Holy Week Musing: Remembrance and the Last Supper

Today, Wednesday is considered the day historically the Passover feast occurred known as the Last Supper.  One can imagine with the events that occurred and the place being provided for the meal as directed by Jesus that there was great anticipation by the disciples.  Surely Jesus would explain what was going on.   Essentially he did just that and it was only realized later by the disciples.  See Jesus intended the day to be a day of remembrance.  The Passover meal was already one God established as a day of remembrance, Jesus filled it up with meaning and gave the disciples images and lessons they would not forget in spite of everything to follow.

Before looking at what Jesus did that was so memorable, it is worth briefly reviewing what Passover provided a reminder of: Salvation!  It is the day the Jewish nation and all that were under the blood of the lamb to be saved from death.  It was the day the Jewish nation was freed from the Tyranny of Egypt and all its gods.  It was a move from the way of the world to the way of God.  The Passover meal brought all this to reminder every year.   The point of this article is not to review all the Passover gives remembrance of, but to focus specifically on what Jesus added to the memory. (It is worth the time to do a search and examination further of the messianic Passover symbolism and encourage all to take time to do such examination.)   There are four key memorable moments that are worth highlighting: the identification of His betrayer, the call to remember the bread and wine, not drinking the last cup, and the washing of the disciples feet.

The first key moment of memory is when Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer and he left.  Jesus told them someone would betray him, none pointed at anyone else, all wonder if it was them.  Jesus did not directly identify but did with symbolism.  The one who dipped into the bitter herbs the same time as Jesus, Judas was identified. Judas then left.   Certainly the disciples remembered that act, but also had it fresh in their minds their own ability to do such an act.  For they all questioned and the memory would stick.

The second point of memory is when Jesus declared a specific point of remembrance: the taking of the bread and wine.  Unfortunately some of the meaning has been forgotten in the church as a whole. We remember the symbols of blood and wine, but we lose the important and central part of Passover Jesus was pointing out.  The bread consumed was the “afikomen.” It is the last thing eaten. It is the bread broken and hidden.  When Jesus broke and ate this bread, declared it His body, He declared himself as Messiah. He declared the coming salvation through His death and resurrection as symbolized by that element of the Passover meal.  The wine was the third cup known both as the cup of redemption and the cup of blessing.[i] When he drank this cup, called it His blood, he declared His blood the source of redemption and blessing.  He then made certain He proclaimed himself as Messiah and set forth significant points of remembrance.

One memorable element to the disciples but clearly forgotten in the church today is that Jesus did not drink the final cup, the cup of praise.  He state he would not drink of the fruit of vine again, until His Kingdom comes (Luke 22:18). It is said that Jesus will finally drink the fourth cup after His second coming after His wrath has been meted out and the millennial reign begins.  One of the reasons it is easily forgotten, as it has yet to be fulfilled, it is coming and there are many other images and thoughts that fill our mind than the drinking of the fourth cup. It would be fresher in our minds if the church had not set aside the participation in the Passover feast.

The finals act of remembrance worth commenting on was Jesus showing himself a servant and washing the feet of His disciples.  Now there is plenty of moments of “washing” in the Passover meal, and the meal finishes with that ceremonially washing. Jesus took further. He took the meaning of the cleansing the washing a step further, to illustrate He was humbling self, serving us, and would clean us wholly. It was an astounding act unheard of, unthinkable.  Peter was so taken a back that He wanted to refuse to let Jesus serve Him in such a way.  The impact of the message definitely stuck with the disciples.

Now, there is much more that went on at the last supper that Jesus gave the disciples to remember. He spent great deal of time teaching and explaining, trying to clear their confusion and redirect their expectations.  Jesus did this day what He set out to do, created a time that would be remembered and examined, pointing to what He was about to do and gave meaning to the Passover meal.

God wants us to remember and we do, even though what we remember has been reduced and diminished.  We still take time each year to remember.  God sent His son to die that we might live.  Sure we miss plenty, but we still remember and thank God for the gift of the eternal Passover lamb, the eternal afikomen, the eternal cup of salvation and blessing. He died, so that all who turn to Him shall live, just as all who lived who came under the blood on the doorpost. The question for each, has the blood of the eternal Lamb been set on your doorpost, are you marked within so you may live.  Now is the time, while it is still today, to consider and act so that you may be saved.   And if you have your doorpost marked, celebrate and remember for He has freedom us from the tyranny of sin and death and given us true life.

Personal Musing: When God stirs the soul…

God stirring my soul is a apt description for where I am currently. There have been many a trial in my life and in the lives of those around me. There are trials that are right down to the question of whether the answer is “to live is Christ or die is gain” as with Janie. There are other struggles with the ongoing facing of pain and change and struggle. Each of these struggles ultimately bring us face to face with self. For me personally such is this time. Yes, I have withdrawn and gone quiet. An action of retreat and self and even hiding in trial. Perhaps it comes from feeling a life long level of isolation and disconnect. Oh, don’t get me wrong God has brought plenty of people into my life at key moments. Yet, my healing and struggles have often come down to me and God. By and large it has been a trial of one form or another that has ultimately precipitated pressing in on what God is changing and generating stirring within. I still recall to this day when God really sat me down to listen to Him about no longer acting out of compulsion and duty but being driven by his love. He allowed me to have an viral infection that made it difficult to function and He really hit me with the message of “Christ loves compels us.” Breaking down my defensiveness and fears of connecting with women had several trials and stirrings involved and a long process with frequent feedback from God guiding. All I know is right now God is stirring. The stirring starts around my initial sense of feeling stuck to now seeing and grasping the deep seat roots of reluctance and retreat. God before taught me to depend on him for defense, to be a city without walls. His lesson now is taking that even deeper to levels I don’t yet grasp. I do plan and intend on sharing parts of whatever journey God has me on in the course of this blog through such posts. Any feedback or sharing of how God is stirring in your own life is greatly appreciated. I also know I am where God wants me, even though I could have written more and not retreated. The further articles on repentance could have been written, but these posts and focus do in essence relate to the nature of repentance, sanctification, and going deeper. So, God is stirring in my life, how about yours? Care to share?

The Day of Judgment and Atonement: Yom Kippur

From sundown Friday September 17, 2010 to sundown Saturday  September 18th, 2010 was the day considered Holiest in Israel for this year. It was Yom Kippur also know as the day of judgment and the day of antonement as well as the sabbath of all sabbaths. On this day, in Israel the do not eat, drink, wear leather, bathe, wear fragrances, or engage in pleasure such as marital relations. For the day is a somber day and one that brings great joy. For this day results in a person being in good standing for the year ahead. It is the day sacrifices were made that provided for the atonement of the community. It was a day for the purification of the temple.  It ultimately served as the day of  final judgment. It is the day when things are set and God provided that his people were in right position with Him for the coming year.  It was always a year to year process. 

There are some interesting facts about how God communicated his approval of this day and the changes that occurred.  These facts are presented at the following blog article: http://www.yashanet.com/studies/revstudy/rev2e.htm.

 

The miracles/signs that took place, showing God’s approval and forgiveness:

Drawing of lots always produced “LaHashem” in the right hand
The red ribbon tied to the scapegoat always turned white
The Center light of the Menora always burned until morning
Fire on the copper altar never went out even when it wasn’t properly stoked
Priests felt full even after eating only a small part of the offerings
The smoke of the incense offering would fill the Holy of Holies
The Talmud however, records that many of these miracles ceased to occur about 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple, and never returned. This of course coincides with the time of the death of Yeshua:

Yoma 39b – During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
The miracles/signs that took place, showing God’s approval and forgiveness:

Drawing of lots always produced “LaHashem” in the right hand
The red ribbon tied to the scapegoat always turned white
The Center light of the Menora always burned until morning
Fire on the copper altar never went out even when it wasn’t properly stoked
Priests felt full even after eating only a small part of the offerings
The smoke of the incense offering would fill the Holy of Holies
The Talmud however, records that many of these miracles ceased to occur about 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple, and never returned. This of course coincides with the time of the death of Yeshua:

Yoma 39b – During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.

It shows absolutely in amazing fashion the change from the need of yearly atonement to the atonement once and for all. Upon Jesus the Messiah’s death and resurrection the signs indicated forgiveness was granted ceased.  They ceased because Jesus gave the sacrifice once and for all. He is the source of purification.  He is the scapegoat who took sins upon him, so there was no need for any other.  Yet, there is a time yet coming. We have yet to have the final judgment. There is coming a great and final day when all creation is untwisted and cleansed. There is a day coming when Jesus judges all.  Be assured that when Jesus sits on the great white throne of judgment it will be on a Yom Kippur day.  

So Yom Kippur is a day to truly be still and know that He is God, for  that is the proper response to His providing atonement and judgment.  God has provided the scapegoat who has carried of the sins. He no longer requires sacrifices year after year because “It is finished.”  The time is coming when all will be set right. All that is twisted undone.  All purified. The day is truly the day the Kingdom of God is fully established and the kingdom of darkness is no more.  The King of Kings sorts out those who are his, and those who will face eternal punishment. This day is great and Holy.

So how then does a Christian respond and focus on this day.  Atonement is complete and judgment is coming.  Well it is a day for sober reflection.  A time to look back and look ahead.  Look back at what changed within in the past year and a day to look ahead to see what God is doing and identified the places that need a change and turning.    It is a day to praise God for it is truly about the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.  This day, is the day. Once the great and final day comes, there is no more choice, no more time, no more second chance. The great Judgment will be cast.  So today, while it is today, it is not to late.  Let Jesus serve to provide you atonement and make you clean and right.  For a time is coming when there is no  longer a choice as the  end has come.

Musing on Repentance 2: Element of the cleansing process

Repentance is a word that refers to an essential element of the Christian faith. Repentance is needed in order to be able to accept the gift of redemption. It is an essential element of salvation. We do not enter into the kingdom of God without surrender and turning from self and sin. Turning to Jesus as the answer at heart means accepting that nothing that self can do is good enough and there is a need for help. It is possible to repent of something and not turn to Jesus but you cannot turn to Jesus unless you turn from self. Repentance is also very vital in understanding other element of the Way of Jesus, the Christian faith. Repentance is a key component to the ongoing process of being cleansed and perfected (known as sanctification.)

First of all, it is worth noting that by accepting the gift of redemption and being saved, that positional before God the Father we are clean. It is already a done and completed task. Jesus declared at the cross, It is finished! If we were not considered clean, the Holy Spirit could not reside. If we were not considered clean we could not approach God. We are consistently in a “clean state” before God. As the Bible states, all who have become a disciple of Jesus and follow Him as The Way, are a new creation. The old corrupt and dirty self is dead, done away with. Sin has no power. These facts are true and certain.

Yet, there is a paradox here, for while we are already made clean, we still are in the process of being made clean. In order to grasp this thought one needs to understand that God does not operate in a linear fashion with time. It is possible before God to be in a state of being clean, yet still be in process of being cleansed, for that is the reality. Each of us are in a growth process that is continuing to change. Many times we deviate the Way and onto a course of our own choosing. Sometimes we hold onto areas in our life that we do not want to give up. We still miss the mark often. So the sin nature while considered dead is still active. We still are learning and growing and there is never a point we arrive. When we have been able to repent and turn from one area of sin and self in our life, God reveals deeper levels and exposes the desires of the heart that twist things toward self. So there remains the continual need of turning from self. There is no sanctification without repentance. Note, that just like salvation, there can be turning from sin but a lack of true cleansing, for the actions and the fruit of self are rubbish before God and do not “clean.”

In thinking about the process of sanctification, a conceptual image has developed for me. This image came to my mind after thinking about the vision of the kingdoms of the world the prophecy interpreted by Daniel of the statue. The statue shows the Kingdoms of the world moving from pure gold to ultimately dirt. Each step is a lower level of value. Well, the image of sanctification is the opposite. We are moving from a lower value state to a higher value. The statue moved from gold to the common elements of iron and clay. Now the concept is that sanctification is the exact opposite. We are being refined from dust and ashes  to that which is even more precious than gold. As we grow and mature and are refined, we become more pure and precious.

Perhaps, even the sanctification and what we overcome is reflected in the crowns of life we each will be presented. The crown adorned with the precious metals and gems that derive from the course of life and how we turn from self. Each victory may well be another gem. We achieve victory by practicing true and genuine repentance. When we turn from self toward a focus on loving God and others, it is a victory. Then even when we not only turn from self but help others to take steps of repentance to salvation or play a role in their ongoing sanctification, what God fashions is even more precious. And what God fashions is precious in so far as it reflects Him, that his nature is seen. It is even that recognition that will result in our setting aside any crown before Him, for it is all but His and His nature. It is nothing we possess, it is what God is doing, and the acts of repentance resulting in growth toward being more in the image of Jesus is essential. If there is not repentance, there can be not fruit, and if there is no fruit, the rewards are less, and the less the reward the less we have to offer back to God as a reflection of His glory.

Musing on the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim)

Recently on this blog there was some reflection on The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) which has also been commented on in two previous articles one in 2008, the other in 2009. There has been little commentary on this blog regarding the days following Rosh Hashanah or on Yom Kippur. This year this writer is being stirred to comment on these as well. Starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are ten days known as the ‘Days of Awe’ (Yamim Noraim) also known as the ‘Days of Repentance.’ Part of the reason these days have not been addressed is because of the perspective of doing something to get right with God to assure being in good standing and possibly reversing God’s judgment. The views is that the actions taken on the Days of Awe can alter what God had written on “The Feast of Trumpets” with the final judgment being cast on the day of Judgment. The viewpoint is that during this time a person can engage in one of three actions: “teshuvah, tefilah and tzedakah,” repentance, prayer, good deeds. There is also the focus on reconciling with those who you have done wrong as Jewish though based on the Talmud suggested that the Yom Kippur sacrifice does not atone for what you have done wrong to others. So,w hile the ten day focus on repentance and getting right with God is honorable, it is coming from a missing perspective.

As a Christian, the perspective of repentance is different, as we do not focus on whether or not we have to “earn God’s favor.” Nothing that we do makes us right before God, as we have been redeemed, covered by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Yet, if you take some time to examine and consider there is a Christian perspective on these days and it is certainly worthwhile to take time to engage in extended reflection on our relationship with God and others. Note, that these days start with the “trumpet blasts” of the Feast of Trumpets. The blasts are a wake-up call stating the time is now and time is left before the coming day of Atonement, the great day of judgment. The period between the “wake-up” alarm and the serious day of atonement may well be reflective of the tribulation period. God does nothing without meaning and what he established is a shadow of what is to come. So it is worthwhile to take these days seriously and reflect on repentance. On this blog up until Yom Kippur the article focus will be on various aspects of repentance. From a Christian perspective this is examining both what have done wrong and what am doing right. It is seeking God to know and learn what area of life he is refining toward change. It is a time to look at the things that have been left undone. It is a time to allow the Holy Spirit to work on our hearts and move through the ongoing sanctification. It is also worthwhile to consider or relationship with others and reconcile with those we have wronged and forgive those who have wronged us.

It is also important to be aware that for each of us this process should be a daily process. As being a member of the Kingdom of God and being made clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, every day is really a day of Awe. Every day is a day to consider our relationship with God: where we are missing the mark due to action or inaction. Daily we need to forgive and be forgiven. Daily we need to make right what we have done wrong. Yet, there is the time of the calendar between God’s established days that we can learn from. The majority of the Christian church has lost awareness of these days. Some parts of the church have taken the concept and used it for other extended periods of reflection such as Lent. Yet, God has set some days for His purpose and being aware and remembering what God has done and is doing is important. It is worthwhile to reflect on what God has done, what he is doing, and what is yet to come. As a believer in Messiah, God has made me clean and redeemed me. I am currently in an ongoing process of being cleaned known as sanctification where that which is unclean is being refined and done away with. There is a coming and future point where as a part of the body of Christ, we will be presented as clean before Jesus as the “bride of Christ.” For those who accept Jesus as Messiah, each has no fear of the day of Judgment for the position before God has been established. We await the great and future day of true great Awe and wonder as we await Jesus who will straighten out all of which has been made crooked and twisted and all shall be brought into proper account. So take time, reflect. Repent. Pray. Act in love toward others. These are actions of people in the Kingdom of God, not because they put us in right position with God, but because he loved us and we desire to serve and grow into a greater reflection of Jesus the Messiah. It is a day by day, step by step process.

Memorial Day 2010 Musing

Today was Memorial Day, which is a day to Honor those have died in battle serving the country and serve in the armed forces. It is understandable and respectful to honor and pray for those serving in the military. Yet for Christians the fact is we really do not belong to any country but the Kingdom of God and sometimes we can lose that perspective. Personally, it is a good time to reflect on those who have served the Kingdom of God well. Last year on Memorial Day some specific Martyrs were honored in this thread: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/in-memoriam-christian-martyrs/. This year want to emphasize all those that have gone before us. It is a good time to remember the past and the great crowd of witnesses and use it to inform are present and let us prepare for what is ahead.

The list of those that have gone before us is long and great going back to Abel and way through various people. Many who are well known, many more who are not known. What do they all have in common, the stood firm, they abide in faith, and they serve God’s kingdom well. Take a read of Hebrews 11.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

 

The long list here in Hebrews 11 is just a small portion of the great crowd of witnesses, those who have gone first and stood firm in faith. They are all regarded to be people who walked by faith. They all believed that God exists and rewards. In other words believed God is who He says He is. Now it is important to note that in the list of these people of faith they had not received yet that what was promised. They stood pain, suffering, and torture. Sometimes delivered, sometimes they did not. Ultimately the focus of the faith is not on what they measured or felt but on the surety of God. It was not about what happened in the here and now on this tangible earth. It was not even about nations or places. It was about God. Learn from the great crowd of witnesses, for while they may have stumbled and faltered at times in their lives, they stayed the course.

Examining the great crowd of the faithful, we find encouragement to stand firm. We find direction that informs us of what it takes to stand firm in the faith, to persevere. In this day and age it is easy to get upset over God failing to meet some personal desire in a way or time of your pleasing. We can easily focus on things of self. The focus though needs to be on God and God alone. God does reward; God does provide; God loves us deeply. What helps us to stand firm, today is not losing focus that it is not about us, but about God. It is not about our own ideas, but God’s Kingdom. It will get difficult and hard times are coming. Any one of us is called and marked with a life as a Martyr, and even if not, we will all face pain and suffering. Difficulties are certain. But God’s faithfulness is more certain, for He will turn all things together for the good even if you do not see it.

So upon looking at the great crowd of witnesses and letting it inform our choices, when we look ahead we know that difficulty is coming. The great crowd of witness suffered much we will not be different. So right now it is a time of preparation. It is time to grow in faith and knowledge of God, for there is a time come soon of testing and trial. Deception will be at every turn. Darkness will grow and reign. Good will be called evil, and evil good. Yet, we are to stand firm. We are to be sober minded, alert, and clear. This comes from growing in God and growing faith. You grow in faith through growing in relationship with God. There are many obstacles that come, many traps set, and falling asleep is easy. But God’s call is for us to endure. Perhaps, before the time of trial and the seventh week some who are faithful will be removed and spared further trial, but do not focus on this hope. Prepare to endure till the end. Make your faith and calling sure. Test yourself and continue to root out and discard all that is untrue. Continue to let the Holy Spirit cleanse you and draw you more clearly aware of the ways you fall short in loving God and others in a pure and whole way.

So in summary, in the Kingdom of God learn from those who have gone before, the great crowd of witnesses. Let them shape your step and path today with a call to draw nearer to God and prepare for what is to come. God is in control but victory is already won. God is faithful and His reward is sure. It will be a privilege to receive His reward and then lay it back down at His feet (see a vision reported on this blog.) We serve in surrender to the Greatest commander: the God of Love. And if by chance you do not, now is the time, surrender to the King of Kings.

Musings on Pentecost Sunday (Shavu’ot)

Sunday May 23rd, 2010 is the day of the Anniversary of Pentecost. It is also the day of the Biblical Festival know as Shavu’ot which means Festival of Weeks. It is also known as Hag ha-Bikkurim: Festival of First Fruits and Hag Matan Torateinu: the Festival of the Giving of Torah. So this day is a day that God has chosen as a day of significance and He gave two significant gifts on this day. This day paints a picture of God’s initiation and our response. God’s initiation involved two things.

The first gift from God was of the Torah, the Law, which provided the way and directions to be free from idolatry and immorality and pointed the way to Jesus. It is a day where focus in on what God has established and the importance of surrendering to Him, to walk in His way. One of the practices on this day in Jewish households is the reading of the book of Ruth, which really emphasizes the total surrender to God, of following His way not our way. It also points to the redeeming work of God, through Jesus the Messiah, to establish the way for all that may follow. Now here is an important fact. The Torah serves to lead us to the need of repentance; a written standard exposed the sinfulness and deceitfulness of the heart. The Torah exposes the need for repentance and surrender pointing to the eternal answer. The Torah serves as the lamp showing the way, the way being Jesus.

The other gift from God given on this day, was the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. He is the means by which God’s ways and laws our written on our hearts. The Holy Spirit empowers and brings us to repentance and surrender. On this day, the Holy Spirit came to all who believed. No longer was the Holy Spirit limited to a select few God chose to anoint. Rather, the Holy Spirit indwells all who surrender to God and enter into His Kingdom found through Jesus and what He did at the cross. Being made clean and whole enable the Holy Spirit to reside within, guiding us day by day moment by moment. The being indwelt with the Holy Spirit enables worship in spirit and truth, for without that ongoing presence we all falter.

Ultimately through God’s gifts, He simply gave fully of Himself to give us what we need, to set us free. God’s gifts need a response, an act of worship. Worship exhibited by bringing the first of everything produced during the early Harvest. It is the starting point of all that comes ahead, but it is when the initial rewards are returned back to God as an act of submission. It is a representation of giving fully of self, of surrendering to God fully. God’s precious gifts should bring about a response of total surrender and as we surrender, we receive more from God. When we surrender to the Holy Spirit he is able to move in sanctifying, empowering, and healing. The surrender results in more fruit and a greater Harvest. A genuine response to God of giving back results in God being free to do more. Any such response is one based not on compulsion but on true joy over what God has already given.

What God has given us is precious; freedom from idolatry, darkness, immorality, and selfishness. He has given us Salvation. He has given us life. He has given us His words to direct and the Holy Spirit to lead and empower. It is a wondrous day. How then do you respond to day and the days to come? Do you surrender fully? Do you find ways to respond in love? Do you seek to please God or satisfy self? Check yourself and see what is your response, and if it falters, then wake up and recognize what God has given and done. Reflect on where you were and how He has changed you. Give of yourself as He requests with all you are from the first to the last and ever moment in-between.