Some thoughts keep coming in and around my brain this Shavuot. For the last 2-3 years, on each festival I seem to learn something new, or have something become more developed. I realize this is a long (if not lifelong) process of discovery and learning. Not just learning, but integration. It isn’t enough to learn something or know something. Learning is a means to an end. Without implementation, it would be better if I DIDN’T learn something. There is implied accountability to knowledge, along with a real struggle not to get “puffed up” with some nugget of knowledge.
I realize that many times I come across as antagonistic. I need to be careful. I truly don’t yet have much tolerance for either christianity or judaism. I came out of one, and I want to avoid the other one like the plague. Both (to me) are so full of man made nonsense, I cant extract much of the good stuff. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any, nor does it mean the people involved are any different than me, stumbling along as God leads. If it sounds like I’m on an anti-christian diatribe, please forgive. I do not think I’m actually doing this, however between my lack of good communication, maturity, and defensiveness many christian folks feel like they have to respond with, this could be a minefield. I don’t mean it that way.
So What if…
Here are some thoughts that Im meandering around in my mind as I learn more about Shavuot.
Shavuot (in Greek called Pentecost) is NOT the “birthday of the church”.
There are basic reasons why this SHOULD be obvious, but are significantly obscured by modern christianity. Let’s put aside Replacement Theology/Supersessionism. If you believe that doctrine, none of what I’m going to say will have any place to land, nor would you care to do anything else but debate.
- The Church isn’t new. The word church in Greek (which most folks believe is what the “New” testament is written in) is normally “ekklesia”. If you use that word, and then search how that word was used in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the “Old” testament, it becomes pretty clear its basically the same word as “assembly”, which is fundamentally the same thing as the people gathered at the foot of the mountain hearing, accepting, and obeying (or not!) the spoken out loud words of Yah to the people Yah gathered “out of Egypt” as a unique people.
- The disciples that gathered together per the directives of Yeshua to “wait in Jerusalem” were the assembly of Yeshua already. Yeshua had called them out of the judaism (not being “Jewish”, but the rabbinic driven religion created and run by men for the previous 500-600 years) to be Yah’s own people. This is very similar to the process of the Hebrews being called out of the world population, as well as delivered out of Egypt and set apart for Yah, waiting for the meeting at the Mount Sinai.
- Every celebration prior to this ONE holiday celebration (not to take ANYTHING away from it!) was focused on obeying the directives in Torah, and the common belief is this holiday celebrates the giving of Torah.
- Is there any evidence in scripture that post Acts 2, there was any change in the command to celebrate the holiday?
What is the focus of the Holy Spirit?
There is no way I could ever say with confidence I could understand all the myriad aspects of the real Spirit of God. I have a significant history with the classic charismatic/pentecostal christian milieu, and I feel comfortable speaking from that perspective. And I think we could look at scripture simply and try to grasp a little context post Acts 2.
- The main role of the Spirit post Acts 2 is presented in context of the activities through the Apostles, and the presentation seems to be set always in context to proclamation of the Gospel, and working Salvation. The first activity is an enabling of communication to diverse people, with an attending breakthrough of salvation.
- Pre Acts 2, the context for the Spirit is the cutting of the covenant in the heart of an individual, circumcising the heart, and in my understanding essentially is putting the things Yeshua said (the goal of Torah) INSIDE the follower of Yeshua. Basically taking the Torah from an external, codex of instruction to an internal, motive changing power. The Spirit is doing what the Torah was unable to do (not through some failure, but by design) and not just describe/proscribe righteousness, but provide the power to do it.
- Peter’s first act is to connect the experience and presence of the Spirit to a HISTORICAL setting. It seems as if he is saying “This seems unusual and new to us, and it is. However the reality is, this is what was written about BACK in Joel”. This is a serious point. This promise, received and demonstrated, is clearly set within a comprehensive context. While it is new in our experience, it is just even more unveiling of things already determined in Torah. This is no a “new age” of the church, but a continuing emergence of things already stated. We are playing catch up.
- As best as I can say, I’m up for anything the Spirit does that edifies, strengthens, encourages etc… me personally. I NEED it. However so much focus has been spent on justifying super-nature in the last 20 years. The only phenomena that seems to be present in the scriptures in a clear and simple way is things that are being done by God to confirm Gods words to us, fulfill promises, reveal the intentions and desires of God, and facilitate the sharing and reception of those things. If it takes something “super” natural, or it is seemingly “natural” even though the source is clearly non human, so be it. In historical setting, the “visitation” of the Spirit in Acts 2 has characteristics that make far more sense when put in historical setting. Fire, “coming down” upon people gathered together waiting, people being “saved” as opposed to dying. These all make sense in context of the specific day and holi (holy) day being celebrated. The Spirit of God can do ANYTHING, so the signs or signals mean something. But the focus on the signals (to me) undermines the whole point. This is the follow up promise given to help fulfill the first. Spirit AND Truth.
The Messianic Age
George Eldon Ladd writes clearly and deeply about the eschatological context on the “New” Testament. When viewed this way, many things get so clear. The work of Jesus, the call to obedience and repentance, and the signs and events following Yeshua and the followers of Yeshua, point to “the end of the age”, or “the Messianic Era”.
The connection Peter proclaims to Joel has huge implications. The events happening with the presence of the Spirit of YHWH moving upon individuals means far more than meets the eye. The definition and setting of Joel as an explanation for the phenomena people are experiencing seems ot be far beyond just personal experience, or even salvation in my opinion. The work of the Spirit in such direct ways proves that the person who died at the hands of the Romans, rejected by the judaic leadership, and was resurrected from the dead as testified by a group of people, was not only A Messiah (an anointed one, just as Saul, Samson, even a shield had been in Torah), but THE Messiah.
This specific one was the awaited for deliverer who seemed so confusing for the last 53 days. The guy preached and did Torah perfectly, explained the nature of YHVH through demonstration, unwound the man-made traditions etc…. Then allows Himself to be killed at the hands of foreigners, which seems totally the opposite of the expectation of what THE Messiah was supposed to do. The there is a resurrection from the dead, and the struggle to believe it, let alone understand it.
Then understanding it begins to reveal whole new things that were sitting there THE WHOLE TIME. This means that not only was Yeshua THE Messiah (which they believed, but now is being proved), the AGE TO COME is HAPPENING. Its already coming to bear, and it is totally different than we could understand. But now things like prophecies in Joel are coming to bear. Those prophecies mean the promises of the Age to come are coming about. This is the signal, and it’s going to get incredible.
I realize many people are already connected to these ideas, or have never seen these conflicts. I have seen these, and Im wandering through them. I don’t claim to have total understanding. But as I learn and go through cycle after cycle of these festivals and holidays I get challenged in my mental approach. How I think about these things, and what I think, are being renovated constantly. I’m not realizing I’m presupposing, I already think I know what is happening. But I don’t really. I’m constantly getting retrained, and each time something valuable happens. Hopefully some of these wanderings help someone else.