The Light of Hope

Of David.
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
      whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
      of whom shall I be afraid? — Psalm 27:1

Today is the second day of  also known as the Festival of Lights, a celebration of two miracles: the victory of the Jews over the Greeks and the single flask of oil that kept the Temple menorah burning for eight days.

Hanukkah is best known for the miracle that occurred when one night’s worth of oil kept the Temple menorah lit for that night and an additional seven more nights. However, if that’s the case, then shouldn’t we celebrate Hanukkah for only seven nights? It was natural for the oil to last the first night; nothing miraculous about that. Only the seven following nights went beyond nature.

The Jewish sages explain that the miracle of the first night of Hanukkah was that they found the oil at all. When the Jews recaptured the Temple and entered it for the first time, it was a heart-wrenching site. The beloved House of God was completely in ruins; the holy site, defiled. The Jews searched for oil to light the menorah, to bring some light to the darkness. But every jar that they found had been opened and defiled. Finally, one tiny jar was found that remained intact with the seal of the High Priest, indicating that the oil was pure. It would take eight days to produce more pure oil, but on that night, the Jews rejoiced at the miracle that they could at least have light for one day and night. That was the miracle of the first night.

As we now know, that one night turned into eight nights. By the time the flames went out, new oil was ready and new flames were lit. From the moment the small jar of oil was found, the Jews never had to go a day without light again.

The Hanukkah story is about hope and miracles. In the darkness, there can be light. Against all odds, that one pure jug of oil was found. Impossibly, but miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights. Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday that centers on night – the time of darkness. We are only permitted to light our menorahs once it is dark outside.

In addition, Hanukkah is celebrated at the darkest time of year – when the days are shortest and the nights are longest. This is because Hanukkah is about times of darkness – times of challenges and difficulties. In that darkness, we light our candles and bring light. We bring a message of hope and encouragement. No matter how dark things may be, we can still find the light. No matter how impossible things may seem, God can make miracles. “The LORD is my light.”

This Hanukkah, light a candle with us. The flame is small but the light is big. Just one candle can light up an entire room of darkness. So, too, just a bit of faith can light up our darkest hours. Our God is a God of miracles – never give up hope!

Joel 2:13 Rend your heart, and not your garments.

Garment-rendering and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations-for such things are pleasing to the flesh-but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven. HEART-RENDING is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone. The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.

Prepare Yourself

“The wise accumulate wisdom.”                                                               Pr14:24 TM

The Bible says, “The wise accumulate wisdom.” So keep learning. Knowledge in most major fields is exploding, and if you don’t stay current you’ll be left behind. Repeating the same lessons over and over means you’re not learning enough. Study those who’ve succeeded where you want to succeed, in order to know what to do and what not to do. U.S. Admiral Hyman Rickover said, “Learn from the mistakes of others; you’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.” So: (1) Respect those with experience and expertise greater than your own. Instead of shrinking away from them, reach for them. The Bible says, “God has given each of you some special abilities…use them to help each other” (1Pe 4:10 TLB). We all struggle in certain areas; be careful lest your insecurity be misinterpreted as arrogance. (2) Become a good listener. Don’t try to impress people by seeking to be their intellectual equal. If you find yourself in a discussion that intimidates you, ask questions, talk only about what you know, listen attentively, and the next time you meet you’ll be that much further ahead. (3) The more you prepare yourself, the more opportunities you’ll get. Don’t come to class unless you’ve done your homework. When God starts taking you higher, prepare your speech, your wardrobe, and your mind. Consult a trusted friend who understands where you are, and where you need to go. If you can’t find one, read up until you grasp the basics. “A king rejoices in servants who know what they are doing” (Pr14:35 TLB). The more prepared you are, the more God will open doors of opportunity for you.

Rededication

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
I will exalt you, LORD,
      for you lifted me out of the depths
      and did not let my enemies gloat over me. — Psalm 30:1

Today is the first day of  also known as the Festival of Lights, a celebration of two miracles: the victory of the Jews over the Greeks and the single flask of oil that kept the Temple menorah burning for eight days.

Today is the first day of Hanukkah, the holiday on which we commemorate the Jewish victory over the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago. Let’s take a moment to understand what the word Hanukkah means and what it tells us about the holiday we are celebrating.

If we divide the word in half, we get two Hebrew words: hanu, which means “they rested,” and kah, which is composed of the Hebrew letters that correspond to the number 25. Based on that, the meaning of the word becomes “they rested on the 25th.” Indeed, the fighting with the Greeks came to a stop on the 25th of the Hebrew month Kislev. It was on that day that a major battle was won and the people rested.

It was also on the 25th that the Jews joyfully marched to the newly recaptured Temple, ready to begin the Temple service again. We can imagine their disappointment as they opened the Temple doors and discovered that the House of God was in shambles. The place of utmost purity was utterly defiled. They realized that the Temple needed more than some cleaning; it needed a complete renewal – a rededication.

On the 25th of Kislev, the Jewish people decided to rise up from the ruins and renew all that had been destroyed. They decided to recommit to their ideals and realign themselves with God. The literal meaning of the word Hanukkah is “dedication”; however, the Temple had already been dedicated. On this day, the word Hanukkah meant “rededication.” It signified a complete renewal.

Psalm 30, which we read on Hanukkah, begins, “A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.” The word used in the verse for “dedication” is Hanukkah. However, the Jewish sages note that David never dedicated a Temple. It was his son Solomon who built the Temple and dedicated it. They explain that it could be that David wrote this psalm for future Temple dedications. However, it could also be that David meant this psalm for himself. David had just healed from an acute illness when he penned this psalm. The“temple” in the psalm is David’s body, the home of his godly soul. In this psalm David rededicated his body. David rose from his devastating illness and recommitted to living a godly life. He renewed his dedication to serving God.

Hanukkah is a wonderful time to recommit ourselves to our ideals and values. No matter what may have happened in our lives during recent months, we can start fresh today. We can rededicate ourselves to serving God, even among the shambles of our lives. We can give ourselves to Him anew, and through Him, become renewed.

Jeremiah 2:2 I remember thee.

Let us note that Christ delights to think upon His Church, and to look upon her beauty. As the bird returneth often to its nest, and as the wayfarer hastens to his home, so doth the mind continually pursue the object of its choice. We cannot look too often upon that face which we love; we desire always to have our precious things in our sight. It is even so with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity “His delights were with the sons of men”; His thoughts rolled onward to the time when His elect should be born into the world; He viewed them in the mirror of His foreknowledge. “In Thy book,” He says, “all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16). When the world was set upon its pillars, He was there, and He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. Many a time before His incarnation, He descended to this lower earth in the similitude of a man; on the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18), by the brook of Jabbok (Gen. 32:24-30), beneath the walls of Jericho (Josh.5:13), and in the fiery furnace of Babylon (Dan. 3:19, 25), the Son of Man visited His people. Because His soul delighted in them, He could not rest away from them, for His heart longed after them. Never were they absent from His heart, for He had written their names upon His hands, and graven them upon His side. As the breastplate containing the names of the tribes of Israel was the most brilliant ornament worn by the high priest, so the names of Christ’s elect were His most precious jewels, and glittered on His heart. We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace ever to bear Him in fondest remembrance. Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of Thy Son.