More than two thousand years ago, Israel was under the oppression of the Syrian-Greeks. The Jewish people were under threat of death if they refused to assimilate and abandon their faith and traditions. But under the leadership of a righteous priest Mattathias and his five sons (the Maccabees), the Jewish people rose up and defeated their enemies. Upon their victory, the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem and found the Holy Temple defiled and in ruins. They cleaned and purified the building, the altar, and the vessels, lit the lamps and rededicated the Temple to God.
In remembrance of these miraculous events, we celebrate Hanukkah—the festival of dedication.
The First Hanukkah
The first Hanukkah story bears a striking parallel to modern times. Some two thousand years after the events of the Maccabees, the Jewish people - at the time dispersed across the earth - began to return to their homeland. They found it a wasteland covered with deserts and swamps. In addition, they faced harassment and attacks from hostile neighbors. Yet the Jewish people persevered and built a beautiful nation. Today, despite the condemnation and threats from all sides, Israel stands as a light to the world. It could be nothing less than the hand of God that has brought them home and made them a strong nation.
Hanukkah reminds us of the men and women who take a stand for what is right and give their all for the miracle that is Israel.
The Calling TodayToday, God is once again calling those who love the God of Israel and yearn for the fulfilment of the promises and covenants given to Israel—and through them to the Nations—to rise up and do the same. The words of the prophets still speak to us today:
“For I have… raised up your sons, O Zion,
Against your sons, O Greece,
And made you like the sword of a mighty man.”
Then the Lord will be seen over them,
And His arrow will go forth like lightning.
The Lord God will blow the trumpet,
And go with whirlwinds from the south.
The Lord of hosts will defend them…
The Lord their God will save them in that day,
As the flock of His people.
For they shall be like the jewels of a crown,
Lifted like a banner over His land—
For how great is its goodness
And how great its beauty!