Mi-Ketz / Hanukkah
For the week of December 27, 2003 / 2 Tevet 5764
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17
and Bemidbar / Numbers 7:54 - 8:4
Haftarah 1 Kings 3:15 - 4:1
Replaced by 1 Kings 7:40-50
Originally published the week of December 7, 2002 / 2 Tevet 5763
These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed (Bemidbar / Numbers 7:88).
Hanukkah means dedication. It refers to the rededication of the alter in Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee in the second century before the Messiah. This rededication was necessary because the altar had been desecrated by the pagan sacrifices that had been offered on it.
This week's parasha (Torah reading) refers to the time when the original altar was dedicated at the time of Moses. There was a twelve day ceremony when leaders from each of the tribes of Israel brought special offerings. Clearly the altar was set apart for a special purpose. It was to be used for the God of Israel in the precise way he had commanded.
The altar was special, not because it was special in and of itself, but because it was given over to the service of God.
But what had happened in the days of the Maccabees is that the altar was abused. Forbidden animals had been sacrificed on it. When Judah and his army arrived at the temple and found that the altar had been desecrated, they tore it down and built another one.
Some might think that it would have been sufficient to simply restore the altar. Would it not have been good enough to end its abuse and use it properly again?
God's things cannot be used in any way we wish, and then still be effective tools for God. If something is dedicated to God, then it is for God, and that's that. Calling something dedicated isn't what makes it dedicated. Either it is dedicated to him or not.
But isn't this exactly what we do with our own lives?
The New Covenant Scriptures are correct when they say that our reasonable response to God for all that he has done for us is the giving of ourselves to him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means that we should completely dedicate or give ourselves over to God and his service. Most people who have come into a right relationship with God through the Messiah have little trouble accepting this. But at the same time we have a tendency to mix our lives with other things that are not of God.
If this is how we have been living, then maybe it is time for a radical change. Instead of just hoping that our lives would get a little better, maybe we should ask God to completely revolutionize our lives so that we would be dedicated to him in the way we need to be.
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