The Timeless Lesson of Hanukkah
Through the centuries, thousands—indeed millions—of Jewish people have suffered martyrdom for their faith in an act that they came to understand as “sanctifying the name of God” when being faithful to God’s Word has brought them death. In similar fashion, countless numbers of Christians have also suffered martyrdom because of their faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Even in today’s world, both Jews and Christians continue to experience the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom for their faith.
This was the challenge that many Jews faced when Antiochus Epiphanes gained control of the land of Israel and sought to impose Hellenism, his religion and culture, on the Chosen People. First, he encouraged syncretism, a blending of the ideas of Greek philosophy and polytheism with the eternal truths of the Hebrew Scriptures. His approach represented the most insidious attack upon the pillars of Jewish faith that had ever been undertaken because it was subtle and so easily adopted by the secularist aristocracy who were nominal practicioners of Judaism at best. Ultimately, the tzadakim (righteous ones) in Israelite society rebelled against these com- promises and waged a military campaign that finally expelled Antiochus from Israel, even though it cost them dearly in the lives of martyrs for the faith of God.
The principles and philosophy that drove Antiochus is clearly manifest in today’s world, a world that is increasingly characterized by compromise and the syncretizing of ideas, philosophies, and religion. More and more, those who are resolute in the practice of their faith—especially if they are Jews or Christians—come under increased scrutiny as “fundamentalists,” “radicals,” and even “terrorists,” all because they refuse to allow their faith and experience to be subsumed into the grossly diluted and perverted gobbledygook that masquerades as tolerance.
The truth is that the secularists and so-called “progressives” (who, by the way, happen to be anything but progressive and are instead regressive) are highly intolerant of the God of the Jews and his demands for moral and ethical behavior. When these secularists cannot get true believers in the God of Scripture to accommodate their New Age philosophy and Neo-Paganism, like Antiochus, they become violently aggressive, even calling for the extermination of people of true faith.
Compromise is not a bad term per se; however, compromise in the extreme can mean the uncon- ditional surrender of values and the abandonment of moral and ethical principles in the face of pressure for conformity to what are called the “norms” of general societal preferences. Every hu- man being who has any real worth must have fundamental beliefs for which he is willing to go to the stake.Anyone who does not stand for something will fall for anything. Conviction that is based on deeply held beliefs is the stuff of true leadership, whether in the religious, political,or social realms.
The way to ensure that one does not reach the point at which compromise becomes surrender to whatiswhollyunacceptableistofollowtheveryclearandunequivocalpreceptsthatarecontainedin the Holy Scriptures. These are unambiguous truths that are timeless and have been proven over and over again through centuries of history. Individuals and kingdoms have risen and fallen by the respect or lack of respect that they have had for the precepts of God’s Word. David summed it up very succinctly when he declared, “The nation that forgets God will be cast into hell” (Psalm 9:17). The same can be said for every individual who turns against the truth of God and his Word.The life of utter compromise and syncretism is hell on earth.
Just as it was in the days of Antiochus, the witness that one gives for his faith in the God of Scripture will not go unchallenged by the forces of evil. Forceful witness for truth often results in persecution and even death. Indeed, witness and martyrdom have gone hand in hand for both Jews and Christians. The powers of hell have aligned themselves against the Lord of Scripture and against his Word. There is one eternal truth, however, that mitigates against this onslaught: God’s light always conquers Satan’s might. This is the lesson of Hanukkah. When God’s people stand uncompromisingly for truth, the miracle of the divine light will always dispel the darkness around them and deliver them into the peace and joy of ever lasting life.