That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.— John 1:9
I will close the study with an examination of the Hanukkiah and point out how the celebration reminds us of Jesus Christ and the miracle of Christmas. To begin with, please read John 1:1–14.
Jesus is the True Light. We find that this light has been shown throughout the world to everybody (1:9). Everyone has access to this light. Two chapters over in John 3:19 we read, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Rejecting the True Light brings condemnation.
The Empty Candlestick
Notice first the candlestick. Do you see that star in the middle of the candlestick? Not all Hanukkiahs have this star, but many of them do. It is called the “Star of David.”
The Star of David is known today as the symbol for the nation of Israel. It is a very prominent symbol in Jewish culture and even appears on the flag of Israel. The subject of Israel is of great importance to born-again believers. There is still today a special blessing to those who bless, love, and pray for Israel (Genesis 12:2–3; 27:29; Numbers 24:9; Psalm 122:6). It was prophesied that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Israel (Genesis 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Galatians 3:8). After the 7-year Tribulation, Jesus Christ will divide the Gentiles who made it through the Tribulation based solely on this one condition: were they friends of the Jews (Matthew 25:31–46). How much clearer can we be concerning our attitude and stance toward the Jews? Israel was, is, and will always be special in the heart of God (Zechariah 2:8). There are many today who claim the Church has replaced Israel. This may just be the “blasphemy” mentioned in Revelation 2:9: “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” For more on the distinction between Israel and the Church, please see, Israel in the Tribulation.
Please do not take what I say out of context. I have laid out my stance toward Israel. It is a treasured people in the heart of God. They must be loved and prayed for. But they are a lost nation. They need Jesus Christ. What better way to love the Jews than to witness to them and show them Christ? The Star of David stands for lost Israel—a nation who has rejected Jesus as their Messiah—a nation who believes they can attain unto righteousness by their works. There is a Jewish tradition that says David’s shield was in the shape of this star, but I have searched and searched and cannot find any credible witness that testifies to the idea that the Star of David was a symbol for the nation of Israel before the late 1800s. The symbol does appear among Kabbalists (a division of Jewish Mysticism) in the medieval times. The earliest account of the symbol standing for a Jewish community was in the Jewish community of Prague in the 1300s. It was not until the late 1800s that the Zionist movement adopted the Star of David as symbol for national Israel. Today, the symbol is highly regarded in the occult. It is a prominent symbol in witchcraft and the church of Satan who refer to the symbol as the “Hexagram” or “Hex.” I have found one unsubstantiated claim that Jews marked the Star of David on their huts in the 7th century BC. What is interesting is that also during this time the people of Northern Israel were in bondage to Assyria, and there are claims that the Star of David was first a symbol for an Assyrian god.
Please understand what I am about to say. There are those who hate Israel with a passion and use the dark history of the Star of David to advance their hatred for Jews. As we have already seen, this is spiritually-ignorant and anti-Bible. I point out the dark history of the Star of David merely to emphasize how the nation of Israel is lost and needs Christ.
With this in mind, we will begin the discussion of the Hanukkiah with what the empty candlestick means to the born-again believer.
This candlestick has no light. It has no purpose. It is not giving out any light and has no practical applications anywhere else in daily life. This is the state of someone lost and without Christ in the heart. Ephesians 2:1–3 gives a description of a lost person:
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
Dead in trespasses and sins. A slave to sin. Children of wrath. Even as others.
Even as other lost people in the world, a lost person has no life. Though they are physically breathing and mentally thinking, they are simply blindly following the lusts of their heart in slavery to sin. The star in the middle of the candlestick stands for the sin nature which is the central part of a lost person’s existence.
On each night of Hanukkah, the first step to lighting the Hanukkiah is to set the “Shamash (Servant)” candle in the middle place of the candlestick. To the Jew, the sole purpose of the Shamash is to serve the other candles by giving them light. Though the candle is not yet lit, the Shamash candle is set.
This signifies when a lost person is pricked in the heart and set apart for salvation (1 Peter 1:2). Our Lord said in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Jesus Christ was indeed lifted up on the cross even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14–15). What was the result according to the Bible? All men will be drawn to Christ. This does not mean all will be saved. But it does mean that all will at some point be set apart (sanctified) for salvation at which time they will have to make the decision either to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior or reject His sacrifice and continue in condemnation, leading ultimately to eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire. But there is Good News! Jesus Christ has given Himself for us! His Sacrifice is sufficient for all and is able to satisfy the wrath of God for all (1 John 2:2).
Jesus is the “True Light” of John 1:9. He “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” though not many will actually receive this Light. When one receives Christ into their heart, the light is now lit. Notice what is burning—the Shamash. The candlestick is indeed lit. The lost person has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and now has everlasting life. That newly-saved child of God now has a purpose. But what is actually burning is the Shamash, the “Servant” candle. Here is what Philippians 2:5–11 says about this—
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Do you see how the Shamash is raised up? Not all Hanukkiahs will raise up the Shamash, but all Hanukkiahs today will have the Shamash at its center. Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, took upon Himself the form of a Servant. The result was is that Jesus Christ is exalted—raised up above everything else. John the Baptist says, “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). I highly doubt it is of mere coincidence that the Servant candle is raised up above the rest and is the central light of the Hanukkiah. What is the job of the Shamash? To light the rest of the candles.
On the first night of Hanukkiah, after the Shamash is lit, one other candle is placed and lit. On the second night, two other candles are placed and lit. This continues until the eight night when all eight of the other candles of the Hanukkiah are placed and lit. When the candles are placed, they are set from right to left. Once the candles are set though, they are then lit from left to right.
What does this mean for us? Hebrew is written from right to left. I can’t help but think of how this setting of candles signifies for us the setting of Scripture in our life. Now more than ever, born-again believers need so badly to saturate themselves with the Word of God day and night. We have too many who are relying solely on a preacher or Bible teacher to somehow birth into them spiritual knowledge, but we must each hide God’s Word in our own hearts. It is our duty. In the words of 1 Peter 2:2, we are to “desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” We cannot expect to grow into spiritual maturity by relying on secondhand information. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9).
Once the Bible is set in our lives, Jesus can now help us to grow spiritually, lighting our lives and leading us into spiritual maturity. But He does this from the inside. On the Hanukkiah of our lives, it looks as if the candles are being lit from left to right, but there is One lighting it from the inside according to the promises of His Word. Lost people can live moral lives. Only saved, born-again believers with Christ in the heart can live spiritual lives. Don’t expect Christ to do much lighting if we do not set the Bible in our hearts. Jesus Christ is the “Word” (John 1:1) in flesh.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Notice our sin nature (star) is still present, but where the sin nature was once the most prominent feature, now the Light of our lives has taken preeminence. Although it would be nice for the sin nature to be fully eradicated at salvation, we will still have to battle with this nature until Christ fashions us after His glorious body (Romans 7; Philippians 3:21). We can indeed obtain victory in specific battles with sin (Romans 8). As each night of Hanukkah comes, the Hanukkiah is progressively being lit more and more. The light grows brighter and brighter with each passing day.
Each night, after the candles are lit, the Hanukkiah is placed on a windowsill or somewhere noticeable. Originally, the Hanukkiahs were placed outside the front entrance of the house if it was allowed. When the Lord lights up our lives, should we run and hide ourselves in a closet? We could. It would indeed light up the closet very brightly, causing the smallest amount of dirt and dust to become very noticeable. In brightly lighting up your closet, you may even find a shirt you haven’t worn in years due to it being lost in the darkness of your closet. Meanwhile, outside your house is darkness. There are people walking past your house with no acknowledgement of the light you possess. Jesus Christ says this about our light:
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
We can’t simply put a basket over a light! Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles. A miracle has taken place in our heart! An unsavable soul got saved! An incurable heart got cured! Praise the Lord! In celebrating Hanukkah, the Jews put out the light after it has been lit for 30 minutes after sunset. Our light must continually stay lit. We must show forth our light! Yes, the Hanukkiah must give light in our own life, but it must also give light to others. If you are saved, are you lighting up the world? Or are you keeping your light hidden? Are you far enough along in your spiritual walk with God that many candles are burning brightly or are you still stuck on the first candle? When the Hanukkiah is lit at its full intensity, it is a beautiful sight indeed. The sin nature is barely even noticeable!
This world is growing increasingly darker and darker. It is time for born-again believers to dig into God’s Precious Word and grow closer to the Lord, pressing onward into spiritual maturity. If you are reading this today, and you do not personally know Christ as Lord and Savior, I pray you would consider this message today. All have sinned. Without Christ in the heart, that soul is condemned (John 3:18–19), but Light is still available to all. Please accept the True Light of Hanukkah, Jesus Christ today.