BY JIM HUTCHENS—
Shavuot is what the Bible refers to as “Feast of Weeks.” Most non-Jews don’t have the foggiest idea what it means. The Greeks called it “Pentecost,” from a Greek word meaning 50. It is called “Pentecost” in the New Testament. Today, Christians acknowledge Pentecost fifty days after Resurrection Sunday or Easter. It’s the day Christians memorialize the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell those who believe in Jesus as Messiah, Redeemer and Savior.
In the Torah, however, it is called the “Feast of Weeks” because it is the 50th day after Pesach or Passover. Shavout was a major festival instituted by God through Moses.
Christians and those of us who have become children of Abraham by faith see Shavuot as an occasion to look back to our roots. And we find that in our roots our genealogy has led us straight back to our heritage…. to our Jewish elder brothers (and sisters). Let me explain.
Shavuot is one of the 3 Pilgrim Festivals God gave through Moses to the children of Israel. These festivals were not suggestions. They were commands. They were command performances. Moses said in Deuteronomy 16:16-17,
“Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place He will choose:
(1) at the Feast of Unleavened Bread,(Passover)
(2) the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and
(3) the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”
There are two traditions that are recognized at Shavuot that are especially encouraging to Christians, as we seek to honor Israel and show our support of the Jewish people.
First, it has to do with the giving of the Torah. Traditionally, Shavuot is considered the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 19:1, Moses wrote, “In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt – on the very day – they came to the Desert of Sinai.” 50 days after celebrating Passover and leaving Egypt, Moses and all the children of Israel came to Mt. Sinai. There, 50 days after the Exodus, Moses received straight from God’s own hand the Covenant, the 10 commandments, and all the laws that were to govern God’s people forever.
So, why is Shavuot special to Christians? Because Christians, specifically Christian Zionists, believe in the ultimate authority of the Torah as the very word of God. Because of our faith and belief, we share a common heritage with our Jewish ancestors, who brought to us the faith in the One True God – the God of Israel.
Because we believe in Torah, we believe God’s covenants with the Jewish people are inviolable and valid today. We believe that the land promised to the Jewish people is theirs and theirs alone. We believe God is re-gathering his people to the land He promised to them as a National homeland.
Because we believe in Torah, we believe in Israel’s right to exist. We believe “The Two-State Solution” is not of God. It’s because we believe in Torah that we stand with Israel and the Jewish people. It is NOT because we look to some end-time Armageddon scenario in the future.
Secondly, we celebrate Shavuot because we identify with Ruth. Shavuot is important to us as Christian Zionists because at Shavout, the Book of Ruth is read. Why is the book of Ruth so important?
The story of Ruth is important because Ruth was a Gentile who linked herself with Judaism. As a woman of Moab, she married a man of Judah – but her Jewish husband died. Now what was she to do? Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law encouraged her to simply return to her “own people.” “Don’t’ ask me to do that”, Ruth said. She would not go back. Ruth’s story is famous for the pledge she makes to Naomi:
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth was loyal to Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law. More importantly, she was loyal to the God of Israel. Ruth insisted on returning to Israel. Later, she again followed her mother-in-law’s guidance when she is told to glean in the fields of Boaz.
As a result, Ruth proceeded to win the love of Boaz, a close family relative who redeems her. Boaz marries Ruth and they have a son. And Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David which places her in the ancestral blood line of the Messiah.
Ruth, a non-Jew who made a pledge to her Jewish mother-in-law, serves as the model today for the Christian Zionist’s unqualified support of the Jews. It serves as a model of our pledge to Israel, the Jewish people and the God of Israel.
Ruth has become the “patron saint,” if you will, of Christian Zionists. We are the heirs and spiritual descendents of this godly woman. Her example is our cause. As Ruth placed her fate with Naomi, we choose to join our fate with Israel and the Jewish people.
The question is – why is this important in our time?
It’s important because of:
(1) The existential threats to the survival of the Jewish people mounting world-wide.
(2) Radical, Muslim anti-Semitism is pervasive throughout the world of Islam.
(3) Anti-Semitism is reaching a fevered pitch in Europe – to a degree not seen since the 1930’s.
(4) The Middle East is a tender box. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad has denied the first holocaust ever happened. Yet, has vowed to “wipe Israel off the map,” in what is a call for nothing short of a second holocaust. And Iran’s race toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons makes the threat even more real.
(5) Iran supports, trains, and equips the most vicious and barbaric terrorists groups in existence today. These groups include Hamas, Hizbollah and Al Qaeda.
(6) All of these terrorist groups have targeted Israel and the United States for extinction.
(7) Proponents of this vicious Anti-Semitism try to hide under the “veil of anti-Zionism”….in the “politically correct” halls of elite academia.
Anti-Semitism is in fact anti-Zionism. It also has something very important to do with Christians.
A recent poll showed that 53% of those in tenured academia in this country have an unfavorable view toward evangelical Christians.
Contempt for Jews and Christians is growing exponentially in our college and university classrooms – many paid for and endowed by Saudi Arabian Wahabism.
It appears that things will indeed get much worse before they get better.
The question we ask is: What are we Christians going to do about this? How will Christian Zionists respond to all this?
On April 30, 2010 the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC hosted a ceremony to Honor the Righteous Among the Nations. The Ambassador of Israel, H.E. Michael Oren, honored a Dutch pastor and his wife who had provided a safe house for Jews in Amsterdam during WWII. Rachel Goldberg, the granddaughter of one of the Jews who was saved from the holocaust, had come to the U.S. for the ceremony. During his remarks, Ambassador Oren noted the question that many Jews had at that time was, “do we stand alone?” “No,” asserted the Ambassador, was the answer that many Christians gave by providing safe houses for Jews during WWII. And then he raised this very pointed question, “would we do the same?” I am bold to believe there will be an army of God’s people who will rise to the occasion and say, “no, you are not alone!”
But if the days ahead do turn darker and more foreboding, what then?
If we are indeed re-living the days of the 1930’s – as many Jewish and Christian leaders assert – if history is repeating itself, where will the Christian Zionists be and what will they do?
What will be the role of the spiritual descendants of Ruth? Perhaps a little history is helpful at this point.
• Prior to the outbreak of WWII there were approximately 8 million Jews in Europe.
• 6 million were exterminated in Hitler’s ovens.
• About a million emigrated to America, Canada, Palestine and elsewhere.
• Approximately 1 million were provided safe haven in the very midst of areas controlled by Hitler’s Third Reich. How could that have happened? It happened because of people like the Dutch pastor and his wife risking their lives to save the Jews of their day.
Ann Frank’s story is well known to most of us. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Ann Frank and her family moved to Amsterdam in 1933, after the Nazis gained power in Germany. There they were trapped by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
As persecutions against the Jewish population increased, the family went into hiding in July 1942, in hidden rooms in her father Otto Frank’s office building. After two years in hiding, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Seven months after her arrest, Ann died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her father Otto, the only survivor of the group, returned to Amsterdam after the war ended, to find that Ann’s diary had been saved. The Diary of Ann Frank tells her story. But also in Amsterdam at the same time, perhaps not as well known to our Jewish friends, was the heroic story of Corrie Ten Boom and her Christian Zionist family.
By 1942 she and her family had become very active in the Dutch underground, hiding refugees. The Ten Boom family was able to rescue many Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazi SS. The family’s work in saving Jews was motivated by their staunch Christian Zionist beliefs. They helped and befriended Jews. They did not ask them to convert in order to get help. In fact, the Ten Boom family provided them Kosher food and honored the Sabbath. On February 28, 1944 (because of a Dutch informant) the entire Ten Boom family was arrested. They were sent first to political concentration camps in the Netherlands. Later they were sent to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. Here Corrie’s father and sister died.
Miraculously Corrie was released in December 1944. In the movie The Hiding Place, Corrie tells of her release from camp, saying that she later learned that her release had been a clerical error: and in fact, the women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release. Corrie Ten Boom was declared a member of the Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel in December 1967.
For her work in aiding the Jewish people she was invited to plant a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem, near Jerusalem. Rabbi Daniel Lapin has commented with regret on how little Corrie ten Boom is known among American Jews. The fact is that approximately one million Jews survived the holocaust because of the sacrificial efforts of a multitude of Corrie Ten Booms. This should be an encouragement to both Jews and Christians.
I relate these stories to pose this question, “Are we possibly living in days when God will again have to raise up a host of Corrie Ten Booms – an Army of the descendants of Ruth – who will make her same pledge of commitment?”
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”One of the clearest and most vivid memories of my early childhood was of my great grand-mother Mendenhall who lived in Westfield, Indiana. She was from a long standing family of Quakers. They were abolitionists – they were pro-active against slavery. I remember it as though it was yesterday – she took me down in the basement of her home. There against the dark side of one wall was a large open cabinet with shelves – it looked like a book case. It was filled with canned goods and preserves. Then, without saying a word, she reached to right side of the cabinet and began to pull it toward her. Amazingly, the book case was on hinges and opened up like a door. There behind the bookcase was a room carved out of the dirt in the basement -about 8 feet square. In it was still a small table and a couple of old ladder back chairs.
“Sonny” she said, (she always called me Sonny), “this is where we hid the negro slaves who were making their way north to Canada. God blessed our home. We were privileged to be one of the safe houses of the Underground Railroad. Someday Sonny, maybe God will bless you like that.” I have been blessed in this life and I don’t know how God may bless it in the future. But I do know this – as some of you know – there is already a line of safe houses in western Canada going south to the Texas-Mexico border. In eastern Canada there is a series of hiding places going south to Florida.
I know of a retired Colonel who built a new home in one of our southern states. In that home are 3 different hiding places. When I saw them I remembered my Grandmother Mendenhall’s little safe haven carved out of the dirt in her basement.
And who are these modern safe houses for? Hopefully no one. Hopefully they will remain empty and unused until Messiah comes. This kind of thing couldn’t happen again – Not in the land of the free and the home of the brave – Could it?
Most people didn’t think it could happen in sophisticated, intellectual and highly civilized Germany of the 1930’s. Six million Jews questioned whether it could happen. They perished.
A million were able to escape in time.
A million were saved in safe houses – by many who were Christian Zionists.
We must ask the question no one wants to ask. Could this happen again?
Today, in the 21st century, some, including a former President of the United States, speak of there being “too many Jews.” Is anyone listening?
Others boldly say their goal, their solution, is to wipe Israel off the map. Is anyone listening?
Some countries do not allow Jews to even enter. Does anyone notice?
Some call for the destruction of the cancerous lump called Jews. Is anyone listening?
Some call for the downfall of Israel and the United States. Is anyone listening?
Could it happen again? We fervently pray that it will never happen again. We pray good people and nations will have the courage to resist the appeasement of this madness. But, if it ever does happen again, I will tell you, there will be those descendants of Ruth – an army of Christians Zionists, empowered by the Holy Spirit who vow the pledge of Ruth:
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
May I say, the pledge of Ruth is not the shallow commitment of the “summer soldier, or the sunshine patriot.” Indeed, it is much more. General Orde Wingate, the passionate British Christian Zionist, who trained so many of the early leaders of the Israel Defense Forces, loved to quote a line from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim:
“Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather”
We say to Israel, the Jewish people, to their enemies, to our political leaders, and to our religious leaders, we say as clearly and with as much conviction as we possibly can: You are not alone!
While our pledge to Israel and our Jewish friends is unconditional, it would be a great encouragement to Christians if our Jewish friends would affirm that pledge by giving us your blessing.
After Ruth made her unqualified pledge, Boaz who became her husband blessed her when he said;
“May the LORD repay you for the good you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
As Boaz blessed Ruth for her commitment, I want to humbly ask our Jewish friends, to honor us by blessing us with the blessing of Boaz.
We are indeed, in this together. This time, empowered by the Holy Spirit of the God of Israel, we say to the Jews; YOU ARE NOT ALONE NOW, AND YOU WILL NOT BE ALONE IN THE FUTURE! Come wind, come weather! WE will live or die TOGETHER!
A closing note. If you would be interested in being a part of a safe house network, should it ever be needed, please go to “Safe House” link. Follow the instructions and we’ll be in touch with you.