Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his lifetime. He did something many tyrants have only dreamed of. Alexanders ideas outlived him and are with us even today, because Alexander did not wipe out people groups, or subject people groups and nations so much as he made them part of his empire. Creating little Alexandria’s all over the world. During the period after Alexanders conquest his empire split into many pieces, but the greek philosophy and mindset continued to dominate many other cultures. The Hellenistic societies set up in the middle east where the once strong pursian empire had stood, eventually came under the control of the later empire born out of the offspring of Alexanders empirical progeny. Rome.
To understand our situation today it can be a great help to understand history. The Roman Empire and its client states were born out of a greek idea. The Hellenistic Romans endeavored to make the world Rome, or at least a client of Rome. While they would let the locals rule their countrymen, the elite within society quickly became more greek. Attending greek schools, adopting greek morality and cosmology. Learning to speak Greek, think greek and talk greek. Kind of like how modern day American universities attract students from around the world. Parents in other nations want their children to be allowed into the inner circles of the western elite within their society. In many ways the Hellenization process has continued even into modern day.
So how does any of this relate to Hanukkah, or Christianity, or Patriots?
Because this kind of process has been happening for a long time, and it plays directly into the Christmas story, Thanksgiving, and those who love their individual liberty. The story you are about to learn was in the King James version of the bible until the 1820’s so any claim that it is a jewish story and not a Christian story, is simply vapid. In fact the story of the Maccabean revolt against the Hellenistic oppressors of the 3rd century BC, is a story that very likely inspired all of Jesus’s immediate followers and the early church as a whole at this time of year. It is a story of people overcoming impossible odds, tyranical abuse, and evil. It has all the elements of a modern blockbuster action Movie.
If you know anything about Hanukkah as a non-jewish member of our western society, its probably that there was some oil lamps that stayed lit and it was a miracle. Big woop right? But this is not the story that has inspired so many for so long, and it has very little to do with us here today. The greater tale however, is something worth investigating.
Antiochus of Epiphanies, the tyrant of our story was your typical goon. One of the may corrupt rulers to come into the wealth left behind by Alexanders empire, Antiochus was cruel to the Jewish people he ruled over. In one instance where a deposed High Priest of the temple raised an army of 1000 men and took Jerusalem. Antiochus sacked the city and murdered countless members of its residents young and old alike.
“When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.”
The Tyranny that he represented was not unlike the tyranny we see before us. He outlawed the religious festivals of the Jews. Made the practice of keeping the holy days a crime, and did unspeakable things to the citizens who refused. In fact he went even futher, by forcing the jews to worship Zeus. Refusal to partake in the sacrifices to Zeus would result in a death sentence. “Two women who were arrested for having circumcised their children were publicly paraded about the city with their babies hanging at their breasts and then thrown down from the top of the city wall. Others, who had assembled in nearby caves to observe the sabbath in secret, were betrayed to Philip and all burned to death.”
It is often in history to think of the Jews as victims of tyrants. After all the Holocaust is one of the most moving events of mans evil that has ever taken place. Yet this happened somehow while Germany was the most Christian of european nations? It is only when we see the jewish resistance fighters of the soviet front that we can understand the concept of jewish rebellion to tyrants. But isn’t this a shared heritage with Christianity? Were the people who came to populate this great country that we remember on thanksgiving not also striving under the weight of tyrants to do the right thing even at great cost while under religious oppression?
The First and Second book of Maccabees is a tale of armed resistance to cultural, political, and religious opression. Yet it has a similarity to our present condition in this country that I bet most have not noticed. Just as we are today split in this country between an atheistic leftist post modern evil and a group of people trying to hold on to what they believe is right, so to were the jews of the 3rd century. It was as much a civil war as a revolt, because so many Jews were participants in the hellenistic society that was destroying and corrupting the core of the Jewish culture.
I see so many parallels where our society has asked us as Christians to bend and accept false Gods into every area of our lives. In fact some of them are so striking they scream to be answered. How many who self identify as Christians are going to celebrate Christmas this year, when December 25th is the birthday of Zeus, and not of Christ? In fact how many who self identify as Christians will even read the story of the 3rd century Jews who threw off their pagan oppressors and returned to the path God set out for them. What makes this almost comical if not sad is that Jesus indeed would have been thinking about this very event, and would have probably despised any hellenistic Zeus birthday celebrations that were taking place on December 25th! Epic Religion Fail!
The parallels are striking, and worth investigating. How many in our culture today are ready to take up arms against the evil culture that is imposing tyrannical government on them? Do we as a people deserve that freedom and liberty if we do not also adopt a lifestyle that is pleasing to our creator? How many of us would storm the castles but have adopted deep rooted patterns of sin in our lives? Are we the part of society that needs to be uprooted and destroyed or saved and protected as a nation of priests?
For me these are the themes Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and Patriotism bring up. It makes me ponder hard questions and ask myself am I worthy of the liberty I am in love with? Am I going to become just like that which I hate in order to destroy that which oppresses me? Am I allowing hatred to overpower my daily emotions in response to the darkness that is surrounding us as a culture? If so, does that hatred come from my creator or something else?
There is a place for the strong, and those who will not put up with the boot of tyranny. But they are only really heroes when they are like Maccabee (The Hammer) who crushed the evil ones around him and toppled a dictator to establish a place where righteous men could live as God has called them to.
So in this holiday season I would encourage every patriot, every Christian, and every Jew to consider the heroes of the Maccabean Revolt, who stood up against tyrants and won, and restored the honor and diginity of their people.
It is this same stage we see Jesus born into, where the Saducees, which were a hellenistic invention, and not real jews, plot to kill Jesus while even the pharisees respected him. He was standing up against those same hellenistic forces of darkness in his own culture, and they killed him for it. Thankfully for all of us, he is indeed the Messiah that was foretold, and through his sacrifice of death as the passover lamb, each of us has the opportunity to embrace our creator in covenant and be made whole again. All that is required is that we turn away from our sin, and embrace him as our Lord.
Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Hanukkah,
May the creator of everything bless your family on this wonderful occasion.
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