Shalom and Chanukah Sameach!
Have you ever considered why the Greeks went to such great lengths in their efforts to conquer the Jewish people? Would you not agree that sending hundreds of thousands of troops to take out a small band of rebels is a little overkill?
This war was very different from previous attacks against Israel. Unlike the Babylonians, the Greeks were fine with the Jews staying in Israel. The Greeks promised peace, education, position, and wealth to anyone who would simply adopt their ways.
The human mind and will are championed in Greek culture. Their ideas and actions have led to modern humanism and naturalism. It’s no wonder the Greeks ordered the Hebrews to stop studying the Torah, circumcising their sons, and keeping the Sabbath. By studying Torah, the Jews proved their belief that God is the source of truth. Through circumcising their sons, the Jews showed their belief in putting away fleshly desires and submitting to God. By keeping Shabbat, the Jewish people proclaimed that stopping human work for one day and refocusing on God’s truth is right.
As we say in Tennessee, those three things are what got stuck in the Greeks’ craw (aggravated them to no end because they would not swallow (accept) them).
Can you think of a few examples of how this self-centered glorification of human ability and thought has continued through history and into our culture? In what ways have you seen those kinds of perspectives oppose faith in God?
I’m sure we could name quite a few! I want to focus on one that is pervasive in Christian circles. In this one way, most Christians are and have for centuries been unable to see outside their desires and accept God’s truth. Most Christians choose not to believe that God has eternally chosen the land of Israel and the Jewish people.
The Maccabees understood that God had chosen Jerusalem. That’s why they fought with such great zeal. They knew that they must keep the menorah burning in God’s House on Mt. Zion, in the holy city of Jerusalem.
The Maccabees fought to bring the spiritual realities of God and His physical creation together. A house in a literal city is a normal, physical thing. God’s light – His presence and His ways – are very spiritual. Combine those, and we have a “Garden of Eden” – God’s original setup for fellowship between Him and humanity.
King Solomon prayed to God and requested that He would hear any foreigner who prayed toward Jerusalem. God answered, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now, I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” (2 Chronicles 7:15-16)
Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den and delivered from it because he was praying towards Jerusalem. (Daniel 6:10)
Judah Maccabee and his men fought to keep the light burning in Zion.
Are we so influenced by Greek culture that we cannot accept God’s word as truth? When will we come to grips with the fact that our human ideas and abilities are wrecking the world?
By leaning on our own understanding, we are causing sin and death to thrive. If we humble ourselves, pray, and turn from our wicked ways (accepting God’s word as the truth), then God will hear from Heaven, forgive us, and heal our land.
This Hanukkah, let us submit ourselves to God. Let’s choose to allow Him to lead us in His truth. Let us lay down our pride and align ourselves with our Creator’s purposes for us – His creation.
Today, I encourage you to take your stand as a modern-day Maccabee and do all you can to build up Jerusalem, knowing that God has chosen Zion and the Jewish people to be a light to the ends of the earth. As we bring the spiritual and physical together, we are building God’s kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.