“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”
Daniel describes a very difficult time in Israel. Constant battles between the Seleucid and Ptolemian empires have wreaked havoc on the people of God. They have been an occupied territory for several years, and now face the threat of annihilation, as the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, has set his attention on destroying Israel. He outlawed the Jewish religion, ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacred thousands of people, burned the Holy Scriptures, and desecrated the Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus, and sacrificing pigs on the altar. It is with this dark, and seemingly hopeless, backdrop that Daniel declares, “the people who know their God will be strong and carry out great exploits.” In other words, the darker the backdrop, the greater opportunity for the child of God to shine.
History records, during this time, a priest by the name of Mattathias, and his five sons, mounted a rebellion against Antiochus and his forces. They soon began to succeed in one battle after another, until they had taken back the city of Jerusalem, and restored worship within the Temple. It was at this time, the events that led to the celebration of Hanukkah took place. The story is told, when the temple was rededicated, they had only enough oil to light the lamp stand for one day, and it would take several days to prepare more oil. They lit the lamp and began preparing more oil. Eight days later, the oil was completed, and the lamp was miraculously still burning. Hanukkah, in many ways, is the celebration of the people of God doing great exploits.
We live in dark days, that seem to be getting darker. Personal freedoms are being lost in the name of tolerance, the rising threat of terrorism impacts almost every aspect of life, and immorality is on the rise, in what seems to be unprecedented levels. This is not the time for the child of God to cower in fear or lean on the arm of the flesh. These are times for “the people who know their God [to be] strong, and carry out great exploits.” These are times for us to live more committed to Christ, and to declare with an ever increasing boldness, the simple message of the Gospel. Times like these are the birthplace of heroes.