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biblical teaching

The light that shines in the darkness

 

When God created the heavens and the earth, the first thing that was seen only by Him was darkness. On the first day, when He said, “Let there be light”, there was still the darkness, distinct from the light, and the light was “good”. (Gen 1:1-52Cor 4:1-6) Had any of the light entered the darkness, there would be no darkness. God separates light from darkness; good from evil; clean/pure from unclean/impure; holy from common/profane; truth from any lie; Heaven from Hell. This is His love and holiness, that nothing that is not of Him will enter or dwell in His eternal Kingdom. God is love; God is light; God is good; God is holy; God is pure; YHVH is the God of truth.

Today is Dec. 9, the second day of Hanukkah, and the 64th day of the war of Hamas against Israel. On this date in 1917, during WWI, the Muslim Turks and Arabs surrendered the city of Jerusalem to the British General Edmund Allenby, which began to make possible the physical return of the Jewish people back to the land promised them through God’s covenant with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob/Israel about 4,000 years before. That date of Dec. 9, 1917 was the first day of Hanukkah. The Islamic control of the Holy Land for almost 800 years was being restored, as it were, to the people of Israel. This is still happening today; it is not yet complete! 

There are two main holidays on the Jewish calendar that God did not give, but the leaders of the Jewish people established them. The first one is Purim, around 480 B.C., celebrating the Jews defeating those, led by Haman the Agagite (descendant of Amalek, descendant of Esau/Edom [Gen 36:1-12]), who wanted to kill every Jewish person in the world kingdom of the Persians; in other words, to commit the genocide of the Jews, God’s chosen people. Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai the Jew decreed this to be an annual celebration by the Jewish people, and those joined to them, especially in the dispersion outside the Land of Israel. Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar, the 12th Jewish month.

The second Jewish holiday added to the calendar given by YHVH God to Israel was Hanukkah, in 164 B.C., celebrating defeating the Greeks who wanted to forbid the Jewish people from living as Jews and practicing their religion as given in the Law of Moses. This 8-day holiday was decreed by the Maccabees to be celebrated each year, especially with respect to the Jewish people living and worshipping in the Land of Israel, beginning on the 24th/25th of the 9th Hebrew month, Chislev.

Our enemies today also seem to have a habit of attacking Israel and the Jewish people on holidays: 

In 2002, during the Passover seder, a suicide-homicide bomber killed 30 and wounded 140 others at the Park Hotel in Netanya.

In 1973 on Yom Kippur, Oct. 6, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, the holiest day in the Jewish year.

Fifty years later, on Shabbat, Oct. 7, 2023, the last day of the festive celebration of Sukkot, Hamas broke into and invaded Israel from Gaza and massacred more than 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 240. The war today between Israel and Hamas – and the worldwide antisemitism resulting from it – is part of a jihadi Islamic belief that all Jews (and Christians) should be eradicated from the Land of Israel and from the entire earth and that Jews (and Christians) should fear expressing their identities and religious faith.

When our congregation was attacked twice by ultra-orthodox Jews, first in November 1998, and again in December 2005, both times it was around Hanukkah. They were the Maccabees in their understanding, and we were, to them, the Hellenists. But, actually, we are the light of the world that cannot be extinguished by the darkness. (Mt 5:14-16Jn 1:4-5). If our light is mixed with the darkness, how great is the darkness!? (Mt 6:22-24). We are not perfect: there is still sin in us, still some lies, some impurity; but, we are nonetheless children of light.

Could God be speaking to His people for allowing these attacks to be on “holy-days?” Long before the time of Purim, Amos the non-prophet-turned-prophet wrote that YHVH was fed up with their feast days and singing – feast days that HE had given them! They were not seeking justice and righteousness in their lives, but celebrating the holidays of the God who commands them to do so. (Amos 5:21-247:14-15). Have these attacks and wars come against Israel on major holidays remembering the God of Israel and His mighty acts of redemption on their behalf because we, as a people, have turned away from HIS light, and we prefer the darkness?

Dates have significance. Oct. 7 is now burned into our brains and memories, and on Simchat Torah. YHVH God has given His appointed times/dates/days for us to remember His mighty acts on behalf of His people who are in covenant relationship with Him and one another by Him. Just as the Jewish people added at least these two (actually several others also) holidays important in their history, so, too, have Christians added one major holiday (and several others also) celebrating the God of Israel’s mighty acts connected with the New Covenant: The birth of the Messiah, historically celebrated on a certain date – the 24th/25th of December. (Sunday worship, the Resurrection, and Pentecost are actually spoken of in the Law of Moses as appointed times “on the day after the Sabbath.”) 

Today’s world is living in a time of much deception and chaos. Why? Because it rejects absolute truth, which comes from the one true God: YHVH – the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – whom they reject. Without truth there is no foundation or framework/context for life and living. We are to be like John the Baptizer to bear witness to the Light, the Light. (Jn 1:6-9). Just as John was sent from God, so, too, have we been sent by Yeshua: we are His witnesses. If we have some uncertainties about the truth of who Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah is, our light is mixed with the darkness of lies, and our testimony will not be “full of light.” The war against truth is strengthening and intensifying. 

When Yeshua stood before Pontius Pilate to be sentenced to death by crucifixion, Pilate asked Yeshua if He was a king. Yeshua answered, “You say that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause, I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (Jn 18:36-38). To Pilate, there was no “truth.” Everyone had their “own truth.” But Yeshua said that He came into the world to bear witness to the truth; and HE is it! Those who are of the truth hear Yeshua’s voice and of His apostles. (1Jn 4:4-6). 

What Hamas did on Oct. 7 they videoed live, and sent it out, rejoicing in the cruel and barbaric atrocities that they committed against innocent mostly Israeli Jews. Yet even they also deny it! Many “of the world” do not want to believe it! The light has come, but they prefer the darkness because their deeds are evil! There are many Christians who are supporting Israel in the war to defeat their enemies, who say that what they did on Oct. 7 is only a rehearsal. But there are also many Christians and churches who are not standing with Israel. We are moving towards a huge event that is going to overthrow the “conceptzia,” the worldview, the sense that “all is well” that will bring the prophecies of Daniel, of Yeshua, of Paul, of John, and many others to fulfillment as a consequence of this war. Daniel gives an order to what is coming; Yeshua gives a sequence to what is coming; Paul and John both give us what to expect and in what framework. 

God is bringing to light what has been deceptively covered, but the information is available for all to see for themselves: the intentions of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, all jihadi groups and countries to rid their world of Israel, the Jews and Christians. 

Antisemitism and anti-Israelism are exploding around the world because the Jews are God’s chosen people, and because this land that we live in is His chosen land. What is the scandal? YHVH, who has cut/made covenants with the fathers to be the God of the descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and to give them this land as an inheritance and an everlasting possession – the whole Earth belongs to the LORD, including this land. It is HIS to do with as He pleases! The nations of the world, including many Jews and many Christians, are turning against Israel, even though this war is a just war. Israel is not a righteous nation, as every Israeli can tell you! But, just as the Father has saved each of us by His grace and mercies in HIS righteousness, so is He going to save “all Israel” as a nation. 

This war is a catalyst towards things to come “that must be.” COVID was a catalyst. Yeshua warns His disciples – and Paul warns the believers in the churches – regarding the end-times not to let anyone deceive you! In His explanation on the Mt of Olives to His closest disciples about the time leading up to His return, Yeshua directs us to read the Book of Daniel the Prophet related to the abomination of desolation. We must do as Daniel himself did when he was given the vision of the end-times: “He set his heart to understand, and to humble himself before his God.” (Dan 10:12). 

Brothers and sisters, God’s word is a light to us in the darkness – a lamp to our feet, and a light to our paths. If our hearts are right with Jesus – if we love Him – we will believe what He says, and we will not stumble or fall. We will be able to make better sense of what is happening today, and of what these things are leading toward. We will be more knowledgeable and understanding of God’s plan of the end-times to give us peace and to enable us to better prepare others. If we know what to expect, then the things to come will not catch us by surprise, like the Oct. 7 attack did the Israeli authorities: they did not believe what the ‘watchwomen’ were reporting because they did not believe that Hamas would do such evil. 

God is using this war to examine the hearts of men, and to make a clearer distinction between the light and darkness, between good and evil, between those who stand with His people and those who are against them. 

We will be light shining in the darkness to those seeking the truth with all their hearts. We will shine for Yeshua/Jesus in His eternal victory over every lie and all darkness and evil! We celebrate Yeshua! He is the good news! 

Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.

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