If you have not yet read my book The Real Story of Chanukah: Dedicated to the Death, you may not realize how closely the civil conditions of those days parallel the societal climate in which we presently live. For example, on page 24, I write,
In the political and cultural climate fostered under the “sinful offshoot” Antiochus Ephiphanes [the Greco-Syrian king who occupied Israel], the Jewish people began to test the waters of personal liberty as they explored alternative lifestyles outside of godly boundaries. A vocal, activist, minority within Israel—those who were overtly and shamelessly defiling the Torah—paraded their transgressions before the general population, inciting them also to go astray.
As the story unfolds, we come to find out that such exploration of “personal liberty” and “alternative lifestyles” eventually leads to dire consequences for Israel.
In short order, Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtered many of the people of Israel…. But even this was apparently not enough to shake many of the surviving Jews out of their collective delusion. Spellbound, they continued to embrace the growing influence of paganism, falling in line with each fashionable trend…. [Meanwhile,] Epiphanes advanced his comprehensive and brazen reform…. the widespread adoption of [his] one-world religion…. however, Antiochus could not rely on peoples’ fleshly passions and weaknesses alone. For those who couldn’t be manipulated through their own lusts and desires, there would be forced submission to the new order, upon pain of death. Such is the natural progression when we make the choice to assimilate: eventually, compulsory compliance will come. (from pages 32 and 34)
I can’t help but feel like Israel’s history is once again warning us about our potential (and some would say, likely) future. These changes did not happen overnight for Israel, but came on gradually, eventually climaxing in major upheaval. Though all the signs were there, it nevertheless took the nation as a whole by surprise. Will we, too, be taken unaware in the coming days?
So, as the Chanukah season approaches, my mind has been drifting toward these things. Though such thoughts serve to strengthen my resolve for righteousness and increase my faith in Adonai’s provision and protection, I nevertheless feel that we as disciples of Messiah need to prepare ourselves to face such days. Understand that what I am talking about here goes way beyond things like political activism. I’m talking about that inner conviction that, when literally faced with pain or death, will cause us to stand unwaveringly for Yeshua. We must refuse to compromise the righteous standards of Scripture today, and thereby be prepared to withstand attacks on our way of life, our families, and even our own bodies. Like Paul, we need to be filled with the fortitude to say that we will serve and stand for Yeshua, “whether by life, or by death” (Phil.1:20). Do you have such conviction?
I love the real Chanukah story because it is a challenging and encouraging message not just to the Jewish people, but to all who are Messiah’s disciples. It challenges us to be the kind of people who can stand firm in the face of assimilation and agression, and it encourages us that it is truly possible to do so. This Chanukah season—and every single day of the year—this needs to be our commitment and our conviction:
If we live, to the Master we live; if also we die, to the Master we die; then whether we live, or if we die, we are the Master’s. (Romans 14:8)
What do you think? Weigh in below.