The Real Meaning Of Chanukkah: The Holiday Of The Dedication Of The Temple

When asked, “What is the miracle of Chanukkah?” the traditional response is: “Chanukkah is about a great miracle that took place in Israel when the Jewish people fought against the Syrians who had invaded Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus and unclean pigs were offered there. The Syrians also forbid circumcision and Sabbath observance and the practice of the Torah. They intended to wipe out the faith of the Chosen People. That would have been a disaster for the world, since they alone knew God, had the Bible and through them Messiah the Savior would come. But after three years the Jewish people recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple, and relit the golden menorah that gave light inside the Temple. At first, there wasn’t enough holy oil for the menorah, but a miracle occurred, and 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”!

But that’s not the miracle of Chanukkah! The legend of the oil is not found in the original accounts, and most likely never happened. The real miracle of Chanukkah is that a small number of Jewish people, supernaturally empowered by God, were able to overcome the vastly superior armies of Syria. The righteous few overcame the godless many, and the weak who had faith in the true God overcame those were stronger than they were. They won miraculous victory after miraculous victory until the Syrians were defeated, our capital city of Jerusalem was recaptured, the Temple was cleansed and rededicated for the worship of the One True and Living God who alone can save and rescue and deliver human beings from the very real and utterly destructive forces of Satan, sin and death. From the rededicated Temple the presence of God and the truths of the God who alone can save mankind were one revealed to Israel and the nations of the world!

Chanukkah is about the supernatural victories of the Jewish people and the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The dedication of the Temple was very, very important. The Temple was the most important place on Earth. It was that special place which is what true Torah-Judaism is all about – not the man-made Judaism of today that substitutes synagogues for the Temple, rabbis for priests, and human efforts for the blood of the sacrifices.

The Temple was that very special place where God chose to manifest His presence on Earth in the most profound way – where the Kavod Adonai, the Glorious Presence of the Lord, and the Shechinah – the Dwelling Presence of the Creator were manifested most powerfully on this planet.

The Temple reminds us that the God of Israel is not the kind of God who is distant from His creation, and wants to remain aloof from mankind. He is the kind Supreme Being who wants to be close to us, to be with us, to live with us, to teach us and make atonement possible for us. The Temple enabled the Holy God to live in a limited way among human beings.

We needed the Temple because this fallen world is under the power of the Evil One. The Temple was like the beginning of God’s invasion and recapture of planet Earth, like a little beachhead that He won that had been dominated by enemy forces.

The Temple was that place where the principles of sin and sacrifice and atonement were most clearly presented to a fallen and dying and religiously confused world.

The Temple was the place where bulls, goats, lambs, rams and pigeons were killed, and their blood was spilled, gathered and then sprinkled on the altar by Jewish priests, to make a temporary but real and beneficial atonement for the sins of the nation of Israel.

Chanukkah is about the Temple and its dedication. That was very important. But no matter how important the Temple was, it was not complete. A greater and more important Temple, a Temple more able to save us needed to come – not another building made of gold and silver and wood and stone, but a living human being, made in the image of God; a holy and dedicated man in whom God could live and reveal Himself and provide an even greater atonement for humanity – not a temporary atonement, and not a lesser atonement based on the blood of animals, but a greater and eternal atonement based on the precious blood of the eternal Son of God!

Yeshua is that Greater Temple, that place where God lives and reveals Himself to fallen human beings. Yeshua is that Temple that provides complete and lasting atonement. Yeshua is that Temple where the truth about God and the principles of atonement are most clearly seen!

The Son of God, who lived with the Father from eternity, came to Earth. The One who is properly called Immanuel, God With Us, became incarnate, which means He took on a human body, became flesh, and dwelt among us. In Him the fullness of God lived in human form. This Wonderful Counselor, this Mighty God, this Father of Eternity, this Prince of Peace became a child who was born to us, and a son given to us. Through the incarnation, Yeshua became that even greater Temple of God. That is why He could tell a group of Jewish leaders: Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up… speaking about Himself and His death and resurrection.

When the Son of God died, something supernatural happened to the Temple. The veil to the Most Holy Place in the Temple was divinely torn from top to bottom. That teaches us that because of Messiah’s death, the dwelling presence of God was for the first time being made available to all mankind – not just to the High Priest of Israel. God is now welcoming everyone – Jews and Gentiles, into His eternal presence. All anyone has to do is believe that Yeshua is the Messiah and the risen Lord and that person is welcomed into God’s presence.

Then 50 days after He died, the Father and the Son poured out the Spirit They share into those first Messianic Jewish disciples, and they became the Temple of God, the place where God lives and reveals Himself and teaches and saves! Do you not know that you are a Temple of God, Rabbi Paul asked the Corinthians, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? In his second letter to that community of Jews and Gentiles, Paul writes: We are the Temple of the Living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people”.

Think of it! Fallen human beings, Jews and Gentiles, once spiritually dead because of their trespasses and sins, and alienated from God, are now being built together into a dwelling place for God’s Spirit. The Father and the Son, by Their Spirit, have taken up eternal residence in us!

In order for any of God’s temples to accomplish the Lord’s purposes for that temple, that temple needs to be dedicated to the true God. It can’t be devoted to other gods. It needs to function according to the truth. It needs to operate the way God intended it, based on the teachings of the Word of God. That temple needs to be clean and not get contaminated by anything dirty.

The Temple in Jerusalem was dedicated to God by the blood of animals that were sacrificed. That dedication was maintained by following the teachings contained in God’s Word about the way the Temple was to function.

Messiah is the Greater Temple, and He was dedicated to God from the beginning. He was devoted to God, set apart for God, committed to exclusively serve God.

Throughout His life He maintained that dedication. He maintained His dedication by making a decision to put God first, and not Himself – not His own plans or goals, but God’s will and desires: He stated: I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.

Messiah, the Greater Temple maintained His dedication by sanctifying Himself. He said: I sanctify Myself – I set Myself apart to serve God; set Myself apart from anything that is unholy, anything that is against God’s will.

He maintained that dedication by completely familiarizing Himself with the Word of God so He wouldn’t violate God’s teachings. He knew that people were sanctified by the truth, and that God’s Word is that truth that sanctifies human beings.

Messiah was dedicated to God. He was close to God. He maintained that closeness by talking to God all the time. And He would continually listen to God talking to Him. And what the Son heard His Father saying He acted on.

Messiah, the Greater Temple maintained His dedication by realizing that He had a mission to accomplish. He said: My food (that which is vitally important to Me and will keep Me alive) is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Messiah allowed nothing to deter Him from His mission.

The Son of God, who is that Greater Temple, maintained His dedication by not compromising when He was pressured to yield to something wrong, by not giving into any threat or any intimidation.

Messiah Yeshua is the Temple of God and He shows us how a human being, who has become a temple of God, maintains its dedication. And, Christians and Messianic Jews are now the Temple of God, and we need to dedicate ourselves to God and maintain our dedication.

We do that by first realizing that we need to dedicate ourselves to God. We make a decision to devote ourselves to God, to set ourselves apart for God. That is reasonable and right thing to do because the Lord is not only our Creator but also our Redeemer who saved us at such a high cost. Have you done that? Have you made that commitment to dedicate yourself to the Three-In-One God? Do you realize that you belong to God, that you have been bought with a high price, and that it is your obligation to dedicate yourself to God?

Then, after we make that initial commitment of dedication, we try and maintain that dedication. We maintain our dedication by making a decision to keep on putting God first, and not ourselves. We make a decision to follow God’s will for our life. We try and discern God’s plans for our life – in the big decisions like the choice of marriage and career, and also in the little things.

We maintain our dedication by sanctifying ourselves – keeping ourselves apart from anything that is unholy, anything that is against God’s will.

We maintain that dedication by familiarizing ourselves with the Word of God so we won’t violate God’s teachings. We try to think about God’s word throughout the day, and apply its teachings to each situation we encounter.

We maintain our dedication by trying to stay close to God by talking to God all the time, and trying to hear Him talking to us.  We try to cultivate special periods of time alone with the Lord.  We discipline ourselves to turn our mind and thoughts throughout the day to talk with God. We thank God for the interesting things that come to our attention and pray about everything that strikes us powerfully. We thank Him for all the good things He has done, is doing and will do. We praise Him for the Supreme Being that He is, and His amazing attributes.

We intercede for ourselves and others, for our congregations, for the Messianic Jewish Community, for the Church, for the salvation of the Jewish community, our friends and family and for the world.

We maintain our dedication by realizing that we have a mission to accomplish and that time is short. Time is precious. Therefore we don’t waste our time. We understand that there is important, eternal-life changing work to be done. We have a task to do, a job to accomplish, some way of serving God both outside the community by witnessing about the truth that alone can save human beings from the real and ruinous forces Satan, sin and death, and by doing something inside the community to serve the community and build up the community in some way.

We maintain our dedication by not compromising when pressured to do something wrong; by being bold and courageous in the midst of a godless world.

And if we fail in our dedication; if we allow our temple to get dirty? We admit our failures, and go back to God with sorrow and repentance and ask Him to forgive us. And, we have His marvelous promise: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness – from everything that we have done wrong. Then once again we are rededicated to God. How many times can our temples get dirty and be rededicated? Not once. Not twice, not seven times, but I tell you at least seventy times seven times!

Chanukkah. It’s about the Temple. It’s about dedication. It’s about the dedication of the Temple that was in Jerusalem, and the dedication of Yeshua, the Greater Temple, and about our dedication as the Temple of God.

No wonder why the King of the Jews celebrated the holiday of the Dedication of the Temple! And, we can honor the victories of the Maccabees and honor the dedication of that Temple too! And, now that Immanuel has come, we can celebrate His greater dedication, and learn from His greater dedication, so we can be better dedicated to the Living and Three-In-One God! And that is what Chanukkah is really all about!