Hanukkah Blessings Point to Christ

Hi everyone!  Hanukkah ends on Monday, but meanwhile, 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 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 previously about Jesus being the Light of the world, to which these blessings allude.

Secondly though, 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 in terms of how they are celebrated.  I find it interesting that so many parallels exist!  For example: both are celebrated in close proximity time-wise, 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?

Tomorrow we’ll examine why some Christians celebrate Hanukkah.  See you then!

Jesus the Jew, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Great I AM

Image result for great i am

As we say goodbye to November and head into December, our thoughts turn toward the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (Festival of Lights), which starts Sunday night at sundown, and the Christian celebration of Christmas.

Let’s start with Jesus, as He is truly the center of all celebration.  But, beware Christians: Jesus doesn’t belong solely to us.  He is not a “Christian character,” but is the character who joins Jews and Gentiles together.  In fact, Jesus was Jewish! 

Our Christmas story bears that out.  For example: Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea and wise men from the East asked King Herod, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”  (Matthew 2:2)  We also know Jesus was circumcised as all Jewish boys were, His boyhood home was Nazareth, His family journeyed to Jerusalem for the feasts, and He observed Jewish traditions.

In fact, even Jewish philosopher-theologian-historian of religion, Rabbi Leo Buck, rejected Christianity, but had this to say about Jesus:

Most portrayers of the life of Jesus neglect to point out that Jesus is in every characteristic a genuinely Jewish character, that a man like him could have grown only in the soil of Judaism, only there and nowhere else. Jesus is a genuine Jewish personality, all his struggles and works, his bearing and feeling, his speech and silence, bear the stamp of a Jewish style, the mark of Jewish idealism, of the best that was and is in Judaism, but which then existed only in Judaism. He was a Jew among Jews; from no other people could a man like him have come forth, and in no other people could a man like him work; in no other people could he have found the apostles who believed in him.  (Jews for Jesus)

So, no doubt, Jesus was Jewish.  But was He Messiah?  Some believe Jesus was crucified because the Jews rejected Him as Messiah. But is that true?

Let’s see what Jesus said about Himself.  Here is a conversation, recorded in Matthew 16:13-17 (NLT):

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,”they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”

Not only did Jesus accept the title “Messiah, the Son of the living God” He also attributed that revelation to His Father in heaven.  Later, when He encountered a Samaritan woman at Sychar, He also declared Himself to be the Messiah (John 4:25-26).  Most telling, though, is the genealogy of Jesus, detailed in Matthew 1, where verse 16 identifies Jesus as the Messiah. 

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus was not crucified because He claimed to be Messiah.  That was not a problem for the Jewish people, as they were actually seeking a messiah.  He was crucified because He dared to utter a very simple phrase: “I AM.”  In a conversation with Jewish followers, Abraham was rightly venerated as the father of their faith.  What ensued was this:

“Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”… Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
~John 8:53, 56-58

“I AM”…Jesus proclaimed His deity, making Himself equal with God.  Throughout Jewish history they were warned to have no other gods before the God of the universe.  The idea of a triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is blasphemous to Jewish ears, thus Jesus’ “I AM” proclamation was blasphemous.  So disturbed were they, that verse 59 tells us they picked up stones to throw at Him.

Claiming to be God set everything in motion for the crucifixion of the Great I AM.

Interestingly, in the last days, another will come on the scene, claiming to be messiah.  He will woo the Jewish people who are anxiously seeking their messiah, and they will embrace him.  He will allow the Jews to rebuild their temple on Temple Mount and will bring about a false peace.  But in the midst of it all, that one will be found to be the Antichrist when he also declares deity and demands to be worshiped in the Temple.  The Jewish people did not accept Jesus as equal to God, and will not accept any other as equal to God until their eyes are open and they acknowledge Jesus the Messiah, who comes in the Name of (and equal to) the Lord!  Then, they will acknowledge Jesus as One with God.

That is the One whose birth we celebrate each Christmas season!  Rejoice!  For the Great I AM is Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)

PS: Stay tuned because Hanukkah starts tomorrow, and we’ll spend some time examining the Jewish festival of lights!

What is Iran up to…and What is Israel Doing about It?

Qeshm Fars Air

Iranian civilian aircraft suspected of transporting arms to Hezbollah

Iran continues its nefarious activity in and around Syria and Iraq.  On at least two occasions, it is believed an Iranian civilian aircraft has transported arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian weapons factories.  Routes taken by the aircraft followed unexpected routes not used by commercial airlines.

The civilian airline ceased operations in 2013, but re-started “under new management” in 2017.  That “management” appears to be members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Fox News.

But news doesn’t stop there, and Israel is not sitting back spectating.

On Tuesday evening, it was reported the Israeli Air Force levied air strikes on military installations near Hama.  Israel has admitted to delivering over 800 missile shells and mortars in over 200 airstrikes on Iranian and terrorists positions in Syria over the past year, primarily in attempts to thwart Iran’s aggressive persistence in establishing military presence on the Israeli border with Syria.

In response, Israel’s Defense Minister said:

“…[we are]monitoring everything that is happening in Syria… regarding Iranian threats, we are not limiting ourselves just to Syrian territory. This also needs to be clear.”

Friends, keep your eyes on Israel, God’s time piece, for sure!  However, take regular glances at Damascus and Iran’s ambitions in Syria.  We continue to see the stage being set for exactly what the Bible predicts will occur in end times.

Though we do not know the day or the hour, we must understand the times and seasons in which we live.  (Matthew 16:1-3, Luke 12:54-56)  Look around, my friends…and be ready for the return of our King!

BREAKING: Israel Takes Military Action against Iranian Installations in Syria

Hi friends!  A few minutes ago I watched Amir Tsarfati’s report of the military action taken by the IDF overnight in Syria.  Catch his 12-minute report here:

 

Stay tuned, as action will almost certainly escalate.

But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
~Matthew 24:8