Posts Tagged ‘Maccabees’

Over the past several months many have been calling for more restrictions on Muslims. Many governors have suggested that we close our borders to the Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn country. Many have even labeled all Muslims as potential terrorists.

If Donald Trump has his way, all Muslims would be rounded up and placed in internment camps like we did with the Japanese during WW II.

The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States was the forced relocation and incarceration during World War II of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens! President Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of Japanese Americans shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

On February 19, 1942 Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration with Executive Order 9066. This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire West Coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the removal by ruling against Fred Korematsu’s appeal for violating an exclusion order. The Court limited its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders, avoiding the issue of the incarceration of U.S. citizens with no due process.

It wasn’t until 1980, under mounting pressure from the Japanese American Citizens League and other organizations, that President Jimmy Carter opened an investigation to determine whether the decision to put Japanese Americans into internment camps had been justified by the government.

The Commission’s report, titled “Personal Justice Denied”, found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time and, concluded that the incarceration had been the product of racism and recommended that the government pay reparations to the survivors.

Another 8 years passed before President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs. That same $20,000.00 would be worth over $60,000.00 today. 

Even if our government allowed the exclusion of Muslims in our country, tax payers could be responsible to pay American Muslims the same reparations just as they did to the Japanese Americans.

Estimates range that there are between five to 12 million Muslims who live in the United States today. Even on the low side, that would amount to over $300,000,000,000.00 ($300 billion!) That is more than was spent on the wars since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001!

America’s fear of Muslims is based on racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. (Sound familiar?) Mark my words, these fears are real. But many of these fears are unfounded.

A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. But just because someone from a Muslim country applies for a visa does not make them a terrorist. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. For more information visit: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/applying-admission-united-states

Are there those who would abuse our visa program to do us harm? Of course. We have gun laws in place. Are there those who would abuse those laws to cause us harm? Absolutely!

But as a Christian, I do not have to fear. Because God promises me in his Word, the Bible, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) And the writer of Hebrews states, “For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

I don’t have to fear because, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 )

Another danger of our Islamic fear is that it creates fear of retribution in the Muslim community as well. Many Muslims have related stories of vandalism and persecution. They may be afraid to speak out against the radical Islamic terrorist acts for fear that loved ones still living in ISIS controlled countries would be killed. But when Muslims are silent, many Americans interpret it as sympathizing with terrorism.

I would encourage Muslims to speak out against these barbaric acts—regardless of the consequences.

During the civil rights era in the ‘60s there were also white people who spoke out against the racist actions of the KKK. Many of them were beaten and killed—but they still spoke out.

Many Christians speak out against the Westboro Baptist Church whenever the church plans a protest. Westboro is best known for protesting the funerals of U.S. soldiers with highly offensive anti-gay and anti-Semitic signs.

We need to stop being overly cautious of the Syrian refugees who risk their lives entering our country in order to escape the ravages of ISIS because they MIGHT be a terrorist. With all of the millions of dollars that ISIS has at its disposal, do you really think that one of them would risk their lives by traveling over seas in an inflatable raft with 40 or more other men, women and children?

There is more danger from wannabe gang-bangers and criminals that can illegally purchase a gun on a street corner. And when these criminals are brought before judges for sentencing, all too often judges hand down light sentences to repeat offenders who often go on to commit even more violent crimes.

So why am I not afraid? Because I remember what God has done throughout history to protect his people:

Gideon

As is the pattern throughout the Book of Judges, the Israelites again turned away from God after 40 years of peace and were oppressed by the neighboring Midianites and Amalekites. God chose Gideon, a young man from the tribe of Manasseh, to free the people of Israel and to condemn their worship of idols. On God’s instruction, Gideon destroyed the town’s altar to the foreign god Baal and the symbol of the goddess Asherah beside it. 

Gideon gathered 32,000 men to battle against the armed forces of Midian and the Amalek. However, God informed Gideon that the men he had gathered were too many—with so many men, there would be reason for the Israelites to claim the victory as their own instead of acknowledging that God had saved them. Eventually Gideon’s army was reduced to only 300 men. (Judges 7:4–7) That night, Gideon gave each man a trumpet and a torch concealed inside a pottery jar. At his signal, they blew their trumpets, broke the jars to reveal the torches, and shouted: “A sword for Yahweh and for Gideon!” (Judges 7:20) God caused the enemy to panic and they all turned on each other handing over victory to Gideon and his army of 300 men!

The Hanukkah Story

In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. The Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, then eat the flesh of a pig—both practices that are forbidden to Jews. A Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a High Priest, to bow to their demands, but Mattathias refused. When another villager stepped forward and offered to cooperate on Mattathias’ behalf, the High Priest became outraged. He drew his sword and killed the villager, then turned on the Greek officer and killed him too. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked the remaining soldiers, killing all of them. Eventually they succeeded in retaking their land from the Greeks. These rebels became known as the Maccabees.

Once the Maccabees had regained control they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem. By this time it had been spiritually defiled by being used for the worship of foreign gods and also by practices such as sacrificing swine.

Jewish troops were determined to purify the Temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days. But to their dismay, they discovered that there was only one day’s worth of oil left in the Temple. They lit the menorah anyway and to their surprise the small amount of oil lasted the full eight days. This is the miracle of the Hanukkah oil that is celebrated every year when Jews light a special menorah for eight days.

There were also many miraculous eyewitness accounts of God’s protection of his people during Israel’s six day war. Too many to mention here but even secular reports had to admit that the battle belonged to God.

Haaretz Newspaper’s Bottom Line
Following his blow-by-blow analysis, the military correspondent for the secular Haaretz Newspaper summed up the 6-Day War with the admission: “Even a non-religious person must admit this war was fought with help from heaven.” [ibid, p. 445] 

A German Viewpoint
A German journalist summarized: “Nothing like this has happened in history. A force including a 1000 tanks, hundreds of artillery cannons, many rockets and fighter jets, and a hundred thousand soldiers armed from head to toe was destroyed in two days in an area covering hundreds of kilometers filled with reinforced outposts and installations. And this victory was carried out by a force that lost many soldiers and much equipment, positions, and vehicles. No military logic or natural cause can explain this monumental occurrence.” [ibid, p. 446.] 

For read the eyewitness accounts visit: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/122435#.VmcjW4SEnVo

So you see, if we would only trust in God there would be no need to fear.

Chanukah is far more important than we Christians give it credit for. Everyone is familiar with of a menorah. It symbolizes and epitomizes the Chanukah story. But your average Christian, may not know the story. Knowing the story is important and so I will share an abbreviated version with you here.

In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back out of fear. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship the Greek gods.

Jewish resistance began in the village of Modiin, near Jerusalem. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, and then eat the flesh of a pig –practices that are forbidden to Jews. A Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a High Priest, to subject himself to their demands, but Mattathias refused. When another villager stepped forward and offered to cooperate on Mattathias’ behalf, the High Priest became outraged. He drew his sword and killed the villager, then turned on the Greek officer and killed him too. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked the remaining soldiers, killing all of them.

Mattathias and his family went into hiding in the mountains, where other Jews wishing to fight against the Greeks joined them. Eventually they succeeded in retaking their land from the Greeks. These rebels became known as the Maccabees.

Once the Maccabees had regained control they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem. By this time it had been spiritually defiled by being used for the worship of foreign gods and also by practices such as sacrificing pigs on the altar. Jewish troops were determined to purify the Temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days. But to their dismay, they discovered that there was only one day’s worth of oil left in the Temple. They lit the menorah anyway and to their surprise the small amount of oil lasted the full eight days.

This is the miracle of Chanukah that is celebrated every year when Jews light a special menorah for eight days. That is why we light one candle on the first night of Chanukah, two on the second, and so on, until eight candles are lit.

Some think, “Well, this is nice and all, but that’s Old Testament, so why should we celebrate it today?” Because Jesus also celebrated Chanukah:

“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, how long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” –John 10:22-24

Notice that the Jews wanted to know if Jesus is the Messiah because they think he might kick out the pagans and set up his kingdom just like the Maccabees did over a hundred years prior. They were now under Roman rule and they were ready for independence.

We also need to realize that while Jesus was at the Feast of Dedication, the subject of the Rabbi’s discussion on that day was most likely about the Temple dedication. So immediately we see that Jesus not only celebrated Chanukah but made the effort to be at the temple during this time. So if it was good enough for our master to celebrate a feast that commemorates the dedication of God’s temple, then why shouldn’t we follow his example?

The Messiah can be seen in every one of God’s feasts, including Chanukah:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12

Jesus is the light of the world, symbolized by the menorah, but even more specifically Jesus is the central light from which the other lights are lit.

The ninth candle in the center of the menorah is called the shamash or the “servant” candle. It is used to light the other ones. Jesus said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” –Matt. 20:28

Just as the candles on the menorah must be lit by the shamash (servant) candle, so we too must be lit by the servant, Jesus the Messiah, before burning bright in the world as a light to others; and our light will guide others to Jesus in the form of serving one another. This is Jesus’ message on Chanukah for us today.

Happy Chanukah!

 

Many of us know the romanticized version of the Christmas story: Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem to humble parents, where three wise men came bearing precious gifts and worshipped the baby Jesus. Unfortunately, most of our beliefs concerning the birth of the Messiah come from greeting cards and TV holiday specials. It’s what I call: ‘Greeting Card Theology’. Although this may make for good television, Scripture gives us a much greater version. It also gives us a better understanding of what it means to be a family.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus were controversial to say the least. Mary and Joseph were betrothed when Mary told Joseph she was pregnant. The meaning of being ‘betrothed’ is foreign in our modern culture. Being betrothed was a much stronger commitment than a simple engagement. It was one that required a writ of divorce to break.

It was during their betrothal when Mary went to Joseph and told him that she was pregnant.  I can imagine this caused Joseph to have moments of doubt and embarrassment, since he was not sexually active with Mary. We’re told that Joseph thought about leaving her, but after God spoke to him in a dream, he chose to believe Mary. I’m sure that Joseph’s friends questioned his decision to stay with his pregnant fiancée. Yet he stood by her. Joseph fought through a battle of scorn and ridicule but believed in God. He believed the child Mary carried was God’s son and accepted God’s call for him to care for both Mary and Jesus.

Can you imagine what it was like when this family sat down at the dinner table? The kids sitting around that table may have known that Jesus didn’t have the same mom and dad as them. Joseph sat at that table knowing that he was not Jesus’ biological father. Even so, I believe that Joseph thought of Jesus as much a part of his family as his biological children. This shows us that fatherhood is much more than simply fathering a child. It involves setting a godly example for our children and blessing them just as our Heavenly Father has blessed us.

I could go on about how Scripture proves that Jesus was not born in winter, and that the wise men (many more than three) did not find Jesus as a newborn baby in the manger. But that would not change your traditions of Christmas Trees, singing carols, or exchanging gifts.

The Gospel of John Chapter 10 is often referred to as the Good Shepherd Scripture. However, right in the middle of this chapter in verses 22 and 23 the writer notes: “Then came the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

My wife and I have a blended family of yours, mine, and ours. I tend to follow the Jewish traditions of Chanukah, while my wife and our children still enjoy the Christmas traditions. So we decided to combine the two and celebrate what we call: “Chanumas”.

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On the first night of “Chanumas” we invite our grandchildren over and I recite the story of the Maccabees and the story of the first Chanukah. Before lighting the first candle on the Chanukah menorah I recite the blessing:  “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season. We kindle these lights for the miracles and wonders, for the redemption you performed, and for the battles which you won for our forefathers in those days at this season. During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred and we are not to make ordinary use of them, but only to look at them in order to remember and give thanks and praise to your great name – for your miracles, your wonders, and your salvation you made available to us through your son, Yeshua Ha ’Mashiach.”

After lighting the Chanukah menorah, we enjoy sitting in the glow, recalling the miracles of yesterday and today. Afterward, we enjoy watching the grandchildren open their “Chanumas” gifts and listening to the shrieks of joy as they play Dreidel for chocolate coins, called gelt.  SAM_1393

“Chanumas” does not follow Jewish or Christian tradition. “Chanumas”  is not about Scriptural  correctness. It’s about family. It’s about who I am as a father. Often, we form our impression of who God is by who our earthly father was. But that impression could be just as misleading as our ‘Greeting Card Theology’. Some of us may have had great dads; but some of us not so great. And some of us may have had horrible dads that caused us to have a negative impression about God. But that can be repaired. Some of you may have never received an encouraging word from your father. You may have known only criticism and even molestation. God can heal that too. Malachi 4:6 says, speaking of the Lord, “…And He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…”  The heart of the Christmas season is not about when Jesus was born but that he came to earth to die for our sins. While he was in our midst he touched us with healing; he spoke words of encouragement and affirmation over those who hadn’t heard them. People like Matthew the tax collector, the man who was born blind, the Samaritan woman who’d been married five times, the emotionally unstable Peter, and the woman who was caught in adultery.

Somehow I think that Joseph, whose wife became pregnant before they were married, may have had some influence on the young Jesus and was the vehicle that God used to help bring His blessing to the world. Now, God wants us to be vehicles of blessing through touch and through words. Like Joseph, God might be calling you to an untraditional path of Fatherhood. Maybe you and your spouse have created a blended family like ours. Our idea of how we want life to go is not always God’s plan for our life. God’s plan is purposeful and perfect.

During this Christmas season I encourage you to be the father your children need you to be, whether biological or other. Use Joseph as your example. God has called you to care for your family. And fulfilling this calling is the highest of all achievements.

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