I’m grateful to Dave Chapman for sending this personal encouragement which I’m sharing with my readers upon return to blogging. Having been offline for all but an hour over the holiday I hadn’t read this until today and happily surprised (maybe I shouldn’t be!) at this year starting with a ‘coincidental’ hint from the Lord!
In our daily ‘Keep Praying and Bless’, as blogged in the Summer, we’re now back at its opening day’s decree and blessing for Land’s End, from where the Praise Bus started its nationwide journey accompanying the Olympic Torch in 2012 (see introductory post). The first decree in this prayer cycle is “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD”, from John 8:12 – “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life“.
Hence my immense delight upon discovering the title of Dave’s paper (links and video are mine). Be mightily encouraged and blessed as you read:
2017 – A FESTIVAL OF LIGHT
As I start to write it is very early morning on Christmas Eve. I had been inspired by an account I just read of the Jewish soldier in George Washington’s army (JNN News), who had apparently inspired him to hope, even believe, he would win the war he was in – yes, the one against us British who were seeking to bring them under our control!
It was around 1777, a severe winter there in America, the conditions were hard, the American army weary. However one soldier decided to celebrate his peoples ancient Festival of Hanukkah. (Its other name is their Festival of Lights).!
It came into being because around 164 BC some brave Jewish people regained their City and Temple from the Greeks who had defiled their Temple by sacrificing pig to Zeus – on their altar. The Maccabees family rose up and led the fight to drive them out of the City. On taking the Temple they found one day’s supply of oil to light the flame of their nine branch candlestick (Menorah). Miraculously it burned for eight days until more oil was made or found. This became a re-dedication of the Temple to the Lord.
So, this one Jewish soldier lit one candle to celebrate his established Jewish Festival. He also prayed for his army General, George Washington. Reputedly the General saw his light and came and stood by his side. Enquiring as to what he was doing, the soldier replied he was praying for him, and the great victory he would win. He also told of how his own people had gained victories against all odds, and that God would grant him victory too. The General received this prophetic encouragement.
This inspired great hope in the General and he went out with renewed determination to the fight. Having taken that soldier’s name before he left him that night, a year later – and after the war was won – George Washington went to the home of the soldier and presented to him a medal with a Menorah on it showing one candle, alight – to remind him of the inspiration he was to him that night.
The Great Light
It so happens that this year the first day of Hanukkah occurs on our Christmas Day. Only this last week on our way home from visiting some friends, did we take a short detour to go and see some streets in Worcester where homes were lit up with various displays of colourful and decorative lights. I’ve certainly never bothered to do that before, but somehow this year I could really appreciate them. There were some that seemed to display silver rain falling, or snow – perhaps even a reminder of heaven coming to earth, and of the redemption won for us at the cross.
Light brings renewed hope. We can begin to see our way again. Jesus Christ Himself is that Light of the world. Speaking of the time when Jesus would come to this earth Isaiah the prophet said “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who dwelt in the land of intense darkness, under the shadow of death, upon them has the Light shined”. That’s what our Christmas is all about, and what fresh hope and faith we can have as we face what is likely to be an even more momentous year than this last one.
You will have heard before from this pen of the two heroes of our faith, Latimer and Ridley who when challenged over whether Jesus was bodily present when Communion (Mass as it was called then) stood for truth, that in fact He was not bodily present (though He is spiritually!). This stand cost them their lives as they were burned at the stake in Oxford in 1555. At one point, while Bishop Ridley burned slowly, Latimer said to him “Be of good comfort and play the man Master Ridley; we shall this day, light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England I trust, that shall never go out”.
That is absolutely true today. Whatever the surveys and polls show, there is a remnant in this Land who have kept the flame alight, and we are about to see that flame fanned into fire across the Land. Light shines best in the darkness. We need to stand up and be counted as carriers of that light.
Light vs. Darkness
Conflict was the root of the original miracle of Hanukkah. Conflict was the setting for the American soldier. Conflict was the scene of the martyrs death. Conflict was the occasion of our God’s greatest victory – at the cross of Calvary. Conflict was engaged when Martin Luther pinned his 95 statements of faith on the door of the Church in Wittenberg, to ‘light the blue touch paper’ of the Reformation 500 years ago on the 31st October 1517.
Conflict was made certain when the United Nations voted in November of 1947 for a Jewish State to emerge in Palestine – this came into being approximately 6 months later when the modern State of Israel was ‘born in a day’. Five surrounding Arab nations invaded them the next day, only to fail, and one year later to agree to a temporary ‘peace’. Israel celebrate this year 70 years of that UN vote.
Then again, in June of 1967 through another conflict – this time over Jerusalem – Israel took control of the whole of the City. They will celebrate their 50th Anniversary of that also in 2017.
Nothing is won that is not fought for. It seems to me that on these reminders alone, we are in for a year of contention and conflict, especially over light, truth, and freedom. We must not hold back – it is a year for ‘taking ground’.
Onwards To Completion
The Hebrew year too is 5777. Even taken at face value, the number five in Biblical numerology stands for grace (favour), a seven stands for spiritual and physical completion or perfection. Triple seven surely means that God has purposes for this year that indicates we will see His stamp on the things of this world for His Kingdom purposes, in unprecedented ways. And, conflict will surely be a part of that, in both the spiritual and physical realms, in and between nations.
The areas, in the natural of present day conflict, or potential conflict, are all too easy to see. Issues like Brexit and the EU; or the President elect in America, both for the USA and on the world stage; or massive persecution and genocidal like clearances in the middle east of Christians, Yazidis, and others; of the constant threats upon Israel as a Nation, lent considerable weight by the latest unopposed UN Resolution to make illegal their settlements beyond the area of Nationhood prior to the 1967 War. (Jordan, who previously occupied that area, had been told they would not be attacked if they did not enter the war. They believed the false report of Egypt that they were winning the war and so joined in, only to lose land).
Yet, our warfare is not of this world, but is against “principalities, and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world”. That’s where we need to engage and see God remove ungodly leadership and place into authority those who are prepared to listen to Him, to make just and righteous decisions, and for us to bring the light of the Gospel of Jesus to both Gentile and Jew.
Since writing almost all of the above (all except the previous paragraph) we have had some amazing comments from the Prime Minister Theresa May [GOV.UK Chanukah 2016: Theresa May’s Message] First, there were her comments about Hanukkah, best recorded at length:-
“As Jewish families around the world gather to light the first candle on their Chanukah, I want to wish everyone celebrating this festival of light a very happy and peaceful Chanukah.
“As we confront the horrors of growing anti-Semitism and the appalling hate fuelled terrorist attacks that we have seen across Europe, so the themes of freedom and liberty at the heart of the Chanukah story remain as relevant as ever. For just as the Maccabees resisted oppression and kept their faith, to be rewarded by the miracle of a light that burnt for eight nights, so too must we today have the courage to stand up for our values and hold sacred our way of life.
“For as long as I am Prime Minister I want you to know that I will stand alongside you and passionately defend your right to practice your faith, free from question or fear. I will do everything I can to keep you and your families safe and to fight the divisive prejudice and extremist ideology that lies at the heart of anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred. And I will celebrate proudly the extraordinary contribution that our Jewish communities make to our country, for as I have said before, Britain would simply not be Britain without its Jews.
“So as our Jewish communities come together for this special time, let us take confidence and pride in our values and in doing so let us draw hope from the Chanukah message that light will always overcome darkness and that joy and peace will always overcome hatred.”
Then in a separate message to the Country, and taken from the different newspapers of Christmas Eve Day, our PM said that “Britain should proudly celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and his message of forgiveness, love and hope” and “To think of Christians in other parts of the world who face persecution”. Also, “We must seize an historic opportunity for us to forge a bold new role in the world’ following Brexit”.
Then our stalwart Queen affirmed her own personal stance in her latest Christmas message:
“Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe”.
Even Prince Charles in his contribution to ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4 the previous week had referred to “Our Lord Jesus Christ” in his message, having begun by also speaking of the terrible plight and reduction of the numbers of Christians now in Iraq, through persecution, with many fleeing as refugees. Press Reviewers on late night News TV also were heard to say that night that Christians had had a rough deal these last years! Attitudes are changing. Suddenly Christianity doesn’t seem so bad an option after all!
People are beginning to realise these options are not Christianity, humanism, or secularism, but are discovering Islam is walking into the religious ‘void’ – perhaps even soon to march – if we do not stand up for our Christian heritage and foundations in this land. Europe certainly has had many ‘wake up’ calls to see that as well, and we thank God we have been spared, to date, more Islamic atrocities here. We have to contend though where we should – in the heavenly places – and stand for truth, love and righteousness, here.
Finding Good News
Truth will be known, because of light being shed, bringing fresh and clear revelation. But also, works of darkness will be exposed in a greater way. As He speaks to us we shall prove that His word to us is indeed “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path”. The “spirit within us is the lamp (or candle) of the Lord”*, and, as we take note of that witness within, He will lead us and keep us in every situation and circumstance that unfolds, even in the midst of battle.
As the Lord said to Joshua when he was commissioned to go take the land “Be strong and very courageous”. It was this Joshua who with Caleb 40 years earlier had brought back a “with God we can” message after spying out the land. If we have not realised it already, we need to be seeing things with Gods eyes, to know what the real report is during this coming year. That is going to be vital. *Prov 20:27
Dave Chapman 24/12/16
Dave’s reference to the Jewish soldier is especially poignant in view of president Obama’s support of the UN’s SC Resolution 2334 against Israel. His intense loathing of Israel’s PM Netanyahu will come with a personal price because, had it not been for a self-sacrificing Jewish financier Haym Saloman from Poland, the United States would have gone broke during its War for Independence and, therefore, would not exist as we know it today!! (As told in Amazing ‘Coincidences’: Cycles and Shemitah-Jubilee Years.)