Five Smooth Stones

He (David) took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine. (1 Sam. 17:40)

K. Gallagher

K. Gallagher

My family recently visited the Cherokee National Forest to view the beautiful waterfall in Tellico Plains called Bald Creek Falls. Noted as one of the most scenic and impressive falls in eastern TN, it is also the most accessible. (You can get a great view and photography opportunity right from your car.) We decided to spend the day relaxing up the road along the Tellico River. Though the temperature outside was hot and humid, the river water was a chilling 60 degrees. (One of the reasons it is ideal for trout fish.) Needless to say, the stark contrast of the water and air temperature made this an ideal place to spend a hot summer afternoon.

As I sat on a large rock dangling my feet in the refreshing cold water, I took a survey of the thousands of smooth stones surrounding the riverbed. I bent down to examine stone after stone. Each had its own color, pattern, size, shape, and other unique characteristics. But nearly every single one had soft smooth edges. (Ideal for skipping, my husband and son would tell you.) Just gazing at the constant flow of the water or listening to its soothing rushing sound is enough to invoke feelings of relaxation and wonder. But dialing the lens in closer, looking at the seeming mundaneness of pebbles and stones, conjured up thoughts of another person that obviously enjoyed the brook, the young King David.

When faced with the threat of an enemy army and their champion giant, it wasn’t the king’s armor or sword that David chose to wield. No, this shepherd went with what he knew best, his trusty old sling shot. His choice of ammunition? Five smooth stones from the brook or river. Before we get into his choice of picking up five stones, let’s look at the Hebrew word used here for brook. It is different than the word for river used in Genesis 2:10, where I examined the The Rivers of Eden.

In Hebrew, the word is nachal spelled nun, chet, lamed.[1] It is indeed a stream, brook, or river. But what struck me is its verbal root, also nachal,[2] which means to inherit, to occupy, to bequeath, or to possess. In other words, David drew his ammo from the only trustworthy source: from the living waters of the promises of YHWH. David knew that Saul’s armor had not been tested, but there was One that had never failed David in the past. David took from the inheritance he had in YHWH Tz’vaot.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Sam. 17: 45-47)

What made David so sure that he could defeat the giant, Goliath? After all, he was the youngest of his brothers and was much smaller in stature than King Saul. I believe it was because he knew who he was in the eyes of Elohim (God). Shepherding the flocks of his father Jesse had given him valuable experience in not only tending to the vulnerable, but also in defeating mighty beasts. And that’s exactly what David compared Goliath with, an uncircumcised beast.[3]

David knew that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) would always prevail over the nephesh/flesh of a beast whether that beast is an actual beast of the field, or if it is a man living in the beast’s image. David had already chosen to live after the image of Elohim (God). Those made in the image of God RULE over all creatures, great and small.[4] Goliath was no exception and David had complete faith in this truth from the Word of YHWH.

Though the giant taunted Israel with threats for forty days[5], invoking great fear in the king and army of Israel, David could “see” beyond his natural sight. I believe this is figured not only in the source of his ammunition, but in the number of stones that he chose to wield.

Why Five?

In Hebrew, a stone or eben, is a contraction of the words father and son (av + ben).[6] This is why a stone is not only strong, but a far worthier choice of ammo against the enemy. What is stronger than the Father and the Son? Nothing! If this is true, why did David choose five stones when it only took ONE stone to defeat the great giant?

K. Gallagher

K. Gallagher

I believe that YHWH loves metaphors and figurative language. Literary devices such as these are what give depth and dimension to any story, report, poem, song, dream, or vision by conveying multiple facets and angles in very little space. Thus, details matter greatly and can often reveal a sharp angle that is cut just so that the story sparkles only when it is held and turned slowly in the LIGHT. A less diligent examination would miss this beautiful twinkle and some of the story’s dimension.[7]

Five is the number of strength and power as the fifth manifestation of the Holy Spirit. (Is. 11:2) This power is what fueled the first global migrations of the birds and fish created on the fifth day of creation. Just in case we missed this connection with creation and the number five, it says in 1 Sam. 17:48 that when Goliath went to meet David in battle, that David “ran quickly” to meet him. The word for ran (rutz) is the same root word used to describe the movement of the creatures created on day five. Quick flowing movement is a trademark of those filled with YHWH’s Spirit of Power.

For more symbolism found in the number five, please see my article: Hebrew Numbers 1-10. For now, consider that there are FIVE books of Moses or Torah. The Ten Commandments were written on two stone tablets, each with FIVE commands. FIVE is associated with grace, the gospel, and anointing.

Though it only took one smooth stone to defeat Goliath, David picked up five, a clear indication that the Torah (Word) is what defeats a beast. Our greater King David, the Messiah Yeshua, was likewise taunted (tempted) for forty days. Like David, He overcame the adversary with one smooth stone by quoting one of the FIVE books of Torah. (Deuteronomy, the fifth book) Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The hints of the number five are one example of many precious stones scattered throughout the Biblical text. When the Light hits them just right, our (spiritual) eyes see the connections that thread the entire Bible together in one seamless and flawless tapestry. The same story is told again and again in simple and progressively more detailed and varied ways. That story is the good news or the gospel.

So, Why Are the Stones “Smooth”?

The answer to this question came to me as I sat by the river examining the multitude of smooth stones and pebbles. If the Word is in us, we become the stones that cry out in triumph.[8] We have become One with the Father and the Son.[9] The constant washing of the water of the Word wears down all of our rough and crooked edges. Like the river stones, this is a slow process, a journey if you will, down the bumpy and twisted path of life.

K. Gallagher

K. Gallagher

Each impact, trial, and toss that the Living Water subjects us to, wears, carves, and sculpts us into the image of Elohim. The persistent and consistent rush of tiny water droplets beats things that offend off of us until we are as smooth as one of David’s five stones. (And the Word of God)

God chose the story of David and Goliath to be one of the first impressions we are given about King David. Why do you think this is so? Could it be that He wanted us to know how “a man after His own heart[10] defeated the beast without AND the beast within (nephesh/flesh)? We do see David battling both throughout his lifetime. One quality seems to stand out with David and it’s not perfection. He committed serious sin in his lifetime. But like the water, David was persistent and consistent to turn (repent) and let God continue the good work He began in David. As such, he became a “living stone” and a role model for us.

I think YHWH expects us to sit by a river and meditate on the smooth stones and the rushing water. This natural phenomenon has deep spiritual implications. The Father’s Light (water) is always trying to penetrate our thick skulls (and hearts). But like the hard rocks, we must yield to the soft water (of the Word). The will of God is evident: He desires for us to be the Living Stones in His House.

“You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah.” (1 Peter 2:5)

 I want to leave you with the following passage from the Book of Revelation. This section speaks about our future inheritance (nachal). Like David, we can draw from this truth right now when we have a giant to face. Life is hard and trying. If you find it easy, you might not be in the River getting worn and washed by the Word. Rejoice in your current battle, circumstances, and trials. Move fluidly and without fear as David did; for each step will only make you smoother in the New Jerusalem!

 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev. 21:9-27)


[1] Strong’s number 5158.

[2] Strong’s number 5157.

[3] 1 Sam. 17:34-37

[4] Gen. 1:26-28

[5] Forty is a time of completeness as a multiple of four. It especially marks a period of testing and trial. By the time David arrives on the scene, this period has reached its peak and David, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh (4), is ready to move in strength and power (5) against this insolent head of a beast. For more on the symbolic meaning of numbers, see Hebrew Numbers 1-10 or Misparim.

[6] See Frank T. Seekins’ Hebrew Word Pictures under Aleph.

The Hebrew words “stone” (eben) and “son” (ben) were spoken by the Messiah in a play on words in Matthew 3:9, “And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones (eben) God is able to raise up children (ben) to Abraham.”

Luke 19:37-40 records Yeshua making another comparison to His people (ben) and stones (eben).

[7] Don’t let this reality cause you or those you love to despair. The wisdom of YHWH is all encompassing. The plain, simple, one-dimensional surface meaning of His Word is enough for the smallest child and any of us. The joy is that no matter our I.Q. or developmental stage, the Word is Alive! From the shallow pools to deepest depths, the nuances, patterns, analogies, symbolism, chiasms, numbers, and codes are in His Word for the unearthing. No matter who or where you are, the Word has just what you need and more. There is something for everyone, no matter your maturity level. I don’t know about you, but I find this most extraordinary and exhilarating!

[8] See notes in footnote 6.

[9] “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)

[10] 1 Sam. 13:14

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Hebrew Numbers 1-10

This is a reference post for those of you interested in Hebrew letter/number symbolism. You will be able to see related articles and reference information under the new menu heading Misparim — of which I will be adding to periodically. 

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One Achat [f.], echad [m.] Oneness, Unity, Primacy, First, Beginning. Single and not plural, not subject to multiplicity or division. (1×1=1) One remains one, it does not change. God is One. (Dt. 6:4) There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father. (Eph. 4:4-6)

  • First Hebrew letter: Aleph (Meaning strength, ox, leader, first)
  • On day 1 of creation (one day), light is separated from darkness. Instead of indicating division, this demonstrates the set-apartness of God and His Light. This day is called tov or good. It is akin to being called out.
  • First Feast: Pesach (Passover) Lev. 23
  • First Spirit of God: Chokhmah (Wisdom) Is. 11:2
  • First Church of Revelation: Ephesus (Meaning First, Desirable, or Permitted)

Hebrew_NumbersTwo   Shtayim [f.], shnayim [m.] Divide, division, oppose, judge, discern, witness, conflict, blessing, abundance. Context determines meaning. Ideally, 2 should mirror 1, as in the “two shall become one flesh”: 2 great commandments (love God/love neighbor), 2 houses of Israel, 2 sticks, 2 sisters, 2 olive branches, 2 silver trumpets, 2 leavened loaves on Shavuot, 2 cherubim guard Ark of the Covenant, 2 good spies (Joshua and Caleb). What is opposite is meant to complement for a blessing, not bring division and conflict.

  • Second Hebrew letter: Beht (Meaning house, tent, sons/daughters, to build, as a preposition “in”) 1st letter of the Bible is an enlarged beht.
  • On day 2 of creation, the heavenly and earthly waters are separated; this creation day is not marked as tov (good). Heaven and earth are meant to reflect (mirror) one another in oneness.
  • Second Feast: Matzah (Unleavened Bread) Lev. 23
  • Second Spirit of God: Binah (Understanding) Is. 11:2
  • Second Church of Revelation: Smyrna (Meaning Myrrh)

Three   Shelosh [f.], sheloshah [m.] Gather, resurrection, balance, equilibrium, pattern, trees, counsel, and strength. Three brings harmony and unity to opposites like 1 and 2. Three creates a solid or a foundation and makes the first geometric shape (triangle). The sequence of 3 makes a chain of continuity: 3 patriarchs, 3 woes, 3rd day, 3 primary manifestations of the Godhead, 3 ply cord, 3 witnesses, 3 kings of united Israel, 3 primary missionary journeys of Shaul (Paul). Messiah was in grave for 3 days and 3 nights. (Sign of Jonah/resurrection)

  • Third Hebrew letter: Gimel (Meaning to ripen, reward, recompense, benefit, foot, camel)
  • On day 3 of creation, the waters are gathered together, dry land appears, and the first seeds, plants, and trees spring to life.
  • Third Feast: Yom HaBikkurim (Early Firstfruits of Barley) Lev. 23
  • Third Spirit of God: Etzah (Counsel) Is. 11:2 (Root for etzah is etz, a tree.)
  • Third Church of Revelation: Pergamum (Meaning height or elevation)

Four   Arbah [f.], arbahah [m.] Authority, government, rule, dominion, calendar, time, creation, kingdom, fullness, receiving Torah (Law) and Holy Spirit. Judah was 4th born son and has the scepter of rule. Pictures completeness much like seven. 4 matriarchs, 4 corners of the earth, 4 horns on altar, 4 tassles (tzit-tziyot), 4 living creatures, 4 horsemen, 4 rivers of Eden, 4 winds, 4 gospels, etc.

  • Fourth Hebrew letter: Dalet (Meaning door, draw out or in, knock, path, way, bough, branch)
  • 7 loaves fed four thousand with 7 baskets leftover. (Mt. 15:32-39)
  • On day 4 of creation, the sun, moon, and stars are placed in the sky (natural light) to govern the moedim (feast days). They mark time and give signs. Their natural light separates from the darkness.
  • Fourth Feast: Shavuot (Pentecost) Lev. 23
  • Fourth Spirit of God: Ruach Adonai (fullness of Holy Spirit) Is. 11:2
  • Fourth Church of Revelation: Thyatira (Meaning perfume, odor of affliction, sacrifice of labor, or castle Thya)

Five   Chamesh [f.], chameeshah [m.] Power, strength, alertness (wake-up!), Torah, grace, service, gospel, fruitfulness, going forth, fast movement. Incense and anointing oil had 5 ingredients. We are empowered by the Word (Torah) and the Spirit. All is given by God’s mercy and grace. 5 Books of Torah, 5-fold ministry, David’s 5 smooth stones defeat Goliath, fruit from fruit trees is fit to eat in the 5th year.

  • Five loaves fed five thousand, leaving 12 baskets leftover. (Mt. 14:16-21, a story in all 4 gospels)
  • Fifth Hebrew letter: Hey (Meaning breath, behold, definite article “the”, to make known)
  • On day 5 of creation, the birds and fish were created. They move fast and carry seed throughout the whole earth in their migrations. Like them, we are anointed and filled with the Spirit to carry God’s Seed, the Gospel throughout the earth.
  • Fifth Feast: Rosh Hashanah/ Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) Lev. 23
  • Fifth Spirit of God: Gvurah (Power) Is. 11:2
  • Fifth Church of Revelation: Sardis (Meaning red ones, prince of joy, escaping ones, or those who come out)

Six   Shesh [f.], sheeshah [m.] Image, man, beast, flesh, sacrifice, intimacy, finished work, knowledge, number of man and beast, antichrist, idol, and eternal judgment. Six usually refers to the works of man, but ideally represents sacrificial love and intimate knowledge. When the latter is forsaken, only idolatry and flesh remain. We are either projecting the image of God or the image of the beast (flesh).

  • Sixth Hebrew letter: Vav (Meaning hook, nail, to connect, tent peg, add to, as a conjunction = “and”)
  • On day 6 of creation, beasts of the field (land creatures) and mankind (male and female) were created. Mankind is designed to rule.
  • Sixth Feast: Yom HaKippurim (Day of Atonements) Lev. 23
  • Sixth Spirit of God: Da’at (Knowledge; sacrificial love) Is. 11:2
  • Sixth Church of Revelation: Philadelphia (Meaning brotherly love)

Seven   Shvah [f.], sheevah [m.] wholeness, completeness, rest, and holiness. We rest in the finished work (6) of the Messiah. There are 7 days of creation, 7 Spirits of God, 7 feasts of God, 7 churches in Revelation, 7 stars in Yeshua’s hand, 7 golden lampstands, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls, 7 eyes of the Lord, 7 horns & eyes on the Lamb, 7 abominations (wicked lamp spirits Pr. 6:16-19), etc.

  • Seventh Hebrew letter: Zayin (Meaning plowshare, weapon, sword, to arm, to adorn, to cut, to feed)
  • 1st verse of the Bible has 7 Hebrew words with 28 (4×7) letters.
  • Blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat 7 times on Yom Kippur. (Lev. 16:14) Blood of the chatat (sin) offering was sprinkled before the veil 7 times (Lev. 9:17)
  • 7 of the Ten Commandments are negative and begin with the Hebrew loh, or no/not, as in thy shall not.
  • 7 loaves fed four thousand with 7 baskets leftover. (Mt. 15:32-39)
  • On day 7 of creation, God rested from His work. He set the 7th day apart as holy. 7 transcends the natural and moves into the supernatural. We begin every week (and even every day as the day begins at sunset) by RESTING. This is the pattern from the very beginning. We rest first in the finished work of God, then we go to work.
  • Seventh Feast: Sukkot (Tabernacles) Lev. 23
  • Seventh Spirit of God: Yirat Adonai (Fear/reverence of God) Is. 11:2
  • Seventh Church of Revelation: Laodicea (Meaning justice or vengence of the people)

Eight   Shemoni [f.], shemonah [m.] Literally to “make fat”. New beginnings, not just complete (like 7), but satiated. Becoming “fat” is having more than enough. Full to overflowing. Moves from natural to supernatural.

  • Eighth Hebrew letter: Chet (Meaning wall, fence, protect, new beginning, separation, sin, outside, olam olam)
  • Covenant (pictured in circumcision on 8th day).
  • Transfiguration occurred on the 8th day (Luke 9:28); and Peter wanted to build 3 sukkot (tabernacles) for Yeshua, Moses, and Elijah. This is a direct reference to the season of the transfiguration: Sukkot – the 8-day feast of YHWH!
  • Torah (Law) is elevated to the spiritual realm in Ps. 119 by following an 8 verse alphabetical sequence. (See also Ps. 19:7) Paul says, “the Law is Spiritual” in Rom. 7:14 indicating that it is above the natural realm of carnal flesh.
  • Elijah performed 8 miracles; and Elisha doubled that with 16 (a multiple of 8).
  • Chanukah (a late Sukkot festival) is eight days long. It’s major themes are overcoming darkness and heavenly miracles.
  • Shemini Atzeret, the last great 8th day of Sukkot asks us to linger (add to over flowing) one more day with YHWH.
  • King David, a prefigure of Messiah Yeshua, was the 8th son of Jesse (a multiple of 4 [number for scepter, government, authority, and rule]).

Nine   Tehshah [f.], teeshah [m.]  Last and largest single digit. Signifies finality, judgment, harvest, fruitfulness, the womb, duality (good/evil), concealment, truth, loving-kindness, fruit of the Spirit, turn to look upon/gaze, hour of prayer, etc. When nine reveals what it conceals inside, we see fruitfulness, multiplication, and the building of the House.

  • Ninth Hebrew letter: Tet (Meaning basket, good/evil, snake, surround, knot, twist, spiral, fruitfulness, repentance, judgment)
  • There are 9 fruit and gifts of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23, 1 Cor. 12:8-10)
  • Human gestation lasts 9 months.
  • Feast cycle covers 9 months.
  • 9th hour is hour of prayer. (Acts 3:1; 10:30)
  • Yeshua gave up His Spirit at the 9th hour. (Mt. 27:46)
  • 9 has mathematical properties unlike any other number. (See this article.)
  • 1st recorded biblical war was 4 kings against 5 (4+5=9)
  • End time harvest is marked by wars and rumors of war and great judgment. A harvest cannot be made without separating the wheat from the chaff or without putting a sickle to the heads of grain. (Hence, 9’s association with judgment.)

Ten   Esehr [f.], ahsahrah [m.] Divine order, completed cycle, measure, or group whether for good or evil, blessing or judgment. A tenth part represents the whole in a tithe.

  • Tenth Hebrew letter: Yohd (Meaning hand, work, worship, deeds, fist, power, congregation)
  • Ten Commandments
  • Ten Plagues
  • Abraham endured 10 trials.
  • Israel rebelled 10 times in the wilderness. (Num. 14:22)
  • Foundation of Tabernacle was made from 10 x 10 silver sockets.
  • Fire came down from heaven 10 times (6 were in judgment).
  • Ten Virgins (5 wise, 5 foolish).
  • Ten lost tribes of Israel.
  • Tenth generation represented whole. (Dt. 23:3)
  • Ten generations from Adam to Noah.
  • Minyan is made complete with 10 men.
  • Ten Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
  • Day of Atonement falls on 10th day of Tishrei.

For references, please see footnotes on this page: Misparim

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Know Your Place

The Spirit of Shavuot

After reading this past week’s Torah portion, B’midbar,[1] and celebrating the fourth Biblical festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), I began to think about our various “positions” before YHWH. The Mussar middah (character trait) humility has at its core the question of a person’s proper place. A balanced person neither thinks too highly of himself nor too lowly. Likewise, he or she doesn’t focus too much on self or on the faults of others. This sounds so simple, but the issue of humility is a great struggle for most of us. (Me included!)

signIn parsha B’midbar, YHWH described not only the placement of each individual tribe as they camped, but also outlined the order in which they would travel and go to war. The tribal leaders were named and the duties of the priests for the movement of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were established. YHWH is very specific and organized. There was no question as to one’s duty or placement in the body of Israel. Today, instead of “knowing our place”, we seem to be all over the place in both physicality and deed; each thinking his way, interpretation, or understanding is higher or better.

This creates confusion, not unity. Instead of being united like the believers at Shavuot in Acts Chapter 2, we seem to be more scattered and divided like they were after Messiah’s last Passover and subsequent crucifixion. Using this as a model, we know that Yeshua’s desire was for them to come back together as one people at Shavuot. This is why the risen Messiah told them during the days of the Omer count to go to Jerusalem and WAIT for the promise of being “clothed with power from on high”.

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:49 NASB. See also Acts 1:4)

We all know what happened next.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1 KJV)

When we fully come into the Spirit of Shavuot, we know our proper estate. Can you even imagine how glorious the unity of the people was? Look at what their actions produced; it’s eerily similar to when God spoke the Ten Words to the people standing at the base of Mt. Sinai at an earlier Shavuot:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  (3)  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (4)  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4 KJV)

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  (17)  And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  (18)  Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.  (19)  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Ex. 19:16-19 NASB)

YHWH descended Mount Sinai in fire at the giving of the Ten Commandments and the people trembled. Later He descended in fire again, but this time, instead of manifesting on a mountain, the fire sat upon the people. Like the mountain, the people were not consumed. In both cases, the Word of YHWH went forth like FIRE at the feast of Shavuot!

The people in each of the above examples were unified. I dare say that their theology was NOT what united them. It’s difficult to find two people that have the same opinion on any given matter. Jews have a saying to express this: “two Jews, three opinions”. So what did unite the people? Or better yet, what CAN unify us?

The two most memorable Shavuot festivals have at their heart two great leaders. And there is one trait that both are said to possess that I find most fitting for us to focus on within the theme of unity. Moses is called the most humble man on earth.[2] Later, the one like unto Moses[3] is also called humble.[4] By following Moses’ and Yeshua’s example, it’s not our theology and opinions that binds us into one accord. Rather, it’s our willingness to “know our place” or live in a state of humility.

The Humility of Shavuot

“Always seek to learn wisdom from everyone, to recognize your failings and correct them. In doing so you will learn to stop thinking about your virtues and you will take your mind off your friend’s faults.”Cheshbon ha-Nefesh by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov.

If there is one thing that I notice more than anything on television, the blogosphere, and social media, it is that our focus is continually on the faults of others. I see very little introspection and meekness. As Rabbi Menachem mentions in the above quote, it is by seeking to learn wisdom from EVERYONE that we are enabled to really see our own failings and correct them.

Everyone? Even the heathen, pagan, atheist, and cult follower? Most would squawk that these lost souls have no wisdom. Is this true? The last time I checked, they too were made in the image of God. While they may need redemption, they too are a holy soul and YHWH cares greatly for them. Pride is what causes us to assume that we have nothing to learn from these precious ones.

But this is also true of those that we interact with from the redeemed. Just because Joe Schmoe doesn’t think, believe, or act out his walk with YHWH exactly like you do, doesn’t mean that you are better than him or that he doesn’t have something yet to teach you. Again, it’s PRIDE that keeps us from gathering together. I’ll give you an example from my own life.

Years ago, I was part of a congregation in FL. The local Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church allowed us to meet in their building. I personally don’t think or believe like SDAs. Other than obeying the Sabbath, I thought I didn’t have much in common with these folks. One day, the SDA group asked us to join with them to break bread. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go. My prideful little self secretly thought, “What could they possibly teach me at this point?” I know you’ve never had a thought like that about a person or group, but I freely admit my debauchery to you anyway. :)

FootwashingLong story short, I went… begrudgingly. The meal was fine. It was more or less a communion service in their fellowship hall. Since I associate communion with Passover, I felt that the meal wasn’t quite “accurate”. (More pride.) Then something odd happened. The people rose from their seats and began to break off for a foot washing ceremony. Without anyone leading, spontaneous songs and hymns began to flow from the lips of these people. A sweet Spirit entered our midst and I think my mouth hung open, lol.

Married couples went to one room. Singles of the same sex went off into two other areas (children included). A sink and a stack of basins were in each room for us to gather water. One spouse sat while fresh, warm water was poured over the other’s feet. Song and praise continued to flow throughout the building. It was one of the most touching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The water was just water, but it felt like SO much more than that.

It was SO much more than that! YHWH humbled me in a way that day that I will NEVER forget. Washing someone else’s feet is the epitome of humility. But I honestly believe it takes even MORE humility to have someone else wash YOUR feet.

Feet are the lowest part of our bodies. Since they are what touch the earth and because they are what carry our every weight and burden, they are likened to our nephesh (soul/flesh). They are our beast (of burden). And they get dirty. They, more than any other part of us, need frequent washings. You can walk around in the dirt all day and your hands can remain clean, but not your feet.

Some of you may know that I’m a licensed manicurist. I give pedicures (wash, clean, and manicure of the feet) all the time. I actually enjoy it. I consider it a privilege to care for a person in this way that is often difficult for them to do for themselves. But without soap, sweet ointments, or even toenail polish, the foot washing that I gave and received at that little SDA church has stood out as the best of the best.

Having my feet washed in the presence of YHWH and His people nearly overwhelmed me. The chip on my shoulder fell off the minute the water touched my toes. This is the Spirit of Shavuot. I wanted to separate myself out like the disciples did at Passover and Unleavened Bread, but Abba wanted me to humble myself and gather together with His people in one accord and one place.

Shavout isn’t about perfect doctrine or halachah. It is one of the pilgrimage feasts and as such, it is literally a FOOT festival. You must tame your feet and direct them to Jerusalem to receive the promise of the Father. The journey will make your feet both tired and dirty, but when you arrive, true disciples will be there with fresh water and songs of praise on their lips. Better yet, YOU will be there happy to wash the grime and mud off of your neighbor’s feet.

The heart of the commandments is LOVE. And there is no better way to express the love for your brother than to wash his feet. In a sense, this humble act says; let me wash the dirt from your lower nature. I know walking through life gets your soul muddy. I understand. I too, have a dirty nephesh. Let me refresh you. Allow me to care for you by meeting a need we all share regardless of our theology or lack thereof. I love you anyway. Let me learn something from you. You matter to me.

If we think about Moses and Yeshua, didn’t they do exactly this? Both dealt with imperfect and challenging people. Both humbled themselves and SERVED the people. They knew their place. Instead of calling fire down from heaven to destroy those with dirty feet, they tenderly washed the people.[5] The result was a fiery Word in the mouth of Israel.

Since Shavuot is about the Bride receiving her ketubah (Torah Covenant) and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I thought it would be fitting to conclude with the words of Abigail, a bride of King David. Let’s see what wisdom this model bride can teach us:

woman-kneeling-in-prayerWhen the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” (1Sam. 25:40-41)

Abigail was a humble bride; one any king would desire. She proved this through the selfless action of foot washing. Shavuot beckons us to ask: “What do I do with the feet of those I encounter? Do I step on their toes? Do I turn my nose up at their grime? Or do I bow down low and tenderly wash them clean?” May we become a maidservant like Abigail. When the King comes to take us as His Bride, may we know our place as ones who wash the feet of His servants!


[1] Numbers 1:1- 4:20. B’midbar literally means “in the wilderness”.

[2] Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. (Num. 12:3)

[3] “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Dt. 18:15)

[4] “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:29-30)

[5] Ex. 19:10-11; John 13:5-13

Categories: Moedim, Mussar, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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