Word from Jerusalem – December 2017

The latest edition of Word from Jerusalem is out.  Having just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, it is no surprise that the lead article is dedicated to that historical event.  However, this edition also contains other interesting articles, such as:

  • The ICEJ Remembers the Balfour Declaration at the London Belfast Celebration
  • The Reformation and Israel
  • Starting a New Life in the Promised Land
  • A Season to Recognize God’s Favor Upon Israel
  • From the Equator to the Arctic Circle: Israel has Christian Friends Everywhere
  • Does the United States Benefit from its Alliance with Israel?

This edition is packed, so take some time and enjoy it!

What do Hanukkah Blessings tell Us About Christ?

Hi everyone!  I hope you are enjoying a little bit of Hanukkah as we join with our Jewish friends in celebrating the miracle that happened!  We’re in the midst of a series of posts about Hanukkah, so if you don’t know what that miracle was, please review:

We know that lighting the candles of the Hanukkah menorah is the focus of the celebration.  It happens each evening for 8 days, and in between placing the candles and lighting the candles, blessings are pronounced.

There are three blessings.  One is given only on the first night, but the other two are repeated each night.  As with most Hebrew blessings, they are typically sung, not said, so I’ll share those blessings in audio!  (Each is only about 30 seconds long and I’ve transcribed them in English below!)

Blessing #1:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who made us holy through Your commandments
and commanded us
to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

Blessing #2:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors
in those ancient days
at this season.

Blessing #3 (given only on the first night):

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who has given us life and sustained us
and enabled us to reach this season.

Beautiful, aren’t they!  But what are the “take aways” for a Christian?  We talked yesterday about Jesus being the Light of the world, which these blessings allude to. (See that discussion in yesterday’s post.)

Secondly though, I think it is significant that each Hanukkah blessing begins with praise to God, and acknowledgement of Him as Ruler of the universe!

Though Hanukkah has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  I find it interesting that so many parallels exist between Hanukkah and Christmas!  For example: both are celebrated in close proximity timewise, light plays a significant part in each, both commemorate supernatural miracles, and many other similarities.  Not to mention the fact that Hanukkah celebrates the failed attempt to eliminate the Jews and their culture. No Hanukkah, no Christmas!

But back to the idea of Jesus being the Ruler of the universe, the Old Testament clearly prophesied of One who would come as a Ruler:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders.
~Isaiah 9:6a

And New Testament passages quoted and confirmed those prophesies:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.
~Matthew 2:6

Jesus, of course, was the fulfillment of those prophecies!  Jews acknowledge the Ruler of the universe in their Hanukkah celebration, while Christians celebrate the birth of the Ruler of the universe in our Christmas celebration!

Jesus is also the fulfillment of these truths expressed in the blessings as well:

Hanukkah blessings are steeped in truth about our Lord.  How many more can you find?

Happy Hanukkah!

 

Incredible Archeological Findings at the City of David

Around 2010 or 2012 I first saw the City of David.  I don’t recall if it was freshly opened or if it simply was not well-excavated enough to be a hot tourist spot prior to that.  But what I realized the first time there was that this was an incredibly important place of discovery.  If King David indeed lived there, this would one day be an absolutely unbelievable site that would confirm Biblical truth.

Throughout the years, archeologist have made astounding progress.  I was there again in 2014, 2015 and last September (2017) and can tell you the archeological site is very well-excavated.  Yet, there is still much more to go.  News of significant findings come out of there regularly, indeed proving the veracity of Scripture and confirming the history of King David and the First Temple period.

I want to share a very interesting video from this excavation.  It is a long video, so if you don’t have an hour, take a look at just the first 8 1/2 minutes.  Even in that length of time, you will get a sense of how significant the findings are in the City of David!

By the way, if you take a trip to Israel, the City of David is a “must see!”

Enjoy!

Hanukkah: Celebration of Light!

חנוכה שמח

Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown and Jews around the world will repeat that phrase, meaning “Happy Hanukkah!”  (Pronounced: Cha-nu-ka Sa-maech, with gutturals on the ‘ch’ sounds!)  Yesterday we talked about the meaning and significance of Hanukkah and today we’ll discover the focus of Hanukkah.

04 Menorah at Knesset (1)

7-branched Menorah near the Knesset

The focus of the Hanukkah celebration is the Hanukkah menorah, or the hanukiah.  Different than the 7-branched menorah we see symbolizing the Jewish state of Israel, the Hanukkah menorah has 9 branches, commemorating the 8 days in which the Temple menorah remained lit with a 1-day supply of oil.  (We’ll talk about that 9th branch shortly!)

Lighting of the Hanukkah menorah takes place in homes and publicly.  At home, it is customary (though not required) for Jews in Israel to place the Hanukkah menorah outside, facing the street in order to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah as publicly as possible.  Most in the diaspora (living outside Israel) place the menorah indoors to prevent antagonism, vandalism and harsh weather.  Because the mezuzah is placed on the right door post, the menorah is customarily stationed to the left of the door or entryway.  There are specific rules about the height of the menorah (usually low), but basically it should be easily seen by others.

ca7bd-menorah

Giant Hanukkah menorah, in preparation of lighting on the first night (Jerusalem 2015)

During the 8 days of Hanukkah, one additional light (or candle) is lit each evening.  The 9th branch of the menorah, which sits higher or offset from the other 8, is the shamash, the “servant candle” from which each of the other candles are lit.

At dusk on night 1 of Hanukkah, a light or candle is placed in the furthest right branch, Hanukkah blessings are recited, the candle is lit (using the shamash) and remains lit until 1/2 hour after sundown.  Each night, an additional candle is added until, on the eighth night, each branch of the menorah is aflame, giving testimony to the great miracle that occurred!  Know this, however: candles are added right-to-left, but are lit left-to-right, always with Hanukkah blessings pronounced in between!

While Jewish traditions can be fun to enact, they serve no purpose for Christians other than to symbolize Biblical principles.  (ie – Observing Jewish feasts and celebrations does not make us more spiritual, nor does it determine our salvation, righteousness or anything else.)  For example, let’s go to God’s Word to see how Jesus is the Light of the World, on display in the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
~John 1:1-5, 14 [Emphasis mine]

Jesus is Light…and He shines in the darkness!  Need more?  Check this out:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
~2 Corinthians 4:6 [Emphasis mine]

I find it fascinating that, when Jesus observed the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22), he had already proclaimed Himself to be the Light!  He had done so in John 1 (above), and he does so again in John 8:

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
~John 8:12

You see, Jesus knew what His purpose on earth was, and He was teaching His followers about Himself.  When He proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the world, the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) was a mere hours away, and He knew those followers would recall His statement when the lights of Hanukkah were lit.  (Want to dig deeper?  Read John 8-10!)

Today we have God’s written Word to tell us the same thing that Jesus said verbally!  He is indeed the Light of the World who gives us light.  Isn’t it interesting that, even in secular celebration of Christmas, we hang Christmas lights!  As Christians, if we choose to celebrate Hanukkah, we honor the historical significance it holds for our Jewish brothers and sisters, but we also know it is God’s written Word coming to life symbolically as we light the candles of Hanukkah!

Here is a very short video tutorial if you wish to properly light a menorah!  Happy Hanukkah!