John 10:16 Other sheep I have which are not of this fold;
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice,
and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
Not only has winter officially arrived, it has coincided with the first day of Hanukkah which began Sunday night at sundown. I have put up other entries occasionally to recognize the holiday but this time I wanted to give a little more comprehensive overview of what Hanukkah is about historically and symbolically, especially this year. More importantly, I wanted to give my readership a basic idea of what Hanukkah means to me as a Christian. Many Christians do not know what I’m about to impart because it involves a part of the history of the Jewish people which is not covered in the Bible but the Talmud. Because of this, people may think the two faiths are mutually exclusive but in truth, that isn’t possible. Never before in history have both schools been more intrinsic because of impending prophecies to be fulfilled and this is why I decided to write about it.
I don’t know how many gentiles (non-Jewish persons) know the difference between a regular menorah and a hanukiah but most of what is known by people, in general, about the Jewish holy days- which, in this case, lasts exactly eight days- is immaterial fluff such as Hanukkah gelt (chocolate medallions wrapped in gold foil) for children and spinning a dreidel, which actually is a teaching toy for kids learning the Hebrew alphabet.
(Ironical traditions for an ancient religion continuing to struggle for public relevance in a world bent on trivializing all religious observance. I’m not saying that those two traditions don’t have their place, either! As a matter of fact, during this Festival of Lights, specific songs and hymns are sung, the candles are blessed before lighting with prayers and some participants have unique family traditions in the strict orthodox community.) I would impress on anyone who is concerned about showing respect for all religions that this information is very important; Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, Catholics and Methodists alike should sit up and take note. Non-Christians are not exempt if they wish to show respect for people of faith.
A standard menorah is depicted as a part of the coat-of-arms of Israel which I’m sure many people have seen on postage stamps. It consists of seven vessels on top of seven candleholders with the elongated servant lamp in the center and three semi-circular branches which adds up to seven candleholders, total. The servant (Shamash) lamp denotes the precedence of the Messiah. You will see the Shamash, always, on all menorahs. On Israel’s modern coat-of-arms the menorah is flanked by two long olive branches attached to the Hebrew word for Israel underneath the base of the menorah. They are ‘rooted in the word’ and this is important because it is meant to imply the oil from them continually supplies fuel for the lamps (or candles). Those olive branches are chronicled in Revelation 11:4 and Zechariah chapter 4 for those who think there is no correlation between Jesus and the messiah.
The hanukiah is a special menorah which has nine lamps- consisting of a Shamash and four semi-circular branches (eight, total, on either side of it) – originally a commemoration of events of (ca.) 163-165 BC. when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of Syria, attempted to suppress the Jewish people by forbidding them to practice the rituals of the Law of Moses. He issued decrees against observance of the Sabbath, all feast days, circumcision and many important Jewish rites. His most crushing act was destroying copies of the Torah publicly. That’s not all.
His next act was to set up one of his own idols in their temple- that of Zeus- for them to worship and placed at the altar where the Jews made burnt offerings to Jehovah. He went himself to offer the meat of a pig which would desecrate the altar and the temple. Afterward, he ordered them to make the same offering on the 25th of every month which would coincide with his own birth day. These actions set off what is historically known as the Maccabean Revolt in which they annihilated his armies.
Afterward, on the 24th day of Kislev (usually part of December; in 2005 it landed right on Christmas day) of 165 BC the Temple was cleansed and rededicated. This became the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. Presently, the House of Shammai hanukiah tradition is to light the Shamash and one other candle on the first night and then an additional candle is added each night until, after eight days, all of the candles are lit for the final night totaling nine as opposed to the usual number of seven with a regular menorah. The Hanukkah miracle centers on the lack of supply of consecrated oil available on the first rededication of the temple, so many years ago. Even though it was only enough for one day, the oil supply lasted for eight days, until new oil could be obtained and consecrated for the temple. In the Jewish faith there is no such thing as a minor miracle (Zechariah 4:10). Also, the anointing that the oil supply and menorah signify gives both Hebrew and Gentile believer great hope through a dynamic which is referred to as grace.
“Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” Zech. 4:7
In the blockbuster book entitled, The Mystery of the Menorah it states that the promise of the headstone refers to Jesus the Christ and the stone which the builders rejected, which also appears in Acts 4:11, is obvious in the sacrifice Jesus endured on the cross. Through his rejection and sacrifice at Calvary a new covenant (Matthew 26:28) was instituted ushering in the Covenant of Grace. Jesus spoke of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, part of the Trinity, which was recorded in Acts 2 (:4) before he ascended to Heaven in the first chapter of Acts (1:8). Verse 10 and 11 affirms this with two spiritual witnesses who spoke to the apostles after they witnessed Jesus ascension. In Revelation prophecy, two spiritual witnesses show up, again, in chapter 11 with the 3rd and 4th verses.
Many scholars believe these two witnesses (the two olive branches) correspond to the Law and the Prophets exemplified by Moses and Elijah. It is truly a revelation to see that these two exalted offices are poised for temple building, just as in the days of Zerubbabel and that they again take on the role of exhortation and empowerment. This time the dynamic will be in opposition to the antichrist who will claim sole right to the temple and the throne of God! They will stand against him as a protection to the remnant of Jehovah’s faithful and in opposition to the antichrist after losing their lives against the beast (antichrist). As living symbols of Israel’s modern shield these are the two olive branches depicted on Israel’s coat-of-arms. (These are not the only appearances of the two witnesses recorded in the New Testament.)
In conclusion, it is easy to see how much meaning and promise envelops both the Jewish and Christian faiths in the Hanukkah tradition, especially in the present day. This tradition points to bringing all the faithful, Jew and Gentile, together as a body of believers in Jesus as the true Messiah. This is not only actually happening currently, it has been going on for decades! Check out the following ministries: Jews for Jesus (ifcg.org), which was founded in 1983 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. Rabbi Schneider has a T.V. ministry called The Jewish Jesus in a similar vein and a particularly spiritual ministry and outreach is a decades-old show hosted by Sid Roth, a former Jewish agnostic! Another is Jewish Voice hosted by Jonathan Bernis. The 15th chapter of Revelation heralds this movement with the words: “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
Be blessed during these holy days!
Recommended additional reading:
Matthew 5:3-11, Galatians 5:22 (Nine beatitudes, nine fruits of the spirit)
The Mystery of the Menorah and the Hebrew Alphabet
by J.R. Church & Gary Stearman