Hanukkah 2001 - Part II
The Mystery of the Number 8
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 15 December 2001
Click here for Part 1
If there is one thing that impresses me about the Maccabees it is the fact that they overcame against all the odds.The chances that the little southern Kingdom of Judah should once more become an independent nation after centuries of oppression seemed hardly likely in the then political climate. Each year at Hanukkah we recall the miracle of the menorah which burned for eight days instead of one and celebrate it with joy. But in many ways the greater miracle was the fact that a whole people, led by some determined leaders, resisted the overwhelmingly superior forces not only of a pagan army but of a whole culture. And the lesson I hope which we can learn is that Yahweh's people can become victorious even when the odds are heaveily stacked against them. For us, then, the story of the Macabbees is a symbol of what we, as a tiny minority of believers, can achieve in an overwhelmingly pagan culture. Hanukkah is proof that Yahweh blesses those who do not compromise with the world and who obey the commandments solely to honour and please the Most High God. It is proof that loyalty to the truth brings the highest rewards.
It would be wrong, therefore, to look upon the miraculous burning of the menorah oil as the miracle of Hanukkah for in reality it was only a sign. As with all ordinances and festivals, it is more than easy to focus on all the wrong things and as a result miss the core of what Yahweh wishes to communicate to us.
For one thing, the celebration of Hanukkah is not a commandment, and yet its appearance is no accident. Today I want to look at what I call the "Mystery of Hanukkah" and to understand why Yah'shua (Jesus) upheld a tradition which was commanded by the congregation of Israel and not by Yahweh Himself.
Nothing in this universe is coincidental. Wherever you look, you will find evidence of two plans at work. These plans are in complete opposition to each other and have entirely different goals. The first is the Plan of God, and the second is the Plan of Satan. And because there are two plans, there is much confusion for us down here trying to figure things out.
The original Seven Festivals of Israel were designed by God as the nation of Israel's spiritual recovery program from the fall. As we have seen over the last year, they chart out the plan of Yahweh's redemption for us if we will but carefully pay attention to it. They explain in great depth not only the work of the Messiah but the way in which we are supposed to respond to Him in our daily living. They were timed by Yahweh to fit into the annual agricultural program to give us even more pointed symbols of the spiritual growth and inner changes which accompanies those who walk in the way of truth. As we come to know and appreciate these festivals we will understand that behind them lies a great love. And though some of the elements at one time involved violent elements like the ritual slaughtering of animal sacrifices to remind us of the terrible price that God Himself paid to redeem us from our folly, undergirding them is a wonderful tenderness and gentleness. Next week we are going to be looking at these characteristics in the context of understanding how to identify the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) operating in our lives.
But first I wish today to expound on a mystery. As far as I know, you will not find it discoursed on in any book on Hanukkah though I have no doubt the Lord has revealed it to others. And I hope that by the time I have finished you will come to a greater appreciation of the infinite care that our Heavenly Father shows in leading us to that place of perfection and happiness where He wants to be.
As you all know, 7 is one of those biblical numbers of perfection. It is the number of creation that we forever commemorate in our 7-day week and mark every Sabbath as a means of time-keeping. We see it in the 7 primary colours of the rainbow in the things that we see, and in the 7 primary notes in the sounds we hear. And we note that Yahweh commanded us to celebrate 7 primary festivals: Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Hag haMatzah), Firstfruits (Yom haBikkurim), Weeks (Shavuot), Trumpets (Yom Teruah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkoth). Seven is the number of completion and yet it is not, as we know, the end. For we are told in Scripture that there is more than one heaven and more than one earth - there is a time coming when there will be a new heaven and a new earth when old things have passed away.
When Yahweh allowed the 7 Menorah lights to burn 8 days He was telling us something very important indeed. There is more than 7 - there is something else after it. Everybody here has seen the film, The Sound of Music, and I am sure most of you will remember some of the songs. Doh a Dear, A Female Dear is one of them and was written by the governess supposedly to teach the von Trapp children about musical notes and how to sing. The musical scale has seven notes - doh, ray, me, fah, so, lah, tee. I am going to ask you now to join with me and sing these seven notes ... Ready? Let's sing them several times. Go!
(Doh, ray, me, fah, so, lay, te, doh).
Now what did you feel as you sang them? (takes answers). Yes, incompleteness. There was something missing, wasn't there? All of you wanted to sing one more note in order to create what is called an octave. Something within us wanted to complete those seven notes by adding an eighth - and that eighth note was another doh. And so it is that the song ends, "and that brings is back to doh..." And the song repeats itself again.
Now if you concentrate hard you will discover a great mystery here. Indeed, today you experienced one of the urges which God has implanted into us - a creative urge to "go beyond" the seven primary notes and to reach into a new octave. And although 7 is a complete number, it is not the end. There is more. Do you see what I am getting at? There is not only more than one week, but there is more than one life as well.
Now please don't miss this vital truth. It's the basis of our hope in the next life. Now the lamp which the Judeans lit in the temple after their liberation from Antiochus Epiphanes consisted of seven lights, as you see in this brass menorah here. This was the last historical miracle of the Jews before the coming of Christ and occurred in the period between the last book of the Old Testament - Malachi - and the first book of the New - Matthew. The story is to be found in some other apocryphal scriptures called the two Books of Maccabees. Now can any one tell me how many days that Menorah burned? (8 days). Now does God do anything accidentally? Of course not. So what was this 8 day miracle supposed to tell us? THAT GOD'S WORK WAS ABOUT TO MOVE FROM ONE OCTAVE TO THE NEXT - that the Old Covenant was about to be brought to complation in the New. The miracle of Hanukkah was a witness that Yahweh was about do to something NEW - to take the people of Israel beyond the Torah as they knew it and into something much better. More than that, the singing of the doh of the New Covenant would complete the octave of the Old. Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was the completion or fulfillment of the Torah (Law) and on a much higher level. And this is one of the reasons why in the New Testament Yah'shua (Jesus) did not oppose the supposedly man-made tradition of Hanukkah but vindicated it as a latter revelation to the people of Israel by using it as an illustration of the fact that He was, and is, the light of the world.
Our life consists of this octave. We all begin on the lower doh without Christ. No-one is born a Christian. Everyone has to make that choice by climbing that musical scale to the completion note which is Christ the Saviour. That lower doh has the same harmony as the higher doh because within every living human being God, in His grace, has placed a sacred vibration called the Light of Christ so that we can all identify the truth when we are confronted by it. That Light of Christ manifests itself as our conscience. Through it we are able to partially discern right and wrong, good and evil. Through it we can know that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is the Redeemer of the World and our only way to heaven. But it is not the Christian life itself. Having this "sense" that Christ is who he says He is does not make us Christians any more than knowing where an oxygen mask is makes us go and get it and breathe it to save our lives if we are asphixiating. We cannot be saved until we have made the conscious choice to accept Christ as our Saviour in our hearts and are evidencing that that is so by living His commandments joyfully and fruitfully.
The mystery of the number 8 is deep and wonderful. The name of Christ in Greek corresponds to the number 888, just as it corresponds to 333 in the Hebrew. Though He Himself was a 333 Hebrew, He was born into a Roman world which was dominated by an 888 Greek culture. That culture has dominated the European world ever since. Yahweh knew that we would pass through a two thousand year Greek period and made sure we could find out that He knew. This two thousand year period is not at all unlike the brief but terrible time of Antiochus IV when an unbelieving king tried to Hellenise Israel and the known world. And yet Yahweh intended that the power of Christ would manifest in this Greek culture and, in the end, overpower and transform it. It has not happed yet, and for a while it is going to get much, much worse (as I talked about last week), leading to a great persecution which we symbolically recall in the ninth of of Israel's fesivals, Purim - a time of threatened extinction of believers by God-haters but which results in victory when Yahweh intervened through Mordecai and Esther.
The mystery of the number 8, and what it means to us as believers, is explained in great detail in the Book of Revelation. Over the years I have talked much to you about the Seven Overcomings. This book marks out a path for us, showing us how we are to overcome the influences of the world. It shows us all the temptations and weaknesses we have to wrestle against, symbolically depicting them as the struggles of 7 congregations in Asia Minor. Now these 7 churches actually existed and each of them had a major spiritual struggle. You will remember them as the mother church at Ephesus, the home of John the Apostle, and as Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally, Laodicea. Note carefully that none of these churches were inside the borders of historic Israel. All of them were Greek cities in the eastern Roman province of Asia, in what is now western Turkey.
There is a reason the New Covenant remained only briefly in the historical Holy Land. There is a reason that it was planted in Greek-speaking Asia and Europe and not allowed to remain in the cradle of the Chosen People. And the reason is that in order to be perfected, a soul needs opposition. And it needs opposition so that it can make real choices in life and not just perform mental exercises. It is only as we are confronted by error and evil that we can really come to see, appreciate, and desire goodness, holiness, purity, and truth. When we see evil we are encouraged to resist and struggle against it just as the Maccabees did. And when we do, and when we win, there is a great transformation of the soul.
Up until now I have taught you that there are 7 overcomings in the Book of Revelation. But actually, there is an eighth that I have never mentioned to you before. The 7 struggles of the spirit against sin are described in chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation but at the very end of it, in chapter 21, you will find an eighth overcoming. This is the eighth note, the final doh, the complete octave, marking the complete and final transition from the flesh to the spirit. I want you to listen to this very carefully for within it is the whole mystery of Hanukkah:
"He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son" (Rev.21:6-7, NKJV).
This key scripture marks the end of jurisdictional salvation - the temporary covering of Christ over us whilst we "work out (y)our salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil.2:12) - and the completion of a man's sanctification, wherein we become fully and completely saved in every particle of the soul. It is the Omega or Tav of salvation, as opposed to the Alpha or Alef. The eighth note is the sound of a soul who has made it completely and who is in a position to "inherit all things" - everything that God has to give to us. And it is at this point that Yahweh truly becomes our God, and we become fully adopted sons and daughters.
Such a doctrine is most assuredly not a popular one because most people want an instant take-away McDonalds-type salvation. I tell you it does not exist. There is an Alpha-Salvation - like the first intallment in a series of books or magazines, but it is only the first step. This is kindergarten Christianity, and it's the kind of Christianity that most of the churches teach and the kind of Christianity they do not want to step beyond. But Yahweh warns us against this delusion and repeatedly tells us that before we can reach the point of the complete spiritual octave, whereby we become the inheritors of all things as kings and princes in the Kingdom of Heaven, that first there are seven overcomings to be accomplished through Christ. Why else would Paul declare: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13, NKJV) if we aren't supposed to do all things and inherit all things. God wants us to have the fullness, and believers want that fullness, but they don't want to overcome! They don't want to struggle! They'd rather find the easy way out. And because people in their carnal nature are lazy, they want something for nothing - they want rewards without labour or struggle. And our modern society appeals to that laziness by offering us temptations like free things, free subscriptions to magazines, free offers - everything is "free" and yet it isn't. And why isn't it free? Because it brings us into spiritual bondage - it makes us expect things for nothing. It creates a spirit of indifference, greed and selfishness. And this, brethren and sisters, is the opposite of the Spirit of Christ.
Now I want to read that eighth overcoming scripture to you again, but this time I want to read the next verse, because in this verse Yahweh underlines the 8 primary vices of man and the 8 areas of spirituality where we MUST win in order to be truly saved. And if you recognise any of these vices in yourself in any of these 8 areas, now is the time to confront them, repent, and set your lives in order:
"He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev.21:7-8, NKJV).
Here then are the 8 vices that have to be overcome: cowardice, unbelief, perversion, murder, sexual immorality, sorcery/witchcraft/drugs, idolatry, and dishonesty. If any of these are within us in any form, we have a struggle ahead of us. And even though it may be painful for a believer to admit any of these things - even though it may assault our pride - it is essential that we confront them, repent of them, and set ourselves new goals.
What are the opposites of these things? The first is courage - the opposite of cowardice. We have to be brave and do what is right even if our unredeemed feelings protest violently. We must not be steared by feelings but by the truth.
The second is faith. We must stop looking for signs like visions and miracles, and simply believe what God has said to us. It means reading His Word and just doing it.
The third is incorruptibility - the opposite of being abominable or corrupt. We have to be reliable and trustworthy, to guard the reputation of the Saviour whom we represent by guarding our own and not giving the devil or the world any excuse to accuse us.
The fourth is salvation-mindedness - the opposite of being a murderer. Our business should be bringing the word of eternal life to people in the form of the Gospel as well as showing an interest in the welfare of people generally, by trying to better the lot of those who are disadvantaged.
The fifth is sexual purity - the opposite of sexual perversion. We are called to set a lofty sexual standard by pursuing chastity both inside and outside marriage, and by opposing fornication, adultery, perversions such as homosexuality and lesbianism, bestiality, and pornography, and everything that is filthy.
The sixth is Christ-centredness - the opposite of witchcraft and sorcery. In a world which knows little else than than a lust for magic and occultism, we must abandon self-interest and put Christ first in everything and then serve others.
The seventh is pure Yahweh worship - the opposite of idolatry. We must stand up for true worship of the one and only God, Yahweh-Elohim, through His Son Yah'shua (Jesus). This means never allowing anyone or anything else to take priority in our lives.
And finally, the eighth is truthfulness - the opposite of being a liar. Honesty is not a virtue that is very common these days and even though truthfulness can make us vulnerable, we are not to succumb to the temptation to distort the truth.
This is the octave of the redeemed Christian - courage, faith, incorruptability, salvation- mindedness, sexual purity, Christ-centredness, pure Yahweh worship, and truthfulness. These are what the eight lights of Hanukkah stand for. All we need is the courage to start, and that Yahweh will give us liberally as He did symbolically by giving the Maccabees one day's supply of menorah oil and making it stretch out onto eight. Courage, seized in faith, leads to truth - and it is the truth us what makes us free. Amen.
This page was created on 11 December 2001
Last updated on 11 December 2001
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