Festival of Lights - NCW 64, November 1999
Important Historical Note
NCCG abandoned the observance of Hanukkah at the end of 2006. For a full explanation as to why, please see the sermon, Our Last Hanukkah: The Gospel vs. The Sword (30.12.2006). This sermon has been retained, along with earlier ones, as an illustration of the process of investigation and discovery that finally led to that decision. We recommend that you read this later sermon first in order to get a proper perspective.
Nearly twenty-two centuries ago, during the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the events took place that the Jews memorialize each year at Hanukkah time: The Jewish people had returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian Exile, and had rebuilt the Holy Temple, but they remained subject to the reigning powers: first, the Persian Empire, then later, the conquering armies of Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great was a kind and generous ruler to the Jews. He canceled the Jewish taxes during Sabbatical years, and even offered animals to be sacrificed on his behalf in the Temple. After the death of Alexander, his kingdom was divided among his generals. Judea was caught in the middle and ended up under the system of the Seleucid Dynasty, Greek kings who reigned from Syria.
The Jews Under Syrian Rule
A Syrian tyrant, Antiochus IV, was the new king who ruled Judea. He worshipped the Greek gods, but he did allow the Jews to worship YAHWEH. During the years of Greek power, many Jews started to embrace the Greek culture and its Hellenistic, pagan way of life. These Jewish Hellenists helped Antiochus’s goal to abolish every trace of the Jewish religion.
Desecrated the Temple
Eventually, King Antiochus decided to go into Jerusalem and take the treasures in the temple and forbid the Jews from keeping their holy traditions, such as the Sabbath, kosher laws, studying their holy books, and the practice of circumcision. To prove his point he desecrated the Holy Altar by sacrificing a forbidden, unclean pig on it. The Temple was dedicated to the worship of Zeus Olympus. An altar to Zeus was set up on the high altar. The Jews were forced to bow before it under penalty of death. The Holy Temple was invaded, desecrated, and pillaged of all its treasures. Many innocent people were massacred, and the survivors were heavily taxed. Antiochus went so far as to proclaim himself a god, taking the name Epiphanes—God manifest.
Flavius Josephus, a renowned historian who lived at the time of the Apostles recorded the horrifying event of that time in this way: (Antiquities of the Jews Book 12, Chapter 5): 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; and made them build temples, and raise idol altars, in every city and village, and offer swine upon them every day (254). He also commanded them not to circumcise their sons, and threatened to punish any that should be found to have transgressed his injunction. He also appointed overseers, who should compel them to do what he commanded (255). And indeed many Jews there were who complied with the king’s commands either voluntarily, or out of fear of the penalty that was denounced; but the best men, and those of the noblest souls, did not regard him, but did pay a greater respect to the customs of their country than concern as to the punishment which he threatened to the disobedient; on which account they every day underwent great miseries and bitter torments (256). For they were whipped with rods and their bodies were torn to pieces, and were crucified while they were still alive and breathed: they also strangled those women and their sons whom they had circumcised, as the king had appointed, hanging their sons about their necks as they were upon the crosses. And if there were any sacred book of the law found, it was destroyed; and those with whom they were found miserably perished also.
A Wicked High Priest
Some Jews drifted into the Greek Ways, changed their names from their Hebrew names, and followed the Greek “modern” practices, giving up the “old” ways of their ancestors. One hellenized Jew’s Hebrew name was Joshua, but he changed it to the Greek name Jason. He offered King Antiochus a bribe so he could take over the position of the High Priest.
The “High Priest” Jason constructed a gymnasium near the Temple, and demoralized his fellow Jews with pagan customs and licentious behaviour.
Another Hellinized Jew came along and offered a bigger bribe and Jason was replaced. Jason then gathered an army and attacked Menelaus in the Holy City, slaughtering many of the Jews. Antiochus interpreted this civil squabble as a revolt against his throne, and sent his armies into Jerusalem, plundering the Temple and murdering tens of thousands of Jews. Altars were erected with statues of the Greek gods and goddesses in every city and town.
Soldiers forced Jews to make offerings, to eat forbidden foods, and to engage in other immoral acts.
Many other Jews resisted, and refused to follow Greek practices, and would not bow down to the Greek’s pagan idols. The Greeks tried to get Jews to abandon the Torah and commandments, but God was in charge. Many times God had fought the Jewish battles, against all odds, delivering the evil to the righteous and the outnumbered. God helped the Jews to organize the common people, farmers, workers, and servants, and they began to fight the Syrian persecutors.
This small group of Hasmoneans, under the leadership of Judas Maccabee, employed guerrilla warfare and drove the Syrians out. The Maccabees regained control of the Holy Temple, and began the task of purifying it. The altar which had been defiled by the sacrifice of a pig upon it was torn down and rebuilt. All new holy vessels were crafted. A date for the rededication of the Temple was set–the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which occurs approximately in the Roman month of December (A.T.O.M. 1995).
Taking unhewn stones, as the law commands, they built a new altar on the model of the previous one. They rebuilt the Temple and restored its interior, and consecrated the Temple courts. They renewed the sacred vessels and the lampstand, and brought the altar of incense and the table into the Temple. They burnt incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lamp-stand to shine within the Temple. They decorated the front of the Temple with golden wreaths and ornamental shields. They renewed the gates and the priest’s rooms, and fitted them with doors. When they had put the Bread of the Presence on the table and hung the curtains, all their work was completed (Killian 1996). The Temple was then rededicated to God with festivities that lasted eight days.
When the Jews cleaned out the temple idols, they found only one small cruse of oil with only enough oil for one day to light their holy lamps. They decided to light the Menorah (the Temple candelabra) even with the small amount of oil. To everyone’s amazement the menorah miraculously burned for eight days until new oil was available!
The congregation of Israel decreed that the rededication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness at the same season each year, for eight days, beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. The light of the menorah is the symbol of the light of Yahweh. The fact that the light burned even when no supply was left is a perfect symbol of the eternity of God’s Word. The heart of the celebration, is not only the Rabbis retelling of the saga of revolt and renewal, but also the retelling of the divine experience of the miracle of the oil.
Messianic Significance of Hanukkah
The law did not require Jews to be at the Temple in Jerusalem, as this was not one of the pilgrimage festivals. Every one observed it in his own place, not as a holy time. Yahshua was there that He might improve those eight days of holiday for good purposes.
Yahshua walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch when the Sadducees asked him “How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ tell us.” They pretended to want to know the truth, as if they were ready to embrace it; but it was not their intention. Yahshua answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:25-27). He had told them, and they believed not; why then should they be told again, merely to gratify their curiosity?
Hanukkah’s theme is of a miracle. During Hanukkah Yahshua spoke of His miracles: If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him (John 10:37-38). Yahshua wanted the people of his day to see His miracles and believe in Him as a result. His miracles point to his divine and messianic identity. In this way Yeshua personifies the message of Hanukkah: God actively involved in the affairs of his people. Hanukkah reminds us that God is a God of miracles, not just of concept and religious ideals. He has broken through into human history and continues to do so today. All of us who know Yeshua can speak of God’s working in our lives (Gilman 1995).
Yahshua is the Light of the World
Yahshua preached three sermons in which he declared Himself the “light of the world,” and all three would be during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Then Yahshua said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Yahshua, and departed, and did hide himself from them (John 12:35-36).During Hanukkah—The Feast of Lights— Yahshua brought literal light to the blind. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing (John 9:5-7).
The story of Hanukkah can be compared with end-time happenings described in the books of Revelation and Daniel. Antiochus is a type of the antichrist. Just as happened under the rule of Antiochus, Daniel prophesied in Daniel 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
The same powers promoted by Antiochus are in the world today. Worldwide immorality, and idolatry are the norm. We must come out and be separate. And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. The deceiver stands waiting to devour in this present culture (2 Cor. 6:16-17).
Was Yahshua Conceived on Hanukkah?
Many believe that our Messiah, the “light of the world,” was conceived on the festival of lights—Hanukkah. The Bible does not specifically say the date of Jesus’ birth. It was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture (Luke 2:8). A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week (Luke 1:8-13, 24). Adding forty weeks, for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14). Six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Yahshua (Luke 1:26-33); therefore Yahshua would have been conceived six months after Sivan 30 in the month of Kislev—Hanukkah. Was the “light of the world,” conceived on the festival of lights?
Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Yahshua at the Festival of Tabernacles.
Jewish tradition sought to embellish these days of celebration. It is the practice to have festive meals for the eight days, and in addition to Latkes, jelly doughnuts fried in oil became popular. (Both symbolize the miracle of the oil.) Other popular sources of joy are the Hanukkah gifts and Hanukkah gelt (money), a practice rejected by the New Covenant Church of God. The major ritual ceremony of the holiday is the lighting of the 9-armed Hanukkah menorah. The eight days are marked by prayers of thanksgiving, special songs of praise (for the miracles and redemption), the Shmoneh Esrei (the central silent prayer) three times a day, and grace after meals.
Lighting the Candles
Some Jews light one candle the first night and add one additional light every subsequent night. Others Jews start with all eight candles lit and decrease one every night.
Since the object of the lighting is to publicize the miracle, the candles are usually placed near windows: to remind others of the holiday and the redemption. It is customary to light the candles right after sundown. After the destruction of the temple the menorah became the most important Jewish pictorial motif: what had been a holy implement became the symbol of Judaism. The main prophetic reading of Hanukkah is the prophecy of Zechariah, which ends, “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
A Hallel is a song of praise celebrating God’s mighty acts on behalf of His Chosen People, the nation of Israel. The complete text of the song is contained in Psalms 115 through 118. The complete HALLEL is recited in the morning service throughout the eight days of Hanukkah.
The prayer of “Al Hanisim,” in which we give thanks to God for all the miracles of Hanukkah, is recited in the Shmone Esrei (Amidah) as well as in the Birkat Hamazon (grace after meal) each day of Hanukkah.
Reading the Torah
The Torah is read each day of Hanukkah, specifically, the story of the dedication of the Tabernacle in the desert and the special gifts donated by the leaders of each of the twelve tribes of Israel in connection with the dedication. This Torah portion is read on Hanukkah because the Tabernacle was completed on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the same day in which the miracle of Hanukkah took place close to one thousand years later.
Spinning the Dreidel
Those who would like to quickly part with their gelt play the game of Dreidel (spinning top). On the Dreidel are Hebrew letters Nune, Gimel, Shin, and Hay. On the surface, those letters stand for “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham - A great miracle happened there” Each player puts the same amount of something— nuts, raisins, pennies, or chocolate coins in the middle, which is called “the pot”. Play proceeds clockwise around the circle of players. Each player takes a turn spinning the Dreidel. Whatever the Dreidel lands on decides what you are to do.
HAY: you get half of the pot.
Whoever has the most in the end wins! The New Covenant Church of God naturally rejects this worldly custom.
GIMEL: you get ALL of the pot.
NUNE: you get nothing.
SHIN: you must put 1 (nut, or raising, or penny, etc.) in the pot.
Legalism or Desiring to Please God?
Legalism is when a person does works stemming from prideful self-sufficiency that ignores trust and regards performing good deeds as doing God a favour. It is when one gets so involved in seeking to fulfill every minor detail of God's law or man-made laws that the heart of God is missed. If someone is under a yoke of legalism he is probably trying to meet some fence laws (extra rules tacked on to God's ways) prescribed by men. The yoke of legalism is unbearable. This earned righteousness mentality is a nasty pride. The end result of legalism is a proud confidence in one's own righteousness and missing God's will.
A sample of legalism is in Acts 15:5. The Pharisees laid down the position that unless the Gentiles who turned Christians were circumcised after the manner of Moses, and thereby bound themselves to all the observances of the ceremonial law, they could not be saved. This is foolish, as if being circumcised could earn salvation. Yahshua spoke firmly against legalism (see Matthew 23:2-4, Mark 7:5-13).
So what is the difference between trying to please God and legalism? A measuring stick that only measures the end result will identify anything pleasing to God as legalism. As with most things Yahshua taught about, the difference between doing something to please God, and legalism, is found in the heart.
Rock of Ages - Maoz Tzur
- To have faith in Christ's saving grace one must have the knowledge that we are completely unrighteous without the atonement of Yahshua, unworthy of receiving the gift of life Christ laid down for us. Responding to God in worship and obedience to His Word is evidence of our gratefulness for His gift to us.
- Legalism is focused on a system.
- Desiring to please God is focused on a relationship.
- Legalism is focused on what is required.
- Desiring to please God is focused on love from within.
- Legalism asks How can I meet the requirements?
- Desiring to please God asks, "What is the Lord telling me about His desires through His instruction?"
- Legalism is horrid, for if it were possible to earn a relationship with God, in and of ourselves, Christ's death was pointless.
- Desiring to please God is obeying His commands to love Him with all out hearts, minds, and souls. Loving God can never be legalistic!
By tradition, each night after lighting the Hanukkah candles, Jews sing the song "Rock of Ages." The words were written by a Jew in thirteenth century Germany whose identity remains unknown. The author did leave us a kind of signature, though. Taken together, the opening letters of the Hebrew verses spell out what appears to be the author's first name, Mordekhai.
The song describes various moments in history when the Jews were miraculously saved from their oppressors. The second verse, for instance, describes the Exodus from Egypt; the third verse describes the return from Babylonian exile; the fourth the Jews' rescue in the time of Mordekhai and Esther, which gave us the Purim festival; and the fifth tells of the Maccabees' victory over the Greeks:
"Maoz Tzur" tune
O Fortress, Rock of my Salvation,
Unto You it is seemly to give praise:
With restoration of my house of prayer,
I will there offer You thanksgivings:
When You shall bring to an end all killings
And the blaspheming enemy,
I will celebrate in melody and psalm
The dedication of the altar.
My soul with ills was full sated,
My forces with sorrow debilitated;
They embittered my life by hardship
During my subjection to Egypt,
But God with His great power
Brought forth the chosen race,
While the host of Pharaoh and all his seed
Sank like a stone into the deep.
To His holy oracle He brought me,
Yet there too I found no tranquility,
For the oppressor led me into captivity,
Because I had committed idolatry:
I had to quaff the wine of bewilderment;
Well nigh had I perished,
When, through Zerubbabel, Babylon's end drew near;
I was saved after seventy years.
Haman, the son of Hammedatha,
Sought to cut down the lofty Mordecai;
But into his snare only he did fall,
And his pride led to his downfall.
Mordecai, the Benjamite You exalted,
But the enemy's name You erased:
His many sons and followers
You did hang upon the gallows.
The Greeks were gathered against me
In the days of the Hasmoneans;
They broke down all my walls,
And defiled all the oils;
But a last flask remained
To provide a miracle for Your beloved,
Men of understanding, these eight days
Appointed for song and praise.
B. The New Covenant Festival of Lights
Celebrating Hanukkah in Your Home
If you decide to celebrate Hanukkah in your home you’ll need a menorah. Beautiful multi-colored Israeli-made candles are available for those who light menorahs. Any library or bookstore should have a good selection of illustrated books telling the story of Hanukkah for children.
Have festive meals for the eight days, say silent prayer three times a day and each night while lighting the menorah, talk to your children about Yahshua being the light. (See Eight Hanukkah Readings below).
Blessings for Lighting the Candles
After Kindling the Lights the Hallalu is Recited. The Hallalu: “We kindle these lights (to commemorate) the saving acts, miracles and wonders which You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time, through Your holy kohanim (priests). Throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to look at them, in order to offer thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvations.”
- 1. Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.
- 2. Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who wrought miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season.
- 3. The following blessing is said only on the first evening (or the first time one kindles the lights this Hanukkah): Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season.
Hanukkah Reading Night One
The Lord is Our Light
The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory (Isa 60:19).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “God shall be all in all in the happiness here promised; so he is always to true believers: The sun and the moon shall be no more thy light. God’s people, when they enjoy his favour, and walk in the light of his countenance, make little account of sun and moon, and the other lights of this world, but could walk comfortably in the light of the Lord though they should withdraw their shining. In heaven there shall be no occasion for sun or moon, for it is the inheritance of the saints in light, such light as will swallow up the light of the sun as easily as the sun does that of a candle. “Idolaters worshiped the sun and moon (which some have thought the most ancient and plausible idolatry); but these shall be no more thy light, shall no more be idolized, but the Lord shall be to thee a constant light, both day and night, in the night of adversity as well as in the day of prosperity.” Those that make God their only light shall have him their all-sufficient light, their sun and shield. Thy God shall be thy glory”. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps 27:1). From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “The Lord is my light. David’s subjects called him the light of Israel, (2 Sam. 21:17). And he was indeed a burning and a shining light: but he owns that he shone, as the moon does, with a borrowed light; what light God darted upon him reflected upon them: The Lord is my light. God is a light to his people, to show them the way when they are in doubt, to comfort and rejoice their hearts when they are in sorrow. It is in his light that they now walk on in their way, and in his light they hope to see light for ever”.
Hanukkah Reading Night Two
The Word is Our Light
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Ps. 119:105). The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple (Ps 119:130). For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Prov 6:23).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “The nature of the word of God, and the great intention of giving it to the world; it is a lamp and a light. It discovers to us, concerning God and ourselves, that which otherwise we could not have known; it shows us what is amiss, and will be dangerous; it directs us in our work and way, and a dark place indeed the world would be without it. It is a lamp which we may set up by us, and take into our hands for our own particular use. The commandment is a lamp kept burning with the oil of the Spirit; it is like the lamps in the sanctuary, and the pillar of fire to Israel. It must be not only a light to our eyes, to gratify them, and fill our heads with speculations, but a light to our feet and to our path, to direct us in the right ordering of our conversation, both in the choice of our way in general and in the particular steps we take in that way, that we may not take a false way nor a false step in the right way. We are then truly sensible of God’s goodness to us in giving us such a lamp and light when we make it a guide to our feet, our path.”
Hanukkah Reading Night Three
We Should Be a Light to Others
Matt. 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light” (Luke 11:33).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “They had the light with all the advantage they could desire. For God, having lighted the candle of the gospel, did not put it in a secret place, or under a bushel; Christ did not preach in corners. The apostles were ordered to preach the gospel to every creature; and both Christ and his ministers, Wisdom and her maidens, cry in the chief places of concourse, v. 33. It is a great privilege that the light of the gospel is put on a candlestick, so that all that come in may see it, and may see by it where they are and whither they are going, and what is the true, and sure, and only way to happiness”.
All believers in Christ are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8), and must shine as lights (Phil. 2:15), but ministers in a special manner. Christ calls himself the Light of the world (John. 8:12), and they are workers together with him, and have some of his honour put upon them. Truly the light is sweet, it is welcome; the light of the first day of the world was so, when it shone out of darkness; so is the morning light of every day; so is the gospel, and those that spread it, to all sensible people. The world sat in darkness, Christ raised up his disciples to shine in it; and, that they may do so, from him they borrow and derive their light.
As the lights of the world, they are illustrious and conspicuous, and have many eyes upon them. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. The disciples of Christ, especially those who are forward and zealous in his service, become remarkable, and are taken notice of as beacons. They are for signs (Isa. 7:18), men wondered at (Zech. 3:8); all their neighbors have any eye upon them. Some admire them, commend them, rejoice in them, and study to imitate them; others envy them, hate them, censure them, and study to blast them. They are concerned therefore to walk circumspectly, because of their observers; they are as spectacles to the world, and must take heed of every thing that looks ill, because they are so much looked at. The disciples of Christ were obscure men before he called them, but the character he put upon them dignified them, and as preachers of the gospel they made a figure; and though they were reproached for it by some, they were respected for it by others, advanced to thrones, and made judges (Luke 22:30); for Christ will honour those that honour him. As the lights of the world, they are intended to illuminate and give light to others.
Hanukkah Reading Night Four
The Light of the Body is the Eye
“The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34). “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “Having the light, their concern was to have the sight, or else to what purpose had they the light? Be the object ever so clear, if the organ be not right, we are never the better: The light of the body is the eye (v. 34), which receives the light of the candle when it is brought into the room. So the light of the soul is the understanding and judgment, and its power of discerning between good and evil, truth and falsehood. Now, according as this is, so the light of divine revelation is to us, and our benefit by it; it is a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.
If this eye of the soul be single, if it see clear, see things as they are, and judge impartially concerning them, if it aim at truth only, and seek it for its own sake, and have not any sinister by-looks and intentions, the whole body, that is, the whole soul, is full of light, it receives and entertains the gospel, which will bring along with it into the soul both knowledge and joy. This denotes the same thing with that of the good ground, receiving the word and understanding it. If our understanding admits the gospel in its full light, it fills the soul, and it has enough to fill it. And if the soul be thus filled with the light of the gospel, having no part dark,— if all its powers and faculties be subjected to the government and influence of the gospel, and none left unsanctified,— then the whole soul shall be full of light, full of holiness and comfort. It was darkness itself, but now light in the Lord, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light, v. 36. Note, The gospel will come into those souls whose doors and windows are thrown open to receive it; and where it comes it will bring light with it. But, if the eye of the soul be evil,— if the judgment be bribed and biased by the corrupt and vicious dispositions of the mind, by pride and envy, by the love of the world and sensual pleasures,— if the understanding be prejudiced against divine truths, and resolved not to admit them, though brought with ever so convincing an evidence,— it is no wonder that the whole body, the whole soul, should be full of darkness, v. 34. How can they have instruction, information, direction, or comfort, from the gospel, that wilfully shut their eyes against it? and what hope is there of such? what remedy for them? The inference hence therefore is, Take heed that the light which is in thee be not darkness, v. 35. Take heed that the eye of the mind be not blinded by partiality, and prejudice, and sinful aims. Be sincere in your inquiries after truth, and ready to receive it in the light, and love, and power of it; and not as the men of this generation to whom Christ preached, who never sincerely desired to know God’s will, nor designed to do it, and therefore no wonder that they walked on in darkness, wandered endlessly, and perished eternally.”
Hanukkah Reading Night Five
Messiah is the Light of the World
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5). “Then spake Yahshua again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).Then Yahshua said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Yahshua, and departed, and did hide himself from them” (John 12:35-36).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “Yahshua (jesus) Christ is the light of the world. One of the Rabbis saith, Light is the name of the Messiah, as it is written, (Dan. 2:2), And light dwelleth with him. God is light, and Christ is the image of the invisible God; God of gods, Light of lights. He was expected to be a light to enlighten the Gentiles (Luke. 2:32), and so the light of the world, and not of the Jewish church only. The visible light of the world is the sun, and Christ is the Sun of righteousness. One sun enlightens the whole world, so does one Christ, and there needs no more. Christ in calling himself the light expresses, 1.) What he is in himself— most excellent and glorious. 2.) What he is to the world— the fountain of light, enlightening every man. What a dungeon would the world be without the sun! So would it be without Christ by whom light came into the world (John 3:19).
The light shineth in darkness. Light is self-evidencing, and will make itself known; this light, whence the light of men comes, hath shone, and doth shine.
The eternal Word, as God, shines in the darkness of natural conscience. Though men by the fall are become darkness, yet that which may be known of God is manifested in them; (see Rom. 1:19-20). The light of nature is this light shining in darkness. Something of the power of the divine Word, both as creating and as commanding, all mankind have an innate sense of; were it not for this, earth would be a hell, a place of utter darkness; blessed be God, it is not so yet.
The eternal Word, as Mediator, shone in the darkness of the Old-Testament types and figures, and the prophecies and promises which were of the Messiah from the beginning. He that had commanded the light of this world to shine out of darkness was himself long a light shining in darkness; there was a veil upon this light (2 Cor. 3:13).
The Jews, who had the light of the Old Testament, yet comprehended not Christ in it. As there was a veil upon Moses’s face, so there was upon the people’s hearts. In the darkness of the types and shadows the light shone; but such as the darkness of their understandings that they could not see it. It was therefore requisite that Christ should come, both to rectify the errors of the Gentile world and to improve the truths of the Jewish church.”
Hanukkah Reading Night Six
Paul Saw the Light
“Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Yahshua whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:12-18).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “Paul saw a heavenly vision, the circumstances of which were such that it could not be a delusion— deciptio visus, but it was without doubt a divine appearance. He saw a great light, a light from heaven, such as could not be produced by any art, for it was not in the night, but at mid day; it was not in a house where tricks might have been played with him, but it was in the way, in the open air; it was such a light as was above the brightness of the sun, outshone and eclipsed that and this could not be the product of Paul’s own fancy, for it shone round about those that journeyed with him: they were all sensible of their being surrounded with this inundation of light, which made the sun itself to be in their eyes a less light. The force and power of this light appeared in the effects of it; they all fell to the earth upon the sight of it, such a mighty consternation did it put them into; this light was lightning for its force, yet did not pass away as lightning, but continued to shine round about them.
Christ himself appeared to him (v. 16): I have appeared to thee for this purpose. Christ was in this light, though those that travelled with Paul saw the light only, and not Christ in the light. It is not every knowledge that will serve to make us Christians, but it must be the knowledge of Christ.
Christ made himself known to him, he said, “I am Yahshua; he whom thou hast despised, and hated, and vilified; I bear that name which thou hast made so odious, and the naming of it criminal.” This convinced him that the doctrine of Yahshua was divine and heavenly, and not only not to be opposed, but to be cordially embraced: That Yahshua is the Messiah, for he has not only risen from the dead, but he has received from God the Father honour and glory; and this is enough to make him a Christian immediately, to quit the society of the persecutors, whom the Lord from heaven thus appears against, and to join himself with the society of the persecuted, whom the Lord from heaven thus appears for.”
Hanukkah Reading Night Seven
No Longer in the Darkness
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:8-11). “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1Thess. 5:4-6).
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise” (Eph. 5:11-15). “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Yahshua Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “In your unregenerate state you were darkness, you have now undergone a great change. You lived wicked and profane lives, being destitute of the light of instruction without and of the illumination and grace of the blessed Spirit within. A state of sin is a state of darkness. Sinners, like men in the dark, are going they know not whither, and doing they know not what. But the grace of God had produced a mighty change in their souls: Now are you light in the Lord, savingly enlightened by the word and the Spirit of God. Now, upon your believing in Christ, and your receiving the gospel. Walk as children of light. Children of light, according to the Hebrew dialect, are those who are in a state of light, endued with knowledge and holiness. “Now, being such, let your conversation be suitable to your condition and privileges, and accordingly live up to the obligation you are under by that knowledge and those advantages you enjoy— Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord (Also see John 3:19-22).”
Hanukkah Reading Night Eight
We Need to Shine
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Phil. 2:14-16).
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “We should have a cheerful obedience to the commands of God: “Do all things, do your duty in every branch of it, without murmurings. Do it, and do not find fault with it. Mind your work, and do not quarrel with it.” God’s commands were given to be obeyed, not to be disputed. This greatly adorns our profession, and shows we serve a good Master, whose service is freedom and whose work is its own reward.
We should have peaceableness and love one to another. “Do all things without disputing, wrangling, and debating one another; because the light of truth and the life of religion are often lost in the heats and mists of disputation.”
Observe, where there is no true religion, little is to be expected but crookedness and perverseness; and the more crooked and perverse others are among whom we live, and the more apt to cavil [quibble], the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless. Among whom you shine as lights in the world. Christ is the light of the world, and good Christians are lights in the world. When God raises up a good man in any place, he sets up a light in that place. Or it may be read imperatively: Among whom shine you as lights (compare Mt. 5:16). Let your light so shine before men. Christians should endeavor not only to approve themselves to God, but to recommend themselves to others, that they may also glorify God. They must shine as well as be sincere—Holding forth the word of life.”
Yah'shua is the Hebrew for Jesus.
This page was created on 24 November 1999
Last updated on 24 November 1999
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