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By Rev SEIK PITOI
For those studying the Bible and the Feasts set apart by God for His people, they will find it strange that a commonly celebrated feast by Jews today doesn’t even exist in the Lev 23 line-up.
From Passover to Tabernacles, there is no mention of this feast in the Old Testament. The reason is that the event happened in the inter-testamental period, approximately 165 BC. So in the time of our Lord Jesus, the feast was being observed, but by another name – the Feast of Dedication. ‘
Today, we know it as Chanukah. Even the Lord Himself observed this feast because of its significance to His coming sacrifice on Calvary! The New Testament records it thus:
“It was winter, and the Festival of the Dedication of the Temple was being celebrated in Jerusalem. Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Porch in the Temple…” (John 10:22-23).
The feast is to commemorate the time when a Syrian king named Antiochus invaded the Jewish nation and forced the people to abandon God and His ways. This act of “Helenisation” meant that the Greek customs would be imposed on the people, including idolatry. It also meant the people were forbidden to practice their Jewish religion which includes circumcision and other sacred practices.
To make sure that no one could worship in the Temple, the king placed idols in it and even sacrificed a sow (female pig) on the altar! This act of abomination was accompanied by an order to be worshiped by the people, and he took the title of “Epiphanes”, meaning, “God manifested”!
In this dark period of Israel’s history, God raised up a family called the Maccabees (meaning ‘hammer’), who waged a successful rebellion against Antiochus and drove the Syrians out of Israel. The high point of this victory was the rededication of the defiled temple in Jerusalem.
In order to do that, they had a big problem. They saw that the great menorah (candelabrum) had no consecrated oil for it to light for the required eight days. They only had enough oil for one day. Because they were desperate to make sure that the rededication took place, they went ahead and lit it on the first day while preparing some oil for the remaining days. They knew it would certainly go out after the first day. But to their surprise, the menorah continued to burn for the full eight days, giving them time to make some more consecrated oil.
This is one of the miracles of the event, and the NT Feast of Rededication is to commemorate this great victory.
Without going into too much detail, we can apply some important points from this story:
• The rededication of the temple is a reminder of God’s power to keep His covenants to preserve His people, Israel. His calling of Israel was for them to be the vessel to bring forth the Messiah into the world. The devil tried to destroy them since Genesis to defeat God’s plan of salvation. This was another of those plans – but it too failed!
• The timing and location of Christ’s birth was set in place by God, to be effected “at the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4). The rulers of the people were to be Rome, not Syria. And the dedication of Jesus was to be done in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, (Luke 2:28) – not in a desecrated Syrian temple! Nothing Antiochus could do could change God’s plans. When you are in Christ, God is sovereign over you. As you walk with Him, nothing from the enemy can divert you away from His perfect plan for your life.
• The desire to rededicate the temple to God brought about the miracle. Likewise, our bodies are God’s temple (1 Cor 6: 19) and must not be desecrated by the filth of this world, but must be fully dedicated to Him. When we give our lives totally to Him, we can expect His miracle to keep our spiritual ‘fire’ ever burning!
• Chanukah is also known as the Festival of Lights because of the miracle of the menorah. Jesus referred to Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and charges His followers, saying: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt 5:14). Just as Christ came to shine the light of salvation and hope in a sin-darkened world, we too are commissioned by Him to go out and shine our lights into our worlds of influence.
The Jewish date for this event was the 25th day of the month of Kislev, our December. This year, it was celebrated from Sunday, Dec 2 to Monday, Dec 10.
Is there any connection with Christmas?
Firstly, without the victory of Chanukah, there would be no Christmas! The victory and dedication of the Temple was necessary for the ministry of the Messiah.
Moreover, scholars tell us Jesus’ conception may have taken place on Chanukah (possibly December 25 at that time) and His birth would have been nine months later in September, during Feast of Tabernacles.
While that would tally up with other indicators, I should stress that the issue should not split the Body of Christ.
No Christian should look down on another Christian because he celebrates Christmas. I believe the important issue is to determine what the reason for our celebration is, and who it is all about.
Finally, while the world celebrates in their own way, Christians should use the occasion to “shine the light” of God’s love in our communities and villages, and tell others about the real meaning of Christmas.
I do hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your families and are looking forward to a prosperous 2019!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.
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