Zvi Dec/Jan 1996/1997
It is now the time of year when we Christians celebrate the Lord’s birth and gladly sing, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” In Israel, the people are also celebrating a holiday. For them it is the feast of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. I recently visited an Ultra-Orthodox school, where the holidays are faithfully kept, and I had a long conversation with some of the students about the feasts of Christmas and Hanukkah.
One student said, “Hanukkah is a very holy feast.” I responded, “If that is so, why is it not mentioned even once in the Jewish Scriptures, and yet Christmas is mentioned several times there? Hanukkah is a feast that lasts for only a few days, and then the light of the festival goes out for another year. The people sink back into the darkness and depression that so often pervade this nation. On the other hand, those of us who celebrate Christmas have an everlasting light—not just some traditional candles that last for eight days, but a light in our hearts that never goes out. We celebrate and rejoice in the coming of the Lord, in whom there is no more darkness, no more sorrow. That is the great difference between these two feasts.”
These pupils listened carefully as I spoke, but when I finished one of them said, “That is a nice story. Now show us where it is written in the Bible concerning this one about whom you speak.” I told them, “I will be very glad to show you passages that speak of Him, and then you must show me where the Bible speaks of the feast of Hanukkah.” They quickly agreed because they were curious about what I would say and also because they wanted to trap me. But, as it is written in Psalm 9:15, “in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.” I then read Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” They were glad I had referred to this passage because it didn’t mention Bethlehem, and they thought they had trapped me in my speech. But then I read, in a very strong voice, Micah 5:2: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
This made them uncomfortable, and they tried to divert my attention by discussing every word of the passage. Finally I said, “I did not come here to compete with you, to see who knows more Scripture or who is smarter. I am showing you the living facts that you yourselves asked to see, and you have seen it in black and white. Now the time has come for you to show me a passage from the Bible about Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.” This put them in an unpleasant position because they knew there was no reference to Hanukkah in the Scriptures. Therefore, they again tried to attack me because they were so sure that here, in their surroundings, I was as one in a lions’ den. But even there I was not alone. The Lord was with me, and I knew that He would not forsake me. I put my trust in Him, and even among such “lions” I felt His strength.
This made them crazy, and one of them said, “You act as if you own this synagogue.” I responded, “If you call this a house of prayer, as we call our place of worship, then it does belong to me—and to you, and to everyone else in the world. It should be a place where all people can come to worship their heavenly Father. He is not just your God, or my God. He is our God.”
Finally, some of these young men began to show a little friendliness and sympathy toward me, and this was a very special feeling for me. But that feeling did not last for long. Soon a teacher entered the room, and one of the students told him what was happening. The teacher became angry with the students and said, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” He then came up to me and asked, “Who are you? Are you a teacher?” I replied, “It is not enough to be a teacher. Although I am not one, if I were, I would want to be considered an honest teacher. I can see that you and your colleagues are not being honest with your students.
“Many of these young people have spent the greater part of their lives here, studying under your tutelage and trusting that you are leading them in the right way, teaching them the proper way to worship God. But they do not worship God. Rather, they worship these many books of tradition and the false teachers who wrote them. All day long they pore over these books—false writings by false teachers. It is my duty, as one who believes in the true and living God, to show them—and you—the right way to worship God according to the Holy Bible. This is my duty before God and all people. And so, that is who I am—one who wants to lead you to true faith in the living God.”
The teacher then asked, “How did you come around to speaking on the subject of Christ? Do you know who He is?” I replied, “The trouble here is in the language. I say ‘Christ,’ but you say in Hebrew, ‘Messiah.’ He is the one in whom you claim to believe, and all day long His name is on your lips: ‘Messiah’—Christ. They are one and the same person. Now you see that this one who for you has been, up to this moment, unknown is now known. You have learned the first small part about faith in the Messiah, faith in Christ. If you like, we can continue in the Hebrew language only. Then we can speak freely about Yeshua—Jesus—Salvation. These things I am telling you are not taken from books of false teachings but from the Holy Bible itself, and you can see it for yourself right here, in black and white.” The teacher was visibly shaken and made an excuse about having no more time to talk with me. Then he left.
I was sad that at this special time of year, when the Light of Life came into the world, this teacher and his students are still living in deep darkness. Please pray with me that I will have further opportunities to speak with them. Then, perhaps some year they too will be able to sing from their hearts, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.”