With only one Sabbath left before Shavuot, I’m in a bit of a panic trying to fit in the volume of concepts Yah has intentionally concentrated into these past 6 weeks, and these past 10 chapters of Exodus. Numbering these lessons, and having some sort of purposeful build-up to Shavuot, laying it all out in a very particular order, turns out to be as futile as man’s numbering of the ‘Ten Debarim’. So here I am, squeezing in a lesson that easily could have, and likely should have, been a preamble to Shavuot—setting the context for the entire purpose of The Way itself.
Back at the burning bush [in Hebrew bush is sineh (Strongs H5572)] when Moses received his original orders, he was told “take off your shoes, for the place you are standing is Holy ground”. This is the first time this concept of “Holiness” appears in Exodus, right there at the sineh—and we’ve come full circle through the wilderness of sin, back to sinai. This play on words is teaching us an important principle:
His Holiness will often lead us through emptiness for the purpose of reaching even greater Holiness.
So, here we are again, on Holy ground.
The first and only time Holiness or “consecration” (to make something Holy) is specifically mentioned is in Genesis 2:3, “So God blessed the Seventh Day, and made it Holy, because God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.” This is controversial, but there’s not one specific mention in all of scripture that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, nor Joseph rested, or were even expected to rest on the Sabbath—or that they even were even familiar with the rhythm seemingly first introduced with the giving of the Manna—thus training Israel to keep the Seventh Day as Holy. It’s assumed as obvious, especially in Judaism, that Abraham was “Jewish” and therefore kept every command (and then some) that the Israelites are about to get on Sinai—and that Israel just “forgot” in Egypt. It’s possible, but personally I don’t think any of that is Biblical, let alone obvious.
True, Noah new about “clean and unclean” and Abel seems to know about worthy offerings, but those are pretty isolated issues, and vague in several ways.
I admit that these verses are compelling: “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Genesis 26:5) However, as we are learning on The Way, Yah reveals Himself progressively—on His schedule, and He does the same with His expectations for us, as Israel. Abraham was absolutely obedient to the extent of what was expected of him, and more importantly, to the extent he understood those expectations.
As far as the commands or aspects of His Father to which he was ignorant, Messiah’s words come to mind from Luke 23:34, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” If that principle applies to Israel as they are complicit in beating Messiah bloody and handing him over to Satan to be nailed to a tree and executed, it seems like there may be some wiggle room for Abraham. If keeping the Seventh Day Sabbath in pre-Mosaic days was a high priority for Yah—it never made it into the narrative of the founding fathers of the faith.
This all aligns with the entire premise of the Way to Shavuot. Yah tells Moses, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as ‘God Almighty’, but by my name ‘YHWH’, I did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:3) What Yah is trying to get across is a fresh expectation of Holiness, intentionally introduced on Holy ground—that is intrinsic to Yah’s nature and therefore intrinsic to what is expected from those who are called to declare His Name to the world.
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
Up until Moses, the story of the Hebrew people was centered on following the seed of promise. The ideal picture on the seed packet is being here illustrated with Moses, but technically the seed doesn’t actually get planted until it hits the soil in the land where it is intended to grow. Messiah’s life is what the fruit on that plant is supposed to look like. Our faith develops in that exact same way. Yah wants to guide each us from a mustard seed of Abrahamic faith, through the Way of Moses, taking us to Holy ground, to permanently plant us a Holy nation. Some folks are simply at different stages than others—but the plant grows higher as the root goes deeper—and that’s what studying the Way is intended to do.
Shavuot is the season where Yah wants our roots to grow deeper into our personal patch of Holy ground, so we can bloom right where we are currently planted.
The next words from Yah’s mouth, after the people have agreed to proceed with His offer, give Israel a taste of what Holiness looks like:
“YHWH said to Moses. “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day YHWH will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So, Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments.” And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” (Exodus 19:10)
From these words we learn several foundational things about His Holiness.
• Holiness seems to be a process that takes time.
• Holy time is a thing.
• There are degrees of Holiness.
• What we wear illustrates our Holiness.
• Washing ourselves and being “clean” is an expectation for a Holy people.
• Yah expects us to accept and obey His limitations. The world’s message is “you can have it all” but Yah says ‘not so fast’.
• Gender roles are not just traditions or “constructs”, and controlling our sexual urges is no small part of what it means to be Holy.
• Breaching the Holiness code can result in instant death. Pharaoh killed the Hebrew babies, but Moses was spared. If you read closely, notice that from that time until the golden calf incident, not a single Hebrew Israelite has died in the entire narrative of the Exodus. Yet, suddenly, right here, death is reintroduced by Yah–connected directly to His Holiness.
The nature of each and every word from Yah’s mouth, starting with the Ten Words, and growing to and through Shavuot, is going to color in these lines for Israel. Israel has already vowed, “all these things YHWH has said, we will do” even before the fullness of these expectations were made perfectly clear. They simply ‘clicked to agree’, mostly out of fear and terror. Finally in Exodus 24:7, they repeat that same vow for the third time, but this time the Holiness finally sticks. They add these words to the end of the vow, “and we will shema.” Shema (Strongs H3478) means being ready to embrace YHWH’s commands. It was already offered as the key to healing back at the bitter waters of the first day of Shavuot. Only after we are ready to shema is Israel allowed to come up to the Mountain top and eat at Yah’s feet. That will be the finish line of original the Way to Shavuot—and the ultimate finish-line Yah has for Israel in the last chapter of The Book of Revelation as well.
When we, as modern day Israelites, pressure or coerce fellow “believers” into keeping “The Commandments”, or worse, judge them for not doing so, I think it’s really important to consider both the dynamic and the pattern being presented here at Mt. Sinai. Father Abraham was never asked to become Holy. His faith, evidenced by his obedience, was rewarded with Yah’s righteousness being bestowed upon him. Universally, every single believer begins their walk from this same place. This remains the position of most “believers” in Messiah across the world. (I am putting “believers” in quotation marks, because it’s not my job nor within my power to determine what or how people “believe”.) What I do know is that when Jonah was sent to Nineveh, this happened:
“And he [the King of Nineveh] issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:17-19)
Yah’s name isn’t mentioned in this prayer, presumably because the Ninevites were not on a first-name basis with the King of the Universe. Shabbat isn’t mentioned, nor is any concept of Holy time. No sort of Holiness was defined nor expected. No aspect of the Way is defined, not even circumcision—just that they vaguely, “turned from their evil way”. They didn’t even express an abundance of faith. “Who knows?” seems like hopeful guesswork at best. But the humility that is the direct result of the Fear of God was indeed expressed in both word and deed, and that was enough for Yah to relent.
This is the pattern of both Holy Father and Holy Son.
Will we see resurrected Ninevites in the Millennial Kingdom? “Who knows?”
So, is the Law of Moses “done away with?” “God forbid!”, as Paul himself writes more than once. “If one turns away his ear from hearing the Torah, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9). However, humility is a prerequisite to proper obedience and the resulting promised blessings. “Now the man Moses was very humble more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3).
Read the entire sermon on the other Mount—Matthew Chapter 5, to hear humility expressed in Messiah’s words.
Yah’s Holiness, Yah’s established limits, recognizing that life and death is solely based on Yah “showing mercy to whom He will show mercy,”—all of these truths remind us that the purpose of the Way, and therefore the purpose of Holy Law, and by extension the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to instill in us a permanent sense of humility. How we determine the specifics of which days are Holy, which foods are acceptable, what we should or should not touch, etc.—all of those answers mean nothing if that knowledge simply causes us to swell with pride.