For the week of December 19, 1998 / 30 Kislev 5759
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7 (English Bible: 2:10 - 4:7)
Relying on God
'Not by might nor by power, but by my
There are special Haftarah portions that are read on the Sabbaths of festivals. The passage for Hanukkah is Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7 (English Bible: 2:10 - 4:7 - There are several occasions where there are differences between the Hebrew and the English Bibles regarding chapter breaks). This passage was probably chosen because of the references to priestly cleansing (3:3-5) and the menorah (candlestick [4:2,3]), both of which are predominant themes of the Hanukkah story.
The verse that we will look at provides us with what is likely that the most important aspect of Hanukkah.
For more information on Hanukkah, see the special Hanukkah section.
God's people have been through great many difficulties through the years. The Jewish calendar is full of these reminders, but what are we to remember, what can we learn?
'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty (Zechariah 4:6).
How God works through people, is difficult to understand. Secular Humanism has led us to believe that the material, physical realm is all there is. We tend to think that life is merely made up of cause and effect.
Hanukkah retells the story of a great victory through an unlikely group of people. We could marvel at their fortitude and expertise. But that is a partial reality.
Even those who profess a belief in God struggle to understand how to interact with God's Spirit.
What does it mean to rely on God's Spirit? First we need to realize that we cannot depend on ourselves. Real help comes from an invisible, spiritual realm. But this is not a psychological concept or a frame of mind, nor is it some impersonal force. God is personal. While he is not human by nature, he relates to us in human terms.
Second, we are to be attentive to God's communication. We are not to interact with life simply through our own reasoning and desires, nor make decisions on the basis of what the society dictates. Rather we are to wait for God's direction, and do what he says no matter how contrary to popular opinion it might be.
Finally, to rely on God's Spirit is to realize that we aren't in control. God is the Master of the Universe - the Lord. He is to be obeyed, not merely conferred with. He will have his way in the end. We would do well to cooperate with him.
If we, like the heroes of the Hanukkah story would rely on God spirit, then we, like they, will shine in this dark world.