Pentecost – the gift of the Holy Spirit achieved the goal of the Torah

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people …”(Exodus 19:4-5)

God redeemed the children of Israel from bondage in order to unite them unto Himself.

The journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai took approximately 45 days.[1]  Annually the Jews count seven weeks from the Sabbath after Passover to the giving of the Law. The Law was given on the fiftieth day. Hence this day is commemorated as “Pentecost” (pente meaning fifty in Greek) or Shavuot (meaning ‘weeks’ or ‘the Feast of Weeks’).

The Rabbis describe Mount Sinai as the marriage between God and Israel. The event is however better likened to a betrothal since barriers were erected at the foot of the mountain, and the people were not allowed to approach God, or even commune with Him. The Tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple (Beit haMiqdash) both symbolised Mount Sinai, each placing a thick curtain or veil between the people and the Most Holy Place, where the presence of God resided.

God’s promise to Israel was this: IF you obey My voice indeed, THEN you shall be …” my treasured people. Israel had first to achieve righteousness before the marriage would be consummated. By achieving righteousness the barrier between God and Israel would be overcome.

It is the pursuit of this righteousness that is the ultimate goal of the Jew. Life under the Law requires a strenuous discipline that very few could sustain, were it not for the prospect of this sublime and glorious goal.

There was however another way in which this goal could be achieved. It was said of Abraham, 430 years before the Law of Moses was given, that “he believed in God and He credited his faith to him as righteousness” (והאמן ביהוה ויחשׁבה לו צדקה׃) (Genesis 15:6). If Israel could not achieve the standard of holiness that God desired, would He in His love, compensate for the shortfall? And how, then, would Israel obtain the righteousness it so eagerly desired?

A thousand and some hundred years after Mount Sinai there was another Pentecost. This time it was not Moses who returned from God on Mount Sinai, with the gift of the Law, but Messiah, the Prophet like Moses, who brought from God in the highest heavens, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It was this gift that liberated a remnant of Israel and empowered it to fulfil Israel’s prophetic destiny, namely to be a light unto the nations, by taking the knowledge of God to the ends of the earth. Yet few in this age understand what the gift of the Spirit meant for the Jew in that time – and even today.

Solomon constructed the Temple, meticulous in every detail, according to the prescripts of God. No tool was used on the stonework, to keep it from being defiled.[2] When that building was newly completed and in its pristine state of holiness, before any defiled worshipper could bring in corruption, the shechinah glory of God descended from heaven and filled that place.[3]

After Pentecost, Peter announced to the believing Jews: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).

Since the One described as Holy Holy Holy cannot enter a defiled dwelling place, the indwelling of man’s soul by the Holy Spirit of God is conclusive proof that that soul has been cleansed of all sin and guilt. The New Covenant promise to the Jew was that “I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more”  (Jeremiah 31:33-34)  (אסלח לעונם ולחטאתם לא אזכר־עוד׃).

God gave the Holy Spirit as the proof that righteousness had been obtained – the righteousness that the Jews so earnestly sought through obedience to the Law, but could not achieve. This was the consummation of the marriage. The ultimate goal of the Law is fulfilled by the gift of the Spirit.

Having achieved the goal of the Law, it is pointless to continue to labour away under its prescripts. If someone embarks on a train to reach its destination, they will obviously disembark once they arrive. This is the essence of New Testament teaching on the Law. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit [the proof of righteousness] by observing the Law, or by believing what you heard [the gospel]? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort [works of the Law]?” (Galatians 3:2-4)

The same Spirit that proves our complete forgiveness through faith in Messiah, is also God’s agent of sanctification. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control … Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22, 16-24).

After many years of idolatry and defilement the prophet Ezekiel saw God’s glory depart from the Temple.[4]  In the same way we are told “… do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

[1] Exodus 12:6, 19:1.

[2] Exodus 20:25; 1 Kings 6:7.

[3] 2 Chronicles 7:1-3.

[4] Ezekiel 10:18.