A Pattern of Inclusion
Everyone wants to feel included, don’t they? Don’t you? Remember those elementary school games where sides were chosen. One by one the teams were formed. Always the best athletic ones were chosen first. The rest of us were chosen last. Even worse was when there was an odd number and the captains had to decide who would take the last one. That one had to hear the reasons why he shouldn’t be on each team and then one reluctantly allows this, now deflated and ego-broken soul, on their team. Those were the good ole days, right?
Did things really get better as you got older? Sometimes. But, often, the ways of exclusion get subtler and more sophisticated, but the exclusion was still there and still hurt just as much. Why is this? And why does it bleed into every area of one’s life, including religion?
Yet, this was not God’s plan. Believe it or not, God had a plan of inclusion from the very beginning. Does that surprise you? Maybe your thinking about Israel being God’s chosen people. That sounds exclusionary, doesn’t it? Yet, it isn’t. Or, rather, wasn’t supposed to be that way. Let’s discuss these steps of inclusion that God wanted from the beginning.
As you’ve noticed, if you have read many of my posts, a lot of them center around the Jewish feasts. Why is that? Because they are the secret to God’s word and gives us an insight into God’s heart. This time, we’re focusing on Shavuot. This occurred fifty days after Bikkurim, or the feast of Firstfruit. In the land of Israel, this was around the time of the wheat harvest. Yet, the very first Shavuot occurred out in the desert, around Mt. Sinai. Why? Because it set the whole stage of not only what God wanted to do for Israel, but with Israel as well.
How do we know this was the first Shavuot? Recall that the first Pesach (Passover) occurred as the children of Israel made a mass exodus from Egypt. Here is the order of events over the next fifty days:
— Left Egypt: 15th day of 1st month (Nu 33:3 – 1st day of Unleavened Bread)
— Day 1: 16th day of 1st month (First Fruit)
— Day 46: Arrived at Sinai 1st day of 3rd month (Ex 19:1)
— Days 46-47: 2 days of consecration of people (Ex 19:10-11)
— Day 48: God appeared as thunder, lightning, smoke and fire on the mountain, the mountain shook, and God spoke in thunder (Ex 19:16-20). God called Moses up to the mountain, gave him the 10 commandments and other laws; Aaron, his sons and 70 elders of Israel also on mountain worshipped at a distance (Ex 19:20 – 24:3)
— Day 49: Moses wrote down all the words God had given him (Ex 24:4)
— Day 50: Moses read the Book of the Covenant to them, they agreed to it and Moses offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, consecrated the people with “the blood of the covenant.” Moses, Aaron, his sons, and 70 elders of Israel ate with God (likely the Pre-Incarnate Christ) (Ex 24: 4-11)
What’s that you say? Starting to sound exclusionary? Before any agency can help everyone, it must be set up by a select few. This is sort of what was happening here. Yes, God did call them his “chosen people” (Ex 19:5). But, we need to understand why he said that. This was not a statement of exclusion, but a statement of responsibility. They were chosen to be priests to the world (Ex 19:6). That is, they were to be the standard for all other nations to follow. They had been created as a nation here at Mt. Sinai to be the model for other to follow. Starting to sound more inclusionary? Let’s not forget that inclusion does not come without requirements, consequences, and change, but it also comes with many blessings and rewards.
So, this is why Israel was created. Israel was the standard, the banner of God to the world. This was the first step of God’s inclusion for everyone. Did it work? Well, it could have. It could have been glorious. But, no, it failed. Why? Pride. Pride is always exclusionary and never inclusionary. The words “chosen people” became a battle cry rather than an invitation. Consequences occurred.
Yet, God did not give up. He continued to use Shavuot as an example of inclusion. We’ll look at one of those examples next time. Let’s remember that just because God expects change, he is not being exclusionary, but is offering a way of inclusion into something he has for us that will be even more glorious. And that requires faith. Faith is the key. Faith is the pride destroyer.