Channukah 2016: Fortune Favors the Prepared

////Channukah 2016: Fortune Favors the Prepared

We have a humorous saying that describes Jewish history and we trot it out each year around some of the more festive holidays. The saying goes like this: “They tried to kill us – we won – let’s eat”. We laugh, and we can afford to, since we did win. One of the great lessons of Chanukkah is that God has often given victory to the few over the many, and to the feeble over the mighty. But I want you to think about the interval of time between when “They tried to kill us” and “we won”.

The prophet Daniel (in chapter 11 of his visions), writing centuries earlier, foretold the events surrounding the meteoric rise to power of Alexander of Macedon (a.k.a., Alexander the Great), and how, upon his death, his great kingdom would be parceled out to four of his generals and become separate kingdoms. Two of those kingdoms in particular would continually war with each other: the Seleucids (in Syria) and the Ptolemys (in Egypt). From the Seleucid Empire, one particularly evil tyrant would ascend (who we now know was Antiochus IV), who would wage war against us and put many Jews to death in his attempt to eradicate the faith of our fathers. It was Antiochus who put a stop to the daily sacrifice and desecrated the altar and the Beit HaMikdash by sacrificing unclean animals in it and erecting a statue of Zeus in the Holy Place.

Thankfully, the family of Mattathias, which came to be known as Maccabee, rallied the people to form an army, and eventually we prevailed against this tyrant and his wicked forces. The real miracle of Chanukkah is that this tiny, rag-tag Jewish army, vastly outnumbered and outgunned, eventually gained victory and independence for the Jewish people. They recaptured the Temple, cleaned it out and rededicated it to the sole worship of the God of Israel.

What I’d like to emphasize this morning is that there are sobering lessons we need to learn from the historical events leading up to the Maccabean Revolt. Why? Because it’s going to happen all over again, and it will be even worse. This isn’t opinion; it is biblical prophecy. And it isn’t one person’s interpretation of prophecy; it was declared by Yeshua and Rabbi Paul in plain terms.

Here’s a list of the dire circumstances Messiah foretold:

  • False messiahs will proliferate
  • False prophets will proliferate
  • Many will fall victim to their false miracles and teachings

“See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will mislead many… For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance” (Matthew 24:4-5, 24-25).

  • Wars will increase
  • Famines will increase
  • Earthquakes will increase

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars… For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom… and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes…”  (verses 7-8).

  • Followers of Yeshua will be hated world-wide
  • Followers of Yeshua will be rounded up and martyred
  • Many will abandon the Faith and even turn informant against believers

“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another” (verses 9-10).

  • Rampant criminal behavior will cause people to become cold-hearted

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verses 22-23).

Yeshua said these things more than once (Matthew 10:16, 21-22):

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves… Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

And listen to Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the apostasy occurs first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s Temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

And see how this fits with the Apostle John’s vision, recorded in Revelation 15:

The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name… The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear (Revelation 15:1-9, excerpted).

Both Jeremiah (30:1-7) and Daniel prophesied these things centuries earlier – the dire situation on earth, and the great persecution that was to come at the end of the age. Hear his words:

Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued (Daniel 12:1).

I realize that a message like this isn’t exactly what people expect on a festive day like Chanukkah, but considering the history behind the holiday, how can we not take to heart the need to prepare ourselves for what is to come. History repeats itself, and Scripture makes clear that what happened in the time of the Maccabees will happen again, and that it will be even worse.

But now let me bring us back to Yeshua’s first words of the Olivet Discourse.

“See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will mislead many… For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance” (Matthew 24:4-5, 24-25).

If false prophets, false teachers and adverse circumstances at the end of the age will be so bad that even the elect aren’t immune to deception, and Yeshua seemed to suggest it, then how do we make sure we are not among those deceived? If lawlessness will be so bad at the end of the age that most people will become loveless, then how do we make sure our love endures?

The first step is to understand that it is a battle of attrition. Consider this: the goal of the Seleucid Dynasty and the evil tyrant Antiochus IV was the eventual complete Hellenization of the Jewish people.  But it was executed incrementally. The worship of the Greek pantheon of gods began as a voluntary matter. Many Jewish people adopted Greek customs and began to leave their Jewish heritage behind, telling themselves that it was a matter of diplomacy, and was the best course of action in order to have peace and safety.

Soon enough, however, what began as voluntary came to be expected socially. And soon enough what had been socially expected came to be mandatory – enshrined in law. And those laws forbade circumcision and Jewish religious observance. And violation of those laws brought the death penalty.

If you don’t guard yourself against the devious nature of incremental compromise, you will end up part of the Great Apostasy of which Yeshua and Rabbi Paul spoke. So what can you and I do to avoid this gradual slide into apostasy? Simple. Decide right now what you believe, and decide where you draw your boundaries. Ask yourself whether or not you’re prepared to forfeit your life rather than forsake your faith. But one thing is for sure: if you wait until there’s a moral crisis to figure out where your line in the sand is, you will probably not endure.

There’s no magic pill to take to endow you with perseverance and to give you victory. In the area of sporting contest, natural talent is helpful, but only takes you so far. Perseverance and victory usually comes to the team or the individual who is better conditioned. Victory is usually the result of a lifestyle of discipline and diligent training, not luck or chance. It’s true in every field. The famous chemist, Dr. Louis Pasteur said, a little sarcastically, “Fortune favors the prepared mind”.

If you hope to endure in the coming tribulation, then it’s time to get into spiritual shape, and it means nurturing the spiritual disciplines of prayer; quieting your soul and seeking God, of reading and studying the Scriptures daily and diligently, of gathering together with God’s people for worship and mutual strengthening, and of evangelism. All of these things contribute to spiritual strength, and unless I have completely misread the Scriptures, you and I will need that strength in the days that are coming upon the world.

Finally, let me give you four words to take from this message. If you remember nothing else, hear these words: BE ON THE ALERT.

Yeshua said it several times. Paul said it several times. Peter said it as well. There are two main reasons to be on the alert. The first is this: you need to be on the alert because you have a fearsome enemy who seeks to devour you and those you love. He works through deception, he is absolutely ruthless, and you need to be wise to his tactics. The second reason is this: you need to be on the alert because Messiah Yeshua is returning to the Earth, and you are not privy to when that is. You simply need to be alert at all times and doing what He wants you to be doing.

O Lord God of Israel, please grant us reverence for You that leads to a disciplined and holy life. Please grant us love for You that leads to unwavering loyalty and enables us to have joy despite any adversity that comes our way. Please grant us strength and resolve that leads to perseverance for that Day. Help us to be ever on the alert, and devoted to You and to Your Kingdom. We ask these things through the name of Your Son, our Risen and soon-coming Redeemer, Messiah Yeshua.

By | 2017-10-16T18:27:40+00:00 December 24th, 2016|Categories: Sermons by Rabbi Glenn|Tags: , |Comments Off on Channukah 2016: Fortune Favors the Prepared

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