The promise of the Holy Spirit
Tonight will be a bit different in that we will have no Torah section to read. However, we will use this time to look at the holiday we are currently celebrating, the holiday of Shavuot. To begin, I want to take a few minutes to share some personal thoughts about the ministry that Jean and I founded about 20 years ago. We had just returned from Israel and were seeking our place here in America after having spent years in Israel. One thing we knew, G-d was still calling us to continue our work with Israel and to share our vision with people here in this country. We traveled to Jacksonville and spent a weekend meeting with friends we had made in Israel. After much prayer and talking that weekend, we felt that Road to Zion would be the name of what we would begin. And as they say, the rest is history. While studying this week I read an article and the name of the article was, “Road to Zion.” It was quite emotional for me as I read this essay. It spoke exactly to where we both are and why we do what we do. Each week I have tried to explain or instill in people we know, our opinions on what as non-Jews, our role should be in restoring the House of Israel and restoring the relationship between Christians and Jews. It is vitally important that we see the Messiah in His Jewishness and how He dealt with His brothers and sisters.
When we look at the Messianic scriptures we see over and over verses describing Him going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the holidays with the rest of Israel. Some examples can be found in Luke 2:42, John 2:13 (Passover). In John chapters 4-6 Yeshua is described as going up to Jerusalem to take part in the festivals. As he made these trips the roads to Zion were like a river flowing to Jerusalem. As the people went up they would be singing the Songs of Ascent found in Psalms 120-134. Zechariah 14:16 talks of the times coming when all the earth will be going up to Zion. Isaiah 2:3 says, “Come let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd to the House of the G-d of Jacob.” So Road to Zion still has the vision of telling the people we come in contact with about our role, as the people from a wild olive tree, who has been grafted in to the cultured tree of the people of Israel.
Now on to Shavuot. One thing that we can all do is read the book of Ruth. This is always done on the night of the holiday. What do you think is the connection between Shavuot and the book of Ruth? In this book we see a non-Jewish woman, Ruth, after the death of her husband journeying back to Israel with her Jewish Mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi and her husband and two sons had left Israel earlier to escape the famine taking place in Israel. Both sons and the husband died leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law alone. As Naomi left Moav she told her daughters in law to return to their families. One girl finally agreed and returned home. However Ruth would not leave Naomi’s side. In Ruth 1:16-17 we read her reply to Naomi. I expect we all have heard it before. It is very moving in its sincerity and heart felt commitment to Naomi, to her people and her G-d. So here as well, we see a non-Jew commit herself to a Jewish person, to put her faith and trust in the G-d of Israel and the people of Israel.
As we read on, Naomi and Ruth do not have an easy time. Finally Ruth volunteers to go and glean the fields of the local farmers. Remember, the Torah required the owner of the fields being harvested to leave some of the crop for the poor. This was what Ruth was doing. We also read that this happened during the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. This is one of the connections between Ruth and Shavuot. How can we know this? The wheat harvest began with Shavuot, the offering brought to the Temple was loaves of wheat bread.
Ruth eventually married Boaz, the owner of the fields where she gleaned. He was a relative of Naomi’s husband. A son was born to Ruth and this child would be the grandfather of King David. She is an example to all of us. Her words should inspire us to be a bridge between Israel and the non-Jewish world. We are to stand with them as G-d has always done and He expects His people to support and bless them as we live our lives.
One way that connects us is our Jewish Messiah. For example, this holiday we celebrate tonight commemorates the giving of the Torah. This giving of the Torah forged a bond between G-d and His people. Now in Acts 1-2 we see the disciples in Jerusalem getting ready for this holiday and also waiting or the Holy Spirit to come. Acts 1:4-6. In His last appearance on earth before ascending to the Father, Yeshua told them to wait in Jerusalem for this outpouring. I think they may have expected this to happen on Shavuot. G-d came and gave the Torah on Shavuot. Now this promise of the Holy Spirit would probably be expected to happen at the conclusion of counting the Omer and the holiday of Shavuot.
Think of the scene, here on the morning of Shavuot, Jews from around the world would be up at daybreak, making their way to the Temple Mount to begin their celebrations. All the roads in Jerusalem would have been crowded with people. The disciples would have been part of this mass of people. In Acts 2:1 it says they were all in one accord, in one place. The Hebrew for “one place” is “Hamakom”. This word is used throughout scripture to refer to the Temple Mount. As the people began the morning prayers, tongues of fire appeared on the heads of the disciples, suddenly speaking in the language of all those who were present to celebrate.
Important for us to think on the phrase, “one accord.” At this time in our world on this Shavuot it is vital that G-d’s people come together in one accord. It is time we put aside our differences and align ourselves in one accord with G-d and His purpose for us in this world.