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    Shavu'ot 2004
    Part 1
    Preparing for the Feast of Weeks/'Pentecost'

    Sabbath Day Sermon, 29 May 2004

      "Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks (Shavu'ot), of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. Three times in the year all your men shall appear before Yahweh, Yahweh your Elohim of Israel" (Ex.34:21-24, NKJV).

      "You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to Yahweh your Elohim with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as Yahweh your Elohim blesses you. You shall rejoice before Yahweh your Elohim, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where Yahweh your Elohim (God) chooses to make His name abide. And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes" (Deut.6:9-12, NKJV).

    In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt they entered the Sinai Desert and camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, a mountain we shall forever remember as the temporary dwelling place of Yahweh and where great things happened for Israel. Here in this lonely and uninviting wilderness, strange and supernatural things took place. Here the Israelites were commanded to gather to receive Yahweh's Law, the Torah (Ex.19:1-8). And the amazing thing about this was that the people agreed to obey it even before they had heard what it contained. They replied: "Na'aseh V'Nishmah", which translated means, "All that Yahweh has spoken we will do", or literally, "We agree to do even before we have listened".

    Now we must not pass this matter by for it is a vital key to true emet (faith). Many believers complain that they cannot hear Elohim (God) speak to them, and there is a reason for that. And it is because they want a testing faith rather than a trusting emet (faith). I'll not pretend it is easy - obedience to Yahweh immediately sets the soul off into inner conflict as the unsubdued carnal man rises up in rebellion.

    Let me give you an illustration. For centuries the Israelites had been in slavery and forced to work seven days a week. The Sabbath law given to Adam was forgotten and getting the people into a habit of Sabbath observance was no small thing. So Yahweh did a miracle in the desert so the people would never forget. Can anyone remember what that was? It was to supernaturally feed them manna six days of the week, giving them a double portion on the morning of every 6th day for that day and for the following Sabbath day too. This meant on the sixth day of the week that they had to work doubly hard so that they could properly eat and rest the next day. If they went out looking for manna on the seventh or Sabbath Day they were always disappointed and starved. And if they only took one portion on the sixth day they starved the next day too. In order to enjoy the blessings of the Sabbath we are expected to work doubly hard the day before! The women are supposed to prepare meals for two days, the men to ensure that they have all they need in order to do that. The sixth day is the day we clean our home. The day before the Sabbath is a Preparation Day because the Sabbath is special. So special is it, in fact, that Yah'shua (Jesus) prayed for His followers that they would not have to flee on the Sabbath in the last days, showing that His attitude to the Sabbath was no different to Yahweh's in regard to the Israelites:

      "And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt.24:20-21, NKJV).

    If there is one thing that the festivals of Yahweh remind me of it is the fact that the Bible does not consist of two religions - the 'religion of the Jews', so-called, and the 'religion of the Christians'. There is only one religion - the religion of all true believers of Yahweh, in two parts: a preparatory part and a complete part, rather like a two-part series. And the elements of both are the same.

    The story of the manna is supposed to remind us today - and in all generations to come - that the Sabbath is qadosh (holy, set-apart). And that we are supposed to use the sixth day diligently preparing for it. In the same way, we are supposed to be preparing for the Great Tribulation that is to come so that we are not caught in winter or on the Sabbath. But we can only do these things if we have first learned how to listen to Yahweh.

    So how do we hear Him? Quite simply, by cultivating a mindframe that will be willing to do whatever He wants us to do before we know what it is He wants us to do. Imagine you're a soldier who refuses to obey an officer before you know what the officer commands you to do so that you can check it out first in a 'democratic' manner. What sort of an army would you have then if all the soldiers meditated and deliberated on their orders before acting?!

    As we remember the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt we are reminded again and again that the people never knew what was required of them until the last minute. Each time they believed they were in a desperate situation, and each time Yahweh intervened supernaturally to show how little emunah (faith) they actually had and what they needed to do to get their relationship with Him right. They failed again and again because they were worldly, fleshy people, unacquainted with the things of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). And it's the same issue generation after generation as those young in the faith grow up learning to trust in Him. Of the broad masses of Israelites who left Egypt - and it is believed there were over half a million of them - only two demonstrated consistent and unswerving faith over 40 years - Joshua the Ephraimite and Caleb the adopted Judahite. Joshua, which in Hebrew, is Yah'shua, is, of course, a type of the Messiah who showed total obedience to Yahweh in His ministry, which is why we can safely follow Him ourselves. And what of Caleb? What is it about this man that makes him so special?

    Caleb, whose name means 'bold', was a prince of Judah, a Kenizzite and chief of the Hezronites. His chief virtues were loyalty and faithfulness, and because of these he was exempted from the curse pronounced at Kadesh when the nation presumptuously tried to invade Canaan without Yahweh's permission, and were defeated. He, like Joshua, was one of those men who was willing to obey Yahweh no matter what and even before he knew what it was Yahweh wanted him to do. There are very few such elect men in the Kingdom which is why Yahweh appoints them as His leaders.

    So here the Israelites are, at the foot of Mount Sinai, covenanting to obey Yahweh even before they knew what He would ask. Subsequent events revealed just what sort of people they actually were. They were told to spend two days cleaning themselves and their clothes and not to get too close to the Mountain. They were also told to abstain from sexual activity during this time. Every time they looked up they saw these dense clouds at the top of the mountain and every now and then heard and saw thunder and lightening. I am sure you can imagine how they felt. The sound of a ram's horn or shofar could be heard but it was unusually loud. At the peak of Mount Sinai was an envelopment of fire and smoke. It is not hard to understand why they felt great awe (Ex.19:9-19). It was then, for the first time, that the people - all of them - heard Yahweh's thundering voice as He related the Ten Commandments to them (Ex.19:20-25; 20:1-21).

    Most people want to hear Yahweh speaking to them so that they can have 100% accurate direction for their lives, but the sad truth of the matter is that once they hear what He has to say, most balk. They soon discover that their carnal nature has other plans. Nevertheless, that initial hearing is vitally important. We need to know the emet (truth) however much we might not like it. For without the emet (truth), we are destined to walk the wrong path of life and get unnecessarily hurt. Thus it was Yah'shua (Jesus) told Nicodemus:

      "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Elohim (God)" (John 3:3, NKJV).

    To "see" the Kingdom of Elohim (God) is to understand it - to know what it consists of - and that can never be done in the flesh. If you have been listening to me preach month after month, and year after year, but have never been born again, then my words will have had little meaning for you, because you have to be born of the Ruach (Spirit) to know what I am talking about. Yah'shua (Jesus) said further:

      "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Ruach (Spirit), he cannot enter the kingdom of Elohim (God). That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Ruach (Spirit) is ruach (spirit). Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Ruach (Spirit)" (John 3:5-8, NKJV).

    What we are being asked to do by the Messiah - to be born again by water baptism (complete immersion) and Ruach (Spirit)-baptism - is exactly what the Israelites refused. When they heard Yahweh's voice they were so scared out of their wits that they begged not to hear Him again! Can you believe that? Instead, they asked for an intermediary, Moses, who could relay Yahweh's mitzvot (commandments). And the biggest irony of all is that when Moses relayed Yahweh's commandments to them, they rebelled again and again and again. Those Israelites, so accustomed to slavery, did not want the personal responsibility of getting the emet (truth) and His will directly from Yahweh Himself. They asked for a mediator. And they got one, but turned out to be double-minded. Even when they got what they wanted, they still didn't obey.

    The festival of Shavu'ot, also known as the Festival of Weeks or 'Pentecost' (because it is 7 sabbaths and 50 days after Passover), commemorates the receiving of Torah on Mount Sinai. But it's also a warning not to run away from our personal responsibility to go to Yahweh personally to hear Him and His will for ourselves. If you want to hear Him, though, you have to get cleansed from sin. To be cleansed from sin you have to go to the Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) for a cleansing of all that is impure in your life through emunah (faith) in His Name and His spilled blood, symbolised by the Israelites cleaning their bodies and clothes with water, and abstaining from sexual activity to get properly focussed. In short, this means living a pure life. And then, when you have been born again and can hear His voice and see what the Kingdom actually is - then you will know all that is important for you to live a victorious and happy life of true emunah (faith).

    Shavu'ot is rightly regarded by many as the conclusion of the Pesach or Passover season - it completes what Passover is all about which is all about getting out of the world system of spiritual slavery, represented by Egypt, and coming under the blood-covering of the Passover Lamb. It is all about making an effort to leave - you can't sit still and wait for Yahweh to do it all for you. The only thing you can't work for is the blood-covering and the gift of salvation, which are free. But you do have to move and, of necessary, get off the fence of indecision.

    Shavu'ot is the commemoration of both the receiving of the written Torah on Mount Sinai as well as the gift of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which was given to the first Christians/Messianics at 'Pentecost', which is the same as Shavu'ot. The purpose of the Ruach (Spirit) is, amongst other things, to enable you to live Torah by engraving it on your heart as you surrender to the will of Yahweh.

    Israel entered the Sinai Desert on the third day of the third month after they left Egypt (Ex.19:1). Three days later He manifested Himself to His people. The Festival of Shavu'ot may therefore be rightly viewed as the '333 Festival'. It was the day that Torah was given and hence is also called Z'mam Matan Toraseinu.

    Yah'shua (Jesus) was resurrected during the Feast of Firstfruits, Yom haBikkurim, and 7 sabbaths plus 50 days later, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) came to dwell in the hearts of all true believers (Ac.1:8).

    Shavu'ot was the original betrothal covenant of Israel to Yahweh, the first step in their marriage to Him (see Jer.2:2-3). The Betrothal Contract or Ketubah is Torah itself and it was 'signed' by entering into a verbal covenant. We enter a similar contract with Yahweh when we are baptised in water and from that day on we legally belong to Him, just as a wife legally belongs to her husband when she is betrothed - to break the betrothal contract constitutes adultery which is why Israel and Judah, whenever they broke the mitzvot (commandments), are described in the Bible as 'adulterers'. Shavu'ot is also a time to renew our betrothal covenants to Yahweh and, I suggest, a wonderful time for married people to repledge their own betrothal covenants. Remember, betrothal or erusin is not full marriage (nesu'in), just as we do not become fully 'married' to Yah'shua (Jesus) in the allegorical sense until the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Heaven ay Sukkot (Tabernacles) - our relationship with the Messiah has not yet been 'consummated'.

    When we are baptised into Yah'shua (Jesus) we enter into a binding contract with Him forever, just as we do when we are properly betrothed. (Betrothal and 'engagement' (or decication) are not the same thing - engagements can be broken off, but betrothals cannot, save when adultery is committed).

    Our betrothal covenant with Yahweh - Torah - spells out our mutual obligations to each other, which is why it is so important that we know what they are! And how are you going to know what they are if you never read or study them? When the people said to Yahweh, "All that Yahweh has spoken, we will do," they were saying the "I do" of the betrothal ceremony - the wife does not know in advance what obedience will be required of her by her husband, save that he may not command her to violate Torah, and neither do we what our Husband will demand of us in the future when we enter into our covenants of Yahweh.

    In Hebrew wedding ceremonies the couple stand underneath a chuppah which is a bit like a small tent and there they say their vows. The chuppah of Israel was the cloud over Mount Sinai, and the chuppah of New Covenant Israel is the blood-covering of Messiah. When Israel apostatised and worshipped the golden calf, Moses smashed the Tables of Stone because this was their betrothal contract or ketubah, thus signifying divorce. Mercifully, Yahweh renewed the contract and two new tables of stone were made to signify this, but only after many had died.

    In the Chavurat Bekorot or Holy Order our marriage contracts consist of the names of those being married inscribed in Hebrew on white stone. If the contract is broken, the stone is crushed to powder. These stones are kept in our sacred repositories so that all who enter can be witnesses of the contracts.

    Marriage is an exciting thing and so should our betrothal to Yahweh be. It is a choice we must make, in emunah (faith), based on the promises and revelations of the Scriptures. Seeking the voice of Yahweh and a vision of the Kingdom of Elohim (God) are essential and this can only be done by consecrating time to be qadosh (holy, set-apart). Like all marriages, our relationship with Yahweh can either have an explosive beginning - like falling in love - or it can develop gradually into something equally glorious.

    Shavu'ot, like all true emunah (faith), is not so much about religious observance but about relationship. It is our opportunity to meet Yahweh personally and hear His voice. And that, I believe, is how we should approach shavu'ot. I suggest we can prepare for this festival in many ways but spending the two days before it consecrating ourselves to Yahweh is desirable. Two days of celibacy and getting right with Yahweh through confession and forsaking of sin seem to me to be highly desirable ways to make this festival work for us, just as we should spend the sixth day working doubly hard to make sure we can observe the seventh as a proper Sabbath day of rest.

    Tomorrow we shall gather here again to celebrate Shavu'ot itself. May the rest this day be used for serious reflection and preparation to hear the voice of Yahweh, especially for those of you who have never met Him before. This is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.


    [1] Edward Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (Shippensburg, PA, 1999)

    Continued in Part 2

    This page was created on 9 June 2004
    Last updated on 28 July 2016

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