The First Temple, which was built by Solomon, lasted roughly 400 years before it was destroyed and the Jews were carried into captivity to Babylon.
Zechariah returned from Babylonian exile when King Cyrus permitted the Jewish people to return to their Land in the year 538 BC.
In the Shabbat Hanukkah reading, Zechariah has a vision of the Temple Menorah, although the Second Temple had not yet been built.
“I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps.” (Zechariah 4:2)
In this reading, the Jewish People had attempted to rebuild the Holy Temple, but they became discouraged. Disasters and intense opposition filled them with dismay, and the building process came to a halt.
The Prophet Zechariah, however, roused the people from their despondency with a vision of the Lord living among His people:
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you … and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent Me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as His portion in the Holy Land and will again choose Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 2:10–13)
The people perhaps were tempted to think that returning to the comforts of Babylon would be easier than repenting and striving to rebuild in the Holy Land.
They might have even worried that God wasn’t behind their efforts. But Zechariah’s Messianic vision left no doubt that the Lord had chosen them and Jerusalem.
Moreover, God promised that the Righteous Branch would come and that sin, which separates us from God, would be dealt with in a single day.
“I am going to bring My servant, the Branch. … and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (Zechariah 3:8–9)
“I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me shall not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
This idea of deliverance in a single day is also present in Parasha Miketz.
Like the returned exiles from Babylon attempting to rebuild the Temple, Joseph probably had his share of desperate moments.
On the human level, he had been forsaken and forgotten in prison. But God’s plan for him was still active, and He had not stopped watching over him.
In fact, God had positioned him to be in the right place at the right time to fulfill his destiny.
And suddenly, in just one day, Joseph went from the prison to the palace.
In a single day, God delivered Joseph from prison. Likewise, in a single day, Yeshua delivered us from sin.
God delivers us from eternal separation from Him the moment we trust in Yeshua.
In Luke, Yeshua confirms His mission as Deliverer.
As was His custom, He went to the synagogue on Shabbat (the seventh day Sabbath) and read from the scroll of Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19; Isaiah 61:1–2)
Although we have been delivered and set free, there might be times we find ourselves tempted to despair when we are in a difficult situation.
When we come to the end of our own strength, asking, “What am I doing here in this difficult place?” we should remember Joseph and be reminded that God is in control—no matter how bad the situation looks.
Sometimes we think that an improvement in our situation is going to take time—a lot of it! But when we put our trust in the Lord, He will give us the victory and bring us to a place that is far better than we could have imagined. It can happen in one day!
God is the Lord of Breakthrough and the Master of the Breach. (1 Chronicles 14:11)
“It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them.” (Psalm 44:3)
The First Hanukkah
Hanukkah is the anniversary of the re-dedication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greco-Syrian armies (circa 166 BC).
By all rights, the Jews should have been utterly defeated, for they were completely outnumbered.
This is the lesson of all Jewish history: God accomplishes His will through His Spirit.
It can become our history as well if we will allow God’s Spirit to have free reign in our lives, rather than relying upon our own abilities.
“Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit (Ruach), says YHVH Tzavaot (Lord of Hosts).” (Zechariah 4:6)
At the time of the first Hanukkah in ancient Israel, only a remnant of God’s people were dedicated to Him and to His Torah.
The rest had been assimilated into the Greek culture and its pagan faith.
Therefore, Hanukkah was not simply about fighting a battle between a small band of Jewish freedom fighters called the Maccabees and the Greco-Syrian military forces; it was about fighting a deeper spiritual battle between a holy faith founded on the Word of God and the powerful forces that strive to lure God’s people into paganism.
Of course, that battle is still ongoing today.
But Haftarah Hanukkah reminds us that the battle belongs to the Lord.
Although we live in this world, our ultimate allegiance is to God and His Word. May we re-dedicate ourselves during this season of Hanukkah to become vessels that are truly worthy of Him.