Hanukkah 2002 - Part 1
In Touch with the Truth
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 30 November 2002
NCCG stopped celebrating Hannukah in 2006. To understand why, please click here.
Brethren and sisters, I welcome you in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name to this the first day of the Festival of Hanukkah of the year 2002 as we celebrate on eight successive days the restoration of divine worship to the Temple of Yahweh after it had been defiled by heathens. For these Judeans the return of their religious liberty was literally a return to life from the dead, and in remembrance of it, they kept an annual holiday on the 25th day of Kislev, the third month of the Hebrew calendar. It usually occurs in mid-December but this year comes earlier in the lunar calendar. And although observance of this festival is not commanded in Torah or in any later Scriptures, it is a fact that Yah'shua (Jesus) observed it and used it to teach some important spiritual principles. It is principally for this reason - but also because Yahweh sent the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in a dramatic way to demonstrate His approbation when His people keep His commandments - that we too, in the New Covenant Church of God (B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh), celebrate Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah, as you all know, centres around a 9-branch menorah or candlearbre. The Temple Menorah has 7 branches, just as the logo we were given by Yahweh - of a menorah arranged as an olive branch - does, and which serves as a symbol for the whole of our ministry. The Hanukkah menorah, however, has 9 branches, 8 to remember the days of Hanukkah and one is the shamus, the candle used to light the other candles, and is at the centre, with four candles on either side. Because the 9-armed Hanukkah Menorah reminds New Covenant Christians so much of the mystical number which surrounds our own mission - the number 333, which adds up to 9 - and because this Church has been raised as a light for the last days in cultural conditions remarkably similar to those which obtained in the Hasmonean period when the Hanukkah miracles took place, this festival has taken on an added significance for us. As from this year, therefore, we shall be celebrating the Festival of Lights not only as a time to look back at the providence of Yahweh historically, but forwards to a time when true believers in the Messiah must expect the same opposition and terror as those Hasmonean Judeans did over two thousand years ago. We have therefore designed a special logo for the New Covenant Christian Hanukkah (see above). I'd like to spend just a few minutes explaining its meaning to you.
The Lions represent the Lion of Judah, our Lord and Saviour Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) (Rev.5:5). Though also used biblically to represent the tribe of Judah, it is here used to represent the Messiah. The number 333, as I have said, is rather special and is connected up with our work and mission. The Nine-Armed Menorah, though identical to the Hanukkah Menorah, is here used in a dual sense and has an important connection with the 333 symbolism above, as also the three golden Hebrew Shin's.
The Hebrew letter Shin is always used in connection with the Ruach haQodesh, Holy Spirit or Breath of God, and is here arranged in triplicate above the Tetragrammaton, or the four consonants of the Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh), to look like a crown. As the woman is the glory of man (1 Cor.11:7), so the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is the glory of the Father, the woman (Eve/Havah) and the Ruach haQodesh (Hochmah) being derived from Adam and Yahweh, respectively.
Finally, the Hanukkah Menorah is used in the New Covenant (B'rit Chadashah) as a symbol of the Messiah (Christ), who brought light into the world. The black background signifies only the contrast of darkness which we must experience in mortality in order to find and embrace the light of truth. The pale blue candlesticks represent the biblical Wisdom or Hochmah - blue for wisdom, and the pastel shade representing Wisdom's female nature.
The burning Tetragrammaton, representing Yahweh, who is a consuming fire, (Heb.12:29; Dt.4:24), is the centrepiece of the symbolic matrix. He is El Elyon, the Most High God, and Father of us all, to whom all glory and honour belong.
We begin Hanukkah this year after a sudden spate of Muslim terrorist bombings in the world, reminding us of just how close we are to world war. It will take only one terrorist nuclear or biological bomb in some large city to provoke what could be an end-time holocaust of the type the Bible warns is coming. The worsening violence in the Republic of Israel, the uncertain climate in Iraq, and other signs indicate that something pretty dramatic is probably going to happen quite soon. Many believe we shall have a major war before next spring. Others believe that shadowy forces are trying to provoke war in order to create conditions of anarchy, the stuff of One World coup d'états, revolutions and dictatorships. Without a doubt the cultural pressure on Christians, but particularly on Messianics like ourselves, is being stepped up as part of a deliberate effort to persecute Yahweh's people. Once a certain threshold has been crossed, we will find ourselves an underground fellowship searching for 21st century catacombs, or gathering to cities of refuge.
In 164 BC there was a revolt in the Holy Land by Yahweh's people against a Syrian occupation. The invaders, over a period of time, began benevolently but became increasingly more malicious. Their goal, by gradual steps which became more vicious in time, was, by a process of cultural imperialism, to force Yahweh's people to observe their pagan customs. Since these clashed directly with Torah, the result was a terrible oppression which in the end turned into a successful insurrection. In a long and violent war, Jerusalem and the Temple were eventually recaptured from the pagans, and the desecrated Temple cleansed and rededicated to Yahweh. It was at that time that the miracle of the Menorah took place. With oil for only one day at hand, the Menorah miraculously remained lit for 8 days by which time enough oil had been procured to ensure that the Menorah remained permanently lit.
As we have been discussing over the past five weeks, our body marches in tune to the impulses which come from our heart. If our heart is governed by self and by natural or worldly love, it will be driven by natural and worldly impulses and perform natural or worldly acts. If our heart is ruled by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), it will be driven by holy impulses and it will perform deeds of divine love after the manner of Yah'shua (Jesus) when He was here on the earth.
Today we do not worship in Old Covenant-type temples because our physical body has become the Temple of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). But unless it is nourished by the oil which is the Ruach (Spirit), it will remain unlit and be dead as to the divine life. You will remember that Yah'shua (Jesus) said that our human or natural light is darkness, and even though we may think we are radiating light, it is, in fact, darkness that is coming out of us. We all begin in that darkness, just as Israel groaned in darkness under Antiochus Epiphenes, the pagan antichrist Hellenistic ruler over two thousand years ago. When Christ is not the Lord of our hearts, we dwell in darkness. And even if we name Him as Lord we remain in darkness so long as we do not possess the oil of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit).
Obedience in faith works great miracles. Because the Judeans desired with all their hearts to return to Torah, and in large measure had compromised the truth because of the yoke of the enemy, and took action to do something about it, Yahweh blessed them. This action was not passive. It did not consist just of prayer but violent revolution, as was expected and permitted under the Old Covenant. They knew that unless they did something with their hands that the situation would not change. There are many stories from this time period that illustrate what we mean by 'active faith'.
There was once a very beautiful girl called Yehudit (Judith) who was the daughter of the High Priest Yochanan (John). In those days the Syrians forced young Judean girls to spend the night before their wedding with the enemy governor. Can you imagine that? Young brides forced to sleep with vile pagans in acts of fornication? Yet this was part of the system of oppression established by the Syrians to break down and destroy all holiness and purity. Yehudit could not stand this any longer. So quietly, stealthily and gracefully, she crept into the enemy camp, endangering her own life, and brought back a prize to her countrymen - the severed head of Syrian General Holefernes.
Then there was Hannah, brave Hannah, mother of seven sons. She taught them to love Yahweh and the Torah more than life itself. "Foolish woman. Tell your sons to bow down to the idol so that they may live," the soldiers told Hannah. But Hannah knew that her definition of life was different from that of the pagan soldiers. Her sons would die in this world sanctifying Yahweh's name, but they would live forever in the World to Come. She whispered encouragement to each son. "Remember that Yahweh is one, there is no other." Not one son, from the oldest to the youngest, bowed to the idol. "Abraham, you were ready to sacrifice one son. But I, Hannah, a simple, Judean woman, sacrificed seven," cried out Hannah as her youngest child was killed before her eyes.
Do you think these two women were fools or heroines? What would you have done in similar conditions? Is Yahweh more important to you than life, or is He just a part of your life? Is this life more important to you than the next? What do you think Yah'shua (Jesus) meant when He said that in order to find your life you must first lose it? (Mt.10:39; 16:25)
As believers we are called to stand up against the prevalent majority of paganism all around us, especially when it tries to impose itself on our families and way of life. Looking around today, do you think such a condition - such as obtained in Judea over two thousand years ago - could happen here? Most people passively accept whatever the government - and those who secretly tell the government what to do - tells them to do. Most people don't want to make waves. What would you do if the government made Saturday - the Sabbath - an ordinary working day? Would you refuse to work? What if it meant not being able to get a job and therefore state support? Would you be willing to suffer in order to obey Yahweh's commandment? That constitutes morality and immorality in your life? Will you let the state define it or Yahweh?
When opposition and persecution come, the spiritually weak cave in. They don't want to make trouble. They rationalise away the truth for an illusory peace. But it is a truism that once you let the devil get his foot in your door, it's not long before he is in your lobby and then treating the house as his own. Christianity - true Christianity - is not a weak, feeble faith, but calls out the very best in a soul. And that is the lesson of Hanukkah.
When trouble comes, people start getting in touch with their true selves. Trouble has the fortunate effect of sweeping away illusion and fantasy and making us confront reality. Before the terrible things happened to her sons, Hannah said to them: "The way of the world is not our way. We are here to sanctify ourselves, to brings holiness into the mundane, to bear witness to the fact that Yahweh is one." And she was right. And when you get in touch with your true self, you face a stark choice: to either give in to Satan and join a callous, mocking and cruel enemy, or to stand up for Yah'shua (Jesus) and remain compassionate, modest, kind, believing, giving, loving, and caring.
Now there is an unfortunate tendency in human nature to leave things to the last minute. As one wise Rabbi said: "There is a natural tendency of people not to see a problem until it appears to them in the form of a knife on their throats". But why be so foolish to let a problem remain unsolved until it reaches the point when it can kill you? Immoral thoughts invariably lead to immoral acts. Get the thoughts fixed before you get hurt or hurt others. Unbelief grows into greater unbelief until you end up an agnostic or an atheist. Get the unbelief fixed early before Satan gets you by the throat. Fear grows into terror until you lose complete control of your spiritual life. Get the fear fixed before demons turn you into a wreck. In short, brethren and sisters, get right with God, and do it quickly!
The word hanukkah actually means 'dedication' in Hebrew, which is why it is also called the 'Feast of Dedication' - dedication of the Temple of Yahweh. Will you join with me over the next eight days in rededicating your temple - the Temple of Yahweh's Ruach (Spirit) - to a life of holiness and purity?
A great Jewish Rabbi once remarked: "You cannot chase away darkness with a stick, you have to turn on the light." And that light is, of course, the Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus). The way to eliminate darkness -- to rid the world of ignorance, negativity, hatred and greed -- is to kindle the lights of knowledge, generosity, hope and love. You may not save the world in this evil time that is approaching but you may save some souls, and that is definitely worth it. The Hanukkah menorah is lit only after nightfall. This signifies that our purpose is to illuminate the darkness of this world, until the time when, as the Prophet Isaiah says, "the world will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh" (Is.11:9). It may sometimes be difficult for us to perceive godliness in our everyday lives. But Hanukkah reminds us, even in our darkest moments, that the light of knowledge can shine brightly, that redemption is at hand, if we will kindle just one more lamp.
Satan is trying to destroy the Christian soul. He doesn't care that there are churches. In fact, he couldn't care if the world is full of them. What he cares about is to make sure that believers are rendered spiritually impotent and helpless. And to do that he must make them turn against the Word and against Yahweh.
There isn't a believer who does not at some time go through a period of darkness in his or her life. Indeed, we may go through many trials. However, if we remain close to Yahweh and His Torah, then the promise made to us in the Lord's Prayer can be ours: "Suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Lk.11:4). We are not promised a life free of temptation - quite the opposite, but we are promised that we don't have to go INTO that temptation and into sin. By keeping our lamps filled with oil the light that comes from our soul will drive away the darkness of evil.
We must remember also that the reason the Judeans found themselves under such a terrible oppressor in the first place was because they had turned away from Yahweh and His Torah. If they had remained true, their nation and people would have enjoyed divine protection. And when we wander into the temptation of sin instead of being led round it, it is usually because we have been disobedient or faithless in some way, unless we are going through a tailor-made trial to make us more spiritually robust.
Now remember this about Hanukkah also. Although the priests only had one cruise of oil, Yahweh multiplied it into the equivalent of eight. What this tells us is that Yahweh always gives us more than we deserve when we step forward and make the effort to correct something that is wrong in our lives. Defying the enemy is no small matter. He will passionately resist. Evil always does. And that means you have got to stick it out, no matter how tough the going may get. The battle against sinful habits can be hard and discouraging, and its gets harder the longer you leave it to fester and spread. That is why I say: nip sin in the bud! Deal with it right away! Don't listen to the lies of the enemy who says you can postpone it until tomorrow. Scripture quite clearly says that "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor.6:2, NKJV).
I invite everyone to make this Feast of Dedication a rededication to Yahweh, a rededication to Torah, a rededication to the New Covenant, a rededication to your marriage, a rededication to be faithful to Yah'shua (Jesus). And if you have never received Yah'shua (Jesus) as your Saviour and Master, I invite you to do so today by standing up, stepping forward and making your confession of faith before witnesses, and beginning a new life. May the lights of Hanukkah burn brightly for you all! Amen.
Click here for Part 2
This page was created on 19 October 2002
Last updated on 29 October 2002
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