Summary: Lessons on effective evangelism from the example of Jesus when he was celebrating Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication).
Fortifying the Foundations # 24
The Jewish Celebration, Hanukkah, began last Friday evening at sundown and will end two days after Christmas. It is an eight-day festival commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 164 B.C. Hanukkah (Chanukah) means dedication.
Hanukkah is sometimes called the Celebration of Lights because the lighting of the Menorah is a prominent part of the event. Menorah means “a place of light”. Unlike the regular Menorah, which is a seven-branched candelabrum, the Hanukkah Menorah contains eight lights, one for each day of the feast and an additional light (making a total of nine). The additional light is called the “Shammas” (servant), which is used to light the other eight. The custom is to burn one candle the first evening, two the second and progressively increase until all eight are lit on the eighth night. Facing the Menorah the first candle to be lit is the one on the far right.
If I were celebrating Hanukkah, the shammas would be very important to me. Remember it is the light that lights all the other lights. The word means “servant”. So every time I take the shammas in hand I would think of The Servant of Isaiah 49:78
“This is what the LORD says--the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel--
to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to THE SERVANT of rulers: Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." NIV
I would think of The Light spoken of in Isaiah 10:17, “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame...” NIV
I would celebrate Jesus, the One Who John declared to be The Light of the World!
What a message there is in the Hanukkah Menorah!
The Menorah is lighted as soon after dark as possible. Then the candles burn for a half hour. While holding the shammas but before lighting the Menorah blessings are recited. On the first night these two blessings are spoken:
The first says,
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to the kindle the Hanukah light.”
To understand the second we must know some of the history behind this feast. The events celebrated at Hanukah occurred during the time between the Old and New Testaments and are briefly recorded the 1st and 2nd Maccabees.
When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC Judea became a buffer zone between Egypt and Syria. After years of conflict in the middle of those two superpowers, Syria finally got possession of Palestine in 198 BC. The Assyrian-Greek regime adopted a policy of hellanization. They believed they could unite their diverse kingdom by forcing everyone to give up their faith and adopt the paganistic Greek customs. The refusal of Jews to renounce their faith and worship idols brought great persecution. The Hitler of that day was a man name Antichous Epiphanes. He forbade the study of the Torah. In fact, the Torah was publicly burned. No circumcision was allowed on penalty of death. No Jewish celebration or sacrifices were allowed at the temple.
In 167 BC Antichous desecrated the temple by offering a pig on its altar and dedicating the temple to the Greek God, Zeus. He plundered the temple and put out the “Ner Tomid” or “Perpetual Light. Ex 27:20 required that the oil from this light be pure and that the light is to never go out. “"And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.”
A priest named Mattathias and his five sons led a revolt against Antichous. They became known as the Maccabee family. After conducting guerrilla warfare against overwhelming odds, his son, Judah Maccabeus drove the Syrians out. On the 25th day of Kislev in 164 BC (exactly 3 years after the defilement of the sanctuary) they entered the temple and rededicated it to the service of God. When they rekindled the light in the temple they found there was only enough oil to last one day. This was significant because the oil had to be pure and prepared under the care of the High Priest and sealed with his seal. It was impossible to prepare it before the eight-day celebration. That’s when a miracle occurred. The oil lasted for the full eight days.
That’s why the second blessing recited on the first day says,
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe who has performed miracles for our fore fathers in those days, at this time.”
The particular miracle celebrated in the lighting of the Menorah is the multiplication of the oil.