Updated: Aug 16
Throughout history we can see times and places where Satan has tried to destroy the people of God. And some of his insidious tactics have been aimed at children: separating them from parents and hindering their instruction in God’s word. Why? Because instruction in God’s ways brings love, creativity, and well-being into the lives of children. For it is God’s will for children to live in the blessing and purpose that He has planned for them. The Jewish Festival of Lights is an illustration of this age-old battle.
The Feast of Dedication is also known as the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. Since the time of the successful Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE, this feast has been celebrated each year in the month of December. It specifically commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem from its enemies and the subsequent rededication of the Second Temple.
Leading up to the Maccabean revolt, the Seleucid Empire had sought to impose Greek religion and culture in the countries it controlled. Therefore, within Israel, it focused on eradicating Judaism by forbidding the possession of a Torah scroll under penalty of death and forbidding the teaching or practicing of its commands. Families were forbidden to practice their faith and they were forbidden to pass it on to their children. However, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee began a revolt that ultimately defeated the armies of the Seleucid Empire. This revolt resulted in Jewish independence, the freedom to keep God’s commands, and the freedom to teach them to the next generations.
According to the first century historian Josephus, The Feast of Dedication is also called the Feast of Lights. The lighting of lamps and candles in Jewish homes celebrated the right to worship that “appeared to us (or ‘shone upon us’) at a time when we hardly dared hope for it” (Antiquities 12.324–325).
Throughout history we continue to see the unchanging tactics of those who are in opposition to God. They seek to influence families through imposing humanistic and relativistic cultures, and in many countries, to make the keeping and teaching of God’s Word illegal and subject to the fear of persecution, imprisonment, or death. The Apostle Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).
Paul also teaches us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and that in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us. Likewise, nothing can prevent us from loving God, from keeping His words and from teaching them to our children.
Jesus promises His abiding presence with every family that loves Him and invites Him to commune with them. For where His Words are treasured and taught, there He is in our midst (Matt 18:20; Rev 3:20). This is the light that shines from within our households.
Jesus knew the history of His people and kept the Festival of Lights. In the Sermon on the Mount, after speaking of persecutions, Jesus tells us to let our light shine brightly in the darkness. Our light is to shine from within the sanctuary of our hearts. It is to shine from the sanctuary of our homes and the community of faith as we keep His Word and nurture our children in the instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). It is this light that shines brightly so that others may see fruit of our life as God’s family and glorify our Father (Matt 5:16).
God’s design is that our children flourish as they are intentionally taught His instruction. It is His design that they so treasure His words “as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises” in their own hearts (2 Pet 1:19). So, we pray for every household and community of faith, that Jesus’ words will be treasured and passed on from generation to generation. Lord Jesus, grant to each household the miracle of the Festival of Lights as they are faithful in keeping and teaching your Word.
D. A. Carson, “The Gospel according to John,” in The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 391.
Ronald L. Eisenberg, The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, 1st ed. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2004), 244.
W. Fairweather, ed., The First & Second Books of the Maccabees, The Temple Bible (London; Philadelphia: J. M. Dent & Company; J. B. Lippincott Company, 1903), 2 Mac 10:1–5.
Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 328.