Shavuot begins this Saturday night, June 11, 2016, and as we get closer to this momentous feast day, it’s important that we don’t miss all the important lessons YHVH is trying to teach us in this season.
Before we can begin the topic of Shavuot, however, we need to address a very crucial question: “Who is Israel?”
You might be thinking, “Why does it matter who Israel is?”
Jeremiah 31:34-47 tells us why it is so important to understand who is Israel.
“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. Thus said YHVH, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the laws of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who stirs up the sea, and its waves roar – YHVH of hosts is His Name: ‘If these laws vanish from before Me,” declares YHVH, “then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus said YHVH, “If the heavens above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I would also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done,” declares YHVH.
The reason this is the starting point is because Shavuot is the time we celebrate the giving of the Torah. There are MANY lessons and themes to glean from this harvest festival, but the main even that took place on the very first Shavuot at Mt. Sinai was the giving of the Torah to Israel.
Who is Israel?
So back to our original question. It’s very important to understand who Israel is because the Torah is for all of Israel. If you asked five different people this question, you would probably get about 7 different answers. So we won’t ask people’s opinions…we’ll just go straight to the Word of God.
Exodus 19:3-8 tells us that if we obey YHVH’s commands then we will be His treasured possession.
“And Moses went up to God and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say to the house Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: ’You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. And now, if you diligently obey My voice and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the people – for all the earth is Mine – and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and set-apart nation.’ Those are the words which you are to speak to the children of Israel.” And Moses came and called for the elders of the people and set before them all these words which YHVH commanded them. And all the people answered together and said, “All that YHVH has spoken we shall do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to YHVH.
We can conclude from this scripture that ALL those who obey His commands (Torah) will be His treasured possession.
Leviticus 24:22 says, “You are to have one right-ruling for the stranger and the native-born, for I am YHVH your God.”
Even Yeshua taught that the Torah/Old Testament pointed the world to Him:
“For if you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, since He wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My words?” John 5:46-47
And again in Matthew 5:13-19
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt becomes tasteless, how shall it be seasoned? For it is no longer of any use but to be thrown out and to be trodden down by men. You are the light of the world. It is impossible for a city to be hidden on a mountain. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it shines to all those in the house. Let you light so shine before men, so that they see your good works and praise your Father who is in the heavens. Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. 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 Torah till all be done. Whoever, then, breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens.”
Some would say that these Laws are only for the Jews or for Israel, but we, as believers, know that we have been grafted into the House of Israel.
Romans 11:24-27 speaks of this grafting into the olive tree.
“For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not wish you to be ignorant of this secret, brother, lest you should be wise in your own estimation, that hardening in part has come over Israel, until the completeness of the gentiles has come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it has been written, “The Deliverer shall come out of Zion and He shall turn away wickedness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
These verses tell us we must be grafted into the house of Israel; not replace Israel but join ourselves to them and be a part of Israel. How can we be grafted into the house and think the rules don’t apply to us?
Our attitude should instead be like that of Ruth.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you, or to go back from following after you. For wherever you go, I go; and wherever you stop over, I stop over. Your people is my people, and your Elohim is my Elohim. Where you die, I die, and there I shall be buried. YHVH do so to me, and more also – for death itself parts you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
When we choose to follow after God with all our hearts and with all our soul and with all our strength, that means leaving our old ways behind and adopting HIS WAYS. We should never make God conform to our ways but instead, we should conform to His ways.
Ephesians 2:17-22 confirms that we are all ONE house in Messiah Yeshua.
And having come, He brought as Good News peace to you who were far off, and peace to those near. Because through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the set-apart ones and members of the household of Elohim, having been built upon the foundation of the emissaries and prophets, Yeshua Messiah Himself being chief corner-stone, in whom all the building, being joined together, grows into a set-apart Dwelling Place in YHVH, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of Elohim in the Spirit.
Who is to Obey Torah?
Most Christians say Torah is not for them but only for the Jews. In reality, the Jews are only 1 of 12 tribes that make up the whole House of Israel. They come from the tribe of Judah, but throughout the exiles and diasporas, the term “Jew” has become a catch all for anyone who once belonged to the House of Israel. So to say that Torah is only for the Jews, it still leaves out the other 11 tribes of Israel. But that’s a whole separate article.
The truth is that the Torah is for all those who come under the covering of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for all those who are grafted into the House of YHVH; all those who, like Ruth, joined herself to the House of Israel.
Why is the Torah so important? Torah tells us what sin is. Without Torah, we have no way to know what sin is, and conversely, what pleases our Father. Let me make this clear: obeying Torah is not trying to earn salvation, but rather it is the fruit and evidence of our salvation.
I have often tried to figure out what the big deal is about Torah and why people are so against obedience to it. After all, it is God’s Word and I thought we all agreed that we are to live, walk, and obey God’s Word? So what’s the problem? The only thing I have been able to come up with, is that we are taught to be wary, skeptical, suspicious, and distrustful of “Torah” because we don’t understand it. We are told that it is dangerous; that it leads to legalism, and it somehow negates the faith of our salvation. But if that’s the case, why even keep it in our Bibles? Why not just get rid of the entire “Old Testament”, start the Bible at the Book of Matthew, and just be done with it? It doesn’t apply to the majority of Christians anyway, right?
Wrong. Torah has become so unfamiliar to us that we steer clear of it altogether; it’s the fear of the unknown. But that’s the problem…it’s not supposed to be unknown. We should know the Word of God and have it hidden in our hearts. The Word of God should be so much a part of us that it becomes the very essence of who we are.
Growing up in the church, some of the very first verses I learned were,
“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 and
“I will hide Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
Why is Torah So Important?
So why would the enemy of our salvation want to keep us as far from Torah as possible? Because Torah tells us what sin is. Without Torah, we become lawless – literally….one translation of “Torah” is “law.” If we are lawless, we cannot draw near to YHVH.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:41-43
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:28
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:12
I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. Romans 6:19
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions. Hebrews 1:9
I encourage you to look up these scriptures and read them for yourselves; don’t just take my word for it. And don’t just read these verses, read the other verses surrounding these ones to give you more context and understanding.
Remember, the Torah is for all those who live under the covering of YHVH, the God of Israel; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Torah is for all of Israel…even the wild branches that have been grafted into the natural olive tree.
Our natural inclination of the flesh is to avoid the law and do what we want. Our flesh doesn’t like being told what to do; we don’t want rules and boundaries. But what YHVH asks of us is that we submit ourselves to obedience to His Word and His desires. Just as a wife submits herself to her husband out of love and respect, so we too, as the Bride of Messiah, must also submit ourselves to our loving, faithful Bridegroom.
This is part 1 of 5 in the Shavuot series.