Tonight marks the beginning of this year’s celebration of Chanukah. The word “Hanukkah” means “rededication”. We see Jesus celebrating this festival in John 10:22 where John called it the Festival of Dedication. So what is this festival about?
In 165 B.C. the Maccabees pushed out the Greek-Syrian forces from Jerusalem after a three year battle, a battle for religious freedom. After regaining control of Jerusalem this priestly family along with their troops set out to cleanse the temple from the pagan worship performed by the Greeks, including sacrificing swine.
After cleansing the temple, they wanted to rededicate it to the God of Israel. Part of this rededication was lighting the oil burning lamp in the Holy Place where the table of shew bread and the golden altar stood. Once lit, the lamp was to be kept burning continually. However, they found only enough oil to last for one day. Then God did what only God can do, a miracle. God allowed that one day supply of oil to burn for eight days.
So what is the significance of this festival? First we begin with the idea of dedication. We are called to dedicate or consecrate our lives as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to our Lord. Keep in mind that the lampstand itself represents the tree of life in the garden, the oil represents the Holy Spirit and the flame represents the eternal flame, the flame that is to be always lit, in our lives – the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Jesus said we are the light of the world and we must let that light shine.
In Ephesians 4 we are told to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Yes, the oil represents the Holy Spirit in our lives in all He does in our lives. They had enough oil to last one day. In the beginning of our walk with God through forgiveness found only in the sacrifice of Jesus, God fills our lives with the Holy Spirit, this is our day one.
However, does the Holy Spirit run out or leave us?
You see the Holy Spirit we receive upon believing in Yeshua is not an it, not a force, but a person. He does not run out like oil for a lamp, so does He leave? The Festival of Chanukah says no! The oil lasted for eight days. We must remember that there is no eighth day to any week. So what does the eighth day represent? It represents eternity.
Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be with us for eternity. If the lampstand represents the tree of life and the oil represents the Holy Spirit who is with us forever (John 14:16) then the celebration of Chanukah tells us that God gives eternal life to those who believe in the Messiah and that He will never leave them nor forsake them because His Spirit would be in them forever, even in eternity.
When Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication or Chanukah in John 10 He told the Jews plainly, “The miracles I do in my Father’s house (you see He is responsible for the miracle of Chanukah) speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”(NIV) Here Yeshua is plainly saying that eternal life is of Him and that no one can snatch it away. The Holy Spirit, the oil of our lives, has been given and will be there for eternity.
Chanukah is God’s story of dedication of His people and of His Holy Spirit being with us in eternity, forever sealed as His.
Esther 2:5 In the fortress of Susa, there was a Jewish man named Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite. 6 He had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the other captives when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jeconiah of Judah into exile. 7 Mordecai was the legal guardian of his cousin Hadassah (that is, Esther ), because she didn’t have a father or mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was extremely good-looking. When her father and mother died, Mordecai had adopted her as his own daughter.(HCSB)
Today we meet Mordecai for the first time in our account of Esther. He is a Benjamite Jew, but that is not all. The lineage that is given is very specific. Two of them are names we have seen before. Shimei was the Benjamite who cursed David as he left in the rebellion of Absalom. At the time David told his men to leave him alone, but later told his son Solomon to deal with him. Solomon told him he must never leave Jerusalem and that if he did he would be subject to the death penalty. Well, as you might guess Shimei got cocky and left after a time. Upon his return Solomon had him killed. Shimei is probably a grandson of Kish, the father of King Saul, since the account in II Samuel says he is the son of another man. This would have made him the nephew of Saul. Therefore, we see that son in this passage is referring to descendant not direct father son relationships.
Jair may have been the ancestor of Mordecai that was actually taken into exile. Why would I say this and not say that Mordecai was himself taken by Nebuchadnezzar? Because Mordecai would have been well over 100 years old, even if he had been taken as an infant. Mordecai’s family was taken in 596 B.C. when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jeconiah or Jehoiachin of Judah captive along with many in his kingdom. This was the same time that Ezekiel was taken captive (Daniel was taken captive earlier in 605 B.C.) and when Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah king of Judah. Those particular captives are also the ones Jeremiah wrote to in the letter that God recorded for us in Jeremiah 29. At this point in our account the year is 479 B.C., which was 117 years after the exile we are discussing. Therefore, either Mordecai is a very, very old man or he is not the one who was directly taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar.
In the years that followed the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C., the Jews and other people groups that the Babylonians had taken captive were given permission to go home. However, many did not. This was the case for Mordecai and Esther’s family. Now, before we rush to find fault with them for this we must remember that in the letter Jeremiah wrote to them that we mentioned in the paragraph above told the captives to settle down and begin new lives for themselves and that is exactly what Mordecai and his family had done. Mordecai in some capacity served the king of Persia. Not only did he live in Susa, but he also lived in the citadel or palace fortress of Susa. Only those who served the king would have been allowed into the citadel.
Mordecai’s name is a derivative of the Babylonian god, Marduk. Many believe that he would have also had a Jewish name, as did Esther. However, the book does not give that name. This is especially interesting when one considers that fact that Xerxes is the only one of the Persian kings that also did not bear the title, king of Babylon. The reason he did not bear this title is because he went into Babylon and had the statue of Marduk removed. Interesting that the man who would become his number two guy in years to come would have a name that reminded everyone of the god Xerxes took away.
We may also have some external evidence for Mordecai outside of Scripture. There was found in a cuneiform tablet from Borsippa near Babylon the mention of a man by the name of Mardukaya. Many believe this Mardukaya is really Mordecai from the book of Esther. The cuneiform says he was a scribe at Susa in the early reign of Xerxes. If that is so this is incredible evidence for, not only the validity of the book itself, but also for the timing of the book.
This is the man who adopted Hadassah, Esther, as his own daughter when her parents died. The Hebrew in this passage never refers to her has cousin or even just a relative, but from the beginning of their introduction together calls her his daughter, bat. This speaks of the importance of this relationship between them, but also the legally binding nature of it as well. Within the Jewish culture the relationship of parent to adopted child is so strong of a relationship that the child cannot ever be disowned or abandoned. It is meant to last forever.
This leads us to see Mordecai very much in the role of our Heavenly Father. We are His adopted children, grafted into the tree of Israel. Remember Israel was cut off and when physical Israelites believe in Yeshua the Messiah they are grafted back into their tree. Jews are branches from the cultivated tree that have been cut off until they believe in their Messiah when they are once again grafted back in. Gentiles are wild shoots, but God in his mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit grafts us also into His cultivated tree and we become one. He will never separate us from the tree again because we have all been adopted as sons. This adoption gives us the ability to cry Abba Father and is irrevocable. He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us. He will never abandon us. Mordecai’s adoption of Hadassah is a beautiful picture of the Father’s adoption of us, those who believe in Yeshua.
This upbringing for Esther stands in stark contrast to the upbringing and love that was in Xerxes’ life.