“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”
Now more than ever, Israel and the world need to know our God who performs wonders and miracles! The Iron Swords War began on October 7th, and this nation has been battling strong for two months. And the end is not in sight. Can you imagine how tired, weary, and broken the soldiers and people of this nation are? Many are heartbroken and devastated over the loss of their loved ones in this war. The people of Israel desperately need the hand of God to move in their lives and in this nation. Now is the time for Israel to see our God move in power through miracles and wonders!
It is the perfect time to ask the Lord for his miracles. Hanukkah is a holiday commemorating the miracles of God. Hanukkah is a time when the Jewish people remember the miracle of God fighting for us against the Syrian Greeks and the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lighting the temple Menorah for eight days. This year the celebration of Hanukkah begins on the evening of Thursday, December 7th, and ends on the evening of Friday, December 15th.
What is the story of Hanukkah?
To make a very long story short, in 167 BC the Syrian Greeks were heavily persecuting the Jews and forcing them to deny the God of Israel. Many Jews succumbed to worshipping the idols of the Greeks. However, God raised Judah the Macabee and a small Jewish army to drive out the enemy from the land of Israel.
The faithful remnant who stayed true to God, not only saw God’s miracle-working power in defeating the powerful army in battle but also were able to receive the land and reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem.
The word “Hanukkah” means dedication. The holiday was given this name because the Jews in the time of the Maccabees had to re-dedicate the Temple to God after it had been desecrated by the Syrian Greeks with their idols.
At the heart of Hanukka stands the story of the jar of oil. According to the story, the Temple’s Menorah needed to be continually lit, however, there was only one jar of oil left that was pure and untouched by the Greeks. This jar of oil would only keep the fire burning for one day, but to their amazement, this one jar of oil burned bright for 8 days! This gave the Jews time to prepare fresh pure oil to continually light the Temple of God.
The small Jewish army winning the fierce battle against the Syrian-Greeks, the oil lighting the Menorah for 8 days, and the re-dedication of the Temple to the Lord were extraordinary miracles of God! Back then, God was showing the Jewish people and the world that when you choose Him above all else and don’t bow down to any other idol, He will move in power to protect, defend, and fight for them.
The main tradition for this holiday is the lighting of the Hanukkiah, which is similar to the Menorah. The Menorah has 7 branches, while the Hanukkiah has 9 branches. The reason is that each night we light one candle during the eight-day holiday. The 9th candle is called the “Shamash” (attendant or servant) and is used to light the other candles.
Each day of Hanukkah, we light one candle on the Hanukkiah. Many families place the Hanukkiah at the entrance to their house or in a window for all to see the light shining bright. As people walk by and see the light, they are reminded of the faithful miracle-working God of Israel!
It is also part of the Jewish tradition to recite the “Hallel” prayer every day for eight days. This prayer comes from the word of God in Psalms 113-118. Here are a few powerful verses that we can declare over Israel as we are in the midst of a war this Hanukkah:
Psalm 115:9 – O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.
Psalm 116:3-6 – The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.
Psalm 118:6-7 – The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
Psalm 118:15 – The voice of rejoicing and salvation Is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
Psalm 118:28 – You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You.
Another fun tradition is the dreidel game. Everyone spins the dreidel, which is a game piece with 4 sides and a handle to spin. In Israel, each side has a Hebrew letter on it (Nun, Gimmel, Heh, and Peh). These letters represent the phrase ‘Nes Gadol Hayah Po’, which means ‘a great miracle happened here.’ In dreidels outside of Israel, the Hebrew letter Peh is replaced with Shin, making the phrase “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham” or ‘a great miracle happened there.’ This game is simple for kids and adults and is a fun reminder of God’s great miracles. Buy a dreidel, look up the simple rules, and play this game with your kids and family this Hanukkah!
A Taste of Hanukkah
Since the miracle of the oil is a focal point of this Jewish holiday, the Jewish people have made it a tradition to celebrate this holiday with foods fried in oil. Some of the traditional fried foods prepared for this holiday are latkes (potato pancakes) with applesauce and sour cream, and sufganiyot (Israeli jelly-filled donuts). There are other variations of fried foods according to the different regions in the world where the Jewish people have lived.
Hanukkah from a Messianic Perspective
Interestingly enough, the only mention of Hanukkah in the Bible is in the New Testament. It says in John 10:22-24:
“Then came the Festival of Dedication (That is Hanukkah), at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’”
As Yeshua stood in the Temple courts during Hanukkah, a time when the Jews were remembering God’s miracles of rescuing them from their enemies and giving them oil and light, He declared that He was the Messiah to save them and had already worked miracles among the people. During Hanukkah, God wanted his people to know that Yeshua and the Father are one, and the miracles displayed through the life of Yeshua are from the Father.
Just as Yeshua displayed the heart and miracle-working power of His Heavenly Father, we also are called to shine His light and be used by God to do miracles to draw the hearts of people to God.
This Hanukkah, as Israel is fighting this long battle of war, let us come before our Heavenly Father who does miracles and wonders and ask Him to move in extraordinary ways to draw the hearts of His people to praise and worship Him above all else!