Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rambling Hanukkah Thoughts

I am sitting here just hours before Hanukkah is to begin, with lots of thoughts swirling in my head. So I am going to try and write them down here. I guess what I am saying is, don't expect to read a clearly-written essay here on Hanukkah.

I am surrounded by Christmas, everywhere I go. Really, it gets to be a bit much for me. For several years now, I have chosen not to celebrate it, for reasons that are hashed out elsewhere on this blog.  One thing I will reiterate it about Christmas though, is its non-biblical Babylonian-Greco-Roman origins. Tuck that away while we look at Hanukkah. The word means Dedication.

The origins of Hanukkah go all the way back to the book of Daniel.  Daniel prophesied that a great one would arise but then die young, and this happened to Alexander the Great. The prophecy continued and said that kingdom would be divided among four leaders. It was.

Two of those leaders, the Ptolemy regime of Egypt, and the Selucid regime of Syria, were constantly fighting one another. (See Daniel's discussion about the king of the north and the king of the south in chapter 11... these details were fulfilled with amazing precision).

If you look at a map of the Middle East today, you will see the northern country of Syria (smaller than back then but still there) the southern country of Egypt. And going back to our story, you can't help but notice just who is caught in the crossfire of these two warring kingdoms.

One of the descendants of the original Greek-Syrian Selucid king was Antiochus IV. He hated the Glorious Land and wanted to wipe out the Jews, or at the very least, he wanted to Hellenize them... make them into Greeks.  He hated that they were different, set apart, and that they would only worship יהיה, the One True God.

So evil was Antiochus that he desecrated the holy temple, sacrificed a pig on the altar, and demanded that the Jews worship HIM.

Enter the Maccabees.  The family of Yehuda ben Mattathias of Modi'in led a rebellion against the Syro-Grecian invaders, and prevailed against massive odds. Maccabee means hammer, and this small band of devout Jews totally hammered the Greeks.

The Grecian influence, at least for the, time being, was eradicated. Once again, the people of God could live a set-apart life to the glory of God, driving out the unholy so that they could live holy.
Holy means set apart. It is the separating of the profane from the sacred. It is to avoid mixing truth with deception.

The problem that remained for the Jews following their great victory was that the holy temple was an unholy mess.

Quickly, the temple was repaired, restored, and made beautiful again. It was time to rededicate it. The story tells us that there was only enough oil to burn in the temple menorah for one day, but that the oil lasted miraculously for eight days, which is how long it takes to prepare new oil for temple service.

Whether this part of the story is true or simply legend, the fact remains that the temple was rededicated for service to יהיה, just as it was originally dedicated by King Solomon in 1 Kings. Back then, they actually had such a blast during that week of dedicating the holy temple that Solomon added a second week of celebrating.

But when that week was over, we read,
"On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the good that the LORD had done for His servant David, and for Israel His people."

There was great joy in the restoration of the holy temple and the eradication of Grecian influence.  And today, WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the breath of the living God!  We have the opportunity, if we so desire, to celebrate this Feast of Dedication known as Hanukkah.  It is not required; Romans 14 makes this clear regarding the Biblical celebrations.  But it truly is a great time to remember and re-dedicate!

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