To the average non-Jewish Christian, why would the festival of Hanukkah be significant?
While it is true that the events of Hanukkah are not part of the Cannon of Scripture, the struggle of the Hasmoneans is the same struggle that is played out in different forms throughout history. That struggle is for those who believe and trust in God to take a stand for Biblical values against what society is trying to desecrate, defame or even to destroy all together.
After the end of the Babylonian captivity, there was a remnant of Jews who returned to the Land of Israel which we read about in books such as Ezra and Nehemiah. This restoration of the Jews to their Land did not include an independent state, but a form of limited self-government along with a continued dominance of the empires of their time. When the Babylonian and Persian empires declined, the Greek empire under Alexander the Great filled the power vacuum. With the Greeks in control, the Jews living in Israel came under increasing pressure to assimilate with Greek culture and adopt their ways. The culturally dominant Greeks viewed Biblical beliefs as outdated. By forcing everyone to adopt Greek culture and values there would be peace within the empire. It was very similar to the secular worldview of today which holds that wars are caused by ‘religious people’ who have no tolerance for others. The false conclusion is that if ‘religious’ people would be less ‘intolerant’ and more “open-minded, everyone could live in peace.
The Greek oppression through laws and government against Biblical values reached a place of public desecration of all the traditions which the Jews held to be holy. Many laws like the sacrifice of pigs on the altar at the Temple of Jerusalem and outlawing the study of Scripture finally brought about open rebellion against the Greeks and their rule. In 165 B.C. the Hasmonean family of Mattityahu the High Priest and his son Judah organized a revolt leading to the eviction of the Greeks from Judea and restoring Jewish control over the Temple at Jerusalem. But in the process of the purification of the Temple for worship, they found only one day’s worth of oil to light the menorah of the Temple. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days, enough time to get new oil for the worship in the Temple. This is commemorated by the lighting of the candles during the days of the feast of Hanukkah.
We know that almost 200 years later, the Jews still commemorated the liberation because the Gospel of John mentions Jesus in Jerusalem during the festival of Hanukkah:
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:22-24, NKJV)
In our day, we must remember that the struggle of man for the freedoms we enjoy ought not to be taken for granted. There is a war of culture going on, and wherever we live, we have a part to play in maintaining Biblical values and the freedom to worship God. The blessings we may enjoy now because of Biblical foundations our society was founded on, can easily erode away without our realization that it has even happened.
What is your calling? How are you engaged in this battle to hold on to Biblical values?
In this Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), is God placing a call on you to be involved? To use your time, energy and resources to bring an advancement of His Kingdom?
Don’t sit on the sidelines of this battle. Let God lead you into an adventure of being available to be of service in His higher calling.
May His light shine on your path as you answer His call.