But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. — Daniel 1:8
Today is the seventh day of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. While Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Jewish Bible, it is mentioned in the Christian Bible in John 10:22. Jesus would have celebrated Hanukkah.It also is one of the most well-known Jewish holidays as it is celebrated in close proximity to Christmas. This is one of eight devotions exploring the many lessons this observance has for Christians. To learn more, download our complimentary Bible study.
As we have learned, the celebration of Hanukkah has many meanings and lessons for us. It is a reminder that we serve a God of miracles, who is able to give us both earthly and spiritual victories. Hanukkah is a time when we reflect on our relationship with God and rededicate ourselves to Him. The events of Hanukkah also remind us of the need to take a stand, when necessary, against the culture.
The Jews living at the time of King Antiochus’ reign in 165 BCE faced such a time. The king tried to impose the dominant Hellenistic culture upon the Jews — and many were seduced into following the more “enlightened” ways of Hellenism. The very survival of Judaism was at stake, until a small band of Jews decided enough was enough. For three years, this group of determined Jews fought against their oppressors. They were willing to pay whatever price necessary — including their lives — because they had resolved not to go along with the status quo.
Did you catch that? This small group of Jews resolved to take a stand — and then did something about it. We find this same principle in the opening chapters of Daniel. Remember the story? Daniel and his friends, only young teens at the time, were taken captive and exiled to Babylon. They were chosen to be trained in the king’s service, but part of that training meant they had to eat food from the king’s kitchen. No doubt it was well-prepared, but Daniel “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” To Daniel, eating such food was the first step toward dishonoring God by accepting the culture in which he found himself.
Even though he was defying the king’s order, Daniel had made up his mind to remain devoted to his principles and his God. Like the Maccabees and their brave followers, Daniel had determined to do what was right and not give into the pressures around him.
We, too, Christians and Jews, are often confronted with pressure to compromise our standards and our beliefs. We face temptations daily to live more like the world around us and abandon our convictions. When those temptations and those pressures arise, remember the stories of the Maccabees and Daniel. Then act as they did, and resolve to stand against the culture and obey God.
To learn more about the Festival of Lights that Jesus would have celebrated, download our complimentary Bible study, “What Is Hanukkah?”.Honor Rabbi Eckstein