It was on this day in 1496 that King Manuel I of Portugal ordered the expulsion of all Jews from his country. If you remember your history, this was just a few short years after Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain had done the same thing. Manuel’s queen was also named Isabella and was the daughter of those same Spanish monarchs. In fact, as a condition of the marriage between these two, Manuel had to vow that he would expel all the Jews from his land.
Ironically, this was also just a few short years after the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in an expedition sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. It’s ironic because the New World served as a safe haven for the very people who were being expelled from Spain, Portugal and other European lands. Of course, the Creator had a hand in all of this.
So many times in history we see how God allows what we believe to be terrible in order to bring about what can only be described as awesome. The evidence of this concept is found in what we are discussing here. For the past several centuries the descendants of the people who were expelled from one nation found a home in the New World. When we are in the throes of the terrible times, it’s difficult to see the awesome. That is why we have to trust Him.
In this season of Hanukkah, the festival of light, we recognize that the light is distinguished from the darkness even though the darkness surrounds it. It’s like Isaiah said in Isaiah 60:1-3:
“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Let’s focus on the awesome nature of the Light of the World instead of the terrible aspects of the darkness of this world. He overcame the world and has promised us that, in Him, we also can overcome the world. Many of the events that led to the culmination of the story of Hanukkah – the rededication of the altar and the Temple – were terrible. It was a very trying time for those who lived through it. But those who endured and were determined to overcome all of the obstacles witnessed God’s favor upon them as He honored their efforts.
The same is true for us, today. There are things going on around us that are terrible. They encroach upon our lives on a daily basis. Nevertheless we must persevere and overcome. With His help, we can overcome the darkness by focusing on His Light.