When looking at Hanukkah, many Christians connect this celebration with John 10 when Jesus was in the temple at the time of the “feast of dedication”. But why was He there and what was He celebrating? While Hanukkah is viewed as a more secular holiday on the Jewish calendar, I would argue that it is actually one of the most spiritual and one that Jesus understood.
The heart of this feast actually begins in the Torah with Phinehas, during a time of repentance for the idol worship that was in the camp:
Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body.
God was so moved that Phinehas’ heart was connected to His own, this was His response:
Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. "Therefore say, ' Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel. Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu…”
1300 years later, God is still keeping his promise of zeal to Phinehas’s priestly line. By following the genealogy in 1 Chronicles and 1 Maccabees, we find that one of Phinehas’ descendants, Mattathias, has the same zeal burning in him in a shockingly similar situation. In 167BC, when he is trying to rally the people back to the Lord, a blatant challenge occurs and Mattiathias responds. Notice how 1 Maccabees connects this action back to Phinehas:
1 Macabees 2:20-27
“…yet I [Mattathias] and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left."
When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king's command. When Mattathias saw it, be burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar. At the same time he killed the king's officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.
Then Mattathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: "Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!"
And so the Maccabean revolt began. Three years later, they throw out the foreign armies and cleanse the temple in Jerusalem and the remembrance of this great victory was set into Israel’s history. Yet at its core, Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication wasn’t so much about a military victory as much as an uncompromising dedication to the Lord and His ways, even when faced with the threat of death. In God’s eyes, that is something worth remembering and celebrating.
Phinehas laid his life on the line for repentance and God responded with a covenant. Mattathias laid his life on the line for God’s ways and He provided a great victory. Jesus honored this dedication as He later laid His life on the line and forgiveness of sins is now available. The Feast of Dedication is less about a dedication of the Temple but a dedication of our hearts to the Lord’s ways.
How will God respond when we move in the same devotion to Him? There is one way to find out… Now is the time.
Doug Hershey is the author of Israel Rising, conference speaker and founder of Ezra Adventures, an Israel focused travel and education company. From years of hands-on experience, cultivating unique relationships in Israel and a love for history, Doug provides a rare perspective on the connection between the Jewish Scriptures and present day Israel. When he is not in Israel, he is speaking in churches and synagogues about the prophesied restoration of Israel.
The Prophets foretold the revival of the physical land of Israel. After 2600 years its unfolding exactly as was written. To see over 100 then/now jaw dropping photo comparisons (including 15 of Jerusalem) that provide visual evidence that the land of Israel is reviving as foretold, with 2000 years of historical eyewitness accounts of the land, order Doug’s new book “Israel Rising: Ancient Prophecy/ Modern Lens” here!