When asked, “What is the miracle of Chanukkah?” the common response is: “Chanukkah is about a miracle that took place when the Jewish people fought against the Syrians who had invaded Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus and pigs were sacrificed there. The Syrians forbid the Jewish people from practicing Judaism. They intended to wipe out the faith of the Chosen People and assimilate them into their empire. But, the Maccabees and others courageously resisted, and after three years of fighting they captured Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and lit the golden menorah that gave light inside the Temple. There wasn’t enough oil for the menorah but the oil that was enough for one day miraculously burned for eight days until more oil could be obtained. That’s the miracle of Chanukkah! Nes gadol haya sham! A great miracle happened there.”
There was a Chanukkah miracle but the legend of the oil is not it. It’s not found in the original accounts, and most likely never happened. The miracle of Chanukkah is that a small number of Jewish people, supernaturally empowered by the God of Israel, were able to overcome the vastly superior Syrian armies. The righteous few overcame the godless many; the weak who were loyal to the true God overcame those who were much stronger than they were.
The faithful remnant of Israel won miraculous victory after miraculous victory, sometimes fighting against armies 15 times larger than they were, until the Syrians were defeated, Jerusalem was captured, the Temple was cleansed and dedicated for the worship of the One True and Living God who alone can rescue fallen human beings from the real and utterly destructive forces of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell. From the rededicated Temple the presence of the Creator and the truths of the God who alone can save mankind were once again clearly revealed to Israel and to the nations of the world!
Chanukkah is not about a miracle about the multiplication of oil. Chanukkah is about the supernatural victories of the Jewish people and the dedication of the Temple.
The Temple was the most important place on Earth. It was where God revealed His presence and His principles to Israel and the nations in the greatest way. The Temple was essential to atonement, to salvation, to being reconciled to God, to eternal life.
The Temple was holy, special, set apart to serve God’s purposes. After it was defiled by the Syrians, and turned into a shrine for Zeus, the Temple needed to be cleansed and dedicated. The Torah tells us that the Temple was cleansed by the blood of an animal and dedicated by anointing it with oil.
And the priests at who served at the Temple needed to be cleansed and dedicated.
A priest is a mediator. The function of a priest is to bring God closer to people, and bring people closer to God.
Under the Sinai Covenant, it was essential to have priests serving at the Temple. I would go so far as to say that of the three main offices under the Sinai Covenant – the office of prophet, the office of priest and the office of king, the office of priest was the most essential. We could live without prophets, and there were long periods of time when there was no prophet in Israel. We could live without a king, and we survived without a king for centuries. But we could not live without a priest, who would bring us to God, and bring God and the blessings of God to us.
A dedicated Temple needed dedicated priests. Leviticus 8 informs us about the dedication of the first priests – Aaron and his sons. A lot went into their dedication, and, the way they were dedicated is a model for us, because Christians and Messianic Jews are priests of Messiah’s New Covenant.
First, the priests of the Sinai Covenant had to be washed: Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water. The priests needed to be clean and their bodies needed to be washed with water.
Then, they had to be dressed properly. They needed to wear the special clothing of the priests. Moses put the tunic on Aaron, tied the sash around him, clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him. He also fastened the ephod with a decorative waistband, which he tied around him. He placed the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece. Then he placed the turban on Aaron’s head and set the gold plate, the sacred emblem, on the front of it. Then he brought Aaron’s sons forward, put tunics on them, tied sashes around them and fastened caps on them. The high priest had unique clothes with special items, while the other priests had simpler clothes.
Then, the priests were anointed with oil: Moses poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him. Oil represents health and healing and the Holy Spirit. The priests needed to be close to God, and empowered by the Spirit of God to serve God they way they needed to.
Then, the priests received the blessings that came from a special sacrifice: Moses presented the ram for the ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head – thereby transferring their sins to the ram and receiving its innocent life. And there was more. Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Moses also brought Aaron’s sons forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet.
The blood that was put on their ear was a prayer that the priests could hear God’s voice speaking to them.
The blood was put on their hand was a prayer that everything the priests did, all there actions, were done in a way that honored God.
The blood that was put on their toe was a prayer that their walk, the way the priests lived, pleased God in every aspect.
Then, the priests offered God the fruits of their labors. And from the basket of bread made without yeast, which was before the Lord, Moses took one thick loaf, one thick loaf with olive oil mixed in, and one thin loaf, and he put these on the fat portions and on the right thigh. He put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons, and they waved them before the Lord as a wave offering. Then Moses took them from their hands and burned them on the altar on top of the burnt offering as an ordination offering, a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.
The priests were sustained by the offerings given to them by the Jewish people. By waving the matzah and part of the animal, the priests were acknowledging that God was the one who gave them their special position. God was their provider, and it was right that some of the fruits of their labor were given back to God.
Then, the priests were anointed with more oil and with more blood: Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood from the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments and his sons and their garments. Oil represents the presence of God and blood represents atonement. The sprinkling of the blood and the oil were prayers that the priests would be covered with the presence of God and with atonement.
Then, they spent seven days close to God. Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for your ordination will last seven days.
This is what the Torah teaches about the dedication of the priests of the Sinai Covenant who served at the Temple.
Now, under Messiah’s New Covenant, all of us are priests – not just a special group – but every Christian, every Messianic Jew, is a priest.
Again, priests are spiritual mediators. They bring people closer to God, and bring God and His blessings closer to people.
And priests of Messiah’s New Covenant, like the priests of the Sinai Covenant, need to be dedicated, and their dedication is similar.
Priests of Messiah’s New Covenant need to be washed with water. The first thing that we are required to do after coming to realize that Yeshua is the Son of God, and that He entered this world though the Incarnation, lived a perfect life, died a special atoning death, and then was raised from the dead is seek a community of Messiah’s followers and be washed with water – be baptized by the God-ordained leaders there. There is no such thing as an unwashed priest. And there is no such thing as an un-baptized Christian or un-baptized Messianic Jew.
Priests need to be dressed properly. They need the special clothing of the priests. For those of us who are priests of Messiah’s New Covenant, we need spiritual clothing. We must be covered with the garments of righteousness. We need to be in a right relationship with the Three-In-One God and committed to do the right things. And we must be clothed with Messiah. That means we must be close to Messiah and become like Messiah. We are to be transformed into His image. We are to become more and more like Him. We are to model His character. We must strive to be holy, loving, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.
Sinai Covenant Priests were anointed with oil – which represents the presence of the Living God. The priests of the New Covenant receive the Holy Spirit in a new and saving way at the moment of salvation. When the Holy Spirit comes to us in that new and saving way, He does some amazing things to us.
He transforms us. He changes us. He gives us a new nature, a godly nature.
He produces positive things in us – the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
He anoints us. He brings us close to God and empowers us to serve God the way we need to, live for God the way we need to. He empowers us to love one another. He empowers us so that we can have victory over the things that tempt us.
He guides us, directs us, teaches us. He opens up our understanding to understand the Word of God and apply it to our lives.
He fills us, making us aware of God our Father, and Messiah our Lord and Savior.
And when we become unfilled with the Holy Spirit? When we sin, yield to temptation, or gradually wander from God? We admit our failures. We acknowledge that we have missed the mark, and we confess that we have fallen short, and we turn to God with sorrow and ask Him to forgive us. And, we have His marvelous promise: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from everything that we have done wrong. Then God will fill us with His Spirit and we are able to serve Him the way we need to once again.
Priests of the Sinai Covenant needed to receive the blessings that came from a special sacrifice, and for the priests of the New Covenant, Messiah’s sacrifice is our special sacrifice.
Messiah is perfect and innocent and absorbs our sins and transfers His purity to us.
His sacrifice is like the blood that was applied to the ear, enabling us to hear from God.
His sacrifice is like the blood that was applied to the thumb, enabling us to do good things for God.
His sacrifice is like the blood that was put on the toe, enabling us to walk in the right way, to live a life that is pleasing to God.
The priests of the Sinai Covenant offered God some of the meat and bread that the Jewish people gave to them. Priests of Messiah’s New Covenant need to understand that their lives are given by God and sustained by God and God has given them their high position as priests, and as the glorious and eternal sons and daughters of God. And, out of gratitude for these great blessings, they thank God and worship God and commit their lives to serve God.
And just as the first priests of the Sinai Covenant spent seven days at the Tabernacle, where they were close to God, priests of Messiah’s New Covenant need to spend time in the presence of God.
They discipline themselves to turn their minds to God throughout the day, to have a running conversation with the Creator. They thank Him for the interesting things that come to their attention, for the good things He has done, is doing and will do. They praise Him for His amazing attributes. They pray for themselves and others. They pray for the growth and the purity of Messiah’s Community. They pray for the salvation of the Jewish community, for our friends and family and for the world.
They wait on God. They pray and then stay focused on Him until their prayers are answered – or not answered.
They spend time in the presence of God by reading the Bible – thoughtfully, meditatively.
They spend time in the presence of God by having times of silence and solitute, trying to hear the still, small voice of God speaking to them.
They spend time in the presence of God by participating in the Lord’s supper, eating the bread and drinking the wine with the other members of Messiah’s Community.
Chanukkah, the holiday of the dedication of the Temple. This Chanukkah, don’t think about oil being multiplied. Think supernatural victories. Think Temple. Think dedication. Think priests, and the way they were dedicated. And think of yourself as a priest, and think dedication, and pray that the Lord helps you be devoted to Him the way you need to be; and not just you, but all of your brothers and sisters who are part of Shema; and not just your brothers and sisters who are part of Shema, but your Christian and Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters throughout the world.