Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blessings for Shavuot

Tomorrow (or tonight at sundown if you want to count your days like a Jew) is the Feast of Shavuot; better known to us westerners as Pentecost. "Shavuot" is translated into English as "weeks" and it gets its name from the fact that it begins seven weeks after Passover. The Jews didn't make this up, they were commanded to observe this feast in Leviticus 23:15ff. Seven Sabbaths would be counted until the day after day 49 (7x7) when the feast of Shavuot would be celebrated. Thus there were 50 days between Passover and Weeks. In these 50 days we get the Greek word "Pentecost."

Shavuot is one of the three great pilgrimage feasts commanded by God in Deuteronomy 16:16 where all males must appear before the LORD in the place where He put His Name.

That's why in Acts 2 there is such a crowd from all around the Middle East gathered at Jerusalem.

Neat huh?

Modern celebrations of Shavuot consists of an all-night study of the Scriptures. And you thought week long gospel meetings were tough?

Observant Jews will stay in their synagogues all night tonight to learn of the Torah to prepare themselves for tomorrow when they will read the 10 commandments anew, recommiting themselves to do all the LORD has commanded.

The Jews have celebrated the giving of the Law, by God at Mt. Sinai to Moses, on Shavuot since before Jesus' time although the practice of remaining awake and studying all night is a modern custom rather than a commandment and is to express one's desire to draw closer to God.

Modern Jews carry out this tradition to counter the behavior of the Jews who slept at Mt. Sinai instead of waiting for the Torah. By staying up the entire night and studying, they strive to right that wrong and honor God's Law.

Shavuot is very important to Christians as well. Just as Jesus fulfilled the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits with His death, burial, and resurrection; Jesus fulfills Shavuot by sending the Holy Spirit.

Compare these two texts:

In Exodus 32, Moses returns from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the Ten Commandments. What does he find in the Israelite camp? Idolatry in the form of golden calf worship. Moses asks for those loyal to God to come to him and the Levites rally to him. God commanded those Levites to go through the camp killing his brother, friend, and neighbor. Look at verse 28:

"The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died."

Three thousand died when the Law came.

That number should make the hairs stand on your head. What happened about 1200 years later on the day where the people of Israel celebrated Law coming down from God? Peter preached the first Gospel sermon and commanded repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus. What was the result? Look at Acts 2:

"Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."

Three thousand were given new life when the Spirit came.

The Feast was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost; on Shavuot. God is Faithful and He shows His Faithfulness through His feasts.

Just ask Paul. He understands the power of the Spirit coming down to give new life.

2nd Corinthians 3:6 "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (emphasis mine)

The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

3000 died at Sinai, 3000 found new life at Shavuot.

Some might see a coincidence. I see the mighty hand of God.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

David's feet

Of all the Old Testament characters, my hands down favorite is David. I'm honored that my name is Justin David King. I love the honest description of David in the text. I can believe the bravado of the Goliath showdown because of the brutal casualness of the Uriah murder. David's life was a roller coaster of highs and lows.

Up to the slaying of giants.

Down to En Gedi.

Up to the King of Israel.

Down to the body of Uzzah.

Up to the Ark in Jerusalem.

Down to the death of his son.

Up to the honor of Mephibosheth.

Down to the desertion of Absolom.

Up to the city of David.

Down to dashed construction dreams.

David's life was full of twists and turns, victories and defeats, thrills and heartaches. If you or I were to experience the life of David it might make us more poetic. It might make us express our feelings on paper. We wouldn't have some of our best Psalms without David.

Look at Psalm 18:2-3

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust: My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised. So shall I be saved from my enemies."

That entire Psalm is a collection of David's praise at the awesomeness of God as David's enemies were cast away and destroyed.

But David, in the middle of a great section dealing with warfare, gives us this line in verse 33: "He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and sets me on my high places."

This is like Sesame Street. Which of these things is not like the other? Which of these things just doesn't belong? Arms, bow, war, bronze, deer, shield, battle.

It's the deer, right?

What is it about those little cute animals that hang around En Gedi?

This is one of the little guys that was waiting for us in the En Gedi parking lot on our trip to Israel.

This little fella (I'm assuming) was hanging out hoping for a little toss away cheese cracker lunch from the tourists.

A few minutes later, as we tried to get closer for pictures, this nimble footed creature jumped off the edge of the parking lot, hopped a concrete fence, navigated a very steep rock ledge, and then bolted away to safety.

If I had tried to run the obstacle course of this deer, I would be scraped, bruised, muscle sore, and beaten because I didn't have the feet of this deer.

I think that is what David is praising God for in verse 33.

David never asked for a smooth path. He never asked God to make his life easy. He never wanted God to take it all away.

What he did want was the right kind of feet.

If God would give David the right kind of feet, feet like a deer, David could handle any path God gave him.

So, like that deer that handled the rough path in Israel, David handled his life with the assistance of God.

Dear God, give me the right kind of feet in my life. Don't make my path easy, because if you did, I might forget you. God give me feet like the feet of a deer, that I might stand on the high places!