Shavuot – The Day of Pentecost The Festivals of Israel
The festivals of Israel were designed by God to focus the hearts and minds of the Jewish on various elements of God’s person and plan. In addition, the Festivals, as much as any other portion of the Hebrew Scriptures also point to the coming of the Messiah. This is especially true of the seven great festivals outlined in Leviticus chapter 23.
I believe the four Spring Festivals were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus. The three Fall Festivals will be fulfilled in His second coming.
The Fourth Spring Festival
The Biblical Names
Shavuot – Weeks – 7 weeks after Passover
The fourth and final Spring Festival is called Shavuot. This word means seven because seven-sevens – or seven, seven-day weeks are to be counted by the Jewish people; beginning with Passover and then Shavuot is to be observed on the 50th day.
Pentecost – Fifty – 50th day after Passover
In Christian tradition the festival is called Pentecost – the Greek term which means 50, as this fourth spring festival is observed on the 50th day after Passover.
The Traditional Jewish Names
Zman Matan Torah – ‘the season of the giving of the Law’ – One of the Hebrew titles for the holiday in Jewish tradition is Zman Matan Torah – ‘the season of the giving of the Law’ as the Rabbis believed that the Torah was given on the day of Pentecost. We eat special holiday bread – a reminder of the Jewish tradition that Moses climbed a ladder to heaven to receive the Law. Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people and the Talmud tells us that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jews on the sixth night of the Hebrew month of Sivan.
The Biblical Commands
- Sheuvot always falls 50 days after the second night of Passover. The 49 days in between are known as the Omer. A later Jewish tradition teaches that the Torah was given on Shavuot.
- The counting for the 50 days was to begin on that ‘day after the Sabbath’(Lev. 23:15), the day when the First Fruit/sheaf was waved occurred on the day.
- They offered two leavened loaves of bread concluding the grain harvest. (Lev. 23:17), which was the Tithe (Lev. 27:30).
- The two-loaves were the results (symbolically) of the one sheaf, waved before the Lord on the Day of First Fruits mentioned in Lev. 23:11
- Shavuot is also one of the three pilgrimage feasts when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem.
- There are many Jewish traditions associated with Pentecost.
- The reading of the Book of Ruth as it is a harvest time story – King David was born and died on this festival and Ruth took on the burden of the Law.
- Many religious Jews commemorate Shavuot by spending the entire night studying Torah at their synagogue or at home.
- Chanting the Ten Commandments.
The Messianic Fulfillment of the Festival
Now if Passover was fulfilled in the death of the Lamb of God and unleavened bread in his sinless character and His resurrection the fulfillment of First Fruit then we must ask ourselves – how was the of day Pentecost fulfilled by the first coming of Jesus?
It is no coincidence that God selected this Jewish festival as the day when he would send his Holy Spirit. In Acts, chapter 2 we see this festival fulfilled in some remarkable ways. To understand why God would choose to pour out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost – we must rehearse the relationship between all the Spring Festivals.
- Passover – redemption – death of Christ
- First Fruits – first results – Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23)
- Pentecost – Fruition – Birth of the Church
In Acts, chapter 2 God fulfills this festival in some remarkable ways.
The 120 Disciples (Acts 1:15), were in one place, in one mind, praying and focusing on God’s work. They were waiting in obedience to the command of Jesus (Acts 1:4-5) and also in obedience to the Laws of Shavuot regarding “no work’ – Lev. 23:21. Many were pilgrims who had left their homes in other places to be part of this Festival. God would bless their obedience now in a powerful way – some of those waiting were pilgrims as Pentecost was one of the three Festivals where Jewish people were commanded to go “up to Jerusalem’ to worship.
God would bless their obedience.
And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45-49)
And further, before His ascension to the right hand of the Father He says to His disciples,
… He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”(Acts 1:4-5)
Signs and Wonders
After some days of patient waiting – the presence and power of the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples on the 50th day after Passover. It was a new revelation given on a new Pentecost! The initial giving of the Torah by Moses at Mt. Sinai had come with signs and wonders in the heaven as seen in Exodus 19.
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. (Ex. 19:16-19)
There were now signs and wonders in the Upper Room marking this new Pentecost as well. It was the birthday of a new revelation and the fulfillment of God’s promises to pour out His Spirit in the last days! (Joel 2)
Hearing the Good News in their Own Language
The Tradition of All Israel Being Present at Sinai
According to our Sages, every Jew who would ever live was at Mount Sinai, pledging their obedience to the Law. According to Jewish tradition this was not limited to the Jews alive at this time. The Rabbis believed in the pre-existence of the soul and that every Jew who would ever live – was at Mount Sinai – with or without a body! The rational for this is that every Jewish person at that moment agreed to keep the Torah. The verse used to teach this is,
Ex. 24:7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”
In light of this, it makes sense that there was also a Jewish tradition that every Jew present at Mount Sinai that day actually heard the giving of the Law in their own native tongue – after all how could they obey what they did not understand.
The fulfillment on the day of this new Pentecost, which took place 50 days after Jesus the Lamb of God died for our sins, is obvious. There were signs and wonders, just like at Mount Sinai and those who heard the disciples preaching heard this new revelation in their own native tongue. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be present at this new Pentecost? It would have been amazing especially as the Jewish people realized that the new had come with the power of the old!
How gracious of God to use a tradition of man to communicate His truth to the Jewish people. God Himself is our role model for missionary service and evangelism. He seeks to communicate with us in ways we can understand…He could prove His point otherwise, but He deigns to prove Himself in ways that we humans can understand…as our ability to understand spiritual truth is so limited. Perhaps the best example of this is the Son of God Himself, who took on flesh in order to communicate with you and me…to show us His love and to help us better understand the Father through His role model and example. We too need to incarnate the Good News in ways that our families, friends and neighbors understand …through love, helping in practical ways and doing whatever it takes to help those we pray for understand that God is not far away, He is close and He loves them.
Happy Shevout/Pentecost and may the Lord fill you with the presence and power of His presence.