Monday, December 10, 2012
In Search Of Truth, The HOLIday Season, Part 1- Hanukkah
Hanukkah began on Sunday, and though I don't know any Christians who celebrate it, there still may be something of value in it's history that Christians can remember and celebrate in a way that honors Yahweh.
Hanukkah, or "The Festival Of Lights", finds its origins during the reign of Antiochus IV around 160 BC, when his forces occupied the Temple and desecrated it. When the Jews reclaimed the temple, they found only enough oil remaining to keep the menorah lit for one day, although it was supposed to remain lit at all times. This was a huge problem.
The menorah was a lampstand for seven candles that God instructed Moses to make for use in the tabernacle and temple. It was kept in the same room as the ark, where God met with his priests. (Exodus 25:31)
We'll take a closer look at the menorah and this special place in the temple when we look at Exodus in the coming months. But at the very least we can say that the menorah was a vital component in ancient Israel's connection with God. It facilitated worship of God and relationship between God and his people.
As the story goes, the Jews that reclaimed the temple only had enough oil to keep the Menorah lit for one day. However, the menorah miraculously remained lit for eight days.
Do I believe this story is true? I'm undecided. And it's still not clear whether or not Jesus celebrated The Festival Of Lights. (References to him possibly doing so are very vague, and it was not a day that scripture required the Jews to observe.) But it sounds like Yahweh to me.
God is holy. In other words, he is perfect, and totally different from us. He is so indescribable, so... "other"...that the only rational response is fascination and obsession with him, or as the Bible calls it, "worship". And this is what we were made for.
Unfortunately, we made the choice to separate ourselves from God and his will. Ever since then, in order to connect with God and know him more, God has had to "stoop down" as it were, and help us out. The Bible shows us repeatedly that, although we were made to be in God's presence, we fall incredibly short of that amazing role. As a result, God instituted the sacrificial system, which culminated in the sacrifice of Jesus. He knows we can't properly meet his standards on our own, so he does the work for us.
This is what we see happening in the story of The Festival Of Lights. The Jews had reclaimed the temple, wanted to worship God in the way he instructed... but were unable because there was not enough lamp oil.
It makes perfect sense to me that God saw the sincere desire of their hearts and took care of the rest himself. God doesn't need or want the various sacrifices and rituals he designed in and of themselves. They are merely tools and illustrations to help us understand who he is and who we are. What he really wants is our hearts. (Hosea 6:6)
Next time we'll take a look at God's BIGGEST example of "stooping down" for us, as we take a look at Christmas in light of God's Holiness.