Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I
come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. And many nations
shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people.
And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of
hosts has sent me to you. And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion
in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. (Zechariah 2:14-16 /
Hanukkah begins this year the evening of Tuesday, December 16. In
Jewish tradition, it is referred to as a minor festival, since it was
not established through Moses. But this is not a reflection of its
importance. For without the events commemorated by this popular
celebration, the world would be a very different place.
In the mid-2nd century before Yeshua's coming, the plan and purposes
of God almost came to an end. The assimilation forces under the rule of
the Hellenistic Seleucid emperor Antiochus Epiphanes were being very
effective among the Jews in Israel. They, along with the ongoing
presence of God's truth on Earth, may have been wiped out had not God
intervened through the small band of faithful Israelites known as the
Maccabees. That God may have preserved his people and his plan by some
other means is most likely. Yet, it is instructional to look at just how
crucial these events were and what was at stake.
God chose the people of Israel to make himself known to the nations.
That was why God called Abraham in the first place. His plan was never
concerned about Israel alone, but about the world. Precisely how that
was going to work out was not clear in the Hebrew Bible. A common notion
derived from the prophets was that as God brought restoration to Israel,
the nations too would benefit as a spillover effect. What was not
anticipated was that people from all nations would have the opportunity
to personally and intimately come to know the God of Israel too.
While this does not get clearly spelled out until after Yeshua's
coming, there are prophetic portions that do suggest that non-Jews would
one day have a personal relationship with God. One of those portions is
read as a special reading on the Sabbath that occurs during the eight
days of Hanukkah. Zechariah was a prophet a few centuries before the
first Hanukkah, when the Jewish people were in the early stages of
rebuilding the nation after returning from the exile to Babylon. It was
a difficult and discouraging time. But God through Zechariah sought to
encourage the people by speaking of an unknown future time of great
restoration when God himself would live among his people. When this
happens not only will the Jewish people be restored to God, but members
of other nations would join themselves to the God of Israel and become
his people too.
The inclusion of other nations to be part of the people of God is the
fulfillment of God's promise of blessing through Abraham and his
descendants to the world. But note how the inclusion of Gentiles is
connected to Israel's restoration. God's establishment of and
faithfulness to the nation of Israel is a necessary component of God's
rescue plan for the world. Israel was not simply the warm up to God's
greater purposes among the nations. Israel is God's plan through which
salvation comes to all.
That is why God's preservation of Israel commemorated at Hanukkah is
a cause for celebration not just for Jewish people, but for everyone.
The whole world should honor the Maccabees for resisting being absorbed
into the Greek worldview of their day, so that through the Messiah
Yeshua people of every tribe, nation, and language could be an
instrument of God's light today.
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible,
English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a
publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All