As you know by now, I am a Christian who is getting back to her roots. My Messiah–my groom–was Jewish, and I want to familiarize myself with His culture. I have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, so I want to understand what the Jews do, how they live, what they celebrate.
So, I study the Feasts of the Lord which were outlined in Leviticus 23. And I see Jesus hidden in each one. I see symbolism that is very pertinent to modern-day Christians. I consider these feasts to be types and shadows, as the Apostle Paul said, of things to come.
Sunday, May 27, is Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) on the Jewish calendar. On the Christian calendar, it is called Pentecost. Since the Feast of Firstfruits (Resurrection Day or Easter Sunday morning), the Jews have been counting up to Pentecost–the 50-day countdown (count-up) that is called the Counting of the Omer. My kids and I have been counting along with them. What an exciting time it is!
We are almost at Day 50. For the Jews, Shavuot can come on any day of the week since their lunar calendar is so different from ours. They begin counting the omer the day after Passover, since Passover is considered a sabbath–no matter what day of the week it falls on.
Most Christians who subscribe to the Counting of the Omer, begin counting on Easter Sunday–the day after the “normal” sabbath, so that Pentecost always falls on a Sunday.
Well, guess what? This year, both Jews and Christians celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost) on the same day–Sunday! It just worked out this year that the day of the week matched for both groups.
This has been the case with every feast we have studied since December. There is a strange intermingling of the Jewish calendar and the Christian calendar this year. Could this be a sign of the times in which we live? The times of the end? The times where the Christians are drawn back to the Jewish roots of Christianity as their religion comes full circle–back to the Christianity of the Book of Acts?
Our community Bible study group started studying the feasts with Hanukkah (not one of the 7 Biblically commanded feasts but an important one nonetheless) this past year. The first full day of Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights which focuses on “increasing the light”) fell on Dec. 21–the winter solstice which celebrates the increasing of the light. Hmmm. . .
Then we learned that the 5th day of Hanukkah is the traditional day that the Jews give presents to their children. This fell right at Christmas Eve/Christmas this year. It won’t work out that way next year since Hanukkah is on different dates on our calendar each year.
When Purim came (again, not one of the 7 commanded feasts but one that is still Biblical), the Israeli prime minister had just visited with President Obama and had given him a special Purim copy of the Book of Esther. Very timely, huh?
When the spring feasts rolled around, the dates again were significant–beautifully situated with Easter. Passover came on the actual day that Jesus was crucified. This doesn’t always happen. Passover could be a Monday some years–not the day our Savior was killed.
The Feast of Firstfruits, like the others, can be any of the 7 days of the week. But this year, it was on Sunday–just as it was nearly 2000 years ago when our firstfruits representative, Jesus, arose from the dead. Next year, it won’t work out that way.
Timing is of the essence this year, it seems.
So now it’s time to celebrate Shavuot–a holiday during which we decorate with flowers and greenery, a time to read the Book of Ruth as a beautiful harvest/fertility/marriage story.
Because Shavuot is a love story feast. It represents the marriage of God to His people. The Jews believe that the Torah (law) was given to Israel on Mt. Sinai on the first Shavuot. That was God’s ketubah (marriage covenant) with His people. His laws were written on tablets of stone.
Then came the most well-known Day of Pentecost of all–the one described in Acts 2. Once again, God confirmed His marriage to His people. And not to the Jews only–this time to ALL flesh. He poured out His Spirit in the Upper Room, bringing to pass His earlier Word that one day He would write His laws–not on tablets of stone–but in the hearts of His people.
Shavuot is the time when the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were brought to the Temple and given to God. Two loaves of leavened bread were offered in wave offerings by the priests.
Let us celebrate this time not only as a renewing of the Holy Ghost within us, but also as a time to focus on the harvest. Jesus said that the fields were white unto harvest but that the laborers were few. Let us pray that laborers be sent into the ripe harvest. Let us volunteer to be part of that work crew.
It’s time to bring in the harvest!
Here is the YouTube video of a teaching I did at the Walnut Cove Public Library on Thursday, May 24, 2012. It will teach you so much about Shavuot/Pentecost. I made a handout to accompany the lesson and have included that information beneath the video below. Enjoy!
Here is the handout info that I gave to the participants in our Shavuot class.
FEAST OF WEEKS (SHAVUOT OR PENTECOST)
What is Shavuot?
A biblically-commanded feast to be kept 50 days after Feast of Firstfruits
–Celebrates the beginning of the summer wheat harvest (late May or early June)
—“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 23:15-22
Also called “Pentecost” (from Greek word for 50th)
Held in third Jewish month, Sivan
–Most Jews celebrate it on a fixed date, Sivan 6, which could be a variable day
–They begin counting the day after Passover (“day after the Sabbath”)
–Some Jews, especially Messianic Jews, celebrate a fixed day but variable date
–They begin counting the day after the actual Saturday sabbath that falls during the week of Passover
(will always be a Sunday).
–Torah says to count from when the sickle is first put to standing grain
—“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.” Deut. 16:9-10
–Only biblically-ordained feast not following the moon cycle
–Only Jewish feast celebrated totally on its own
–Spring and fall feasts come in sets of 3
–Passover/Unleavened Bread/Firstfruits, Trumpets/Atonement/Tabernacles
–Connected to Passover by the Counting of the Omer
One of 4 feasts already fulfilled in Jesus
–Represents the baptism of the Holy Ghost first seen in Acts 2
Two loaves of leavened bread brought to Temple as a wave offering
This day was a sabbath, no matter what day of the week it fell on
—“And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Lev. 23:21
–It was particularly holy–one of only 3 feasts (out of 7 total) in which all Jewish men had to present themselves in the Temple (other 2–Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles)
Jewish tradition: the law was given at Mt. Sinai on the first Pentecost (Ex. 19:1)
What are the Jewish traditions of Shavuot?
Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue
–Deals with harvest/fertility as well as covenant (Ruth/Naomi)
–Supposedly, King David was born and died on Shavuot (Ruth’s descendant)
Houses and synagogues are decorated with flowers (roses, fresh myrtle); green plants; branches
–Based on Ex. 34:3 which implies that land around Sinai was very green and ripe
–This is a harvest festival
Baskets are used for gifts and decorations
–Grain offerings brought to Temple in baskets
–Tradition says that Moses as a baby in his basket was found on Shavuot
Dairy foods are eaten
–Song of Solomon 4:11 implies the Torah (“the beloved”) is like honey and milk
–Promised Land flowing with milk and honey
Many strict Jews stay up all night studying Torah
–At sunrise, they ritually immerse themselves in water
–Just as Israel had 3 days of preparation in the wilderness (Ex. 19:10-11)
All Jews stand while Ex. 19-20 is read (as Israel did at Sinai)
How is Shavuot symbolic of a wedding?
Even before Passover, God saw Israel as His bride
—“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Exodus 6:6-7
–Verb “take” here is often used to mean “taking a bride”
God took Israel as His bride by joining with them in a covenant (Torah)
–When He birthed His church in Acts, it became His bride as well
Jewish weddings must have a “ketubah” (written contract specifying what each side will do as part of the covenant)
–At Sinai, Torah was the ketubah in stone
–In the upper room in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit was the ketubah written on hearts
–In the Torah, God’s side of the covenant was salvation, healing, deliverance, blessings
–Why would the NT contract be any less?
Jewish couples stand under a “chupah” (canopy) as they are married
–Israel stood at the foot of Sinai, originally called the “nether” (“under”)
How does Shavuot parallel our salvation?
So far, the spring feasts have represented our initial steps to salvation
–#1: Passover–we accept the lamb (Jesus) and apply the blood (to our hearts)
–#2: Unleavened Bread–we eat bread with no leaven (repentance of sins) and prepare to leave Egypt (the world)
–#3: Firstfruits–we offer the first of our harvest to the priest (we pledge the best of our lives to Jesus as an offering)
Now comes #4: Pentecost–law was written on stone at Sinai
–On the first Pentecost after Jesus ascended, the law was written on our hearts as the Holy Ghost was poured out
—“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” Heb. 10:16
How does the Acts 2 Pentecost mirror the original?
There were supernatural signs
–Sinai: thunder and lightning
—“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.” Exodus 20:18
–Acts: fire from Heaven, mighty rushing wind
—“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” Acts 2:1-3
Different languages were heard
—Sinai: Jewish scholars say God’s voice split into 70 languages for whole earth to understand
—Acts: 120 believers spoke in other tongues; each listener heard it in his own language
–Jewish custom holds that for a prayer service to be official, 10 people must be present; 12 tribes of Israel (10 x 12 = 120)
Both took place on a mountain
—Sinai: jagged mountain
—Acts: upper room high in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion
Law was given
—Sinai: Written in stone by the finger of God
—Acts: Written in hearts by the Spirit of God
—“. . .clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” II Cor. 3:3
A repayment was made
—Sinai: 3000 killed for worshiping golden calf
—“And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.” Exodus 32:28
—Acts: 3000 saved after Peter’s sermon
—“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Acts 2:41
The first church was established
—Sinai: Israel was called a church just after the law was given
—“This is he [Moses] that was in the church in the wilderness” Acts 7:38
—Acts: First mention of NT church just after Holy Ghost baptism
—“. . .the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Act 2:47
Men swayed as though drunk
—Sinai: Priests waved the flour offerings with the bread (Lev. 23:20)
— “wave”–Hebrew “nuwph”–to vibrate and sway, to rock to and fro
—Acts: Onlookers thought the people in the upper room were drunk
—“Others mockingly said, ‘These men are full of new wine.’” Acts 2:13
Interesting questions and a thought about Pentecost
Why was leavened bread offered when leaven represented sin?
Why were 2 loaves offered?
Were the 120 in the upper room up all night before the Holy Ghost came?
Jews could not skip the first spring feasts and then celebrate Pentecost
–Neither can we skip the early stages of salvation and still receive the Holy Ghost baptism
Here is a video that shows the wheat harvest, set to the tune of that old hymn, “Bringing In the Sheaves.” Oh, what meaning that song has to me now!