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Bamidbar (In the Desert) and Shavuot

Weekly Torah Section: Bamidbar (In the Desert) Numbers 1:1-4:20, HafTorah: Hosea 2:1-22

Shavuot (Pentecost) Leviticus 23:9-22

Shavuot starts 49 days after Passover at the end of the counting of the Omer.  It is known as the time of G-d giving the Torah. And if you look at Exodus you can count the days from Passover until the Mt. Sinai experience and come to this conclusion as well. I want us to take a minute and look at this holiday since some may not be familiar with it. It begins this coming Tuesday evening, May 18th. It is the second of the pilgrimage holidays coming between Passover and Succoth. In Deut. we read a good account of the agricultural background to the holiday of Shavuot. What does it mean to us and can we make some spiritual applications to our lives?

 

First, Israel had just come out of Egypt after hundreds of years of living by the rules of their Egyptian overlords. Here G-d comes down from heaven to speak to them and give then a new structure and framework to live their lives by. What happened to us when we became believers? G-d gave us a new plan to live by. People brought an offering to serve as a witness to this covenant between G-d and themselves. What can we do on Shavuot and for that matter each day of our lives in our priestly roles? We bring our lives to the altar and commit them to this covenant that has been made between us and G-d. No longer are we following Pharaoh’s rules but now we serve a new  Master and He controls our lives.

Each year the book of Ruth is read during Shavuot as well. Why? In the book of Ruth we see Ruth, a Moabitess, giving up her former life and deciding to follow the G-d of Israel. Again we see the same theme of changing allegiance and masters. The book of Ruth also tells about Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz during the barley harvest. Shavuot happens at the end of the barley harvest.

Where in the New Testament do we read about the holiday of Shavuot?  In Acts 2 we read about Pentecost. So what does Pentecost have to do with Shavuot? Pentecost is a Greek word and the same word in Hebrew is Shavuot. In Acts 2 fire fell from heaven just as it did at Sinai. People were called to recognize Yeshua as the promised One and 3,000 souls came to faith on that day. This was the first harvest.

Bamidbar, the Torah portion for today, is almost always read on the Sabbath before Shavuot. What is the connection?  There are two connections.  Counting takes place in both and both happen in the desert. This book, Numbers, covers most of the 40 years in the wilderness. It has both historical information as well as commandments.

In this Torah section there are three different counts done; counting of all men over the age of 20 that are able to go to war, counting of the Levites, and counting of the first born.  I want to look only at the first one. In the first book of Numbers they were to count every male 20 years and older. What was the purpose of this census? They were to organize the people and get them ready for what was before them. But deeper than that, we are told exactly how many were in each tribe. We are given an exact number. Each person was important. Did the importance of a person change the count? No, everyone was counted as one. Each had the same value.  Each of us is important in G-d’s eyes. Each of us has equal value and worth before G-d. I think this is a principle that is very important for each of us to grasp, especially in the world in which we live. G-d loves each of us equally. He shows no partiality.

We go on to see how each tribe and person had a specific role to fulfill and a specific place to set up their tents around the Mishkan or tabernacle. Never believe that G-d loves you less than anyone else. He loves us all equally and Yeshua died for each of us.

Moving on to the book of Hosea, Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom. In these verses, Hosea 2:1-20,  Hosea looks ahead in time to the Messianic age when the people of Israel will be too numerous to count. G-d will give them peace in their land and they will change how they address Him. Up until this time they used the term Bali for “My husband”, translated this means, “My master or lord.” G-d makes the point of no longer using a word that reminds Israel of their idolatrous past of worshipping Baal. Here they will never use the word again but now will address G-d as “Ishi” or my man. This is a much more personal and intimate way to express their relationship with G-d. I would pray that each of us can use this same word to express our connection with the G-d of the universe. He is “our man” and in Him we can rest and be safe.