Shavuot

Saturday 30th May 2020 7th Sivan 5780

SHAVUOT

Exodus 19:1 – 20:23; Ezekiel 1:1 – 28, 3:12; John 4:10-24

Shavuot (Pentecost) was, originally, an agricultural holiday, celebrating the first harvest/fruit by bringing offerings (Bikkurim-ביכורים) to the Temple in Jerusalem. Following the destruction of the second Temple and the resulting exile in 70 AD – which raised the need to entrench Torah awareness in order to avoid spiritual and physical oblivion – Shavuot became a historical/religious holiday of the Torah.

Shavuot is celebrated by decorating homes and houses of worship with Land of Israel-related crops and flowers, demonstrating the 3,500 year old connection between the Land of Israel (pursued by Abraham), the Torah of Israel (transmitted by Moses) and the People of Israel (united by David).

Shavuot is the holiday of humility, as befits the Torah values, Moses (“the humblest of all human beings), the humble Sinai desert and Mt. Sinai, a modest, non-towering mountain. Abraham, David and Moses are role models of humility and their Hebrew acronym (Adam – אדמ) means “human-being.” Humility constitutes a prerequisite for studying the Torah, for constructive human relationships and a prerequisite to effective leadership.

Shavuot – a spiritual holiday – follows Passover – a national liberation holiday: from physical liberation (the Exodus) to spiritual liberation/enhancement (the Torah), in preparation for the return to the Homeland.

The holiday has 7 names:

  1. The fiftieth (חמישים),

  2. Harvest (קציר),

  3. Giving of the Torah (מתן תורה),

  4. Shavuot (שבועות),

  5. Offerings (ביכורים),

  6. Rally (עצרת) and

  7. Assembly (הקהל).

The Hebrew acronym of the seven names is “The Constitution of the Seven” – חקת שבעה. Shavuot reflects the centrality of “seven” in Shavuot and Judaism. The Hebrew root of Shavuot (שבועות) is the word/number Seven (שבע – Sheva), which is also the root of “vow” (שבועה – Shvuah), “satiation” (שובע – Sova) and “week” (שבוע – Shavuah).

Shavuot is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the Creation in a 7 day week. The first Hebrew verse in Genesis consists of 7 words. The 7 beneficiaries of the Sabbath are: you, your son and daughter, your male and female servants, your livestock and the stranger.

There are 7 key Jewish/universal leaders – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David – are commemorated as distinguished guests (Ushpizin in Hebrew) during the Tabernacle holiday, representing the 7 qualities of the Torah.

7 generations passed from Abraham to Moses. There are 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey. In Hebrew, number 7 represents multiplication (שבעתיים–Shivatayim. Grooms and Brides are blessed 7 times – Sheva B’rachot.

There are 7 major Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles, Chanukah, Purim, Passover and Shavuot. The Three Pilgrimage Festivals Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot themselves total 7 biblical festivals). There are 7 continents and 7 oceans and major seas in the globe; 7 world wonders; 7 notes in a musical scale; 7 days of mourning over the deceased; 7 congregants read the Torah on each Sabbath; 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Choulda and Esther); 7 gates to the Temple in Jerusalem; 7 branches in the Temple’s Menorah; and 7 Noah Commandments.

Moses’ birth and death day was on the 7th day of Adar. Jethro had 7 names and 7 daughters. Joshua encircled Jericho 7 times before the wall tumbled-down. Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles) last for 7 days each. The Yom Kippur prayers are concluded by reciting “God is the King” 7 times. Each Plague lasted for 7 days. Jubilee follows seven 7-year cycles. According to Judaism, slaves are liberated, and the soil is not-cultivated, in the 7th year. The number seven permeates God’s kingdom!

Shavuot is the second of the 3 Jewish Pilgrimages (Passover, Shavuot – Pentecost and Sukkot -Tabernacles). Shavuot is celebrated 50 days afafter the 2nd day of Passover. It highlights Jewish Unity, compared by King Solomon to “a three folds cord, which is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The Torah – the first of the 3 parts of the Jewish Bible – was granted to the Jewish People (which consists of 3 components: Priests, Levites and Israel), by Moses (the youngest of 3 children, brother of Aharon and Miriam), a successor to the 3 Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Seth, the 3rd son of Adam and Eve.

The Torah was forged by 3 ‘forces’:

  1. Fire (commitment to principles)

HaShem announced His presence when fire descended on top of the mountain, as Israel was gathered around, waiting for the revelation of Torah

  1. Water (lucidity and purity)

Israel passed through the sea (water) on dry land. This was the next stage in her liberation from oppression in Egypt

  1. wilderness (humility and faith-driven defiance of odds)

The wilderness wandering was the place were character and trust in HaShem is forged.

Dev 8: 2-6

You are to remember all the way that Adonai your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness—in order to humble you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His mitzvot or not. He afflicted you and let you hunger, then He fed you manna—which neither you nor your fathers had known—in order to make you understand that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of Adonai. Neither did your clothing wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these 40 years. Now you know in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so Adonai your God disciplines you. So you are to keep the mitzvot of Adonai your God—to walk in His ways and to fear Him.

Empowered by Ru’ach Elohim, we are to learn that we CAN follow God’s ways in the wilderness of this world, as Messiah-like character is forged in us. The wilderness is our classroom, where we are trained in righteousness.

And so, we see that the number three is also highly significant in Gamatria.

My additional thoughts on Shavuot:

We can apply the same forging in fire, water and wilderness, to Yeshua’s Torah which is the deepening revelation of Torah (It is written, or, you have heard ….by I say to you..). I am going to adjust the order:

  1. Water – Yeshua was immerse in water before the commencement of His

brief ministry on earth (lucidity and purity; the spotless Lamb of

God)

  1. Wilderness - immediately after His immersion in water, Yeshua was led by the

Ru’ach into the wilderness, there to face three temptations, which

He overcame by quoting Torah. Yeshua did not waiver from His

trust in His heavenly Father and His reliance upon Torah

  1. Fire - on the day of Shavuot (Pentecost), the Spirit of God fell upon the

120 gathered together, waiting for the Promise of the Father. The

Ru’ach manifested as tongues of fire alighting upon each person.

The redemption from Egypt was incomplete without in spiritual counterpart – the giving and receiving of Torah 50 days after departing from Egypt. And, observing and doing Torah without the Ru’ach, often leads to a form of legalism. But, the Spirit without the foundation of Torah, can so easily lead to an abuse of the liberty that is ours in the Messiah! In fact, Yeshua alluded to this in Matthew, chapter 7. Let’s follow Yeshua’s systematic teaching on this crucial issue:

Matthew 7:14

How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Matthew 7:15-16

"Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit

Matthew 7:21-23

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?' Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness {or Torahlessness}!'"

(Note: there is a margin reference to ‘lawlessness’ – Psalm 6:9 - ‘Away from me, all you evildoers’! Many scholars and theologians are of the opinion that ‘lawlessness means “workers of iniquity;" literally "you who break the law of Moses i.e. does lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness’. The Ashrei of Yeshua confirms this: Matthew 5:17-19: (Sermon on the Mount) –

17) Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to

destroy but to complete. (literally = perform or restore)

18) For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one

tittle shall by no means pass from the Law till all be done.)

And so …..

Principle 1 – to truly follow the Lord is difficult and demands wholesale

commitment and dedication. It is indeed a narrow road and we can so

easily deviate from THE WAY unless we ensure that we are filled with

the Spirit, immersed in the Word and that our posture is one of

pressing on to lay hold of the prize of the upward call of God in the

Messiah (Phil 3).

Principle 2 – In the last day, many false prophets will arise, promises material

prosperity and a life of ease (they are in our midst, even within the

Body of Messiah). The Father sent the biblical prophets to call an

apostate people to make genuine teshuvah (repentance) and to return

to the ‘old’ way, the way of obedience to God’s Torah! The biblical

prophets proclaimed judgment unless there was an inner conviction

and conversion (change of heart).

Principle 3- Signs and wonder are not in themselves evidence of Messiah’s leading

and the infilling of the Spirit. Discernment and testing every spirit are

crucial. Remember, that there are those who do “lying signs and

wonders” (Mark 13:22-23 – For false messiahs and false prophets will

rise up and show signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the

chosen. So be careful! See, I have told you everything beforehand.").

There are many ways and many gates clamouring for our attention in these perplexing times. Proverbs 14:12 - "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”.

There is great uncertainty about the future and if any semblance of ‘normality’ will be restored and what that ‘normality’ will look like. But there is one certainty: Yeshua said “"I am the way, the truth, and the life! No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

There is a way in the wilderness of the world – a sure way. And, in order to navigate the way of the LORD, which indeed IS a narrow way, we need the leading that is only of the Spirit of God. Rav Sha’ul proclaimed this in Ephesians 5: 16-20:

“Make the most of your time because the days are evil. For this reason do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. And do not get drunk on wine, for that is recklessness. Instead, be filled with the Ruach, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord— always giving thanks for everything to God the Father, in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.”

Psalm 18:31-34

As for God, His way is perfect. The word of Adonai is pure. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, except Adonai? And who is a Rock, except our God? God girds me with strength and makes my way straight. He makes my feet like those of deer and makes me stand on my heights.

Chag Sameach Shavuot!

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