In my last post, I talked about the love story between Boaz and Ruth that happened during Shavuot. But there is another love story that takes place during the season of Shavuot. This is a love story 5,000 years in the making. The story of a King who is scorned by His beloved bride and vows to redeem her to Himself. The story of a King’s waiting that transcends time and space…a price He willingly pays in order to reclaim His precious bride. This is the real story of Shavuot: No one has greater love than this — that he should lay down his life for his friend. It is the love story between YHVH and Israel.
In order to tell this love story that is taking place between YHVH and His people Israel we will explore the similarities between the first Shavuot that occurred at Mt. Sinai and the Shavuot that took place in Jerusalem in the Upper Room. To begin, let’s take a look at the passages describing both events.
Exodus 19: 3, 5-6, 10-20
And Moses went up to Elohim, and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob, and declare to the children of Israel: ‘And now, if you diligently obey My voice, and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the peoples – for all the earth is Mine – and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and a set-apart nation.’ Those are the words which you are to speak to the children of Israel.” And YHVH said to Moses, “Go to the people and set them apart today and tomorrow. And they shall wash their garments, and shall be prepared by the third day. For on the third day YHVH shall come down upon Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people. And you shall make a border for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch the border of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall certainly be put to death. Not a hand is to touch it, but he shall certainly be stoned or shot with an arrow, whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, let them come near the mountain.”
And Moses came down from the mountain to the people and set the people apart, and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, “Be prepared by the third day. Do not come near a wife.” And it came to be, on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain. And the sound of the ram’s horn was very loud, and all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with Elohim, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was in smoke, all of it, because YHVH descended upon it in fire. And its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and all the mountain trembled exceedingly. And when the blast of the ram’s horn sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and Elohim answered him by voice. And YHVH came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And YHVH called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
Acts 2: 1-8, 12-21, 37-41
And when the Day of the Festival of Weeks [Shavuot] had come, they were all with one mind in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from the heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and settled on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Set-apart Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them to speak. Now in Jerusalem there were dwelling Jews, dedicated men from every nation under the heaven. And when this sound came to be, the crowd came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying to each other, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how do we hear, each one in our own language in which we were born?” And they were all amazed, and were puzzled, saying to each other, “What does this mean?” And others mocking said, “They have been filled with sweet wine.” But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said to them, “Men of Judah and all those dwelling in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen closely to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you imagine, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days, says Elohim, that I shall pour out of My Spirit on all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, and also on My male servants and on My female servants I shall pour out My Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. And I shall show wonders in the heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of YHVH. And it shall be that everyone who calls on the Name of YHVH shall be saved.’ And having heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the emissaries, “Men, brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each one of you be immersed in the Name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Set-apart Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far off, as many as YHVH our Elohim shall call.” And with many other words he earnestly witnessed and urged them, saying, “Be saved from this crooked generation.” Then those, indeed, who gladly received his word, were immersed. And on that day about three thousand beings were added to them.
After comparing the two texts we can see there are quite a few similarities, however, there are five main parallels I want to discuss. The first parallel is fire. At both Shavuots, fire was present. At Mt. Sinai, we are told that YHVH Himself descended as fire. He was the fire that engulfed the mountain. In the Upper Room, tongues of fire descended upon the disciples. We can deduce from the texts that if YHVH descended on the mountain as fire it’s a safe conclusion that He was also the fire that descended on the disciples in the Upper Room.
A common misconception is that until this day in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit was not present in the world. This simply isn’t true. We read at various points in the Scriptures where it is clearly stated that the Spirit of God was present – before the outpouring in the Upper Room. Some of these instances, include the creation of the world (and specifically the creation of man), the Psalms consistently declaring the praises and wonders of His Spirit, and references in Haggai, Nehemiah, Zechariah, and Isaiah that the Spirit of God taught and directed Israel. In addition, the Spirit of YHVH filled the people with the knowledge of how to build the Temple and its furnishings, the Spirit instructed Moses how and whom to appoint as the 70 elders, and Joseph, Joshua, Saul, David, the Judges of Israel, and the prophets of YHVH are all said to have the Spirit of God upon them. These are just a few examples to show how extensively the Holy Spirit of God was present in the world before the Upper Room. The list, however, could go on forever.
Fire is also usually related to cleansing and judgment. Think of all the times we see fire used as a tool of YHVH. Is it possible these were also instances of the Holy Spirit of YHVH? What does it tell us about the connection between judgment, His Spirit, and cleansing/purification?
In both cases, after the Spirit of YHVH appeared, YHVH then presents His people with the Torah. At Mt. Sinai the Torah was given on stone tablets through Moses. In the Upper Room, the Torah was written on the hearts of believers directly through His Spirit.
Deuteronomy 31:16-21 tells us that YHVH knew Israel would break the covenant that was written on stone tablets.
And YHVH said to Moses, “See, you are about to sleep with your fathers. And this people shall rise and whore after the mighty ones of the strangers of the land into the midst of which they shall enter, and forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My displeasure shall burn against them in that day, and I shall forsake them and hide My face from them, and they shall be consumed. And many evils and distresses shall come upon them, and it shall be said in that day, ‘Is it not because our Elohim is not in our midst that these evils have come upon us?’ And I shall certainly hide My face in that day, because of all the evil which they have done, for they shall turn to other mighty ones. And now write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel. Put it in their mouths, so that this song is to Me for a witness against the children of Israel. And I shall bring them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they shall eat and be satisfied and be fat, then they shall turn to other mighty ones, and they shall serve them, and scorn Me and break My covenant. And it shall be, when many evils and distresses come upon them, that this song shall answer before them as a witness. For it is not to be forgotten in the mouths of their seed, for I know their thoughts which they are forming today, even before I bring them to the land of which I swore to give them.”
These verses indicate that YHVH knew the covenant written on stone tablets would be broken. He knew before they ever sinned against Him that their necks would be stiff and their hearts would be hard. However, YHVH also foretold of a time when He would renew this covenant with His people and would write His Torah on their hearts.
“See, the days are coming,” declares YHVH, “when I shall make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,” declares YHVH. For this is the covenant I shall make with the house of Israel after those days, declares YHVH: I shall put My Torah in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts. And I shall be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. And no longer shall they teach, each one his neighbor, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know YHVH,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares YHVH. “For I shall forgive their crookedness, and remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
YHVH says that He is going to make a new – or renewed – covenant with the House of Israel. Notice, however, that YHVH’s new covenant still involves Torah. The new covenant that we as believers are part of still requires us to guard and observe YHVH’s Torah. It is common doctrine in today’s churches that Christians no longer have to keep Torah as part of the new covenant under grace. But clearly, YHVH never said such a thing. YHVH tells us that He intends to release His people from their captivity and that He would then write His Torah in our inward parts and on our hearts. He is essentially saying that He will make Torah a part of us; that it will be so precious to us and so inseparable from our lives that it actually becomes part of our makeup; that we can never be separated from His Torah.
Tradition has it that when the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, it was given in 70 different languages. Perhaps this is also foreshadowing of the captivity in which Israel would find herself. It is because of this captivity foretold by YHVH that it became necessary for the disciples to speak in many languages. Yeshua had to send the disciples out to the nations because that is where the captives of Israel were! This is why it so important to believe that we are part of Israel…just as Ruth did.
And He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all have to be filled that were written in the Torah of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it has been written, and so it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these matters. And see, I am sending the Promise of My Father upon you, but you are to remain in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:44-49
And meeting with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “But you shall receive power when the Set-apart Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judah and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:4,8
Yeshua told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the promise of receiving the power of the Set-apart Spirit came upon them. Only when this happened could they begin to spread the message of the Good News! Why did they have to wait in Jerusalem? Firstly, Shavuot was a feast that is celebrated in Jerusalem – Yeshua was instructing His disciples to keep Torah. Secondly, judgment – and blessing – are first for the house of Israel and then for the surrounding nations. Likewise, the Good News began in Jerusalem and was sent out from there.
One of the major elements of the Good News is redemption and restoration. We learned from the story of Ruth and Boaz that the season of Shavuot is a season of redemption and restoration. To further this point, we learn that in Jerusalem 3,000 people were added to the assembly of believers. Why is this 3,000 number important? At Mt. Sinai, there were 3,000 missing from the House of Israel to receive the Torah because of the sin of the golden calf.
And he took the calf which they had made, and burned it in the fire, and ground it into powder, and scattered it on the face of the water and made the children of Israel drink it. And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the displeasure of my master burn. You know the people, that it is in evil. And they said to me, ‘Make us mighty ones who go before us. For this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, let them take it off.’ And they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out.” And Moses saw that the people were let loose, for Aaron had let them loose, to their shame among their enemies. And Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Who is for YHVH? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves to him. And he said to them, “Thus said YHVH Elohim of Israel: ‘Each one put his sword on his side, pass over to and fro from gate to gate in the camp, and each one slay his brother, and each one his friend, and each one his relative.’ ” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. And Moses said, “You are ordained for YHVH today – since each one has been against his son and his brother – so as to bring upon you a blessing today.” Exodus 32:20-29
Once the people of Israel were redeemed, they could then offer their first-fruits to YHVH. At Mt. Sinai we see this take place by the marriage covenant that was established. In Jerusalem, we see this demonstrated by the ingathering of the lost sheep of Israel; the ingathering of exiled Israel from the nations.
In both cases, we are the first-fruits being offered to YHVH. It is a time of the giving of the harvest. We are the harvest that is being offered. But we cannot bear fruit if we are not first connected to the Vine.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit He prunes, so that it bears more fruit. You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you. Stay in Me, and I stay in you. As the branch is unable to bear fruit of itself, unless it stays in the vine, so neither you, unless you stay in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who stays in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit. Because without Me you are able to do naught! If anyone does not stay in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up. And they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you stay in Me, and My Words stay in you, you shall ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. In this My Father is esteemed, that you bear much fruit, and you shall be My taught ones. As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Stay in My love.
If you guard My commands, you shall stay in My love, even as I have guarded My Father’s commands and stay in His love. These words I have spoken to you, so that My joy might be in you, and that your joy might be complete. This is My command, that you love one another, as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that one should lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, for all teachings which I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name He might give you. These words I command you, so that you love one another.” John 15:1-17
The Holy Spirit has always played an important role in Shavuot and, as we can see from these two examples, is an integral part of the covenant between YHVH and Israel. Once we allow the fire of YHVH to cleanse, judge, and declare us purified, only then are we able to receive the Torah of YHVH that keeps us from sin and allows us to draw near to YHVH. It is YHVH’s desire that we love and guard His Torah to such a degree that it becomes inextricable from our very being. Torah becomes who we are; it becomes the very essence of our being.
Once we hear and receive this message of Torah and redemption in our own language, then we become the redeemed of Israel and are restored to our rightful place under the covering of the Most High God – YHVH El Elyon! It is only then that we can offer ourselves as first-fruits to YHVH to serve in His Kingdom and to declare the Good News: that the captives of Israel have been freed by the power and blood of Yeshua haMashiach – Yeshua the Messiah!
Offering ourselves to YHVH is the ultimate gift of love we can offer Him. “No one has greater love than this: that he would lay down his life for his friends.” By giving Him our lives, our hopes, our fears, and everything that we will ever become, we are saying “I choose you. I choose all that You are and all that You have for me. You will never cease to be more than enough for me; You are all I will ever need or desire. I choose to love You and obey You. I choose to lay down my life for You.” This “sacrifice” becomes our wedding vow to our King. And that is the real love story of Shavuot.