About the Author

Rev Aaron Eime is the deacon of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, the first Protestant Church in the Middle East. Aaron studied at the Hebrew University in the Masters Program with the focus towards Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation of Bible. Aaron also studied Psychology and Sociology at Queensland University in Australia in the Social Work Program. He is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith. He has taught Internationally in many countries including Europe, North America, Hong Kong and China. Aaron is the Director of Research and Education at Christ Church. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 3 children.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Unity Attracts God's Presence

The Jewish People have just finished celebrating Shavuot. Shavuot in the Hebrew Bible is a purely agrarian harvest festival that during the Second Temple Period become theologically attributed to the Giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai. It is at this time in the Jewish calendar that we ask ourselves this question: What was the purpose of the Exodus? If your first reaction is to say it was to get the Israelites to the Promised Land then you'd be mistaken. If the purpose of the redemption from Egypt was to get a bunch of Hebrews into Canaan, then God would have given better directions. He would have said to Moses, 'Get over the river, hang a left, when you come to the Mediterranean turn right and you can't miss it.' Pretty simple, turn left then right. The point of the Exodus is to bring the people to Mt Sinai. And what happened at Sinai? Pentecost happened (Shavout in Hebrew). Not just the giving of the Torah, but the fact that God revealed Himself to His people for the first time. 

What did the Hebrews know about God while they had been in Egypt for 430 years? To be honest, not very much. They had no Temple, they had no priests, they had no prophets and they had no Bible. What they had were a few campfire stories about the Creation of the world, then the world went bad and then there was some guy with a big boat and a rainbow, followed by a wandering nomad called Abraham and now they are all here. They knew they had a God but they didn't know much about Him. Then with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm He redeems His people from darkness and brings them to Himself at Sinai and reveals Himself. The first commandment isn't actually a commandment, it’s God’s business card. He says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out the land of Egypt ...” Redemption always leads to Revelation. Notice the Israelites were saved from Egypt and then given the Torah. The Torah doesn't save you, they were already saved from Egypt. The same theology is in the New Testament. ‘While I was a sinner, Christ died for me.’ (Romans 5vs8). I didn’t hear about Jesus and then He died on the cross, He already had. 

We all have our personal Exodus stories of how God redeemed us from darkness, but He never left us there. That was never the end of our history. He always follows up revealing His character and Will to us.  

Thus if the purpose of the Exodus is revelation and an encounter with God, why does it take God 50 days before He actually shows up and reveals Himself? If it was that important, surely He would have come sooner. Good question I hear you ask. Exodus 19vs1-2 says that during the third month after they had left Egypt, the Israelites came to Sinai and made camp. What is interesting about verse 2 is that in the Hebrew text it says Israel made camp twice. 

Jewish people read the Bible with a fine tooth comb, so the question is raised, Why does the text mention they made camp twice? Is that not redundant? A closer look reveals that the first time they made camp the verb ‘to camp’ was in the plural. The second time they make camp the verb switches to singular. They camped as one, and only then does God show up. What we learn from this is that unity is something that attracts the Almighty. The Rabbis comment by saying that Israel finally stopped fighting amongst themselves, they stopped squabbling over who has which tent and who gets which portion of food, they stopped arguing with each other and got it together. They were united for the first time since they left Egypt, they were one, and unity is something that attracts God. This occurred at Shavuot (Pentecost in the Greek). 

Acts 2 and the Pentecost in Jerusalem similarly reflects the Pentecost of Mt Sinai. Acts 2 describes the disciples being all together and notes they were of one accord. Just as the people were in the desert, here the text is very careful to mention that the disciples were united. It’s in their unity that the Holy Spirit came and God showed up. 

If unity is so important to attracting the presence of God this begs the next question, What then is unity? Unity is not something theological or ideological. It’s not one-two-three everyone think like me. Unity in the biblical sense is behavioural. Colossians 3vs12-14 instructs us to clothe ourselves with compassion for each other, with kindness, humility and gentleness, and patience. To bear with each other despite the offence and to forgive each other. To wrap all this in love and this will be our unity. Unity is functional, practical, revealed in behaviour and a magnet for attracting God. When Jesus Himself prays for us it is so that we might be one, to be united. There is no force greater than a united community. And we will have the promise of Jesus that He will be with us, His presence, until the end of the age.