Now that we are only two days away from the finish-line of the heart of the annual Feast cycle, I find it getting harder and harder to pinpoint the exact event that the finale of the Feast of Weeks is meant to commemorate. We’ve begun this journey on Day #1, a day known in Leviticus 23 as Rashit Qatzir (the First of the Harvest) but more commonly known as “First Fruits” (or sadly, more commonly known as Easter). This day is the day that Messiah (and 2000 years earlier, the first Israelite Hebrews) truly overcame their Egyptian bondage and defeated death at the Red Sea. This very same day, Messiah breathed upon a small select group of his most devout followers and filled them with the Holy Spirit. Since that Day #1 the lessons of Moses and Yeshua have been taught to those who had ears to hear and eyes to see. In both eras, the leader and teacher headed up into the clouds as a way to test those left behind. In both eras, there was an incredible change in attitude by the time the count reached Day #50. It’s relatively easy to discuss the events of Acts Chapter 2, as the narrative tells us exactly what happened on that specific Day #50 of Shavuot, the day after the seventh complete Sabbath, but back at Mt. Sinai, we still have some major events to uncover.
Traditionally, your viewpoint of Shavuot is either “the giving of the Law” if you are obedience-minded, or “the sending of the Holy Spirit” if you declare yourself to be grace-minded. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last 48 days, its that both extremes, when separated from one another, are incorrect. By seeing the entire seven weeks as it is meant to be seen, we see the need to overlay each worldview upon one other, not to simply pick a camp and defend your position.
As Paul says in Romans 3:28-31, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”
Think about what YHWH has done to prepare the soil of the hearts of his people, and as we go through the list, mediate about how He has certainly done these exact same things in your life as well. (I can’t imagine anyone without some sort of relationship and existing walk with God, making it through 48 days of these articles!)
• Liberated Israel and the mixed-multitude, sojourning with them from bondage.
• Promised them complete spiritual healing and restoration if they would listen to his instructions.
• Offered them supernatural provision, in the form of both Manna and the Seventh Day Sabbath.
• Provided pure, clean, and abundant water in the driest of deserts.
• Showed them the power of praise and worship as a method to defeat the most evil of adversaries. This defeat is at the hand of a Savior and it will eventually result in the complete defeat of all evil for all time.
• Offered a body of flesh-and-blood elders to help guide us when His own voice is distant, or if we are too fresh on the Way to hear it for ourselves. This body of believers is supposed to be a source of supernatural peace (and to only have one head.)
• Instilled His fear into us as a motivator, so we correctly receive all of the previous lessons as a matter of life and death.
• Offered us detailed instructions for daily living, promising justice, mercy, restitution, rest, everlasting provision, and endless peace.
• Set up three unforgettable parties per year when the entire body (worldwide) would collectively gather to honor Yah and celebrate the fruits of righteous living (and gardening).
• And last, but not least, Yah reiterated a promise alluded to when Adam and Eve were first sent packing, but specifically made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: A land of their own, for forever and ever, the place where neither death nor Satan have any jurisdiction whatsoever.
So here we are in Exodus Chapter 24, when all of these lessons have been presented to the people—not orally where they could be misremembered or twisted, but in ratified in writing. The same words that are in print in just about every home and hotel room in the majority of the world today. Theses same words that are now accessible on devices that are in even more hands. Regardless of your creed, or nationality, or preexisting faith tradition (or even lack thereof)—these very words of Yah are literally in everyone’s hand even as you read this very post. “Siri, what does Exodus 24 say.” “Read it to me”. No matter what language you speak, Yah’s words will spill out, in your own language. Genesis 50:20, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Take that, Apple and Google. Amen.
Back to old school…Moses sets up 12 pillars, one for each tribe, as well as an altar at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He orders oxen to be offered to YHWH as a burnt offering, and collects their blood in several basins. Half the blood is splashed upon the altar—presumably signifying Yah’s side of this bargain, and then Moses reads every word of the Book of the Law to the people. Rather than simply saying “all these things YHWH has said, we will do” as they have twice before since arriving at this spot—this time they add, “and we will listen and obey”. This fresh appendix is the word shema—it’s the key to what Shavuot is meant to represent in its fullness. Shema is the word shem which means “name”, with ayin the letter that means to “REALIZE” (to make something real). The Israelites are taking a vow to make His Name, YHWH, real in every aspect of their lives. They are vowing to portray His Name, YHWH, accurately to the entire world.
As soon as these words were said, Moses threw the remaining half of the blood on all of the people. We now have both the altar and the people equally bloody, equally clean and pure in Biblical symbology—both halves of the partakers in this Covenant are sinless and without blame. This sinless state is rare for Israel. Its the same status that Adam originally had, and the way it was always meant to be. Adam, too, had endless and abundant provision, a promise of protection, a Seventh Day Sabbath, and rules to live by (OK…in the garden there was only one rule.) Because of this unity, this oneness, Yah walked with Adam in the garden. Like Adam was back then on his birthday, Israel is at this exact moment in the Exodus narrative. We were made into Yah’s image, and we began sinless and one with our creator.
Each and every year since the day Joshua stepped into the promised land, this Feast of Shavuot was commanded to be celebrated. In Jerusalem, 50 days after Messiah had risen, the city and the Temple were packed with faithful Israelites that had traveled from far and wide to honor the same commandments that Israel had first agreed to in Exodus 24. In those days, only a small percentage of Jews lived within the borders of Judea, which was fully under Roman control. Ironically, the majority of Jews actually lived in Alexandria, EGYPT! (Today, more Jews live in New York City than anywhere else on earth). The ones that took the time and trouble to travel all the way to Jerusalem (can you imagine—on a donkey, a camel, or on foot!?) were the cream of the crop—the most faithful of the faithful—perhaps especially: the most fruitful of the fruitful. They might have even been renting a room in Jerusalem since Pesach—just to partake in this Holy Pilgrimage Feast on time. This is why YHWH saw them as worthy enough to fill them with His Spirit—they were honoring this Covenant with the same Spirit (literally) as Israel is in Exodus 24. 3000 pilgrims were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2, and all came to believe that Yeshua was the risen Messiah. Not one of them was a lawless unbeliever, and not one of them converted to a new faith. They simply did what we are called to do each and every feast cycle–take our existing faith to a whole new level.
Today, as we get closer to Shavuot Day #50, we aren’t in any different conditions than any other believer in Yah since the time of Moses. Even if you’ve never heard His Holy Name accurately pronounced, we all have the same unchanging God, we all have access to the same rule book, and we are still spread out all over the world. We all have access, at this very moment, to the most powerful living force in the universe. He, more than anything else, wants the most intimate type of relationship with us. We have the same potential to be perfectly pure and sinless. But we, as Israel, always find a way to make a mess of it all—whether you call yourself a Jew, a Christian, or any variation of either of those brand-names—Israel is still Israel. We will fall short of His clear expectations of perfection. With our lips we say “all these things you said we will do, and we will be obedient” but our actions, to some degree or another, will say otherwise.
However, the gospel is that Yah knows all this. He put a forbidden tree in the Garden and then let a sneaky talking serpent in. Was our failure a surprise to Him? Disappointing, yes–a surprise, no. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, James, Paul, you, and me. Fail, Fail, Fail. His promise (cleverly disguised as a real-estate opportunity, see yesterday’s lesson) is that through the Blood of Covenant (the Blood of Messiah that this ox blood is merely a symbol of) we will eventually be raised from the dead—after having earned the wages of our sin! Death is certain because sin is certain.
Once finally in that perfected state, we will fulfill our side of the bargain, just has he has perfectly competed His. This thing is this: although the offer is open to everyone who breathes the breath Yah has lent them, entering into this Covenant is a choice. Many are called, but few choose. Shavuot, after learning what we have to gain over the last seven sets of seven Sabbaths, is designed to be the time to choose. Pesach protects us from death and frees us from bondage—all for the sake of giving us THIS opportunity to choose who we will serve, and to serve Him according to the terms of His covenant. Our utmost for His highest.
Tomorrow we’ll head up the mountain with the seventy elders, and enjoy the amazing view of Shavuot from the peak of the seventh Sabbath, while Israel (ever so briefly) remains in their Holy state.