By the time you read this, the celebration of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, will be over for another year. For eight days, from the evening of December 23, Jews will have commemorated their victory over Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who tried to destroy their unique heritage and calling by forcing them to assimilate into his Greek-Syrian order.
The victory over Antiochus was the winning of just one battle in a non-stop war the Jews have had to wage for all of 3,000 years. In a very real sense, this is what Jewish history has been about from the start: The fight to resist absorption into the gentile world. It is a war Israel is fighting to this day. And just as it was 2,200 years ago, the battle is tearing the Jewish nation apart.
Remarkably, this Hanukkah officially marked the start of the Jubilee celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the restored Jewish homeland--reborn and surviving against all the efforts of the nations and in the face of the laws of probability.
From this perspective, the Jews can claim victory over Antiochus, over the Roman and Greek empires, over the Crusaders, over the Inquisitors, over the Cossacks, over the Nazis, and over the Muslims. Despite them all, the Jewish nation exists to this day--a real victory.
But what lies ahead? Today's world leaders use more sophisticated weapons than did their predecessors. And while the tactics may have changed, the aims have not. Movement towards a one world order is racing ahead, and Israel's desire to remain a distinctive, Jewish state defies this trend.
No doubt, 1998 will see increasing efforts from without and within to force Israel further down the Oslo road. US pressure is bound to grow. Israel will not be able to withstand this alone.
Christians everywhere, but especially in the US, have been given another opportunity to rally to Israel's side. The number of times we have done so in the 2,000 years of Christian history have been pitifully few. Israel needs us. And the truth is, we need Israel.
As we go into this (gentile) new year, may God help us find ways to stand with His people against those arrayed against them.