Our text from John chapter 8 verse 12 is the backdrop for these reflections by Rachmiel Friedland.
From pre-historic times the many tribes and nations worshipped the sun, moon and stars, to our own day when we speak of 'light years' and 'laser beams', people have been aware that light is of utmost importance to the well-being of humanity. From it comes the sustenance of life: energy, in the form of heat, and countless other blessings. People sometimes forget that GOD, the Creator of the universe, is Himself the source of light and its benefits.
The Hebrew Scriptures remind us that before the universe took shape, when it was without form, or shape, GOD was there saying,
'Let there be light.' According to the Rabbinic tradition, this primordial light was hidden until the Messianic days; the end of times, when GOD would restore it for the righteous ones. Jews and non-Jews who believe that YESHUA, JESUS, is the true Messiah, identify with these positive cJewish traditions and see their fulfilment in the Messiah, Who proclaimed,
'I Am the light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.' (John 8, verse 12).
It is no mere accident that when the Jewish world celebrates the Feast of Hanukkah with light and rejoicing, the Christian world is celebrating with lights and rejoicings the birth of the greatest Jew Who ever lived, JESUS of Nazareth, the Messiah and Redeemer of all who believe in Him. Hanukkah is celebrated in memory of the Maccabean victories of 167 to 165 B.C. when a handful of Jewish freedom fighters, under the leadership of Judas, the Maccabean, defeated the great Syrian army of Antiochus Epiphanes. After this triumphant victory, they proceeded to Jerusalem, where they entered and cleansed the Temple, which had been desecrated by the heathen. There they discovered a cruse of oil bearing the High Priest's seal which had not been tampered with by the heathen. The menorah, the golden candle stick, was rekindled with the newly found oil, and the Jewish people celebrated the rededication of their Temple. Although the oil was expected to last for only one day, it supplied light for eight days. This truly was a miracle of GOD. Hanukkah, which means 'dedication' in Hebrew, has become the Feast of Lights and of dedication.
Less than two centuries went by, and in the city of Bethlehem of Judah, the greater Jew than King David was born. He was the descendant of Judah and of David, and did not fight the heathen with iron weapons, as did His predecessors, the Maccabees. Instead, the weapons of His warfare were of a spiritual nature. For by His life, death, and resurrection, He broke the bonds of oppression which had held the hearts of men captive; and many lives received fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah 31, verse 33, which states,
''But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' sayeth the LORD. 'I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their GOD, and they shall be My people.''
The first Messianic Believers were Jews. But in time, many thousands of Gentiles also accepted this Man of Nazareth, YESHUA, as their Redeemer from sin. They came to love the Jewish people, and proceeded to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into their mother tongues. These Gentiles called themselves 'Christians,' which in the Greek means, 'followers of Messiah.' When the Christians began to celebrate the birth of their Messiah, the LORD JESUS, they kindled the lights of Christmas.
Isaiah, the Prophet, foresaw in a vision in 700 B.C., the coming of this great Light, and proclaimed,
'Arise, shine, for thy Light has come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people. But the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentile nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.' (Isaiah 60, verses 1 to 3).
Two things are absolutely clear in this prophecy. One: Israel, or the Jewish people, is to become a shining light to the nations; two: this calling is based on the Light that has come, and our acceptance of that Light. There is historical evidence which attests to the fact that this Light has come. Millions of people who once paid homage to man-made idols of various materials, all bowed the knee to several phenomena of nature, have since turned to worship the GOD of Israel. They came to believe the Words of the Jewish prophets and apostles. Every Jewish Believer in Messiah, from Saul of Tarsus and Simeon Bar Jonah of Capernaum, to each of our own day has become a shining light to the Gentiles who do not, as yet, know YESHUA in a personal way. Surely this must also be the interpretation of the hymn written by the great Jewish poet and mystic, Shlomo HaLevi, which Jewish people recite on Friday nights, 'Shake off the dust; rise to thy station; don your glorious garments, my nations, for by Jesse's Son of Bethlehem's town, salvation to my soul came down. Awake! Awake! Thy Light has come; arise my people; arise and shine. Wake up and sing your new song, GOD's glory again is all thine.' (Lecha Dodi Song, verses 5 to 6).
We Jewish Believers in the Messiah, and all sincere Gentile Believers, must continue to labour together to call our own people to the Great Light of whom the Prophet, Isaiah, says,
'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulder. And his name shall be called, 'Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty GOD, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.' (Isaiah 9, verses 1 to 5).
Need we then wonder that when Messiah YESHUA was born, the aged Tsaddik and Chassid Rabbi, Simeon, took the baby in his arms and being full of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, pronounced the following words,
'LORD, now lettest Thou Thy servant, depart in peace according to Thy Word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people, Israel.' (Luke 2, verses 29 to 32).