Tis the Season to Hear His Voice
It's the holiday season, and as they say, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." What makes it so wonderful? Is it the lights, the decorations, the festivities, maybe the gifts? Or maybe it is all of these things. Christians traditionally celebrate Messiah's birth on December 25th since the fourth century CE when the Emperor Constantine made this the official date of Messiah's birth, but many historians believe that the Messiah was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles and was circumcised on the eighth day, because of the theme of Tabernacles ("God with us" and the celebration of the Word). But we also find that in this same month on the 25th of Kislev on the Biblical calendar is the 8-day celebration of Hanukkah, which can be as early as the end of November or as late as the fourth week in December.
Today we want to look at the holiday season and see how it is all connected and how we are to relate to it as believers in Messiah. We want to start by looking at John 10:22-28: "Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Yeshua was in the temple courts walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around Him, saying, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered, 'I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in My Father's name testify about Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand.'"
Why does Scripture tell us that it was the Feast of Dedication and that it was winter? Well, that is because it was Hanukkah. Hanukkah means "dedication." So we are going to take a closer look into this to see why John feels he needs to tell us that it was Hanukkah, a time of dedication.
Let's look at the Hanukkah story. There was a cruel king named Antiochus (look at his name, it almost looks like his name is antichrist), who came to power. He wanted all the Jews to follow the Greek religion of polytheism, for the Greeks worshiped many gods, but the Jews worshiped only one God, the One True God. The Jews refused to worship these false gods. In fact, the king wanted them to change their names to Greek names and wear Greek clothes and eat unkosher Greek foods. The king wanted them to put statues of Greek gods in their homes. When they refused, the king was very angry and he ordered his soldiers to destroy their homes and the Temple, and many people were killed. Then he set up an idol on the Temple altar (the Abomination of Desolation). It is important that we remember that this was a battle between two worldviews: God's and Satan's (which is Humanism; for more info read Fleeing Babylon).
There was a man who was called Mattathias who refused to listen to the king, and he and his five sons gathered together the farmers, shepherds, and townspeople. They took whatever they had that they could use as weapons to fight the king's men. These people became known as the Maccabees, named after Judah Maccabee ("The Hammer"), their leader after the death of Mattathias. God was with them and gave them the victory over the Syrian army.
As the story of the Maccabees continues, they go to restore the Temple, for it was badly damaged. After repairing and cleaning the Temple, they had to rededicate it—thus the name of the holiday, Hanukkah, meaning dedication. But when they went to light the Menorah, they found that there was only one day's worth of consecrated oil.
The people found themselves in a dilemma when they realized that they only had one day's worth of oil, because the Menorah was to be continually lit, as Exodus 27:20 tells us, "Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning."
Leviticus 24:2 says, "Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually."
To make the oil for the Menorah, the olives were to be crushed, beaten, and struck. Does this make us think of anything? It should! Isaiah 53:4-5 says this: "Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed."
John 19 tells us, "And some began to spit on Him, and to cover His face, and to buffet Him, and to say unto Him, 'Prophesy:' and the servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands."
Luke 22:63-64 says, "The men who were guarding Yeshua began mocking and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and demanded, 'Prophesy! Who hit you?'"
Isaiah 53:10a tells us this: "Yet it was the Lord's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer."
So why did the olives have to be crushed, struck, and beaten? Well, one reason is that the menorah represents the Messiah. In the Temple, the Menorah is called the "Light to the Nations." The Menorah represents Messiah, the "Light of the World." John 8:12 records this: "Again, Yeshua spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" Because of this, every time they made the oil for the "Light of the World," it was a prophetic witness to the death of Messiah. We see that it pleased God to crush Him because through this He was going to bring about salvation, as Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us, "Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."
We want to look at carbon as an example. Carbon is what makes up the graphite in a lead pencil, and carbon is what also makes a diamond. When only low pressure and heat is put to carbon, you get graphite, the lead needed for a pencil, but if you put carbon under great pressure and high heat then you get a diamond. In fact, this is true of all precious gems. God wants us to be diamonds, full of light, reflecting Him.
If our Messiah is the Light, then we too must also be light. Matthew 5:14-16 tells us, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Because we are light also, we must follow the example of Messiah. We are to follow in His footsteps. Paul tells us in Philippians 3:7-12, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Messiah. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Messiah and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Messiah—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Messiah—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Messiah took hold of me."
What did Messiah take hold of? Our salvation.
Yeshua tells us just how important it is for us to keep our lamps burning in the parable in Matthew 25:1-13. "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. 'Lord, Lord,' they said, 'open the door for us!' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
But to get the pure oil needed to keep our lamps burning, we must also be crushed. The word "press on" that Paul uses in Philippians 3:12 is just like the pressing that takes place when you crush an olive.
Paul tells us about this pressing in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. "Are they servants of Messiah?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches."
Paul tells us again in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, "But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things."
Yeshua tells us in John 12:25, "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal."
James 1:2-4 tells us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
2 Corinthians 4:16-17 says, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
So how is your supply of oil? We all need a daily refueling. We all need the oil of the Holy Spirit to keep our light burning, and to do that we must walk in the Spirit and live in the Spirit as Galatians 5:25 tells us.
Well, returning to the Hanukkah story, the God who told the people that the light must never go out and that the Menorah must be continuously lit made sure they did just that. The one-day supply of oil lasted eight days. What a miracle! On the 25th day of Kislev, 165 B.C.E., the temple was rededicated. Exactly three years to the day that the Abomination of Desolation was placed on the altar, the new rebuilt and dedicated altar was now offering up sacrifices unto God, and thus this feast was also called the "Sukkah of Fire," referring to the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
We too must be living sacrifices unto God, as Romans 12:1-2 tells us, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will."
The Maccabees had just finished keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, and when they wanted to keep the remembrance of the dedication of the temple and the great victory and miracle, they considered having another eight days of Tabernacles. They brought out the boughs and the palms, and they rejoiced for eight days as they lit an eight-candle candelabra—one candle for each of the eight days. But before the Feast of Tabernacles, they had just gone through a 40-day preparation time, preparing for the Day of Atonement, a time when one considers his deeds and repents and, as it were, rededicates his life to God. As we had said in the beginning of this teaching, historians believe that Yeshua was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. Today many people keep Advent as a time to prepare for the birth of the Messiah. We know that Messiah came, so now we must be preparing for His second coming.
This now brings us to another story that took place many years after the Maccabees, another story of light: the star that guided the three wise men. Historians believe that they were three rabbis from Babylon.
Luke 2:1-21 gives us the account of His birth: "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.' When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Yeshua (God's Salvation), the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived."
Yeshua was a king that was born a pauper in humble surroundings, and yet hosts of angels sang and rejoiced and praised God, appearing to lowly shepherds out in the fields. Wisemen would travel a great distance to pay homage to the king and give him costly gifts. When King Herod heard that there was a newborn king, he sent his soldiers to kill all the baby boys under two. Right here we see that our two stories are connected: the family name of the Maccabees was Hasmonian and they were a priestly line, but when they won the victory over the Syrians they became the ruling class in Jerusalem. Of course, they were illegitimate because they were not of the line of David, but Levi. So years later, we find that King Herod, who kills all the babies because he felt his kingship threatened, is of the Hasmonian dynasty.
Luke 2:25-32 continues the story. Mary and Joseph bring Yeshua to the Temple: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Yeshua to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying: 'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.'"
We continue to read in Luke 2:41-42, "Every year Yeshua's parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When He was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom." After leaving Jerusalem three days, Yeshua's parents finally realize that their son was not with them. So they went back to look for Him. "After three days they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers" (Luke 2:46-47). It is so interesting that this took place during Passover. Yeshua could not be found for three days (a foreshadowing of Him being in the grave), but then He was found (resurrection). Found where? In the Temple, among those who were teaching the Word of God. Yeshua loved the House of God so much that we find Him one day making this point in Matthew 21:12-13, "And Yeshua entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, 'It is written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer," but you make it a den of robbers.'"
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
This is a season about so many things: miracles, a baby, a king, a savior. But it is also about many things that we need to be. We are to be light, and we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we too must be holy and our temple must also be a house of prayer. Like sheep we must hear God's voice and follow our Shepherd, the Messiah. It may have been just the shepherds who saw and heard those angels that night, but God's Word speaks to us today telling us that Messiah has come to bring us Good News.
The Apostle John tells us that it was the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) because John wanted to remind the people what Yeshua told them that day during Hanukkah, as they gathered themselves at Solomon's Colonnade, that His sheep listen to His voice and follow Him, because as Mark 13:14 tells us, Yeshua warns the people, "When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."
The people understood Yeshua's reference to the Abomination of Desolation, that it was referring to the time of Hanukkah, and that Yeshua was warning them that it was going to happen again—and it did. The people remembered His warning and did just as He had said. They were saved because they listened to His voice. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
Satan has been at war with God since he fell, and Humanism has been his religion. Humanism tells us that there is no One God—we are all gods, and we have the ability to help ourselves. Humanism is what creates power, elitism, and slavery. Humanism is the religion that will usher in the Antichrist. Like Antiochus, he will be anti-torah, law-less, and everyone will have to worship the god of Humanism. But Yeshua tells us how we can avoid falling into the trap of Humanism, and it starts by hearing God's voice and doing as He says.
Yeshua goes on to say in Mark 13, "If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom He has chosen, He has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, "Look, here is the Messiah!" or, "Look, there He is!" do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time."
Today let us keep our light shining and let us be the temple of the Holy Spirit, holy unto the Lord. Let us proclaim like the angels, like the shepherds in the field, God's harvest fields, that Yeshua is coming back and we need to prepare.
"Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King, and let every heart prepare Him room." Have a very blessed celebration of Messiah's birth and a very happy Hanukkah!