When asked, “What is the miracle of Chanukkah?” the common response is: “Chanukkah is about a miracle that took place when the Jewish people fought against the Syrians who had invaded Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus and pigs were sacrificed there. The Syrians forbid the Jewish people from practicing Judaism. They intended to wipe out the faith of the Chosen People and assimilate them into their empire.
But, the Maccabees and others courageously resisted, and after three years of fighting they captured Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and lit the golden menorah that gave light inside the Temple. There wasn’t enough oil for the menorah but the oil that was enough for one day miraculously burned for eight days until more oil could be obtained. That’s the miracle of Chanukkah. Nes gadol haya sham! A great miracle happened there!”
There was a Chanukkah miracle but the legend of the oil is not it. It’s not found in the original accounts, and most likely never happened. The miracle of Chanukkah is that a small number of the Chosen People, supernaturally empowered by the God of Israel, were able to overcome the vastly superior Syrian armies. The righteous few overcame the godless many; the weak who were loyal to the true God overcame those who were much stronger than they were.
The faithful remnant of Israel won miraculous victory after miraculous victory, sometimes fighting against armies 15 times larger than they were, until the Syrians were defeated, Jerusalem was captured, the Temple, which was the most important place on Earth, was cleansed and dedicated for the worship of the One True and Living God who alone can rescue fallen human beings from the real and utterly destructive forces of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell.
From the rededicated Temple the light of the God who alone can save mankind from the things we saving from the most, shone once again from Israel to the nations of the world.
This Chanukkah day, I want to focus on one item in the Temple: the golden menorah. The golden menorah was inside the Holy Place of the most holy building on Earth, the place where God manifested His presence on Earth; the place were atonement was made; the place that most clearly showed the principles of grace and atonement and the way of salvation to Israel and the nations of the world.
The menorah was made of a talent of pure gold. A talent is about 75 pounds. With gold at $1240 an ounce, the value of the golden menorah would be $1,488,000. That is one expensive candelabra!
The menorah had seven branches, seven being the number of completion.
It burned olive oil.
Some of the light produced by the menorah reflected off the gold and produced a beautiful, warm golden light.
The menorah was lit every evening and burned throughout the night until the morning. It burned every night, night after night, month after month, year after year for hundreds of years.
The purpose of the menorah was to produce light. We need light to see so we can function the way God designed us to function. Without light, we are unable to see. We are unable to do many things. Without light, we bump into things, hurt ourselves, stumble in the darkness. I’ve done that quite a few times.
Darkness represents chaos, confusion, unhappiness, defeat, death. The world is shrouded in spiritual darkness. We are confused about the most important things – about God, about truth, about salvation, about the meaning of life. We are unhappy, defeated, dying.
Just as we need light to function the way God designed us to function, we need spiritual light to be what God wants us to be. Light represents God’s presence, truth, revelation, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, holiness, purity, victory, salvation, happiness and life.
The Word of God connects God with light. It tells us that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. He is pure light. He is pure truth. He is completely holy. He is all wise.
He covers Himself with light as with a cloak. He lives in unapproachable light. He is the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. He never changes. He never deviates from truth or wisdom or holiness.
God is the source of light – truth, revelation, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, holiness, purity, victory, salvation, happiness and life. He designed the light to emanate from Him, be mediated by the priests of Israel, go to the people of Israel (the Lord is my light and my salvation. You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness. In Your light we see light); and then go from Israel to the nations of the world. Nations will come to your light (referring to Israel), and kings to the brightness of your rising. God created Israel to be a light to the nations, who were and are and will continue to be in much darkness.
The Jewish people understood this. That’s why the menorah has been a symbol of the Jewish people since ancient times. Today, the menorah is at the center of the emblem of the state of Israel.
In 70 AD, the temple was destroyed by the Romans. The golden menorah was taken to Rome. The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts a scene of Roman soldiers carrying away the spoils of the Second Temple – in particular, the seven-branched menorah.
After 70 AD, there was no temple and no menorah. Was the light of Israel extinguished? No. Far from it. The light has been intensified in the Messiah!
The Son of God came into the world through incarnation. Now that Yeshua the Messiah has come into the world, He is the light of God shining in a dark world. He is the menorah.
The menorah was made of gold. Gold is rare. Gold is valuable. Gold never tarnishes. Yeshua is gold – rare, exceedingly precious, holy, sinless.
The menorah had seven branches which each burned oil. Oil is a symbol of the Spirit of God. The number seven is the number of completion. Yeshua was and is full of the sevenfold Spirit of God. Isaiah prophesied of Him: The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. The sevenfold Spirit filled and continues to fill Messiah so that He was and is completely able to do everything God has appointed Him to be – the Messiah; the King of Israel; the King of the nations; the Savior of the world; the Judge of the world; the Lord of all.
The menorah produced light. Yeshua is the greatest light, who shone on the people of northern Israel first, as Isaiah said He would. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. And it did. Before Yeshua came into the world, the Father, speaking to the Son, said in Isaiah 42: I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations. And again in Isaiah 49: It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the Earth.
After He arrived, John said of Him: He is the light of all mankind. Whatever light any of us have, it comes from Yeshua. And John added: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There is a war raging between light and darkness, good and evil, God and the good angels and Satan and the fallen angels. Yeshua is the light that is stronger than the darkness. The darkness will never be able to overcome Him. He will overcome the darkness. For us to overcome the darkness, the confusion, chaos, unhappiness, defeat, death, we must come to Yeshua. For us to experience the full measure of God’s presence, truth, wisdom, revelation, victory, salvation, happiness and life, we must become loyal to Yeshua.
Righteous Simeon, when the Holy Spirit was on him, said of Yeshua: He is a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of the people of Israel. If people throughout the world know much about Israel, or pray to the God of Israel, or read the Bible, or have experienced salvation from their sins and have the hope of eternal life – and over the centuries, hundreds of millions have – it is because of the light that has come from Yeshua. He has become the light of revelation to the Gentiles!
And even though most of us don’t know it, far from being a source of shame for Israel, Yeshua is our greatest source of honor. Rabbi Hyman Enelow, who was not a Messianic rabbi, observed that Yeshua “has become the most renowned, most studied and most influential figure in the history of mankind. The love He has inspired, the comfort He has given, the good He has engendered, the hope and joy He has kindled are unequaled in human history. No Jewish person should be indifferent to the fact that this one Jewish man has had such a tremendous part in the religious history of mankind.” Yeshua truly has become the glory of the people of Israel – and when He returns He will be the glory of the people of Israel even more.
Yeshua understood that He was the light. He declared: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. And He said: I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. I don’t want to walk in darkness. I don’t want to remain in the darkness. I want the light that produces life.
The One who is the light of the world completed His mission and left this world. He ascended to Heaven, where He is right now, seated at the right hand of God the Father. The One who is the light of the world wants us to be filled with His Spirit and continue His mission, continue preaching His message, continue shining His light in a world that is still very dark, and in some ways getting darker. He said: You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. In ancient times it was common to build a town on a hill. A town built on a hill was highly visible, either by day or at night when it was illuminated by fires or lamps. Either by day or by night, a town built on a hill was highly visible. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. The purpose of a lamp is to give light. It makes no sense to light a lamp and put it under a bowl. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. Just as a town built on a hill is highly visible, and just as a lamp is meant to give light to everyone in the house, the followers of Yeshua are to let the spiritual light we have shine.
Light represents God’s presence. The Holy Spirit is God’s Presence. We are to be filled with the Spirit of God. Then filled with the Spirit of God, we live pure and holy lives, help people in practical ways and proclaim the Good News to those around us. We look for opportunities to have conversations with people about God, about the Messiah, about the way of salvation, about eternal life.
Today is Chanukkah, the holiday of the dedication of the Temple. Won’t you dedicate yourself to being a temple for God’s Spirit to live in?
Today is the festival of lights. Won’t you dedicate yourself to being a menorah? To being a light of the world like Yeshua is the light of the world? To carrying on Yeshua’s ministry, His mission in this world? To preaching His message of salvation, His gospel, to everyone you can? What could be more important than that?
Heavenly Father, I confess that for many of us, our lights aren’t shining brightly enough. My prayer, this Chanukkah, is that where there is darkness in us, it is replaced with Your light, with Your presence, with truth, revelation, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, holiness, purity, victory, salvation, happiness and life.
Help us be little Yeshuas, little menorahs, little lights in this world. So work in us that our light shines brightly before others, so that they are able to see our good deeds and hear our good words and glorify our Father in Heaven.