Hanukkah: Light to the Nations
by Robert Walter
Israel has always been in a strategic location to have a worldwide impact. In ancient times, there were two major trade routes that passed through Israel. It was no mistake when God took Israel, gave them His Word, and placed them “at the center of the nations” (Ezekiel 5:5). As a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), Israel was to shine God’s light to her Gentile neighbors and be a testimony of His character, and her location aided that mission.
Sadly, Israel largely fell short of that mission. Rather than impacting the nations, they began to impact Israel. Israel’s light began to wane, and darkness crept in. Idolatry, pride, and rebellion led to exile from the Land when the Assyrian king entered northern Israel and captured “Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria” (2 Kings 15:29b).
God continued to promise that His great light would shine forth from Israel, and have a worldwide impact. Isaiah spoke of a special “Servant of the Lord” who would be appointed as “a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). This Servant would be an individual, to whom God says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
Matthew tells us that Jesus went to Capernaum in Galilee, the region of Zebulun and Naphtali—the exact same area where the darkness first crept in. Now, the inhabitants of that region were the first to witness the Light breaking through. “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned” (Matthew 4:16).
Jesus is the Light. He is the one who comes to shine light in the darkness; to have a worldwide, saving impact on both Israel and the nations. Confronted with His Light, our sins are exposed; receiving His Light, we are cleansed and healed.
As we kindle the Hanukkah lights on this fifth night, may we consider that the Light has come down from Heaven to shine brightly into our lives, and that we are the light of the world because He is the Light of the world.
Please pray with me. Lord, we bless You for You have given us light. Please use us as your vessels, redeemed by Your Son, indwelt by Your Spirit, to shine your light in a dark world—to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. In Jesus’ name, amen.