December 3, 2015
Seen from the outside, Hanukkah is a festive time, when Jewish people light candles, when children get presents for a whole week and play games with a dreidel. And it is that, but it is also much more. At its foundation it is a moving, inspiring story of God’s protection and provision – one that is especially meaningful this year in light of recent events in Israel.
The story of Hanukkah begins more than 2,000 years ago, when a powerful Greek and Syrian army invaded and occupied Israel. They tried to impose paganism on the Jewish people by forcing them to eat non-kosher food, forbidding circumcision, and placing a pagan idol, Zeus, in the Temple. While many people tried to accommodate this powerful new regime, a small group of Jews, known as the Maccabees, stood strong in their devotion to God. Led by Mattathias and his brothers, the Maccabees revolted against this powerful army – and miraculously, despite overwhelming odds, prevailed.
After their victory, the Jews set out to purify the Temple during the eight-day Feast of Dedication. But when they went to light the Temple’s eternal flame – a key part of any synagogue even to this day – they realized they only had enough oil to keep the flame burning for one day. In obedience, and an inspiring act of faith, they lit it anyway. They trusted God, and He miraculously kept the lamp lit for the entire eight days. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, and why it is called the “Festival of Lights.”
Jews and Christians alike find many important lessons in Hanukkah. We’re inspired to take a courageous and countercultural stand for our faith. We are reminded of the importance of religious liberty, a right we need to continue to fight for – Christians and Jews together. And we see that when we have complete faith in God, He often responds by accomplishing with His strength what we can’t.
Israelis, and Jewish people everywhere, know that the darkness is still present today. We see it in the ongoing terrorist war against Israel. We see it in attacks against the West in Paris and elsewhere, and the murderous advance of ISIS in the Middle East. We see it when the United Nations chooses to blame Israel for all the region’s ills, while turning a blind eye to radical Islamist terrorism. We see it in the rise of violent anti-Semitism worldwide.
Thankfully, the Jewish people do not face this darkness alone. I am so grateful for you, our Fellowship friends. When Palestinian terrorists launched knife and vehicular attacks on everyday Israelis, what some are calling a new intifada, you stood by us with your prayers and support. You allowed us to immediately offer comfort and protection to a suffering nation. In so doing, you, too, lit a candle in the darkness. Israel knows this, and will not forget it.
This year as I light each candle in my menorah, I will thank God for your faithfulness and generosity – and for the ways God continues to protect and provide for His children.