November 30, 2021 Prayer Domain Newsletter: Hanukkah 1

Hanukkah

November 30, 2021

Greetings Pray-ers,

Ten years ago I had an opportunity to visit Israel. It truly does change your life. Scriptures come alive when you realize where you are walking is not only where Jesus/Yeshua walked but where many of the Old Testament stories took place. Incredible!

We returned in early fall so when Hanukkah or Chanukah, which takes place on the 25th day of Kislev (this year 11/28/21), came around I was a bit puzzled. Why would people of Jewish faith recognize and celebrate a time not found in the scriptures – right? With the experience of the trip still being very much fresh within me, I decided to do a bit of research. I came upon John 10:22-23: Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Dedication. The word Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew word “chanak” which means, in part, to dedicate. 

As I read the entire passage of John 10:22-42, many questions popped into my mind. The first question was, why was it so important for John to make note of where and when Jesus was walking. I mean – what difference does it make?! Sometimes I have to return to this simple truth that what we read in the scriptures were written basically by Jews, about Jews, for Jews. In other words, I wonder at times if there are “descriptors” left out because the original readers would have already known the background. Now my curiosity juices were really flowing. Why was it important for this to be the introduction to a time when Jesus was about to be stoned.

The Jewish & Roman historian, Josephus, tells us that about 167 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes had control over Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.  He looted and pillaged everything. “And when the king had built an idol altar upon God’s altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country. He also compelled them to forsake the worship which they paid their own God, and to adore those whom he took to be gods.” Many people both Jew & Gentile followed the edicts of Antiochus. However, worship of God was restored after a revolt led by Judas Maccabaeus about three years after the Temple’s defilement. This took place in the month of Kislev – dedicating the Temple back to the Lord. The desecrated altar was destroyed and a new altar created.

I wondered if part of that desecrated altar was still in the Temple some 190-200 years later when we return to our story in John. I wondered if the destroyed altar was a reminder to all who saw it of what will happen when God’s people turn away from Him. I wondered if it was a visual warning to anyone who thought they could usurp God’s Glory; or worse yet, claim to be God.

Let’s go back to Jesus walking in Solomon’s Colonnade – a long walkway in view of the Holy Place which housed the Holy of Holies. John 10:24, The Jews gathered around him saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus then goes into a short list about miracles, belief, sheep knowing his voice, etc. He ends with vs 30: “I and the Father are one.” Verses 31-33 tell of the Jews’ response: Again, the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 

Why were there stones in this area where many Pharisees, religious leaders, the faithful walked each day, where teachings often took place in the coolness of its shade? Why would there be a pile of stones for the Jews to throw unless that pile was to be a reminder of what had taken place less than 200 years prior. Scripture tells us that Jesus was walking at the time of Feast of Dedication. This was the anniversary of the altar’s desecration and the revolt which brought the Temple back under the control of the righteous Jews. The altar’s desecration was precipitated by a king who set himself to be of more importance than God Almighty. And now, Jesus was saying, “I and my Father are one!!!” {emphasis mine}

A part of me understands what took place that day. In the minds of the Jewish people, here was another man, who not unlike Antiochus, was equating himself with God. Blasphemy! Except, Jesus was telling the truth. “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

As people of prayer, may our “plumb lines” be solely attached to our Lord & Savior. There will be plenty of things we will see and hear about that will make sense in the moment, but will have the possibility of distracting us from what we know to be true. The people Jesus encountered at Solomon’s Colonnade were men of faith, conviction and even passion. But they missed that the Son of God was in their midst.

Next week we'll look at why Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. Please consider attending the Purpose Workshop (see below) on Tue, Dec. 14th. I believe you will find it a blessing as you continue to grow in your faith walk with the Lord.

Blessings & Shalom,
Kris 

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