They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Tower of Babel Reversed!

When the Holy Spirit came in the Pentecost story of Acts Chapter 2, the believers that the tongues of fire rested on began to speak in many other languages. “God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven”, heard the disciples speaking and declaring the wonders of God in their own native tongue. This was such a powerful and miraculous event that three thousand people believed in Jesus the Messiah and were baptized (read Acts 2:5-41).

What I had never noticed before was that the events of this story are an exact reversal of the story in Genesis 11of the Tower of Babel! Up until the time of Genesis 11, the whole world had one language and a common speech. However, the people unified under a common, but sinful and egotistical purpose to try to build a staircase to God and to thus dominate all of creation. God punished the people by confusing their common language so that they couldn’t understand each other. Our English word babble comes directly from the Hebrew word in this story. Then he scattered the people from Babel all over the earth and from this scattering came all the different nations. At Pentecost, God reversed what He had done 2,500 years earlier. He brought together the same scattered nations that had different tongues and dialects and brought them back together so they could once again understand each other. On this occasion, they came together and were unified for the correct reason, to praise and exalt the God of the Universe.

If you look further into the writings of the early Jewish rabbis there is even more to get excited about.  Shabbat 88b in the Talmud says “God’s voice at Sinai was heard in all languages”. When God was giving His written Torah to Moses and the people at Mt. Sinai, something interesting happened. In Exodus 19:16, what the people heard was not, ”thunders”, as most translations have, but, “voices”, (the Hebrew word is kolot; see also They Many Parallels of Sinai and Pentecost)! Think for a minute how that ties into the Acts 2 story. Because of this, the Rabbis taught, that at Sinai, God’s great voice went out and was divided into seventy languages, with seventy being an editorial way of saying, all the nations. Now, at Pentecost, the praises of God are heard and understood by those same “seventy nations”, as one common language.  To the Jewish audience, the events of Pentecost would have confirmed and fulfilled the rabbinical teachings they had heard for generations!

I am continually amazed at how the Hebrew Text and the New Testament are so integrally intertwined. As someone once wrote, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament Revealed”. Stories like these are real faith builders for the believer as they show how God intricately planned the Beginning and the End and everything in between, down to every jot and tittle.

The Many Parallels of Sinai and Pentecost

The Feast of Shavuot (pentēkostē in Greek, Pentecost in English), one of the three great pilgrim Feasts that God told the Jewish people to celebrate (Deuteronomy 16:16),  occurs fifty days after the Feast of Pesach (Passover). This holiday, described in Leviticus 23:15-22, was primarily an agricultural festival and celebrated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. However, very early in Jewish history, it also took on an even greater significance. The Rabbis determined that the timing of the Feast of Shavuot coincided with the great event in Jewish History of God giving His Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Israelites left Egypt on the fifteenth day of the first month, the morning after the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. They arrived at the foot of Mt. Sinai on the fist day of the third month (Exodus 19:1), which would have been approx 40 days. Moses then went up on Mt. Sinai and stayed there several days and then brought back down the two tablets written on stone by the finger of God. This total time-line closely approximated the fifty days after Passover that the Feast of Shavuot was supposed to be held on.

Since Passover was an Exodus related feast as was Sukkot in the fall, the Jewish sages concurred that Shavuot must be Exodus related as well and was to celebrate the occasion in which God revealed Himself to His people and made a covenant with them by giving them His written instructions on how to live (Torah). Why is this of significance to Christians today? The great event described in Acts 2 in the New Testament, when the Holy Spirit appeared and rested as tongues of fire on individual believers, occurred on the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)! The same day that the Jews were celebrating God’s giving of His Torah on tablets of stone, the Holy Spirit came and wrote His Torah on people’s hearts! This confirmed God’s promise in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and was the promise from the Father that Jesus had told His disciples about in Acts 1:4. A look at these two seminal events in Bible history will reveal some remarkable parallels and similarities and will increase your faith in the awesome God of the Bible! God had planned the Acts 2 events even from the time of the Exodus and then He brought them to pass in the framework of the Jewish Feasts that had been set up 1200 years prior. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some amazing parallels between these two events that happened 1200 years apart, to the day!

  1. Both events occurred on a mountain (Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion) known as the mountain of God – Exodus 24:13 & Isaiah 2:3
  2. Both events happened to a newly redeemed people. The Exodus marked the birth of the Israelite nation while the Pentecost events recorded in Acts 2 marked the birth of Christianity.
  3. Both events involved God’s people receiving a gift-Torah and Spirit.
  4. In both events the gift was given by God settling on a mountain with the fire of His Spirit
  5. Both events took place at the same time on the same month
  6. The Israelites left Egypt on Passover and 40 days later arrived at Sinai. Then Moses went up on a mountain to see God (Mt. Sinai). Ten days later Moses came down with the Torah and the Israelites broke the covenant and 3000 people died as a result.  Jesus died on Passover and 40 days later went up on a mountain to see God (Mt. Of Olives).  Ten days after Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit came down and 3000 people were saved!
  7. Fifty days after sacrificing Passover Lamb, the Israelites received a covenant from God50 days after sacrificing Jesus, Our Passover Lamb, believers received a new covenant from God.
  8. Both events had similar sounds and symbols-wind, fire, smoke, voices-the Hebrew word translated thunder in Exodus is “kolot” (Strong’s H6963), which means voices or languages. Think about this in light of the Acts 2 events.
  9. The fire at Sinai was one fire visible by all; the fire at Pentecost was individual fires on every person. In the event at Mt. Sinai, the people were kept away from the fire, but in Acts, the fire came to the people.
  10. Both events had theophanies, that is God showed up (Exodus 19:18-20 & Acts 2:4)
  11. In both events God gave His Torah (Law) to His People and in both cases He sealed the covenant that He had made with them. At Sinai He gave the Law written by His finger on tablets of stone. At Pentecost, He gave the Law written on Tablets of the Heart.
  12. In both events a mixed multitude of people were represented (Exodus 12:38 & Acts 2:5)13) The Torah attempted to change people from the outside (without). The Holy Spirit changes from within. The word “Torah” means teaching and in John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is called the teacher.

Think about these parallels! Wouldn’t they have been powerful to the Jewish people that would have been there to celebrate this time long ago when God showed up in fire, wind, smoke and voices?  Suddenly, it looks like God is showing up again in the same way that He came before! They see fire and smoke and hear voices and the place is shaking violently! God is back! What is He telling us?

Looking at the history of Shavuot and what God did there makes the story of Acts so much deeper and increases our faith in the God of the Bible. His plans for us were made since the beginning of time and are exact down to the last detail. What a mighty God we serve!

Mount Sinai & The Mount of Transfiguration

I continue to be fascinated by the fact that the whole Bible is really just one interwoven story. The Hebrew (Old) Testament continually surfaces in the stories in the gospels and conversely the stories in the gospels are foretold and prophesied throughout the Hebrew Testament. One unbelievable example of this is found in the similarities between Moses’ trip up Mount Sinai in Exodus 24 and Jesus’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17 (also found in Mark 9 and Luke 9). Let’s take a look at these two stories and see if possibly Jesus, the second Moses, was emulating and fulfilling what had happened to Moses himself during the Exodus. At this point it would be helpful if you took the time to read all accounts of both stories.

  1. In both stories the main characters go up on a high mountain with God
  2. In both stories three men go with the main character. Moses takes Joshua, Aaron and Hur and Jesus takes Peter, James and John.
  3. In both cases, a cloud covered the mountain.
  4. In Exodus 24:16, it says,”For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the 7th day the Lord called to Moses. In both Matthew and Mark, the gospel writers are careful to tell us that it was six days that Jesus took the disciples upon the mountain.
  5. In both stories nothing happened for six days and then on the seventh day, God spoke.
  6. In both stories God spoke from the cloud
  7. In both stories God’s glory appeared and changed or transfigured the appearance of the principal figures as they were spoken to by God. (See also Exodus 34:29-30)
  8. The Glory of God “settled” on both mountains (Exodus 24:16 and Mark 9:7)

The Hebrew word for settle is “shakan” (Strong’s 7931) and means, ”to settle temporarily or to tent, or abide in a temporary dwelling.” Is it possible that Peter realized that Jesus was reconstructing the Moses story? Is he thinking, “What can we do to bring shakan like the Moses story?” So he says, “Let’s build something temporary (like shakan) – let’s put up some tents to duplicate the Sinai experience.” In Hebrew, the word mishkan, a derivative of shakan is used to say tent or tabernacle. Shakan is also where we get the word Shekinah, to mean God’s glory, or the divine presence. Peter wasn’t just trying to think of something to do, he knew the story!

Luke adds a wonderful exclamation point in his account of the transfiguration. It says in Luke 9:31, ”They spoke of his departure”. The Greek word for departure is “Exodos” (Strong’s 1841) and when “Exodos” is used in the New Testament, it is almost always used in conjunction with the actual Exodus story. The use of this Greek word wonderfully links Jesus death and resurrection with God rescuing his people out of Egypt.

Further proof that Jesus was fulfilling his role as the second Moses is found in Deuteronomy 18:15, where God tells Moses that, ”He will raise up another Prophet that will be like me” and then says, ”Listen to Him.” These are the exact same words that God uses at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:5): ”This is my Son, Listen to Him.”

This comparison of Mt Sinai with the Mount of Transfiguration is just another convincing proof that the Bible is one long thread that is intricately and brilliantly woven together. We just have to look for the connections.

10 Commandments: Marriage Contract

Law is Love

Law is Love

What if the 10 Commandments were God’s way of saying “I love you, will you marry me”? What if we did not look at them as legalistic, a set of do’s and don’ts, but instead looked at them as God’s marriage contract with us?

If you look at the events leading up to the giving of the 10 Commandments, you realize that God wanted the Hebrews for His own. In Exodus 6 it says, He saved them, brought them out and redeemed them for His own. Then he led them through the desert and brought them to Mount Sinai. In a way the desert was the courtship period because that was where they got to know each other. When the Israelites got to Mt. Sinai, they were ready for the wedding vows and the wedding contract.

In many ways, the Bible views the Sinai events as a wedding vow. What some would call legalism, God called love. We have always looked at them as a list of do’s and don’ts, but what if we changed our thoughts to “God loved us so much that he wanted to marry us and live with us and here is what each of us promises to do for the other as our marriage contract.” God says in Exodus 19:5. If you will, then I will. Reread them like this – God says “I love you over all the other nations in the world. So please:

  1. Don’t have any other lovers, no statues, no pictures
  2. Don’t take my name in vain (our name). I’ve given you my name, so don’t bring shame to us and don’t misuse it.
  3. Find time to love me and get to know me for who I really am.
  4. Get along with the rest of our family, don’t treat each other badly.

We’ve turned the Commandments into legalism. When it’s really a way to show God you love him. You show your love by telling him and doing things for him, just like you would your spouse. You want to make your spouse happy, right? Not having the Commandments would be like having a wedding without vows.

We have the privilege of being married to Almighty God, because we have been grafted into God’s olive tree.

Wedding Ring

Wedding Ring

If you reread the Mount Sinai events and think of how much God must have loved us and all the things he did for us to bring us to His own, it should motivate us to want to please him. Can you remember back to your wedding and how beautiful your bride was and how happy you were and how much you wanted to please them? We need to reclaim that love affair, that feeling with God. We please him by obeying him. Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments.

God loves us like a bride! He called us “segullah” – His treasured possession. Marriage partners during this time in history would each give the other a treasured possession to keep as a symbol of the wedding. This is the word God uses – “segullah” – to describe us – we are His treasured possession.

We are the bride of Almighty God and His son, Messiah Jesus. They have done so much for me; I cannot help but want to do my part also, to love and obey. The people said, “Everything you have said we will do!” Jesus said, the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and might (Matthew 22:34 – 40). This is how we say “I do” – by being obedient. Could we do any less? Tell the Lord, I Do!, I Do!, I Do!