Weekly Devotional: Your Will Be Done

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NASB).

How often do we think about Jesus in the garden on the Mount of Olives? How often do we consider His deep resolve to submit to the will of His heavenly Father regardless of the suffering that lay in front of Him?

We think of the psychological suffering that He went through as He wrestled with God’s will, anticipating His impending physical torture and painful death. But do we ever ask how He was able in that moment to submit to God’s will?

Ancient sources indicate that in the first century, Jews would have recited Deuteronomy 6:4-9 at least once, if not twice, each day. The passage begins, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (NASB).

Some of Jesus’ contemporaries said that reciting this meant accepting the rule of God—because it acknowledged Him as king and placed man in submission to Him and His rule.

The Gospels portray the family of Jesus as a devout Jewish family, so we can assume that He would have recited the “Hear, O Israel” once or twice a day, every day of His life. What kind of impact do you think that had on Him? Every day submitting Himself to the rule and reign of His Father in heaven, submitting to God’s will.

Habit and discipline form in the ordinary and the mundane, not the outstanding or exceptional. When we add up the totality of Jesus’ life against the episodes recorded of Him in the Gospels, we actually have very little of His life recorded.

Yet, it was in those ordinary and mundane moments of His life—His daily habits, discipline, and practice—that His character was formed and shaped. The extraordinary moments in His life we read about in the Gospels grew out of His daily submission to His Father’s will in the ordinary routine of His life.

That ordinary routine—of daily submission to God’s will—prepared Him for His extraordinary ministry, and particularly His ultimate submission to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. He said as much in the garden. But he had trained himself to submit to God’s will, so in the moment of extraordinary personal crisis, He could push aside what He wanted in order to fulfill the will of His Father.

We are all recipients of His obedience. Do we look at the ordinary and mundane moments in our lives as opportunities to build discipline and form habits of submission to God?

The daily routine prepares us for the extraordinary moments when God needs us to act according to His will. Do not despise the ordinary and mundane, for it prepares us for the extraordinary.


Father, today we submit ourselves to Your rule and reign. May Your will be done in our lives today. Prepare us daily to serve and submit to You. Amen.

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Biblical Israel: Ein Gedi

By Marc Turnage

The name Ein Gedi means “spring of the kid (young goat).” Ein Gedi, which is the largest oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, sits between two riverbeds (in Hebrew, nahal, in Arabic, wadi): Nahal David to the north and Nahal Arugot to the south. The oasis contains four springs, Ein David, Ein Arugot, Ein Shulamit, and Ein Gedi, that flow year-round supplying three million cubic meters of water annually. 

The springs have allowed habitation, which dates back to the Chalcolithic period (ca. 4000 B.C.). Its most continuous inhabitation goes from the beginning of the seventh century B.C. until the early Arab period as indicated by archaeological and literary evidence. The book of Joshua locates Ein Gedi within the tribal territory of Judah (15:62). Ein Gedi’s location within the tribal territory of Judah explains David’s use of the oasis when he hid from Saul (1 Samuel 23:29; 24). During the biblical period, a road from the southern end of the Dead Sea and the lands to the east, Moab and Edom, ascended from Ein Gedi into the central hill country towards Bethlehem. 

Although located along the arid shores of the Dead Sea, the fresh-water springs and temperate climate year-round allowed Ein Gedi to flourish as a place of agriculture. Date palms and perfume-producing plants became the primary crops of the oasis. The book of Ben Sira mentions the date palms of Ein Gedi. 

In the first century B.C., the arrival of hydraulic plaster from Italy in Judaea enabled the Jewish leaders, the Hasmoneans, to construct aqueducts at Ein Gedi, which allowed them to expand the agricultural production at Ein Gedi. During the first century B.C. and A.D., Ein Gedi produced a perfume, balsam, which served as the cash-crop of the kingdom of Herod the Great and Judaea. It was exported all throughout the Roman world. Herod the Great’s construction of the palace fortress of Masada, just south of Ein Gedi, served to protect the produce of the balsam.

The dates of Judaea also were exported to Italy. The site of Ein Gedi was destroyed during the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-73) but rebuilt in the years after the revolt and served as a location of a Roman garrison as well as a military and administrative center for the Jewish rebels during the Bar Kochba Revolt (A.D. 132-136). The Romans conquered Ein Gedi at the end of this Jewish revolt. Remains of the Jewish rebels and their belongings were discovered in caves near the oasis of Ein Gedi in the twentieth century.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: A Moment for Awe

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the world we live in? The daily grind, newscasts filled with bad news, an economic downturn, a frightening diagnosis, or simply the distractions of life? It’s easy to be overwhelmed. We can easily lose sight of God amidst the chaos. The world around us can make us feel numb and disconnected.

Life in the ancient world bore its own difficulties; it was a struggle to survive. In the midst of that ongoing struggle, the psalmist allowed himself a moment to let the grandeur and majesty of God to burst into his life.

“Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! … When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him?” (Psalm 8:1, 3-4 NASB).

The psalmist found himself overcome by the awesomeness of God evident in the power of His creation, as well as present in His attention to humanity. The greatness of creation emphasized the majesty of God and made the psalmist feel small, yet he was overcome by realizing that the God of creation placed us into this world He created.

Take a moment. Stop running through life and look at the created world around you. Get beyond yourself and circumstances—the bad news, the endless to-dos, the distractions, and daily grind—and look to the heavens. Not with a passing glance. Recognize that the God who made heaven and earth is mindful of you. Allow a moment for awe. Let the grandeur of creation overwhelm you with God’s majesty.

We tend to use words like “awesome” so frivolously today. It’s become so common that we do not fully allow ourselves to be captured by that which is truly awesome.

The cure for our societal numbness and the feeling of being disconnected is to connect with God, to see Him as He is. Not as the solution to our problems, nor as one who waits upon our needs. He created the entire universe and everything in it. He sustains all of existence and rules over it, even when we don’t see Him.

To encounter true awe, we must go beyond ourselves and come face-to-face with His majesty: “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Create moments of awe in your day. Allow yourself a break from the chaos and distractions of life to capture a new perspective of God, His majesty, and His care for you.

“Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! … When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him?” Amen.

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Biblical Israel: Temple Mount

By Marc Turnage

The Golden Dome of the Rock provides one of the most iconic and recognizable images of any city’s skyline within the world. The Islamic shrine completed in A.D. 692 by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik stands upon the platform of the Temple Mount, which was constructed during the first centuries B.C. and A.D. The Temple Mount refers to the platform and complex upon which stood the Temple constructed by Herod the Great. This was the Temple known to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Peter, and Paul. It stood on the northern end of the eastern hill of Jerusalem, what the Bible calls Mount Zion. 

Around 1000 B.C., David conquered the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and the stronghold of Zion, which sat on the eastern hill. He made this the capital of his united kingdom, Israel. When his son, Solomon, succeeded his father as king, he extended the city to the northern height of the eastern hill where he built his palace, administrative buildings, and the House of the God of Israel, the First Temple. This building remained situated on the height of the eastern hill until the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed it in 586 B.C. The Babylonians carried the Judeans into exile. When they returned to the land around Jerusalem, they rebuilt the Temple, under Zerubbabel. This building underwent renovations and additions in the subsequent centuries; however, our knowledge of this is limited due to the absence of clear descriptions within ancient sources and a lack of archaeological excavation in the area of the Temple Mount.

In the eighteenth year of Herod the Great’s reign as king of Judea, he began a massive remodeling and reconstruction of the Temple area, which ultimately resulted in the construction of the Temple Mount. The construction, which continued into the first century A.D., after Herod’s death in 4 B.C., created a series of four retaining walls that supported the platform, which covered the high point of the eastern hill turning it into the largest enclosed sacred space within the Roman world. The main portion of construction took nine-and-a-half years. Herod apparently oversaw the building of the Temple building, which stood twice the height of the golden Dome of the Rock, and the remodeling of the sacred precincts, an area of five hundred cubits square, during his lifetime. 

The heart of the Temple Mount was the Temple building and the surrounding sacred complex, which including the Court of the Women, the Court of the Israelites, the Chambers of Wood, Oil, Lepers, and Nazirites. Inside the Temple building was the Holy Place, which housed the golden lampstand (the menorah), the Table of Shewbread, and the altar of incense. Beyond the Holy Place was the Holies of Holies, which was entered only by the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement.

The construction of the Temple Mount continued into the first century as the southern and northern portions of the platform expanded. The four retaining walls of the Temple Mount contained gates that offered access onto the Temple Mount platform. The northern retaining wall contained the Tadi Gate, which rabbinic sources claim was not used at all. The Shushan Gate stood on the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, of which portions seem to predate Herod, and it was lower than the other walls that surrounded the Temple Mount. 

The present eastern gate, known as the Golden Gate (or in Arabic, the Mercy Gate) was built much later than the first century. It was sealed, like most of the gates onto the Temple Mount by the Crusader, Knights Templar, who made the Temple Mount their headquarters. The western retaining wall had four gates. Two were upper and two lower, and they alternated lower and upper. The northernmost gate opened onto a street that ran alongside the western retaining wall. Today it is known as Warren’s Gate (named after the British explorer, Charles Warren, who found the gate). 

In the first century an arched bridge spanned from the western hill to the western wall of the Temple Mount. This bridge conveyed an aqueduct that provided water for the Temple worship. The bridge and the arched gateway that provided access onto the Temple Mount were identified by Charles Wilson in the nineteenth century and bear his name today. Today a portion of the western retaining wall serves as the prayer plaza of the Western Wall, a functioning synagogue, a site holy for Jews. In the women’s section of the Western Wall remains of a third gate can be seen. This gate, known as Barclay’s gate, after the American missionary, James Barclay, who discovered it, also provided access to the street that ran along the western wall. 

The fourth and final gate also offered another elevated access onto the Temple Mount platform. It was supported by a large arch with steps that ascended the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. The arch, which was the largest arch in the Roman world at the time of its construction, is known as Robinson’s Arch, bearing the name of the American Edward Robinson who identified the spring of the arch, which is all that remains. The southern entrances of the Temple Mount served the majority of Jewish pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Two large double gates stood at the top of stairs providing access up a ramp onto the Temple Mount platform. Pilgrims entered on the right of the two gates and exited through the left two gates unless they were in mourning. If they were in mourning, they went the opposite direction in order to receive comfort from their fellow worshipers. 

The western and southern retaining walls were built in the first century A.D. Their construction enlarged the Temple Mount platform to the south, which created a large court outside of the sacred precincts. They also supported a large colonnaded structure that stood on the southern end of the Temple Mount known as the Royal Stoa. 

Herod’s Temple and the surround complexes were destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. During the second and third centuries a pagan shrine stood on the Temple Mount. During the period of the Christian Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, a couple of churches stood on the Temple Mount. With the coming of Islam in the seventh century, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque were constructed. These two buildings stand on top of the Temple Mount until today.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: The Blameless Way

“How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:1-2 NASB).

The writers of the Bible, especially the psalmists and prophets, often used parallelism in their writing. It enabled them to state something, then either restate it, expand it, or state its opposite. This literary device is common within Hebrew writing.

In Psalm 119, the psalmist begins with such parallelism: “How blessed are those whose way is blameless.” The second clause explains whose way is blameless—those who walk according to the law of the Lord, i.e., obeying His instruction. 

Blamelessness, then, for the psalmist, doesn’t mean completely living without error; it means walking in the instruction of the Lord. This is how a person’s way can be blameless. When one bases his or her life on pursuing God’s ways, then they are truly blessed.

He continues His blessings by identifying “those who observe His testimonies” as those who “seek Him with all their heart.” So, seeking God with all of one’s heart means pursuing His ways, and the person who lives like this will be blessed.

Studying the Bible means that we have to read it as its authors intended, which requires us to learn how the biblical texts were written. Doing so adds so much value to how we read and understand Scripture and its message.

Embedded within these redundant and expanded clauses in this passage lie valuable insights into how the biblical authors described God and His people. We often find that they view their world, even their relationship with God, so much differently than we do today.

The psalmist gives us incredible insight into how God expects His people to live their lives. If you want your way to be blameless, walk according to His law and instruction. Seek Him with all of your heart by aligning your life with His ways. When you live like this, you will be blessed.


Father, today may we walk in accordance with Your law and instruction, so that our way may truly be blameless. Let us seek you with all our heart by pursuing Your ways. Amen.

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Biblical Israel: Shrine of the Book

By Marc Turnage

The discovery at Qumran of the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 required a suitable place to house them. The American Jewish architects Armand Bartos and Frederic Kiesler were tasked with designing a home for the scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. On April 20, 1965, the Shrine of the Book was dedicated. 

This landmark of modern architecture incorporated elements of the story of the scrolls as well as the community responsible for them to create a special building that symbolized a sanctuary. The architecture of the building seeks to convey the spiritual meanings of light and darkness and rebirth. The Shrine of the Book sits on the campus of the Israel Museum, which is next to Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, key government offices, and the Jewish National Library at the Hebrew University’s Giv’at Ram campus. Its location among institutions of government, history, art, and learning, give it a national importance. Moreover, it acknowledges the Bible and ancient Judaism and their importance to the State of Israel. 

The buildings architecture incorporates several features that seek to tell the story of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The unique white dome of the Shrine of the Book embodies the lid of the jars in which the first scrolls were found. Opposite the whited dome, under which is housed the Dead Sea Scrolls, stands a black wall. The contrast, white and black, symbolize light and darkness two themes that play prominently within the sectarian scrolls of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

One must walk through the black wall to make your way to where the scrolls are housed under the white dome, passing through a tunnel that looks like a cave, but also symbolizes a birthing canal. The idea being that one passes from darkness to light in an act of rebirth. Cases line the walls of this tunnel with scroll fragments and other artifacts discovered at the site of Qumran, which sits on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea. This display seeks to convey daily life at Qumran. 

Passing through the tunnel, one enters underneath the white dome. At the center of the hall, in a case built to represent the handle of the rod used for rolling and unrolling a Torah scroll while one reads, sits a facsimile of the Isaiah Scroll. This scroll, found in Cave 1 at Qumran, contains the complete book of Isaiah. The manuscript of this scroll was written around 100 B.C. In cases around the room are portions of actual Dead Sea Scrolls, the Community Rule, Thanksgiving Hymns, Habakkuk Commentary, and Isaiah from Cave 1, and the Temple Scroll from Cave 11. 

Below the display of the Isaiah Scroll is a lower level that houses a display of the Aleppo Codex. The Aleppo Codex was originally written in Tiberias, Israel in the 10th century A.D. The Aleppo Codex is the Old Testament-Hebrew Bible in book form. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it provided the earliest Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Its text contains traditions of pronunciation, spelling, punctuation, and cantillation handed down within the Jewish community and formalized in the codex by scholars known as “Masoretes.” The Aleppo Codex traveled from Tiberias to Egypt, and then later to Aleppo, Syria. It was smuggled into Israel in the 1950s. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls provide the single most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century. They offer an unparalleled window into the world of ancient Judaism, as well as the history and transmission of the Hebrew Bible-Old Testament.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Do You Guard Your Mouth?

“The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3 NASB).

Our age of social media enables nearly everyone with an opinion to put it out there for others to see. We live in an age where people feel they have the right to comment on just about anything. We “open wide” our lips a lot. And, let’s be honest, even those of us who claim to follow the Lord can often be just as guilty.

The Bible has a great deal to say about guarding our mouths and holding our tongues. It describes the person who does so as wise, prudent, and preserving of his or her life. Similarly, it says a lot about the person who opens wide their lips—describing them as a fool, wicked, and one who will come to ruin.

Words are powerful. They can build up. They can tear down. All people, even children, find their identity in the words spoken to them, whether affirming and loving or harsh. James understood the power of words, which is why he described the tongue as “set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 NASB).

With as much as the Bible has to say about our words, it’s troubling to realize how often the followers of the Lord use their words as weapons against others. We try to wrap such words in a false piety, but the Bible is clear—the one who guards his or her mouth preserves their life.

Too often we separate our life with God from how we treat others. The Bible provides practical instruction for every area of our lives. Following God means that we embrace biblical instruction and live it out in every aspect of our lives, including how and when we speak.

Do you guard your mouth? Or do you open wide your lips? Your answer reflects how well you’ve submitted your life to God’s instruction. Let’s follow Him!


Father, help us to guard our mouths and words. May we speak only life into the lives of others and our world. Amen.

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Biblical Israel: Second Temple Model

By Marc Turnage

The large, scale model of Jerusalem in A.D. 66 offers one of the main attractions at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Hans Kroch, the owner of the Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem, commissioned Professor Michael Avi-Yonah and his students to create the model in honor of Kroch’s son who died in the War of Independence in 1948. Avi-Yonah provided topographical and archaeological detail and architectural design. 

For many years, the model resided at the Holy Land Hotel. Today the model is housed at the Israel Museum. When Avi-Yonah and his students began the project, the Old City of Jerusalem as well as the City of David—the area of biblical Jerusalem—lay in East Jerusalem, which was controlled by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 

From 1948 to 1967, the city of Jerusalem was divided between West and East Jerusalem. West Jerusalem belonged to the State of Israel, while East Jerusalem belonged to the Kingdom of Jordan. East Jerusalem contained the area of biblical Jerusalem, which meant that during the period under Jordanian control little archaeological work and activity was conducted; thus, much of the archaeological information that came to light in the latter part of the twentieth century remained unknown when Professor Avi-Yonah built the model. 

This raises the obvious question: how could he have built such an accurate model of Jerusalem in A.D. 66 without the assistance of archaeological discovery? The answer lies in the rich descriptions of Jerusalem provided by the first century Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus wrote his works for a non-Jewish, Roman audience that had never been to Jerusalem. He provided such a detailed description of the city that using what they knew about the Roman world and the land of Israel in the first century, Professor Avi-Yonah and his students were able to produce this model, which contains a great deal of accuracy. While there are some mistakes within the model, it offers a testament to Josephus and his value as our greatest source on ancient Judaism and the land of Israel in the first century. 

Visitors to the model will notice three primary features. First, Jerusalem in the first century covered much more area than the modern Old City of Jerusalem (which has nothing to do with biblical Jerusalem). 

Also, the city had two principal foci. On its western edge, at the highest point of the city, stood the palace of Herod the Great. The largest of Herod’s palaces, his palace in Jerusalem played host to the wisemen (Matthew 2) and Jesus when he stood before Pilate. On the northern end of palace stood three towers, which Herod named Mariamme, Phasael, and Hippicus. On the eastern side of the city stood the Temple and the enclosure that surrounded it, which made the Temple Mount the largest sacred enclosure within the Roman world in the first century. The Temple provided the economic and religious center of the city. 

Jerusalem in the first century produced nothing; it did not sit on a major trade route. It dealt in religion. Jewish and non-Jewish pilgrims (see Acts 2) streamed into the city from all over the known world three times a year: Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkot. Pilgrims approached the Temple from the south. On top of the Temple Mount today stands the golden Dome of the Rock. To gain perspective, Herod’s Temple, the Temple that Jesus, Peter, and Paul knew, was twice the height of the Dome of the Rock. Looking at the model, visitors gain some perspective of its awesome grandeur. 

The third feature of the city is its walls. In the model, people see three different wall lines. The wall that comes from the south-eastern part of the Temple Mount surrounding the southern and western sides of the city, which turns east and connects at the western wall of the Temple Mount, Josephus calls the first wall. A large wall includes the northern neighborhoods; this is Josephus’ third wall, which was built after the time of Jesus. Inside the third wall, visitors to the model see a second wall. The first and second walls contained the Jerusalem that Jesus knew, which was twice the size of the modern Old City. 

One of the biggest challenges for guides of Jerusalem is helping their groups understand the city’s history and many layers. The model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum offers an excellent visual, as well as a monument to the city at its height in the first century.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: The Promise of the Father

Pentecost (or Shavuot) was one of the three pilgrimage festivals within ancient Judaism. Along with Passover (or Pesach) and the Feast of Booths (or Sukkot), the Law of Moses required every able-bodied male to appear before the Lord on these festivals. In the first century, that meant coming to Jerusalem and the Temple. Luke describes the throngs of pilgrims from all over the world that traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost.

Jewish tradition identified the festival of Pentecost as the time when God appeared to Israel on Mount Sinai and gave them the Torah. God’s appearance at Sinai included fire, wind and sounds. Luke wove these same images into his story in Acts 2. He wanted to draw his reader’s attention back to what God did on Sinai when He gave the Torah to Israel, connecting the giving of the Spirit with the foundation of Israel as a nation.

As the crowds hear the disciples uttering the wonders of God in their various languages, Peter stands up before the crowd and explains that what they have experienced is the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel. Then, he began to preach the good news about Jesus.

Within the book of Acts, the proof God gives of Jesus’ messiahship is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s coming provides the divine evidence that Jesus is truly the Messiah and that God raised him from the dead. The two—the coming of the Spirit and Jesus’ messiahship—are always linked in Acts.

People often focus on other aspects and manifestations of the Spirit, but we can never forget that the coming of the Spirit ultimately testifies that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Messiah, whom He raised from the dead. Peter’s response to the crowd that listened to him: “Repent and be baptized. … And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NIV).

The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost fulfilled God’s promises through Joel. It connected to His act of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. And, most importantly, it testified that Jesus is His Messiah, raised from the dead. Whatever the Spirit’s work is in our lives and in our communities, it should also testify to these things.


Father, thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to testify of the truth of Your Son. Amen.

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Shavuot (Pentecost): The Festival of Weeks

By Julie Stahl

“Observe the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the agricultural year. Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel” (Exodus 34:22-23).

“When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages” (Acts 2:1-4).

What’s the connection between God giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai and pouring out His Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts? They are both celebrated on the biblical Festival of Weeks or Shavuot, known in the New Testament as Pentecost.

Fifty days or seven weeks after Passover, Jewish people celebrate Shavuot (“weeks” in Hebrew). At the same time, Christians celebrate Pentecost (“fifty days” in Greek).

According to Jewish tradition, God called Moses up to Mount Sinai and gave him the Law—the two tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written—as well as the entire Torah on Shavuot.

Rabbi Welton adds, “Some Jewish people feel that the Torah is like the wedding ring between them and God in the spirit of the verse, ‘I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the LORD’” (Hosea 2:19-20). 

He adds, “Each year on Shavuot we renew our nuptial vows to our Beloved. Many people have the custom to stay up all night, engaged in studying Torah to reenact the great excitement and love one has on their wedding night.”

Boaz Michael, founder of First Fruits of Zion, comments: “There’re so many beautiful parallels that take place for Shavuot. Imagine Mount Sinai with the mountains above it, the covenant given to the people of Israel. This reminds us of a chuppah [“canopy”] over a bride and a groom. It tells us that God is making a covenant with His bride, Israel. There’s a marriage that takes place.”

“Shavuot is the culmination of a series of events,” Michael continues. “We’ve finally been freed from slavery in Egypt, we’ve wandered through the wilderness, and now we’ve come to Mount Sinai. It’s here that we enter into an intimate relationship with God, through the giving of His commandments and then the covenant that He gives to us, the Torah.”

He concludes: “So this event links us to Acts chapter one verse eight, where Jesus tells His disciples that they’re going to receive the Holy Spirit and take His message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Three times a year, God commanded the Jewish people to come up to Jerusalem, and one of those times was Shavuot.

“All your males are to appear three times a year before the Lord your God in the place He chooses: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths. No one is to appear before the Lord empty-handed” (Deuteronomy 16:16).

The New Testament records that Jews were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost.

Many Jewish people stay up all night on Shavuot to study the Scriptures. The Ten Commandments are read, and in many Jewish communities, the Book of Ruth is also read. Before dawn, those in Jerusalem head to the Western Wall on foot where they pray and bless God.

Shavuot has become a time of eating dairy foods, chief among them cheesecake!

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN—first as a graduate student in Journalism at Regent University; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. She is also an integral part of CBN News’ award-winning show, Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program providing a biblical and prophetic perspective to what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

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