For the week of June 14, 2008 / 11 Sivan 5768
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 8:1 - 12:16
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7 (English: 2:10 - 4:7)
Updated June 15, 2008
The Great Harvest
And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. (Shemot / Leviticus 23:22; ESV)
The biblical festival of Shavuot (English: Weeks or Pentecost) begins this year on the evening of Sunday, June 8. Shavuot is one of the three festivals when, along with Pesach (English: Passover) and Sukkot (English: Booths) all the men of Israel were to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate. One of the traditions of this holy day is the reading of the book of Ruth. This is likely due to the relationship of the directive I quoted at the start to an element in the story of Ruth. Shavuot takes place around the time of the conclusion of the grain harvest and God instructed the people of Israel to leave the edges of their fields and the gleanings for the poor. In the story of Ruth, Ruth the Moabite gathers gleanings in the field of Boaz, the man who will eventually marry her.
The relationship of Shavuot to the story of Ruth foreshadows the great climax of Jewish destiny. When God called Abraham, he promised, "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Bereshit / Genesis 12:3). It was through Abraham's descendants that God would make himself known to all the nations of the world. God chose the Jewish people to be the light of the world (Isaiah 49:6). While the development of the people of Israel was to occur in virtual isolation, separate from the surrounding nations, the day would come when Israel would be God's instrument of world-wide blessing.
Ruth was of a member of one of the people groups with whom the people of Israel were not to intermarry (See Devarim / Deuteronomy 23:3). Yet God in his graciousness not only allowed Ruth to be joined to God's people, but made her the great-grandmother of King David, of whose lineage is the Messiah.
Ruth prefigures the gathering of the nations unto the God of Israel through the Messiah. Ruth's association with the harvest speaks of the great spiritual harvest among the nations. Through Ruth is descended the Messiah, the great representative of Israel and light to the Gentiles, the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.
As the first followers of Yeshua gathered in Jerusalem during the first Shavuot following the return of the Messiah to heaven, Jewish people from all over the Roman empire were in the city for the festival. When God's Ruach HaKodesh (English: the Holy Spirit) came upon Yeshua's followers, they began to praise God in other languages. The Jewish visitors from outside the land of Israel were astonished to hear Yeshua's followers speaking in the languages of the countries from where they had come. Three thousand people came to believe in Yeshua that day.
One may think that this ingathering was the beginning of the anticipated harvest. But most of these new believers were Jewish people. This was not a turning of non-Jews to the God of Israel; it was a turning of Jewish people back to our own God. What was significant about these Jewish people is that they lived in various parts of the Roman Empire and spoke the languages of those regions. By God's Spirit they were now equipped to fulfill God's promise to Abraham. Through these new Jewish Believers the blessing of God would come to the Gentiles, the great harvest had begun - a harvest that has continued to this day.
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