Lights and Messiah Yeshua – November 2013

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Lights and Messiah Yeshua
Fishing Lessons for Redeemed Israel
by Angus and Batya Wootten

Hanukkah is coming. For those who were not raised with its traditions the question is, to celebrate or not to celebrate? And if so, how so?

Many returning Israelites were raised with the Christian traditions of Christmas, but as they learned more about their Israelite heritage and the sources of some Christian traditions, they stopped celebrating them. So it is that this can be a stressful time of year. Divisions often arise between family and friends over two winter celebrations that center around “lights”-Hanukkah and Christmas.

How should Believers in the Messiah handle family and friends and these two holidays? What do we do about traditions that do not line up with Scripture? How do we treat people who do not yet see the things we are seeing? Do we refuse to have anything to do with them?

We ask these questions because, in the Messianic/Hebrew Roots movements, Believers have often been treated harshly concerning things that have to do with Christmas. In some cases, accusations were delivered without mercy; some were not even true. And now, some are questioning Hanukkah and its traditions. So, how should we handle these issues?

There is no single, one-size-fits-all answer.

The fact is, we are dealing with individuals and their traditions – many of which are connected to memories of good times with family, so we need to be careful about how we treat them. We do not want to become part of the problem because we lacked understanding or tact.

John said, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?” (1 John 4:20, NLT).

How do we love people who are doing things we do not want to do? Scripture says, “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart” (1 John 1:22, NLT).

Our love for our fellow man must be sincere and not feigned. We can’t pretend to love and tell people off in the name of “speaking the truth.” We must instead “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

To do that we must be guided by the Holy Spirit-in every individual case. He knows exactly what to say that will minister to the person and not add to their problem-it being that they need to hear the truth and be set free by it.

We need to see encounters over holidays created by men as possible fishing expeditions. Messiah Yeshua said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). When we fish with a line, we do not yank hard on it when a fish bites. That will possibly tear its mouth and lead to it getting away. We instead gently try to reel them in. Gentleness is the word for the day in our fishing expeditions. Reeling in a healthy fish is our goal.

When we cast a net for fish, if we hope for a good harvest, we need to cast a wide net. We cannot be narrow-minded when we fish. Criticisms should only be made with genuine concern for the people involved and presented in a way that encourages the hearer. Putting people down is not the way to lift up our Creator. Holiday encounters are not about us showing off our great know-ledge and condemning people for their supposed lack thereof. It is about us walking in a way that causes people to feel that they can trust in us, and thus make them feel safe to ask us questions. Then, in meekness, we can “give an answer [for] … the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15).

We never want to make people feel stupid. Most of us already know that on some level, we are just that, so what we want is a friend who will help us to be smarter. We need to be that friend.

We are walking in a place where man has not walked before. We live in a time when our Father is making the two sticks of Judah and Ephraim one in His hand (Ezekiel 37:15-28). In this hour, we may have to walk in places and ways we might not have considered before. So, we need to be careful about cutting ourselves off from those who might have ears to hear the truth. Abba says, “Come out from among un-believers, and separate yourselves from them” (2 Corinthians 6:17). We do not want to partake of their sins, but also need to be like Messiah: “He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And…when He was reclining at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Him and His disciples ….When the…Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?’ Hearing this, Yeshua said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners'” (Mark 2:14-17).

We serve a Messiah who would leave 99 healthy sheep to go find 1 that was lost (Matthew 18:12). We need to be like Him in word and deed. This is not to suggest compromise in any way. When it comes to our personal lives, we suggest “Commitment without Compromise,” but with others, we need to have “Mercy without Measure.”

To represent the truth of our God, we must realize that He hates, even detests, unequal weights and measures and those who use them. He warns us to judge with righteous judgment (Deuteronomy 25:15-16; Proverbs 20:10; John 7:24). We must be fair in our judgments. We cannot use one set of weights and measures for Christians and Christmas and a different set for Jewish people and Hanukkah. Both holidays were created by men and are less than perfect. However, many who are drawn to them, or born into them, need to hear an encouraging word about the Light of the World: Messiah Yeshua. We are called to represent Him. He told us not to put our light under a basket, but to let it give light to “everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15). We do not want to use our light to “expose” darkness, but to draw our family together into its warm glow. Let us therefore ask the Ruach to guard and guide us so we can help all of our family to see the true Light.

Hanukkah History

In 168 B.C., on Kislev 25 (corresponds to November/December), the army of the Greek-Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated Israel’s Temple. Antiochus ordered the sacrifice of a pig on the sacred altar, had pagan idols brought into the Sanctuary, and forbade all worship of the God of Israel. He also forbade practicing the Instructions of the Torah. Those who chose to obey the Holy One rather than man were seen as violators-the decreed punishment being execution.

Under the leadership of the Hasmonean family, especially the son, Judah (the Maccabee: Hammer), a faithful remnant resisted the would-be conquering Syrians. They called on YHVH Tsavaot, the LORD of Hosts, the God of the Armies of Israel and asked Him to aid them in their battle. Although greatly outnumbered, after years of battle, they managed to regain control of Jerusalem in 165 B.C.

According to tradition, the Maccabees found a one day supply of oil for the Menorah and that one day cruse lasted for eight days, while fresh oil was consecrated-thus giving light in the Temple. (Early accounts of Hanukkah do not include this story.) They cleansed the Temple, and on the 25th day of Kislev, exactly three years after the Syrians had profaned the Sanctuary, a new altar was dedicated.

In commemoration of this victory, and because they had been unable to celebrate Sukkot (Tabernacles) at its proper time, they celebrated for eight days and gave glory to their God for delivering them from their enemies. This victory celebration began to be repeated and became known as Hanukkah, which means Dedication. It began to be held in addition to, and after the Feast of Sukkot. Thus, Hanukkah is not one of Israel’s appointed feasts but was instituted by man.

In the Apocrypha, I Maccabbees 2-4, we read of Israelites who refused to bow down to false gods. National deliverance from their enemies was important to the celebration they established. To honor this event in our day, worship services in synagogues around the world include the prophetic passage from Zechariah: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

 For eight consecutive days Jewish people light candles on a nine branched Hanukkah candelabra, starting on the right and adding a candle a night, lit by the middle, servant candle.

Judah does not use a seven branched Menorah like the one in the Temple because the Orthodox Jewish community opposes the idea of reproducing the items that were especially dedicated for Temple use.

Just before sunset, families gather to light the first candle during this “Festival of Lights.” Children are given gifts of gelt (money) and chocolate, and a dreidel game is played using a special top and beans. Hanukkah songs are sung and the story of redemption is retold. The center, or otherwise prominent candle of the Hanukkia Lamp is tradition-ally called the shammas or servant. Each night it is used to light the other candle(s). On the first night, it is used to light one candle (starting on the right side), on the second night two; adding one candle each night until, on the last night, all eight candles are individually lit by the shammas.

Nine-branched lamps should be called Hanukkia lamps to distinguish them from the seven-branched Menorah the Almighty designed for the Tabernacle and Temple.

Because of the Maccabees, the Temple was rededicated and freedom to worship the God of Israel was restored. Most important, He again confirmed His desire to forever preserve His Jewish people.

In our day, many non-Jewish Believers choose to celebrate Hanukkah because it reminds them of the Father’s deliverance and protection and it honors Israel’s dedicated leaders. So, how should the non-Jew relate to this holiday? Do we follow the traditions of our Jewish brothers, or, is there something more for us to see here? Can we possibly help shed new light on its meaning?

Messiah Yeshua: Pacing in the Portico

John 10:22-24 reads, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico [porch] of Solomon.” Some feel this text proves Yeshua celebrated Hanukkah. But, does it instead show Him as being off in the distance, walking, looking on from Solomon’s Portico? (Rebuilt on the same spot as Solomon’s previous Portico.)

This verse may not indicate that Yeshua was participating in Hanukkah. It says He was “walking in Solomon’s Portico.” He was walking around, or treading about in a location that was off to the side of the Temple (see graphic and Strong’s word # G4043).

If so, why would Yeshua have been off to the side, pacing about? He may have had reservations about this celebration because, while He appreciates true dedication in His people, and knows that we need national protection from enemies, He also knew that He was instead the true “Temple” (Isaiah 8:14; John 2:19-22).

Messiah Yeshua knew that the physical Temple being honored was destined to be completely destroyed. He once said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'” (Luke 13:34-35).

To have Yah’s protection, we must heed the word of His prophets.

The Glory and Tragedy of the Hasmonean Era

The Hasmonean Era is said to be “one of the most glorious and tragic in Jewish history” (www.jewishhistory.org, Hasmonean Era). They reclaimed and cleansed the Temple, but they also forced conversions and mandated a Hanukkah celebration (www.chanukahgiftsplus.com, Macabees). To mandate a celebration in Israel is to add to YHVH’s commands and that is forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2).

The Hasmoneans also began a Dynasty that took kingly leadership from David’s House-and that led to it falling into Herod’s Idumean hands-and Messiah Yeshua was from David’s Royal Line. He was the rightful heir of King David (Genesis 49:10; 2 Chronicles 7:18).

By the time of Yeshua, Hanukkah had become a symbol of fighting against national oppressors (Apocrypha, 2 Maccabees 10:6-9).

Perhaps because of these things, the Lion from the Tribe of Judah was watching the celebration off to the side and treading about. And, He also knew that Zechariah had foretold both a separation and latter-day reunion between the people of Judah and King David’s House: “The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah” (Zechariah 12:7). (For more information, see Restoring Israel’s Kingdom by Angus Wootten, Chapter 1. Also see Israel’s Feasts and their Fullness by Batya Wootten, Chapter 34, “The Roots of Christmas.”)

Due to their focus on physical deliverance from their enemies, some Pharisees were challenging Yeshua’s Messianic claims, saying, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” In other words, “If you are the Messiah, when are you going to begin to lead us like a Messiah and deliver us from our oppressors?”

In response, Yeshua affirmed His oneness with YHVH and claimed that He was leading His people. However, He spoke of an eternal kingdom, of personal deliverance, and of putting an eternal deposit of light within each man who would believe in Him. He also told those who questioned Him, “You do not believe…because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will 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 the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

When He said this, “the Jews picked up stones again to stone Him,” saying they did so, “Because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:24-32).

Hanukkah celebrations featured lighted menorahs, and Yeshua told them that He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12). But they did not recognize Him. They were celebrating the “Feast of Lights” but could not see that He is the “Light of the World.”

When questioned about His Messiahship at this time, why did Yeshua answer by telling of YHVH’s divine protection over His sheep, and by declaring that His sheep hear His voice? Because Ezekiel and others spoke of a Shepherd God who would gather scattered Israel and Messiah Yeshua was claiming that title (Ezekiel 34).

The people emphasized physical deliverance and wanted Yeshua to crush their Roman oppressors-like the Maccabees did with the Syrians. But, He wanted something more lasting for His people. He affirmed that His flock was under His Messianic protection and guidance, but they did not understand that His Kingdom was “not of this world” (John 17:14-16; 18:36).

Sadly, Yeshua’s questioners could not understand the eternal kingdom of which He spoke. They had not given their hearts to Him and did not belong to Him. If they had done so, they would have been given ears to hear. They would realize that He wanted His people to first focus on cleansing their own temples (body, soul, and spirit), and thus be built up as a Holy Temple by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 2:5).

Cleansed Temples and Pure Lights

We are called to be temples of the Living God – and we need to allow the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to cleanse our Holy of Holies – which is our hearts. When we allow Him to have His way in our inner man, He will pour in a goodly supply of oil, and we will be living examples to all the world of the eternal light, the protection and provision that is found only in YHVH Elohim (2 Corinthians 6:16; 7:1; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:9; Matthew 5:14; John 8:12).

First we clean the inside of the cup, and then the outside. First, we cleanse our hearts, then we come under His wing of protection.

Messiah Yeshua is the Servant named Israel – sent to raise up Jacob’s tribes and to restore the preserved ones of Israel. He has especially been “a light to the Goyim/Nations.” He came to preserve those of Ephraim, those destined to become a melo hagoyim, a “fulness of the Gentiles.” He is the “Shepherd God” who is gathering the sheep of Israel and their companions (Isaiah 11:11; 49:1-7; Genesis 48:19; Hosea 1-2; Ezekiel 37:19).

He promised to search for His scattered sheep, saying, “I will be their God and….they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid… Then they will know that I, YHVH their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people… For, I will take… Ephraim and Judah and their companions… and make them one stick in My hand…and they will be one nation in the Land…” (Isaiah 8:14; Ezekiel 34:11,23,24,28,30; 37:15-28; Amos 9:9). The sheep who follow Him, regardless of the tribulations they may have to walk through, do not need to fear their oppressors. They can instead trust in Him and always know that He is there for them (Isaiah 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9,10; Hosea 1:2-11; 2:23; Luke 1:33). That is the message the followers of Messiah Yeshua need to impart with their celebrations.

As for how we might want to celebrate, when the prodigal son of Luke 15:11-32 returned home to his father, he went in the house and “celebrated” with him. It was celebration with the father that provoked the older brother to jealousy. This gives us a clue as to Judah’s potential reaction to our latter-day celebrations with our Heavenly Father.

Messiah Yeshua is a “Temple” that needs no cleansing. He is the “Sanctuary” over Whom “both the houses of Israel” continue to “stumble” (Isaiah 8:14; John 2:19-22). As the “Light of the World,” He is the One Who must be lifted up (John 8:12, 28; 12:32; Isaiah 33:10).

So, what do we do about Hanukkah in our day?

To begin, we need to be very careful about our attitudes concerning this information. We must not gloat and think we are aligned with the House of David via its Messiah, and that Jewish Israel is no longer aligned with Him. We need to instead heed Zechariah’s warning that the House of David will not be magnified above Judah! Our God swore that He would again choose Judah and Jerusalem. We need to be wise enough to work toward His stated end time goal-and to always remember that He is the Lion from the Tribe of Judah!

Our God makes it clear that He loves and plans to reunite both the houses of Israel. He says, “‘Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the LORD'” (Jeremiah 31:20). And, “Thus says YHVH Tsa’va’ot [YHVH of hosts], ‘My cities will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem….the LORD will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem'” (Zechariah 1:17; 2:12). The Father loves both houses and plans to gather both Judah and Ephraim. Let us seek to be lights who are ever working toward His stated goal.

Our Job Assignment

We are called to proclaim, through the testimony of our lives, the truth about the eternal life, deliverance and protection that our Messiah provides. We can help others to see this truth by being living examples of His Light and Love. He loved His Jewish brothers and wanted them to know Him. We need to be a proper example to them of His goodness.

At this Hanukkah season, we can choose to rededicate ourselves to the purposes of our God. We can ask Him to give us ears to better hear the voice of our Shepherd, to have the Holy Spirit cleanse us, and to empower us to be wholly dedicated to the restoration of His Kingdom over the whole house of Israel.

During this Season of Lights, we can acknowledge that the One to whom we belong gives greater protection than even the courageous Maccabees. We remember that Messiah Yeshua is Who He claimed to be. He is the Light of the World, and the Shepherd God of Israel. Truly, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

To help us work toward Israel’s reunion and restoration, we have enclosed/attached a list of verses that can be recited and prayed during the eight nights of Judah’s Hanukkah celebration.

However you choose to celebrate, or not celebrate, our prayer is that you might be blessed from on High as you work toward Israel’s full restoration.