Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” — Psalm 20:7
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles and one of the most joyful holidays on the Jewish calendar. Test your knowledge on Hanukkah by taking our quiz.
Like many Jewish holidays, the celebration of Hanukkah has multiple meanings. While it is a peaceful and happy celebration in the Jewish year, it primarily commemorates a military victory in the year 165 B.C.E. of a Jewish group called the Maccabees over their much greater and more powerful Greek and Syrian oppressors.
It was during this time of Greek-Syrian rule that King Antiochus tried to impose his pagan beliefs on the Jewish people and make them give up their faith and its practices, such as dietary observances and circumcision. He even put a statue of Zeus in the Holy Temple! Finally, a group of Jews — known as the Maccabees — revoltved against their oppressors. On the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev — which usually falls in December — they were able to defeat the Greek-Syrian armies.
For the Jews, this was as much a spiritual victory as a military victory. In overcoming the much superior forces of their foes, they were able to regain control of the Temple, cleanse it of all foreign idols, and rededicate it to God. That’s what Hanukkah means — rededication. Through this victory, this courageous band of Jews was able to preserve their faith for generations to come. If not for the miracle of the Jewish military defeat over the Syrian-Greek tyrants, there might be no Judaism and no Christianity in existence today!
The miracles of this victory — both spiritual and military — remind us of how God works in history and in our lives. The Jewish people acted against the odds, trusting in God’s salvation. But they relied on God’s saving grace only after exhausting their own human powers. They recognized, as did David a thousand years earlier, that while God alone gives victory, we also have a role in initiating that action. We, too, must play our part in order for God to work through us and in us.
What spiritual battle are you facing today? Remember that nothing is too difficult for our God. God alone can preserve a nation, a people, a faith, and an individual. Do all you can do, but make sure your confidence is ultimately in the right place — not your own efforts, but His. Then we can say, along with King David, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”