Friday, November 29, 2013

Hanukkah, the Biblical Feast of Dedication

Tonight we will be joining millions around the world lighting the third candle on their Hanukkah Menorahs.  In Hebrew the word Hanukkah means Dedication.  While many call this the Festival of Lights, it is more accurately called the Feast of Dedication.

Surprisingly, the Feast of Dedication, is a biblical feast.

Perhaps you have heard that Hanukkah is not in the bible, or only merely mentioned in the book of John as Jesus spoke in the temple during the Feast of Dedication.  But when I searched the word I found the Feast of Dedication to have a rich and beautiful history that is spoken of NUMEROUS times in scripture.

After years of war, David was able to secure a time of peace for Israel.  But due to his involvement in bloodshed, YHWH would not allow him to build the Temple.  But his son, Solomon, was given that great commission.

Solomon knew that he was blessed to be a part of this endeavor.  In letters to nearby kings, looking for skilled laborers and materials needed for the construction, Solomon said, "Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts of the Lord our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel. And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him?" 2 Chronicles 2:4-6

After it was built all of Israel celebrated for seven days with feasting and rejoicing and on the eighth day held a solemn assembly for the dedication of the altar.  "So Solomon observed the feast at that time for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly who came from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Egypt. On the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, for the dedication of the altar they observed seven days and the feast seven days. Then on the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people to their tents, rejoicing and happy of heart because of the goodness that the LORD had shown to David and to Solomon and to His people Israel." 2 Chronicles 7:8-10

Then Babylon came and destroyed the temple.

For years it lay desolate as was foretold in Leviticus 26, one of the punishments for NOT following the laws of YHWH. "You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.…" Leviticus 26:33-35

After many years the Persian King allowed a remnant to return to Israel and rebuild their temple.  He even gave them supplies and all the temple items back.

Ezekiel 43 tells us EXACTLY how the temple was to be dedicated.  It detailed the 7 days of sacrifices and prayers and then ends with, "When these days are over it shall be, on the eighth day and thereafter, that the priests shall offer your burnt offerings and your peace offerings on the altar; and I will accept you,’ says the Lord God."

After it was completed the celebration, known as the Feast of Dedication began once again.  It is recounted in Ezra 6:16-18, "Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses." and Nehemiah 12:27, "And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps."

Of course the most common story for the Feast of Dedication surrounds the battle of the Maccabees again Antiochus and his armies.  This story is included in First and Second Maccabbees.  Today these accounts are not in the canon.  But these books were considered scripture until The King James Bible!  It is still included in most canons around the world, but not the Protestant Canon (which was finalized in 1568 with the King James Version of the Bible) and Orthodox Tewahedo.

After the Maccabees battles were over, they cleaned the temple, rebuilt the altar and began the Feast of Dedication. "For eight days they celebrated the rededication of the altar. With great joy they brought burnt offerings and offered fellowship offerings and thank offerings. 57 They decorated the front of the Temple with gold crowns and shields, rebuilt the gates and the priests' rooms and put doors on them. 58 Now that the Jews had removed the shame which the Gentiles had brought, they held a great celebration. 59 Then Judas, his brothers, and the entire community of Israel decreed that the rededication of the altar should be celebrated with a festival of joy and gladness at the same time each year, beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev and lasting for eight days." 1 Maccabees 4:56-59

Years later, the Messiah, stood in that very temple, in Solomon's Porch, during the Feast of Dedication and spoke about his role as our Shepherd and those who were His sheep. "Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:22-30

Now today, we do not have the temple, and we do not have the altar.  Does that mean that this Feast holds no meaning for us?

I believe it pertains to us, personally, EVEN MORE!!!

Christians around the world celebrate year after year, Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down onto the Disciples and filled them.

Yahshua, Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit, and that He dwells in us (2 Timothy 1:14), fills us (Acts 13:52), teaches us (Luke 12:12, John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:13), renews and regenerates us (Titus 3:5 ), and seals us (Ephesians 4:30).

The Holy Spirit most especially had a particular role in the New Covenant.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,[a] says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

The sacrifices were always imperfect, insufficient, and needed to be done again and again.... and the heart of man was unchanged and still willed to sin.  But the New Covenant would seal a people to YHWH whose HEARTS were made of flesh, and the Law was IN THEIR HEARTS, written by the Holy Spirit.

This was reiterated in Hebrews 8:8-12, "Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

What did YHWH find fault with?  What was YHWH replacing?  Imperfect priests, offering imperfect sacrifices, for hard hearted people.

This New Covenant was sealed with the blood of Yahshua, Jesus, as stated in Matthew 26:28 "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

Paul explains how WE, followers of Yahshua, Jesus, ARE NOW THE TEMPLE! "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Throughout the scriptures we are urged to consecrate ourselves, dedicate ourselves, set ourselves apart for YHWH alone.

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

Leviticus 20:7 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.

Numbers 11:18 Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat.

1 Samuel 16:5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

2 Chronicles 29:31 Then Hezekiah answered and said, “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord, come near, and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the Lord.” So the assembly brought in sacrifices and thank offerings, and as many as were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings.

1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

During this Feast of Dedication we find the perfect reminder to re-evaluate our hearts and minds and souls that we are supposed to give wholy to YHWH as Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." and is repeated by Yashua, Jesus in Matthew 22:37.

We can also Dedicate our families, our homes, our marriage to Him.  We can evaluate our labors, our time and our money usage and Dedicate portions of these to Him as our situation allows.

Tonight, we light the third candle, this being the third day in this year's Feast of Dedication.  We will first light the highest candle on our menorah, called the Shamash, the Servant.  And then lifting it, we will carry it to the other smaller candles and gently light them, one by one.

And tonight, I will know that just like the other Feasts of YHWH that my family has discovered in the Bible, that this Feast of Dedication is also a rich and intricately weaved story throughout the bible that reveals our purpose to YHWH and our beloved Messiah, Yahshua, Jesus, who is "the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world." John 1:9

'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'"  (John 8:12)

And it points us to a beautiful, bright and glorious future in the New Jerusalem, with Our YHWH Elohim, who loves us, "I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb." Revelations 21:22-23


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