The Journey of the Bride at Shavuot
F. Scott Nickerson
Here comes Shavuot! Are you excited? Are you ready for an encounter with the Living God of the universe? I remember my first Shavuot back in 1997, and it happened to be a city-wide gathering calling Jews and Christians together to worship and celebrate this festival. It was one of the first ever such gatherings in the nation. I didn’t know anything about it but I knew I had an appointment to be there. And it was explosive! I had never experienced the weight of God’s glory like this before and it was as if the heavens had opened for the Spirit of God to descend upon His people like at the dedication of the Temple. I hadn’t known such worship existed. I immediately thought of Paul’s words in Romans 11:15 “For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” It felt like the togetherness of Yehudah and Yosef produced a new thing, like an exponentially greater experience of the Spirit of the Living God. It was like life from the dead. Then I recalled Yeshua’s prayer in John 17:21, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” When there is an ultimate worship, there is an ultimate sense of unity present.
Shavuot yields itself to a renewal of unity of purpose. Its call is to be Yeshua-focused while living out His Torah with humility, yielded to the Ruach and having an undivided heart. And also a realization that we belong to a separate people, a separate nation, not like the other nations. We are Israel; implanted and grafted into a nation in covenant with the God of Israel. We are not part of a religious hierarchical system that offers a counterfeit move toward an ecumenical kind of unity. This false call for unity simply leaves out context. The Joseph story shows the unity of brothers to preserve the people of Yahweh and a single called forth nation that will be the oracle for His Kingdom on earth. A false unity builds a tower of babel to suppress the gospel, add to Yahweh’s Words, utterly distort the truth of His Kingdom and destroy godly people in the process.
This false unity is controlled by the spirit of antimessiah. Yahweh’s instruction to Israel was to avoid this ecumenical spirit at all costs. It is called the spirit of mixture. Torah says a lot of things about mixture and separation. Joshua 23:6-8 says, “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day”. The TORAH MAKES DISTINCTIONS…i.e., separates things. Light-dark. Day-night. Clean-unclean. Holy-profane. Shabbat-other days. Food-not food for us. Israel-the nations. This false spirit of antimessiah wants to blend it all together and mock people who hold fast to the truth of separateness. The result is an abomination and a destructive influence in our world. It provides no hope, no peace, no love, no meaning for mankind, only emptiness, poverty of Spirit, control and oppression, and ultimately death. This kind of spirit is NOT from the Elohim of Israel, who says my WORD is life for the spirit-man and nourishment for your soul.
Many of us faithfully count the 49 days of the Omer, but we don’t often look into what it means.
During this time after leaving Egypt, God began providing manna on a daily basis to the Israelites for sustenance. Is there something in this that might prepare the people for Shavuot? Perhaps it’s the instructions (torah) for how to receive the manna, when to eat it, and the double portion on Friday and none on Shabbat that gives Israel a sense of the protocols of the Kingdom. Counting the Omer causes us to remember that God provided this “bread from heaven” during our journey away from Egypt and away from Pharoah’s harsh treatments. God showed them and us that through an abundance of “just the right amount” of sustenance, His laws are generous and NOT burdensome and would lead us to desire to obey a loving Father-King who would hear His children’s needs and give them a rest day, Shabbat, they never had in Egypt. These “manna-laws” just so happen to be almost self-regulating as well. If they tried to gather too much or too little for themselves, they would all end up with the same amount, one omer per person per day. If they tried to hoard it for the next day, it became inedible except for Shabbat. They couldn’t gather any on Shabbat even if they had wanted to for none fell that day. You can certainly see that the idea of Shabbat was becoming an increasingly important reality to the newly delivered Israelites.
The Fire of His Word
I had an idea to look into the scriptures about fire. And as often happens, I found myself asking lots of questions and reading parts of scripture that I have seldom read. And in regard to Shavuot, fire is a theme that accompanies the delivered WORD of Yahweh, right? Both spoken and written. We have the Ten Words given to Israel from the mountain of fire, smoke, and thunder; a terrifying experience for the children of Israel not used to hearing the voice of deity. Now there’s truly a VOICE for all time. So, interestingly, we have the Ten Words first delivered to Israel, NOT on tablets of stone, but truly in person by the very audible voice of the LORD. But…after that…they insist on getting the Torah thru Moses and not by the Voice, but written on tablets of stone. Then we have in Acts 2 the tongues of fire appearing on the heads of believers who have gathered at the Temple for one of the most amazing accounts of the move of the Ruach ever recorded or heard of in history.
Yeshua said in John 6:45, “It has been written by the prophets, “They will all be taught by God Himself” which is from Isaiah 54:13. Job 19:25 says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last, He will stand upon the earth”. It was always God’s desire to dwell with His people. From the somewhat scary experience for the people at Sinai, He always desired to calmly walk among His people and personally teach them about Himself and His ways. And in doing so in the gospels, we find the people astonished by His teaching as well as His authority, His compassion, His miracles, and His sacrifice. To teach His loving instructions this way to His people must have delighted His heart and to see them respond favorably even more so. Luke 24:32 relates what two men experienced while walking on a road to Emmaus when the risen and unrecognized Yeshua walked with them. “They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Cycles of Preparation
A familiar theme of Shavuot is the idea of a wedding covenant made between God and Israel. The Seven festivals of Messiah/Israel are the Father’s Master Plan for Preparation of the Bride/Israel for the wedding day with Messiah Yeshua, the Bridegroom of Israel. Shavuot is betrothal day and at least a partial wedding ceremony. Each of the Seven festivals is rich with historical events in the life of Israel and provides insight into a stage of growth and preparation for the Bride of Messiah to prepare herself for His coming to gather her from the nations for a wedding ceremony. The receiving of the Torah instructions for the bride is a good way to frame Shavuot for anyone who thinks they are part of the Bride of Messiah. One could also say that the Bride will be those who have the testimony of Messiah, are covered by the blood of the Lamb, and prepare themselves by walking in the framework of the Bridal Festivals as commanded by the Groom. The Festivals instruct the bride on the process of preparation to be married to Messiah the King. Like a bride, Israel is chosen and set apart and claimed by God. She is given a new identity and offered the Ketuvah of her suitor, the Torah instructions of God. Israel says, “We will do all that Yahweh has spoken” of a Ketuvah agreement in Exodus 19:8 even before they’ve heard the Words and thus the marriage is established in the sight of God and eyewitnesses. The people are mikvahed as every person in Israel is ordered to be consecrated and clothes washed. The shofar is blown in Exodus 19:13. There is a thick canopy or chuppah over the mountain and then the Ketuvah is read, just as in a Jewish wedding ceremony. In Exodus 24:3 Israel reconfirms the covenant made by saying essentially the same thing they said before hearing the Ketuvah, “All the words which Yahweh has spoken will we do.” Israel receives the Truth on Shavuot in order to show her what her Groom desires for her to become, that pure and spotless bride. The cycle of seven festivals is filled with steps in the process of her redemption, sanctification, growth, joy, and intimacy as she learns about her Groom.
Over time much of our understanding has become fragmented, split apart and twisted into something other than the original. My desire is to see wholeness restored to the Bride, to the Word, and to His chosen nation, Israel. Our group fellowship puts it this way. Don’t split the Word into Old versus New, its all one love story of a royal wedding. Don’t split the Bird – the Spirit is always working together with the Word. Don’t split the Bride – Yehudah and Yosef, the two families of Israel, are destined to become One in the Father’s hand and together prepared for the time when Messiah, our heavenly groom, comes for His beloved and whole Bride at the Father’s appointed time.
May you all have a blessed and wonderful Shavuot!