WHAT IS ON YOUR ALTAR?
As this calendar year is drawing to its end, we extend a (belated) Merry Christmas and a happy New Year greeting to you from our household. Especially these days, with turmoil, instability and grave concerns on every side, it is important to acknowledge, experience and celebrate the Light of the World who came to dwell among us.
This year Hanukah, the Jewish Feast of Lights and Dedication which started at sundown, December 21, overlapped Christmas with a special touch of grace from Heaven as the old and the new became one. Consequently, millions of households all across the globe are presently lighting the traditional candles as they celebrate the eight day commemoration of God’s deliverance of His covenant people. The story started and ended with the altar of the Lord, and the question for each and every one of us, as this year is coming to its close, is – “What Is On Your Altar?”
THE FEAST OF DEDICATION
Hanukah (DEDICATION in Hebrew), though not one of the Biblical Feasts of the Lord, is a Jewish national celebration commemorating the purification and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus Himself observed this feast and used it as a platform to offer another “prophetic hint” as to His Messianic identity.
“At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me.’” John 10:22-25.
It is significant to note that the only mention of Hanukah in the Bible is in the New Testament, and in the context of the Lord’s own life and teaching. In other words, if Jesus celebrated Hanukah, don’t you think it is appropriate, even needful, that His brethren understand its message?
A PLAN FROM HELL
The epic events Hanukah commemorates started at 164 BC. Over 100 years earlier, Alexander the Great had conquered the entire Eastern Mediterranean up to Persia. Upon his death his vast empire disintegrated into four feuding regions with Judea coming under the control of Antiochus IV Epiphanes who was the first “Abomination of desolation” prophesied of by Daniel (11:31-32).
Antiochus, a Syrian/Greek king, was driven to impose the Hellenistic/humanistic ideals of Greece upon the conservative Jewish population of Israel. Needless to say, he faced fierce resistance. Capturing Jerusalem, Antiochus executed 80,000 of her residents, sold a like number into slavery, removed the sacred vessels from the Temple, slaughtered a pig on the altar of burnt offering and defiled the entire Temple complex by sprinkling swine broth all over the grounds. Daily sacrifices and worship ceased altogether as the nation’s spiritual heart was defiled and dishonored.
Seeking to expunge all traces of Jewish existence, Antiochus banned the worship of God, circumcision, the keeping of the Sabbath and the observance of the biblical feasts under the pain of torture and death. The books of the Law and the prophets were burned, the Temple was converted to host pagan ceremonies, and a statue of Jupiter was erected upon the altar. Hell’s agenda was calculated and straightforward – to wipe out the nation of Israel as a distinct people group defined by their faith in the One True God; the only nation who embodied the lineage of the Messiah; the promised Savior of the world.
Submitting to Antiochus’ policies would mean one thing – the annihilation of the covenant people and the termination of God’s plan of redemption. Satan knew that without a Jewish nation there would be no Messianic linage; no Savior/King born to the house of David; and no hope of redeeming God’s fallen creation.
THE FIGHT FOR LIFE
In the face of certain death, the priestly family of Mathethias led a fierce uprising. By 167 BC they launched a guerilla campaign in the hill country of Judea which eventually overwhelmed the world’s greatest military power (at the time) and overthrew the Greek pagan rule. Early in the war, Judah assumed leadership following his father’s death. Called the Maccabee (Sledge Hammer in Hebrew), Judah was the one accredited with the famous guerilla tactics and the ensuing legendary victories.
Judah’s battle cry was “Mi Camokha Ba’elim Adonai…” - “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” Exodus 15:11. As was their biblical banner - so were their victories, awesome and decisive. And though Judah fell in battle before the war ended, his brothers and followers liberated the Temple in 164 BC. The land and the people were now safe, ready to receive the seed of God who was promised to be born to the house of David in the Judean village of Bethlehem.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Once the Syrian/Greek forces were driven out, the Maccabees tore down the pagan idols, cleansed the altar, purified the instruments of worship and prepared to offer acceptable sacrifices to God. However, they found enough consecrated oil to light the Eternal Light in the Holy Place for only one day.
Immediately, messengers were sent out throughout the countryside to collect and press a fresh supply of olive oil. Miraculously though, the lamp in the Holy Place remained burning for eight full days, illuminating the inner sanctuary until the messengers returned with fresh oil. Hanukah tells to us that through warfare, faith and sacrifice the nation was preserved, the Temple cleansed and true worship restored.
Without Hanukah there would have been no Mary to conceive God’s only begotten Son; no Joseph to provide for her; no Bethlehem for the Savior to be born in; no shepherds to hear the angelic proclamation; no Simeon or Anna to prophesy at His dedication; no Nazareth to be His childhood home; no John to prepare His way; no Temple courts to teach in; no disciples to follow Him; no Golgotha to be crucified at; and no tomb to rise from. Without Hanukah there would have been no Jesus and we would have no Christmas!
DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH OIL?
The true issue of Hanukah’s miracle of oil was not that the priesthood needed “fresh oil,” but rather that they didn’t have enough oil to sustain an ongoing life of service, worship and warfare. The issue is still the same today. Many of God’s people run to and fro all over the earth in search of “new oil” or “fresh anointing,” only to discover time and again that there is no magic formula or some new-found grace from heaven that could carry them forward effortlessly or offer them a “short cut” to spiritual maturity bypassing the essentials of humility, patience, repentance, endurance, forgiveness and love.
Rather, in searching for the illusive “fresh oil,” as soon as the excitement is over and the emotions calm down, we find ourselves just as needy, dry and frustrated as we were before the “visitation.” And so we set out to chase another “fix,” and another, becoming “spiritual junkies” who embody the sorry fate of those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” II Timothy 3:7.
What then is that oil without which true worship and service are impossible? What is this holy fire that alone can brighten our human spirit, illuminate the inner sanctuary of our temple, and confirm with confidence and a clear conscience that God indeed is with us? It is faith - Faith that is born of trust in the God who promised; Faith that produces a life of obedience and worship; Faith that overcomes the world (external distractions and temptations), the flesh (our own carnal nature), and the devil (the adversary).
TIME IS UP!
Remember the Lord’s teaching about the ten virgins? “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’”
The facts were as follows: 1- All ten virgins had oil, but not all had enough oil to sustain them. 2- All ten virgins were asleep at the coming of the Bridegroom and all had to be awakened. 3- The lethargic scenario came to a sudden and abrupt conclusion that surprised everyone. 4- For those whose oil supply ran out, there was no time left to go shopping for more oil, run to another event, or order one more set of teachings to reignite their darkened spirits. Time was up and the lesson of the hour is to live ready each and every moment of our fleeting lives. We are here on this earth ONLY in order to prepare for eternity!
How can we gather the oil we need for the long run? To the Laodicean Church Jesus said, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door...” Rev 3:18-20.
The gold refined by fire is the virtues forged in the furnace of hardships, suffering and sacrifice. Let us not despise the hard times, for they are our opportunities to “buy” from our Lord precious gold; a character and a legacy that will endure before Him forever.
As it was in the days of the Maccabees, so it shall be again at the end of the age. Just as Antiochus, a type of antichrist, appeared before the first coming of the Lord to oppose and thwart God’s purpose, so will a darker figure overshadow the earth to hunt Israel, persecute God’s children, and oppose the Lord’s second coming. The stage is being set in this very hour.
As America is declining under the sin of her people, the apathy of her saints, and the judgments of her God, the strategic end-time trends are building up across the earth. China, Russia, the Islamic world, the emerging European Super Power, social and economic global turmoil, and the inevitable international monetary system are coming into view according to the prophetic word. Israel, as it is written, is in the midst of the storm; increasingly isolated, singled out and marked for the next blow.
Soon, all hell will rise with vengeance trying to eradicate the Jewish presence from the face of the earth once again. A recent Palestinian announcement put words to hell’s fury declaring that while they may negotiate with Israel as a secular state, they will never recognize Israel as a “Jewish Nation.” That, as the reader may know, is in direct defiance of nearly 30 references to the phrase “Jewish” in the original U.N. resolution #181 of 1947 which constitutes the international endorsement for the sovereignty of the state of Israel. Hell, however, is not bound to “politically correct” policies. The devil desperately wants Israel gone, the church silenced, and the Lord’s Kingdom delayed!
ISRAEL’S MYSTERIOUS SURVIVAL
Why such resistance to the Jewish phenomenon? Why such hatred to this small nation of barely 6 million in the heart of the Middle East? For what reason do dark forces and demonic principalities fight so frantically against the Word of God? What do they know that many Christians miss?
The answer is profoundly simple: Just as the Jewish nation was the context and framework for the Lord’s first advent 2,000 years ago, so the word of God dictates that the same national Jewish presence, resisted and hated as ever, will be present in their own land to usher in the Lord’s Second Advent as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The enemy recognizes that Israel is the Lord’s “Landing Strip,” and he knows very well the consequences of the Lord’s return.
While most Israelis (and some Christians) today are still blind to this remarkable national calling, even as they were during the Lord’s first advent, the enemy is intensely aware of the significance and eternal implications of the ancient prophecies, and he is doing his worst to oppose their fulfillment. He, however, is walking into a trap since our God will not be mocked!
THE POWER OF THE WORD
Neither nuclear Iran, godless Russia, imperial Europe, deranged China nor blood thirsty Islam will be able to undo the Word of God. As it is written, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever… Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales… All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless… Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the vault of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless…
“Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?’…
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40.
SO, WHAT’S ON YOUR ALTAR?
The story of Hanukah is the testimony of faith, courage and sacrifice that liberated, cleansed and rededicated the defiled Temple of God. Then, as well as now, there can be no true worship in the courts of the Lord without first driving out the enemy, casting down the idols, purifying the altar from polluted sacrifices, and rededicating ourselves as instruments of worship.
What’s on your altar? Learning the lesson of the very first offerings of Genesis chapter four; the offerings that typify us all, will help. Cain offered the fruits of his own labors and was rejected, resulting in a life of regret and condemnation. Abel offered the blood of a lamb, the only acceptable offering then and forever, and his legacy, though martyred, lives on.
Is your heart a ready Temple for the Lord? Your marriage? Your family? Is there worship and prayer in your courts, or are you still oppressed under the heavy yoke of idols and carnality? The good news is that the Maccabee of God, the “Sledge Hammer” of the Almighty, is falling with crushing blows upon the enemies of your soul as you offer the eternal sacrifice of the blood of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
The Lord said, “’Behold, I am going to send my messenger.... And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.’” Malachi 3:1-3. We pray this word of prophecy become flesh and be realized in your life this coming year.
As a practical expression of your faith, while pondering the miracle of Hanukah and worshipping the miracle of Christmas, will you consider supporting Messianic Believers in Israel through our ISRAEL FUND? With your support, we targets those persecuted for the Faith, people of excellence, and those with hearts to do great things with God as He establishes His testimony in Israel during these turbulent times.
We also want to thank you for standing with us in this ministry through your prayers and giving.
In His grace,
REUVEN AND MARY LOU DORON
(C) 2008 One New Man Call
One New Man Call
Ministry Contact: OneNewManMail@aol.com
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Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the New King James Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org