As I read last Shabbat’s Parashah (Scripture portions to be read in synagogue/congregation as a community), my focus was captivated by the portion from the Nevi’im (Prophets). The reading was Hosea 1:1- 2:25 (Complete Jewish Bible). Hosea captures the heart of Shavu’ot so beautifully as ADONAI [YHVH] gives us the very essence of our celebration of Shavu’ot. The restored Bride is being reunited with her Husband, the King of the Universe! He is the Messiah – the one who is called Yeshua (God Saves), Son of El Elyon (God Most High), Lion of Judah, King of Israel, the Word of God, Immanu’el (God With Us). His love, grace, and mercy has provided for our forgiveness. His love, grace, and mercy restore to us the Ways of His Kingdom. Because of Him, our deliverance from every bondage is complete!
Hosea 1:1 – 2:25 This is the word of ADONAI that came to Hoshea the son of Be’eri during the reigns of `Uziyah, Yotam, Achaz and Y’chizkiyah, kings of Y’hudah, and during the reign of Yarov`am the son of Yo’ash, king of Isra’el. ADONAI’s opening words in speaking to Hoshea were to instruct Hoshea, “Go, marry a whore, and have children with this whore; for the land is engaged in flagrant whoring, whoring away from ADONAI.”
So he went and married Gomer the daughter of Divlayim, and she conceived and bore him a son. ADONAI said to him, “Call him Yizre`el, because in only a short time I will punish the house of Yehu for having shed blood at Yizre`el; I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Isra’el [Ephraim, the northern tribes of Israel and ½ of Levi]. When that day comes, I will break the bow of Isra’el [Ephraim] in the Yizre`el Valley.”
She conceived again and bore a daughter. ADONAI said to him, “Name her Lo-Ruchamah [unpitied], for I will no longer have pity on the house of Isra’el [Ephraim]. By no means will I forgive them. But I will pity the house of Y’hudah [Jews – the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and ½ of Levi]; I will save them not by bow, sword, battle, horses or cavalry, but by ADONAI their God.”
After weaning Lo-Ruchamah, she conceived and bore a son. ADONAI said, “Name him Lo-`Ammi [not-my-people], because you are not my people, and I will not be your God.
“Nevertheless, the people of Isra’el [Judah and Ephraim] will number as many as the grains of sand by the sea, which cannot be measured or counted; so that the time will come when, instead of being told, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘You are the children of the living God.’
“Then the people of Y’hudah and the people of Isra’el [Ephraim] will be gathered together; they will appoint for themselves one leader; and they will go up out of the land; for that will be a great day, [the day] of Yizre`el.
“Say to your brothers, ‘ `Ammi [My People]!’ and to your sisters, ‘Ruchamah [Pitied]!’ Rebuke your mother, rebuke her; for she isn’t my wife, and I’m not her husband. She must remove her whoring from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts. Otherwise, I will strip her naked and place her as she was the day she was born, make her like a desert, place her like a dry land and kill her with thirst.
I will have no pity on her children, for they are children of whoring— their mother prostituted herself, she who conceived them behaved shamelessly; she said, ‘I will pursue my lovers, who give me my food and water, wool, flax, olive oil and wine.’ Therefore, I will block her way with thorns and put up a hedge so she can’t find her paths. She will pursue her lovers but not catch them. She will seek them but won’t find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband; because things were better for me then than they are now.’
For she doesn’t know it was I who gave her the grain, the wine and the oil; I who increased her silver and gold, which they used for Ba`al. So I will take back my grain at harvest-time and my wine in its season; I will snatch away my wool and flax, given to cover her naked body. Now I will uncover her shame, while her lovers watch; and no one will save her from me. I will end her happiness, her festivals, Rosh-Chodesh, and Shabbats, and all her designated times. I will ravage her vines and fig trees, of which she says, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’ But I will turn them into a forest, and wild animals will eat them. I will punish her for offering incense on the feast days of the ba`alim [pagan gods], when she decked herself with her earrings and jewels, pursuing her lovers and forgetting me,” says ADONAI.
“But now I am going to woo her—I will bring her out to the desert and I will speak to her heart. I will give her her vineyards from there and the Akhor Valley as a gateway to hope. She will respond there as she did when young, as she did when she came up from Egypt.
“On that day,” says ADONAI “you will call me Ishi [My Husband]; you will no longer call me Ba`ali [My Master]. For I will remove the names of the ba`alim [pagan gods] from her mouth; they will never again be mentioned by name. When that day comes, I will make a covenant for them with the wild animals, the birds in the air and the creeping things of the earth. I will break bow and sword, sweep battle from the land, and make them lie down securely.
I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in grace and in compassion; I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you will know ADONAI.
When that day comes, I will answer,” says ADONAI. “I will answer the sky, and it will answer the earth; the earth will answer the corn, wine and oil, and they will answer Yizre`el [God will sow]. I will sow her for me in the land. I will have pity on Lo-Ruchamah [Unpitied]; I will say to Lo-`Ammi [Not-My-People], ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ “
[NOTE: “on that day” and “when that day comes” are Hebrew Idioms for “the last days” or “end times”; specifically “the age of Messiah’s coming” for Jews … or “age of Messiah’s return” for followers of Yeshua, now made one in Him again.]
The picture God creates through the life of Hosea and his marriage to Gomer is very hard for us to grasp until we fully come to terms with the truth about our identity in Yeshua HaMashiach (Yeshua the Messiah). Throughout the Bible Yahweh refers to Israel in the terms of a marriage. Israel is his unique treasure, his betrothed, his beloved bride, his wife, his unfaithful wife, his divorced wife and his restored wife. Devout Hebrew people have never seen themselves otherwise. They have understood for millennia that Israel is the Bride of the King of the Universe, and that their Husband King would one day establish His throne in Jerusalem and restore Israel as His Kingdom on the earth.
Friends, how can I say this other than bluntly? Much of the modern Christian Church (post 325 AD) has swallowed an extremely dangerous lie. Like Ephraim, we have become haughty and think that we can exist is God’s grace without our brothers, Judah and Benjamin (the Jews). Truth be known, many of us in the Church are descendants of these northern tribes – we are Ephraim. Like our rebellious forefathers, we think that we somehow have a greater understanding, a better way to worship, and that we can conform to the pagan ways of the world (different sabbath, different holidays, embrace icons, eliminate parts of the Torah we find uncomfortable, etc.) and still keep our betrothal to the King of the Universe. In our ignorant belief that Israel is only “Jewish”, we erroneously think that in God’s heart and eternal plan we have replaced Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth! Instead, we have become the whoring wife called Gomer, and her straying children Lo-Ruchamah [unpitied] and Lo-`Ammi [not-my-people]. Like Ephraim, Israel’s disloyal northern kingdom, we are in danger of being divorced, cut off, and destroyed in our own “day of Yizre’el” (Jezreel – a valley of battle where only God sows and reaps the victory, also called Megiddo or Armageddon).
In His Torah, and throughout the Prophets, the Writings, and the teachings of Yeshua and the Apostles, God makes it truly clear that He will never replace His Eternal Bride. He will restore her! God does not lie. He does not break His covenants. Nor has He repudiated [disowned, turned his back on] His people. (Romans 11:1-12) Rather, He has come to graft all of His lost sheep back into Israel, His House, again. Both the Jews, who feign their loyalty to Him without love for Him in their hearts, and Ephraim, who has completely rebelled and abandoned Him, need to repent, receive His forgiveness, and completely return to Him. If those of us, both Jew and Gentile, who walk in faith in Yeshua would come to terms with what this means, then we would understand that together we are being restored as the whole house of Israel – a united Kingdom in Truth and in Spirit with one God, one King. We are a part of the fulfillment of so many prophecies in which ADONAI reveals His desire and plan to make us one in His hand again, with one Shepherd and one King, to restore our purity and honor in His sight, to dwell again with us as His people and He as our God. (Ezekiel 37, Acts 10:1 -11:18, Ephesians 2]
Over 2000 years ago, Yeshua came to the earth as this One King to completely deliver anyone wanting to be delivered. He came to save us from the bondages our own ways have trapped us is and to restore us to His Ways, the lifestyle of His Kingdom experienced in a vital and powerful relationship with Him! Why? Because one day He is indeed returning to this earth to complete His betrothal to His Bride…the restored whole House of Israel. He had to create a way of return and restoration to both Judah and Ephraim, no matter where on this earth they have been scattered to. Does the Kingdom of Israel belong only to the physical descendants of Jacob (Israel). No! Just as YHVH instructed the ancient Israelites at Mount Sinai, no one is exempt from becoming a part of Israel. Any foreigner is welcome to become a part of Israel, His Bride, by choosing to love Israel’s God, abandon pagan gods and traditions, and learn how to live in His Ways and according to His nature (both are found in His Torah). Yeshua is indeed Messiah to any person in the world who will embrace Him and His Kingdom!
So then, Bride of Messiah, why should celebrating Shavu’ot – what the Christians call Pentecost – be so meaningful and beautiful to us? Simple answer: It is our anniversary with the King!! To grasp this, we have only to embrace a Hebrew Kingdom of God understanding of the establishment of a marriage relationship. There is a Day of Betrothal and a Wedding Day. They are separate events – yet both eternally bind together the Bride and the Groom. The Day of Betrothal is far more than what we think of as a marriage engagement. On this day, the ketubah (wedding covenant) is presented to the Bride and her family. This has been painstakingly prepared by the groom and his father. (Most likely, the groom and his intended have already discussed many of the details it contains.) This document is much more than a pledge of love and loyalty between two people. By agreeing to the ketubah, the Bride, Groom, and their families enter into of a lifelong, binding covenant. The ketubah provides legal protection for the Bride, spelling out how she will be provided for during the marriage and, importantly, if something should tragically happen to the Groom. The terms of her care if, God forbid, a divorce should take place is also included. The roles of the Bride and the Groom are defined. Other spiritual and practical issues are often included. The goal is to make clear the expectations of their life together as husband and wife. Both families will become bound to helping with the success of the marriage, and to the care of the children this marriage will produce should either or both Bride and Groom die. The ketubah defines and creates the lifestyle the couple is going to fashion in their household.
The Wedding Ketubah is presented by the Groom and his father. It must be agreed upon by the Bride and her family. Up until the moment she and her family agree and sign the ketubah, the Bride can break off the relationship and walk away. However, the moment she agrees and all parties sign, the couple is legally considered husband and wife. Though the Wedding Day can be up to a year away and they have yet to physically consummated the marriage (not until after the wedding, mind you), they are legally married.
Both Bride and Groom then step into a time of preparation! For what is usually a year, the Groom focuses on preparing a dwelling place for his Bride within the realm of his father’s household. The date and time of his return for the Bride is unknown to both the Groom/Husband and his Bride/Wife. The Bride is also preparing! She has taken on a new identity, separate from all that she previously knew of her life. She is giving her all to learning of and adapting to the ways of her Husband’s household – which is in the realm of his father’s household! She memorizes their ketubah – it is written on her heart and in her mind. Every plan she is making, every step she is taking moves her forward into their life together in accordance with their ketubah. She brings nothing foreign into her thinking or planning. The ketubah has defined what both can and cannot allow into the context of their relationship and home. Both are 100% focused on keeping a clear understanding of how their relationship functions, and on fulfilling day by day the terms of their wedding covenant.
The Groom’s father is keeping his eye on both his son and the Bride. Is he diligently preparing and loyal to his agreement? Likewise, is she? If either becomes unfaithful, he has the power to terminate everything. When the Groom’s father observes that both his son and the bride have fully prepared, he releases his son to go and get her. The Groom does so with his wedding party (a cloud of witnesses) coming with him – and the blasts of a shofar announces to the Bride that he has arrived to marry her. The Groom’s father examines her one last time, making sure she has become true to her new identity. Is she still the right one for his son? Is she fully prepared and clothed as a Bride? He declares her pure and ready! The Wedding Day at last has come! A week of feasting and celebration begins, and on the Eighth Day the Bride and Groom step into their new eternity together. Sound familiar? It should! Bride of Yeshua, this is our story.
So when did we agree to our Ketubah – our Wedding Covenant with the Groom? Put on your power of imagination. Time to flashback to Mount Sinai and the very first Shavu’ot! (Exodus 19 – 24) Yahweh, the Father, tells the family of Israel to take three days to cleanse and prepare for His arrival, informing them that He will present a covenant with them in His own voice and by His own hand. Keep in mind that Yeshua was with God in the beginning and is God (John 1 and 1 John 1), so the Groom is going to be there too! Before Israel even sees the written covenant – the ketubah – they burst out a reply! “Everything Yahweh says, we will do.” They have seen everything that He has already done to fulfill His promises to their forefathers and to rescue and provide for them thus far. They are completely in love with and in awe of their Groom! But protocol being protocol, they must prepare and wait, and do things in proper Kingdom order.
The third day arrives and Yahweh’s shofar sounds, getting louder and louder and louder until they can barely stand it. The King of the Universe descends to Mt Sinai. They hear His voice. The mountain shakes. He comes as fire and wind. There is thunder and lightning. This is one big shindig of a Day of Betrothal! Israel is shaking in their wedding boots…and they should be! They are about to unite themselves with the Creator of the Universe. Moses and Aaron ascend the mountain and receive the ketubah – the wedding covenant that spells out the details of what Israel’s life as his Bride in His Household and Kingdom is to be like.
Moses and Aaron return to the people, telling them everything that Yahweh and their Groom had spoken concerning their betrothal relationship with Him. Their reply again was, “We will obey every word Yahweh has spoken.” Moses then wrote down everything Yahweh had spoken to them and made offerings and sacrifices on behalf of all twelve tribes – sealing their covenant with their Groom in blood. The wedding agreement had become binding and eternal. Moses reads the Book of the Covenant – the Ketubah – to the Bride named Israel so that they can hear it word for word. They again respond, “Everything Yahweh has spoken, we will do and obey.” Moses sprinkles them with the blood of the sacrifices, sealing them in their wedding covenant with their Husband King.
At this point in this incredible Betrothal Ceremony, Yahweh calls Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s two sons, and seventy leaders of Israel up the mountain to finalize the sealing of this relationship. All 74 persons see the God of Israel. In fact, for seven days they now eat a meal before Him – a wedding feast that includes a Covenant Meal of bread, salt and wine. Moses is then called further up the mountain where Yahweh gives him the stone tablets with the Ten Words that are to be constant reminders of all the terms of their Ketubah. These Ten Words are inscribed upon these pieces of stone by Yahweh’s own finger. Why? So that Moses can teach them to the people – to His Bride – exactly as Yahweh had written them. Moses spent 40 days and nights with Yahweh as the King of the Universe instructed Him on the ways of His Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” The Wedding Covenant – Israel’s Ketubah with Yahweh – is signed and sealed. Israel, the Bride and nation chosen to be fully set apart from the ways of the world, is now fully His. The King of the Universe is now fully Israel’s Groom and King.
Thought the Ketubah was written on stone and Moses would soon record every word on the scrolls that would become the Torah, were these Words etched upon the heart and mind of the Bride? No, not yet. Someday they would be. That would happen on a second Pentecost. The Ketubah of Mount Sinai would have to be restored to her – and her heart restored to Him. The Father and the Groom knew that the Bride would become unfaithful and be scattered among the nations. Many of her would completely forget their identity. All of them would have to return to Him. The prophetic story of Hosea and his bride would come fully to life. The Groom would have to die to make the salvation and restoration of the Bride possible. He would need to become more to them than King and Groom. He would become their Messiah – the Door of Hope that would make a way for them to return to their First Love.
Paul calls those who accept Yeshua the Messiah and the Ways of His Kingdom “no longer foreigners, but citizens” of Israel. Both the natural olive branches (the Jews) and the wild olive branches (the rest of us) must be grafted again into the Olive Tree – the true Israel whose root is the Root of Jesse, Yeshua, the Living Word of Yahweh. When Paul speaks of those who belong to Yeshua as His Bride, he is not referring to the Western Church – be it Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox or Protestant. He is speaking of those who are the true descendants (the seed) of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph – those Jews and Gentiles alike who have received grace and mercy from the King of Israel and have been restored to their position as His Bride, Israel. He is speaking of those who love and honor their Husband King with their whole being and show that love in their willing adaption and obedience to His Ways. The Father has his eye on the Bride that has returned to the Ketubah and is fully preparing herself for her Groom. When she is ready, He will send the Son for her so that the Wedding Day and it’s week of Feasting can commence. Our eternity with the Groom will have just begun!
That second great Pentecost of Acts 2 empowers us with God’s Holy Spirit to live by our Wedding Covenant upon the earth just as Yeshua did at His first coming. Just like our Groom, we can live day by day no longer in our own weak human effort, but by His Spirit. Our Groom has made the way for us! We are a free Bride, learning to live within the context of His Kingdom. We are an empowered Bride, enjoying His abundance in the context of His Kingdom. Although our Wedding Day is still in the future, we already carry the authority of His Kingdom so that we can change this world NOW– helping all those around us with His extended hand working through us. We need not fret over what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust. Our Husband King has defined that for us in the pages of our Wedding Ketubah. By HIs own Spirit He has taken those words and written them on our heart and in our minds. By His own life on earth He set the example what a life of mercy and grace towards others looks like within the realm of His Kingdom. We certainly do need not seek wisdom and understanding from the world’s systems or its false gods and religions. Our Husband King has provided His wisdom for every area of our lives through His Word…and His Spirit helps us to understand and apply His wisdom.
I hope that you are catching just a glimpse of the beauty of Shavu’ot and the significant role it holds in our love story with our Groom. This is the annual celebration of our Day of Betrothal to the King. Our Covenant of Marriage is not a light thing that can easily be broken. No. In His Kingdom our betrothal is eternally binding. We are both His Bride and His Wife. We are married not only by His Word, but to His Word – the Living Word who is Yeshua HaMashiach. The written covenant of Mt Sinai is on the pages of our Bible AND on upon the hearts and minds of those who have received His forgiveness and restored our relationship with Him.
Our Husband King is preparing a place for us in His Father’s household – His Kingdom. He will come for our Great Wedding Day the moment the Father says to him, “Son, go get your Bride.” The wedding shofar of heaven will sound. He will fight for us again, destroying our enemies and our great Enemy. He will establish our rightful place beside Him as He rules over the earth from His throne in Jerusalem.
Shavu’ot is His appointed time to celebrate the anniversary of our Mount Sinai Day of Betrothal to the King and the anniversary of His Acts 2 restoration of us, His Bride, to that position. We are empowered by His own Spirit dwelling in us to fully live in His Ways and purposes as royal ambassadors of His Kingdom to all those living on the earth. We are His Bride, Israel, preparing ourselves for our Wedding Day. We are full focused on adapting our nature to His and our daily lifestyle to the Ways of His Kingdom. Our hearts should be filled with honor, gratitude, love, and joy as we celebrate this festive day given to us by our Husband King!
“On that day,” says ADONAI “you will call me Ishi [My Husband]; you will no longer call me Ba`ali [My Master]. For I will remove the names of the ba`alim [pagan gods of this world] from her [Israel’s] mouth; they will never again be mentioned by name. When that day comes, I will make a covenant for them with the wild animals, the birds in the air and the creeping things of the earth. I will break bow and sword, sweep battle from the land, and make them lie down securely. I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in grace and in compassion; I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you will know ADONAI. When that day comes, I will answer,” says ADONAI. “I will answer the sky, and it will answer the earth; the earth will answer the grain, wine and oil, and they will answer Yizre`el [God will sow]. I will sow her for me in the land. I will have pity on Lo-Ruchamah [Unpitied]; I will say to Lo-`Ammi [Not-My-People], ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ “ — Hosea 2:16-23 (Complete Jewish Bible)
May our Shavu’ot celebration this year bring great revelation and joy to each of us! Chag Sameach Shavu’ot!