On behalf of the entire staff and Board of The Joshua Fund, allow me to wish all of our Jewish friends — in Israel and around the world — a happy and blessed Chanukah holiday season. ‘Tis the season to remember the miracle of what the Lord did to protect the Jewish people from her enemies in ancient times, and give her light when it seemed that the light was about to be extinguished.
As many of you know, I’ve just returned from two weeks in Israel with several of our Joshua Fund team. I look forward to reporting soon on some of the key things I learned and heard on that trip. For now, though, I just want to express my thanksgiving for your faithful prayers and financial support of this ministry. We are seeing so many Jews and Arabs blessed and encouraged in so many practical and personal ways by the unconditional love of Christians from all over the world. Thank you so much for being part of this ministry.
Tonight, Lynn and our boys — along with my parents who are visiting from Colorado — began celebrating the first night of Chanukah by lighting the menorah. As we did, I couldn’t help but think of the many threats facing Israel and the Jewish people in our time. Yet I was also reminded of the good news that the God of Israel is committed to protecting His people and drawing them to Himself, just as the Holy Scriptures teach us. “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.” (Psalm 121:3-5)
I hope you’ll take some time to learn more about this important Jewish holiday, and take some time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the Lord to show His grace and mercy to Israel and the Jewish people, as well as to Israel’s Arab and Persian neighbors and enemies. God loves all the people of the Middle East, not just one side or the other.
Here are some resources for you to use with your family and friends:
- Here is a fun music video of the story of Chanukah by a Jewish group called the “Maccabeats.”
- Here is an excellent one-page summary of the Chanukah story you can print off an read to your children and family.
- Here are excerpts from an article on The Joshua Fund website explaining the holiday of Chanukah:
And it shall come to pass in that day That the remnant of Israel, And such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, Will never again depend on him who defeated them, But will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. Isaiah 10:20 (NKJV)
The Feast of Dedication – Chanukah (Hanukkah) that literally means “Dedication”– is celebrated in 2013 beginning at sundown Wednesday, November 27th and continuing through Thursday, December 5th. The history of Chanukah began with the capturing of Judea by Alexander the Great, who had conquered most of the ancient world of the Eastern Mediterranean. As the generals of Alexander the Great’s army divided up the empire after the conquest, the area of Judea came under the control of Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Antiochus tried to force the Jews to accept the Greek culture, even resorting to defiling the Temple by erecting a statue of the god Zeus in the Holies of Holies. The Jewish people revolted and fought a courageous war to drive out the Greeks sometime around 163 B.C. The Jewish people were then able to enter the city and worship in their Temple.
Thus began the Feast of Dedication which celebrates the great deliverance of the Jewish people from their oppressors and the dedication of the newly cleansed Temple. Jewish tradition states that there was only a one-day supply of the special oil that was burned in the Temple menorah, and the process to make more would take eight full days. As the people lit the menorah on the first day, and the oil miraculously burned for eight days while more was being prepared.
Today, Chanukah is celebrated with a nine branch candelabra or menorah. The eight branches recall the eight days the oil burned miraculously, while the ninth is the servant candle that is used to light the other candles. Each evening during the eight-day feast, one more candle is lit – one the first night, two the second night – until all eight candles plus the servant candle are burning brightly on the last night. The servant candle is called the “Shamash,” and literally means “makes use possible.” Chanukah, also called the Festival of Lights, is often accompanied by the giving of gifts.
Yeshua (Jesus) went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, and while in the Temple area He proclaimed His divinity: “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30 NKJV)
- One quick interesting factoid about Chanukah: This holiday is not mentioned in the Old Testament. That’s because the battles between the Jews and the Greeks, and the miracle of the oil, took place after the canon of the Old Scripture was completed. Yet, this holiday — the “Feast of Dedication” — is actually mentioned in the New Testament. In John 10:22 and the following verses, we see that Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate this Jewish Feast with His disciples.