A Light To The Nations: A Christian Perspective On Hanukkah
It’s that time of the year again, but I am not talking about Christmas here. No, I am referring to another annual event that while not observed by Christians and most of the world for that matter, still is mentioned once in the New Testament and has many things woven into it that Christians can identify with. I am talking about Hanukkah or Chanukah as some may write it. You may ask why would a Christian be concerned with Hanukkah? Or a better question might be to ask is how can we apply it to being disciples of Jesus.
The miracle of Hanukkah occurred during the Maccabean revolt from 167 to 160 BCE in Israel when the Maccabeans, led by Judas Maccabees, led a revolt against the Seleucid Greeks who were in power. The Maccabean revolt was against forced idolatry brought on by the ruling Seleucids. At one point there was only enough oil in the temple to last roughly one day. It was nearly impossible to get oil to the temple due to the Seleucid armies, and further everyone was supposed to be worshipping false idols. There was in essence a civil war going on between Orthodox Jews and Hellenized or Greek Jews. Antiochus has been despised and called the ‘wicked’ by most Jews.
But, the miracle of Hanukkah occurred when the oil that should have only lasted one day, lasted 8 days, and thus the menorah in the Temple Holy place stayed lit. That was the miracle that is celebrated during the ‘eight’ days of Hanukkah. The light of the menorah remained lit. You may ask ‘what is so special about the menorah remaining lit?’ Simply it is to remain lit so that the Holy Place in the Temple will be lit. It is the only source of light and represents to New Testament believers the “Word of God”. The Jewish sages taught that Jerusalem was the ‘light of the world.’
Psalm 119:105 tells us ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.’ God’s Word is the light in each believer’s life and the church as a whole. Further Jesus said in John 8:12 ‘I am the light of the World, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ Jesus not only came to bring light to a dark world but that in each one that believes and follows Him that light will shine. God’s Word is precious and applicable in every situation and sheds light onto each and every problem faced by the world today.
Hanukkah is also known as the ‘feast of dedication.’ It is not one of the 7 feasts mandated in Leviticus, thus, not part of the three times each male was required to go to Jerusalem. Devout Jews and many less devout still observe the 7 feasts. But, it seems everyone is celebrating Hanukkah. Perhaps Jesus celebrated it. In John 10:22 we see that Jesus was in the Temple at the feast of dedication which is also Hanukkah. We don’t know how Jesus observed it but the fact that John mentions it was pretty important. However, more important is we see that Jesus who is the light of the world, is at the Temple at the time when everyone was celebrating the Hanukkah miracle of the Menorah light. There was a greater light there that day and they didn’t even know it.
Still, greater than all of this is the fact that this Menorah light miracle points to something in Israel’s call as a nation. Consider Isaiah 49:6 where God says He will make Israel ‘a light to the nations, so that all of the world may be saved.’ Obviously, that was fulfilled through Jesus. Jesus came as a Jew to His own people, first. He sent them out, at least the ones that received Him. He sent them out to be a ‘light to the nations.’ However, I, along with many others, believe that the nation of Israel will fulfill that promise in the end times. Paul said in Romans 11:26 ‘all Israel will be saved.’ I don’t believe anyone of us can fully grasp what that means and when that will take place.
When the time comes for Israel to say from Jerusalem ‘blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’ and Jesus returns and gathers the sheep and the wheat and establishes His kingdom, somewhere in the midst of all of that, ‘all Israel will be saved.’ The whole world already has all eyes on Israel, but she is not yet a ‘light.’ That is still to come. We must continue to be watchmen for Israel and pray without ceasing. Pray that the whole nation, Jew and Arab will see the ‘light’ of Jesus as their Messiah. One aspect of causing Israel to turn to the Lord is what Paul described in Romans 11:11 where the Gentiles provoke the Jews to jealousy.
The Gentile church has done a poor job at best, of provoking the Jews to jealousy. The church has through the centuries persecuted, murdered, stolen from, and basically everything except to cause the Jewish people to want to turn to Jesus. But, I believe that is changing and I’ve seen it. When the Arabs receive Yeshua or as they call Him Isa, Then the Jews are beginning to ask what is going on? The greatest Revival In Israel and the Middle East is near, right around the corner. Let’s agree that during this Hanukkah season the ‘light of the world’ will bring light to the ones who put ‘a light to the nations’ on their Hanukkah coin (see photo at top). Send the Light to Israel and all the Nations Lord!