On this next-to-final day of Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, it seems fitting to do a brief “selah” on Yeshua, the Light of the World.
Original artwork by Randi Durham of North Bend, Oregon
Selah is a term used in the Psalms for a pause for meditation, to let a message sink in. We’ve been talking about the I AMs of Jesus, and the first post in this series was on “I AM the light of the world.” So now, as the Feast of Lights wraps up, let’s pause on that thought, and take a moment to let it sink in….
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Gen 1:2-3)
Isn’t it interesting that light existed before God spoke the sun into existence!
Dawn breaking over the Sea of Galilee–my photo 🙂
(I owe that observation to a reader in Malaysia. But I also heard it more recently from Amir Tsarfati, last week. 🙂 )
…also the lampstand (menorah) for the light… and the oil for the light… (Exo 35:14-15)
In the desert tabernacle, which had no windows, the menorah was the only light, and it burned continually–by the power of the oil, which represents the Holy Spirit.
And in the heavenly Temple, of which the earthly tabernacle was just a copy or shadow:
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. (Rev 21:22-23)
There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. (Rev 22:5)
The Temple menorah was a symbol of God’s radiance. Yeshua is that radiance.
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. (Heb 1:3)
That’s why, in the heavenly Temple, Yeshua replaces the menorah as the source of light.
Replica of the Temple Menorah
on display in Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter.
It stands more than five feet tall!
Light is one of the most pervasive motifs in scripture–Genesis opens with it, and Revelation closes with it. It’s especially noticeable in the writings of John, who must have done a life-long selah on the subject.
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
Lauren Crews and I have been digging into these I AM statements, placing them in their context with the festivals on the Hebrew calendar. I got to meditating (again) on that last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, with its spectacular light display. And how, after all the brouhaha was over, Yeshua declared:
I AM the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. (Rev 8:12)
Do you know that, every day of that eight-day feast, the people had recited the “full hallel,” (Psalms 113-118), which includes these words:
God is the Lord, and He has given us light. (Psalm 118:27)
The Temple menorah was the symbol of that light; Yeshua was the light, made flesh, and walking among them! God had indeed given that light to them–in the form of His only begotten Son. But they received Him not.
Seventh night. Artwork by Randi Durham, North Bend, OR.
Yeshua’s statement set off a lengthy verbal sparring session with the Pharisees, occasioning three of His boldest claims in Scripture:
Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins. (John 8:24)
When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am. (John 8:28)
Before Abraham was born, I am. (John 8:58)
This is the first time Yeshua had made that claim publicly.
(Many translations read “I am He” in these verses, but the He should be in italics to show it’s not in the Greek text.)
When Yeshua applied the label “I am” to Himself, it was a reference to God’s most sacred name.
The most important of God’s Names is the four-letter Name represented by the Hebrew letters Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei (YHVH). It is often referred to as the Ineffable Name, the Unutterable Name or the Distinctive Name. Linguistically, it is related to the Hebrew root Hei-Yod-Hei (to be), and reflects the fact that God’s existence is eternal.
– Judaism 101: The Name of God
The Pharisees didn’t miss His meaning.
Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him. (John 8:59)
The Mishnah is interesting here. According to Sanhedrin 7:5, “The blasphemer – [he] is not liable until he [explicitly] utters the name [of God].”
So when the Jews picked up stones, it was because they understood His “I am” as an utterance of the Name of God.
It appears from John’s account that immediately after this discourse, Yeshua left the Temple and encountered the man born blind. He repeated:
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5)
I believe this is the only “I AM the…” statement Yeshua ever repeated. So…
It appears that all of this intense revelation occurred on the same day! And then He directly demonstrated the truth of His claims by giving sight to the man born blind.
Fifth night. Artwork by Randi Durham, North Bend, OR.
As we dwell on how these I AM statements illustrate the deeper symbolism of the festivals on the Hebrew calendar, Lauren has also pointed out to me how “I AM the light of the world,” spoken just after the Feast of Tabernacles, also foreshadows Hanukkah. In an even more dramatic way, the next I AM statement–“I AM the resurrection and the life”–will foreshadow Passover, and Yeshua’s sacrifice.
The passage I quoted above, which Yeshua’s listeners would have read every day during the Feast of Tabernacles, goes on like this:
God is the Lord, and He has given us light. Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar. (Psalm 118:27)
Please stay tuned!
May God bless you with all the joy of the season–however you elect to celebrate it!
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)
Nine-branched Hanukkah Menorah at
the Western Wall
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now, in these last days.