Posts Tagged ‘Maccabean revolt’

Hanukkah Word: Tradition

When I think of the word ‘tradition’, I immediately hear Tevye’s booming voice singing “TRADITION”, in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Along with singing the word ‘tradition’ over and over, he discourses during the song:
 
“Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat… how to work… how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, “How did this tradition get started?” I’ll tell you! … I don’t know. But it’s a tradition… and because of our traditions… Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”
 
I remember hearing a statement years ago that went something like “It’s not that the Jews keep traditions; it’s that the traditions keep the Jews.” There is great truth in that statement because it’s not the only the Jews who have traditions. Some of us macro-tradition and follow the ways of our ancestors in how we carve a turkey, the ethnic meals we make or the educational institutions we choose. Some of us micro-tradition with how we launder our clothes, manage our hair or brush our teeth. Traditions not only help us order our daily lives, but they maintain a sense of family identity throughout the generations.
 
Tevye doesn’t know ‘where’ he got the traditions of keeping his head covered and his little prayer shawl. He doesn’t know ‘where’ the traditions of how to sleep, eat, work and wear clothes came from either. However, Tevye does know that they are expressions of who he is, who God is, and how he is expected to live in God’s design for life. His traditions bring balance to his life and, from what I can tell Tevye’s traditions do not break any of God’s commandments. In fact, they are expressions of those commandments in his life.
 
“He [Yeshua] answered, “Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).
 
“Thus, with your tradition which you had handed down to you, you nullify the Word of God! And you do other things like this” (Mark 7:13).
 
According to many, celebrating Hanukkah is a manmade Jewish tradition, not a Biblical holy day, and therefore should not be celebrated. Their rationale is that all traditions, because they are manmade, are contrary to God’s commands. Yet, Yeshua is clear that not all traditions nullify the Word of God. If that were the case, Yeshua wouldn’t have fit into the basic Jewish culture in which he lived: what he ate, how he dressed, where he went to school, and how he passed his mother onto John with his dying breath.
 
Hanukkah is in the Bible. In John chapter 10, it is winter and the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah has arrived. Yeshua is walking around in Solomon’s Porch. Solomon’s Porch was a covered area on the far eastern side of the Temple area. It joined with the Court of the Gentiles where non-Jews would come to the Temple to worship the God of Israel as God-fearers. It was in this area that Yeshua’s fellow Jews surrounded him and demanded that he reveal whether or not he is the Messiah.
 
This is a dangerous confrontation because they already know that Yeshua has no problem rebuking anyone when they are living or speaking contrary to the will of God. He chastised some Pharisees regarding the ceremonial hand washing. He called other Jewish leaders blind fools and white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. He completely discouraged the rich young man who wanted to follow him on his own terms. And, he told Peter, “Get behind me Satan.”
 
If Yeshua believed that Hanukkah was only a manmade tradition that nullified the commands of God, he would have spoken up at this very moment. He would have marched over to the Altar and rebuked the priests. He would have entered the Holy Place and overturned the Temple Menorah. He would have cried out in a loud voice for all of the men and women in the Temple area to hear, charging them with great sin in their idolatry and manmade traditions. He would have reprimanded them for celebrating the re-Dedication of His Father’s House when it wasn’t in Torah. Instead of acting like the anti-Messiah and a fanatic lunatic, he speaks to them of sheep hearing his voice, the miracles he has done in his Father’s name, and his Oneness with his Father. Whether he lit a menorah in his house or played dreidel, we don’t know. But we do know he did not rebuke anyone, including those in the Court of the Gentiles, for being in the Temple at Hanukkah.
 
Why?
 
Because Yeshua is Jewish. His own ancestral history is tied up in the miraculous victory of Judah Maccabee and his armies over the Greeks. Had the Jewish people been annihilated by Antiochus Epiphanes, he wouldn’t even be standing among his Jewish brothers and sisters. They would have all been destroyed.
 
Because Yeshua is the Son of God. The Temple is his Father’s House, the place where he spent his time instructing those in Jerusalem who had ears to hear. Had the Maccabees not fought off the Greeks, the Temple would have remained a desecrated and unholy place. There would be no account of young Yeshua teaching in the Temple nor would he have been able to call His Father’s house a ‘house of prayer for all nations’.
 
Because Yeshua is the Lamb of God. The re-dedication of the Altar has great significance to Israel and the world. Without an Altar there is no place for the burnt offering, grain offering, guilt offering, fellowship offering or sin offering. It is only through blood that there is forgiveness of sins and it came through the shed blood of the Lamb, not the blood of unclean animals like the pigs (Hebrews 10:22).
 
Because Yeshua is the Torah in the flesh (John 1:14). He is the Living Word that is a Menorah to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Whether one flask of oil lasted eight days is recorded or not, it is recorded that the Light of the World stood inside the Court of the Gentiles during the Feast of Dedication revealing his identity. That miracle in itself is worth celebrating!
 
Because Yeshua is God’s prophetic voice to mankind. He uses the very events of the Maccabean Revolt to allude to the time of the end and his return (Matthew 24:15). There will be an ‘abomination of desolation’ in the Holy Place of His Father’s House. It’s unfortunate that the books of Maccabees are only in the Apocrypha (removed from the Protestant canon) because according to Yeshua, we need to understand the ‘allusion’ which only comes from knowing the historical events surrounding the days and times of Judah Maccabee. Without that knowledge, we could very well become part of the great deception of the end times.
 
Traditions, as long as they do not nullify the commands of God are not an abomination to God; they are not going to be judged by God. Instead, they define us as individuals as well as join us together as family. As part of the commonwealth of Israel, lighting an eight-branched menorah unifies Jews and non-Jews as the family of God in a stand against those who would destroy our faith in the God of Israel. When we spin the dreidel and remember how many Jewish men, women and children were willing to die so that we could have the Hebrew Scriptures, “A Great Miracle Happened There” becomes our victory cry when we are persecuted for adhering to the Scriptures. Because Yeshua is our Jewish brother, our Savior, our High Priest, Our King, Hanukkah becomes part of our spiritual history and has great prophetic significance to strengthening our walk of faith in the days to come.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries

Hanukkah Word: Elephants

Many years ago, I was the turkey mascot for the National Home Brewing Association. One year for a shock effect at their national convention in Denver, I had to ride an elephant into a huge convention center room. Yes, I rode an elephant, named Stoney, in a turkey costume. According to Chazal, a Tamuldic sage, “When we are lucky enough to see an elephant we should bless God and say, “Blessed is the One who varies the creatures.” I was very blessed to not only see Stoney, but to have the privilege to ride him.

Elephants are really unique creatures. Apart from being massively large and very smart, they are social, gentle, and loyal. Stoney was trained to kneel down almost laying flat on the ground so I could get on him. His gait was gentle and he lumbered slowly from side to side. I grabbed onto him to stay secure and felt the tiny stiff hairs all over his body. And social? He loved the attention he received from the awe-struck crowd. The flashing of cameras didn’t bother him at all and sometimes he would try to ‘hug’ with his trunk.

Throughout history, elephants were used like military tanks in Asian warfare. Though they were not native to the Middle East, the Seleucids rode elephants to terrify the Jewish fighters during the Maccabean Revolt.

“His [Antiochus’] army numbered a hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants trained for war” (1 Maccabees 6:30).

“Each elephant was outfitted with a strong wooden tower, fastened to it by a harness; each tower held three soldiers who fought from it, besides the Indian driver” (1 Maccabees 6:37).

“All who heard the noise of their numbers, the tramp of their marching, and the clanging of the arms, trembled; for the army was very great and strong” (1 Maccabees 6:41).

Elephants of Syrian Army

At this first encounter, Judah Maccabee and his men defeated 500 men and killed one elephant, but had to retreat. They were not expecting elephants in their battle plans. Perhaps it was at this time that the Maccabees began to say “stronger and smarter than an elephant” as they prepared for further military encounters with these massively strong and smart animals.

Sometime later, “a Greek army of one hundred and ten thousand foot soldiers, fifty-three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes” came to the Judean village of Moedin (2 Maccabees 13:2).

At this second encounter Judah left “the outcome to the Creator of the world, and exhort[ed] his followers to fight nobly to death for the laws [Torah], the temple, the city, the country, and the government…. Giving his troops the battle cry “God’s Victory,” he made a night attack on the king’s pavilion with a picked force of the bravest young men and killed about two thousand in the camp. He also stabbed the lead elephant and its rider. Finally they withdrew in triumph, having filled the camp with terror and confusion. Day was just breaking when this was accomplished with the help and protection of the LORD” (2 Maccabees 13:14-17).

There are those who say these elephant stories never happened or were embellished. Others say they were a metaphor for God’s Hand in the battles. Whatever is the truth, there is always that ‘elephant in the room’ that needs to be addressed – its loud voice.  Let’s see what the Hebrew word pictures say.

In Hebrew, elephant is Pil פיל. The individual letters symbolize “mouth, finished work, shepherd staff” suggesting to me that these mighty blessed elephants were God’s trumpeting mouthpiece prophesying the finished victory through the miraculous hand of the Shepherd of Israel bringing forth the restoration and re-dedication of His Temple in Jerusalem – Hanukkah.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries