began to make war with the Ptolemies and eventually captured Israel. Under this dominion came even greater influence of Hellenization and the eventual rise of a man by the name of Antiochus, a general king who would cause some of the worst persecution that the Jewish people have ever known.
Antiochus was a narcissistic man who gave himself the name Epiphanies, a name which conveyed godlike illustriousness. In short, he believed himself be like a god. Unlike Alexander who left the Jewish people alone, Antiochus began forcing Hellenization upon them. He set up Greek events and stationed a Hellenistic high priest in the temple, and the Jewish people began to split between themselves, would they agree with this new way of life or stay true to the law that God had given them?
This conflict between the Jewish people culminated after one of the most humiliating experiences Antiochus had ever faced. Antiochus had begun a new campaign against the Egyptians in the south, but unbeknownst to him, they had established an alliance with the growing empire of Rome. Antiochus was met by a Roman General who told him to stop everything that he had been doing and turn back home. Antiochus, extremely dishonored told the man that he needed time to decide and the man simply, drew a circle around Antiochus, telling him to take all the time he needed but he was not to step out of the circle until an answer was given. Antiochus, realizing that he could not defeat two empires on separate fronts decided to retreat. And so, this man who reckoned himself to be like a god, was told what he could and could not do by a mere soldier and was forced to retreat in shame.
Back in Jerusalem a rumor had begun that Antiochus, rather than being forced to retreat, had been killed. Those who had despised what Antiochus had begun doing to their people began to rejoice, holding festivals and throwing down the high priest he has established, reinstating their own proper priest. Antiochus marched back by the city and saw what had transpired, and so his fury was kindled against the Jewish people more than it ever had been before.
He marched into the city and declared to them to join him or die and began to tear apart the things in the temple, destroying the precious objects. He set up a statue of Zeus over the altar and sacrificed a pig, an animal that was strictly unclean and not be sacrificed. He made it illegal to practice anything from The Law. No circumcision, no Torah reading, no Sabbath, no worship of any god other than his. Those who defied these laws were executed in painful, often humiliating, ways to establish fear. There were many martyrs during this time. The rest of the people, the ones who agreed with Hellenization joined Antiochus and became prominent men in his empire.
After his victory in Jerusalem, he ordered his men to go from town to town, erecting altars and forcing the priest, or synagogue leader, to sacrifice a pig upon this altar, thus swearing their allegiance to the Antiochus and his gods. However, in a little town of Modi ‘in, a man by the name of Mattathias, an elderly priest, refused. This prompted another young man in the crowd, who was in favor of Antiochus, to make the sacrifice instead. Mattathias slew him and the Seleucid general before the sacrifice could be made, and He and his sons began a revolt against the Seleucids in what became known as the Modi‘in revolt.
Mattathias, being an old man, passed away shortly after the rebellion began and his son, Judah, took over. Judah and his men began a series of Guerilla tactics against the Greek armies and began driving them back. Thus, he was given the title Maccabee which means “the Hammer” because he hammered the Greeks wherever he struck. This went on for three and a half years, but eventually, they were able to make their way into Jerusalem and when they saw the desolation, the Maccabees began to clean it. They toppled the statue and washed the altar, and decided that because they were unable to celebrate Sukkot in its proper time, they decided to celebrate it now on the 25th of Kislev, which was an eight-day festival.
Later Jewish tradition also tells us of another miracle that occurred. When it came time to light the Menorah, the seven-branched lampstand that stood in the Holy Place, they could only find one jar of oil, which would only last one day. The problem also was that it took eight days to prepare this special oil and so if they lit it now, it would be unable to burn perpetually as God had commanded, however they decided to light it regardless, in order to rededicate the temple fully and this one jar of oil lasted not one day, but all eight until more oil could be prepared for use.
Thus, we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days, to remember the miracles that God performed on behalf of the Maccabean army, as realistically they should not have been as successful as they were, that they were able to cleanse the temple at all and that He caused the oil to last a miraculous amount of time.
Some months ago I decided to retire my 2-year-old blog. At first I thought it would be temporary, and then two things happened: 1) I accidentally let my domain name lapse, and 2) I needed a break. I kept a backup, but wasn’t inclined to bring anything back.
Since then, my wife bought me this new domain name.
I’ve decided to make this new blog an eclectic collection of all my writings and favorite photographs going forward. Hope some of you enjoy it!