Shavuot/Pentecost

Hebrew Biblical or Modern Israelite Holidays

Sivan 5780 / May 2020

Wheat Harvest, from YouTube.com

 

Hag sameakh (Joyful holiday) and fruitful greetings in Messiah!

        In the precious name of our Yeshua ha Meshiakh (Jesus the Messiah) and our Adonai Elohim (Lord God), I am happy to share with you at this time the wonderful Biblical harvest holyday of Shavuot/ Pentecost!  I hope all is fine for you during these days!  I hope this message finds you encouraged in our Heavenly Father Elohim (God) and that you continue seeking and growing in Him.  Since Yom ha Bikkurim (Day of Firstfruits) holiday we have been looking forward to celebrating Shavuot/Pentecost holiday.  It is a valuable annual event with much spiritual meaning.  Please take time and worship activity, with me and other believers, to celebrate Shavuot holyday and discover the blessing of it.  Amen!

 

SHAVUOT / PENTECOST

The Feast of Weeks

Thursday May 28 to Saturday May 30  (sunset to sunset)

 

        Now let us consider and enjoy together Shavuot holyday.  This year Shavuot (known also as Pentecost) is on May 28-30 (sunset to sunset).  Biblically, this is supposed to be one of the three major and required Israelite festivals, but nowadays it tends to get relatively little attention from most religious Jews and most Christians.  Most Christians who do respect this holyday usually think only of Book of Acts chapter 2’s Pentecost event. This is disappointing since Acts 2 shows only part of the meaning of the holiday.  There are four key Bible texts you can read that pertain to Shavuot:  Exodus 23:14-19; Leviticus 23:15-22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12; and Acts 2.  Aside from these key texts, the Books of Ruth and Joel have importance and relevance. 

        As part of the modern Jewish tradition for Shavuot, synagogue worship services are conducted, and the Book of Ruth is read because it nicely illustrates the harvest theme. The law stated in the Exodus 23 text shows that Pesakh, Shavuot, and Sukkot (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles) were the three annual holydays that the Israelite male heads-of-households were required to attend and observe.  So we want to appreciate why Shavuot was counted by YHVH Elohim (LORD God) as so important, and what that means for us today.

        The legal statutes I noted above  —  Exodus 23:14-19; Leviticus 23:15-22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12  — provide the basics of what the Tanakh (Old Testament) Shavuot holyday was about so far as the religious requirements are concerned, but we need also Jewish tradition to help us understand the full meaning of the holiday.

         “Shavuot” means “Weeks” or “Feast of Weeks,” which name refers to the fact that it occurs seven weeks after First Fruits/Resurrection Day Sunday.  It is also known as the “Feast of Harvest.”  The Brit Khadashah (New Testament) based name “Pentecost” simply means “the fiftieth,” because it is the fiftieth (50th) day after First Fruits/Resurrection Day Sunday. [1]

        Considering the Biblical texts and ancient Jewish tradition, we have four aspects of Shavuot as a holyday celebration:  (1)  Dedication to Elohim (God) of our harvest for the rest of this season.  (2)  Celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.  (3)  The outpouring of Ruakh Kodesh (Holy Spirit) to grow the infant Christian church.  (4)  Elohim’s (God’s) own harvest of Jewish and Gentile believers.

 

Four Aspects

Biblical law on tablets of stone

(1)        The first aspect of Shavuot/Pentecost holiday to mention is our respect, honor, and praise to YHVH Elohim (LORD God) in giving the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. [2]   Jewish religious tradition teaches that Moses received the Ten Commandments 50 days after the Israelites left Egypt (at Passover).  There is good reason to accept this tradition.  This means that Shavuot is a time to give thanks, praise, and honor to Adonai Elohim (Lord God) for His laws and commandments given to His people.  The hope is that in remembering and honoring Him for His laws and directives, Elohim’s (God’s) people will again embrace those commands and obey Him and His ways and relationship. 

        We should want to honor YHWH El Elyon’s (LORD God Most High’s) directives and laws, and revive our total devotion and obedience to Him as best as we can.  The Kitvei ha Kodesh (Holy Scriptures) promise a blessing for those who seek YHVH’s (LORD’s) intimate covenant relationship and obey His ways and stipulations.  For example: 

Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do.   (Deuteronomy 29:9, niv)

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My [YHVH’s] face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”   (2 Chronicles 7:14, nlt)

        You can see in these verses that the blessing by Adonai Elohim (Lord God) is not totally free, but conditional. The blessing or prosperity is reward for one’s devotion and obedience to His covenant laws and relationship. We can be sure that at least some believers today suffer lack of blessing and prosperity because they do not care to fully devote to Elohim (God) and Meshiakh Yeshua (Christ Jesus) and try to fully follow Him in daily life.  I hope that lack of blessing is not true about you.  I do not know, but Elohim (God) and you know.  

 

(2)        The second good meaning of Shavuot/Pentecost concerns the rededication of this year’s harvest, as shown in the legal statutes in the Law of Moses; hence the holiday’s name the Feast of Harvest.  Each male head-of-household (his family could come too) was to bring a represent-ative gift-portion of his wheat crop or fruit harvest or other product to the Tabernacle (later the Temple), and rededicate this year’s harvest to YHVH Elohim (LORD God) to ask His blessing and favor on the rest of the harvest season. [3]

        The harvest rededication-worship included a Sabbath rest day from work, various animal sacrifices, wave offering of two loaves of bread baked containing yeast, and a selected portion offering of one’s crops or fruits.  This rededication also included enjoying a holiday meal as a family together, and generously providing food to the poor and poverty-stricken ones in your town.  This is why the Book of Ruth is traditionally read at this holiday time.  The story of Ruth illustrates the themes of covenant devotion, the annual harvest, and providing for the poor and needy.  Biblical Israelite society was significantly agricultural in order to survive; so having Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) blessing on your harvest is important if you were religious and devout to Him. 

        As required by Moses, to seek and have Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) prosperous blessing on your harvest, you would offer and dedicate to Him a first sample part of your crop (such as wheat) that was ready to reap at this time.  By your obedience and faith, this dedication was to make the rest of your harvest season sanctified and blessed.  The truth of this dedication/blessing is called the Principle of Firstfruits, and can be seen in the following example statements: 

The best of all the first fruits and of all your special gifts will belong to the priests. You are to give them the first portion of your ground meal so that a blessing may rest on your household.   (Ezekiel 44:30, niv)

If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.   (Romans 11:16, niv)

        Concerning application for us today, we should pray, worship, and rededicate to our Adonai Elohim (Lord God) and Meshiakh Yeshua (Christ Jesus) all of the works and accomplishments of our hands, and the fruit of our minds and hearts (our “harvest”) for the rest of this harvest season this year.  In sincerely doing this we respectfully ask for Elohim’s (God’s)  blessing, His presence and favor making our “harvest” sanctified and prosperous.  We may also give to Adonai’s (Lord’s) ministry special gifts or tithes from our prosperity at this time.  We may also reach out to provide help to genuinely poor and destitute ones who we know or find.

        The Book of Joel also has devotional significance for us, as it discusses the Israelites’ destroyed and restored harvest.  In Joel, the desolated harvest, to be restored to blessed prosperity by YHVH (LORD), is dependent upon Israelites’ sincere humility and repentance from their sinful ways and return to devout worship of Him.     

 

 

(3)        The third aspect of Shavuot/Pentecost holyday features the great outpouring of the Ruakh Kodesh (Holy Spirit) of Elohim (God) that fueled the infant Christian church in Book of Acts, chapter 2.  This is what most Christians think of if they observe Pentecost as a special day or church service. 

        To fully understand the meaning of events in Acts 2, we must realize YHVH Elohim’s (LORD God’s) two great Covenants–the first and the second, the old and the new–by which He expanded His mission of salvation and reached out to the entire world, not only to the Jews.  One aspect of Shavuot/Pentecost celebrates the giving of the Law by YHWH (LORD) to Moses at Mount Sinai.  That Law (or Torah) is the first broad relationship Covenant between YHVH (LORD) and His people Israel.  The Ten Commandments were the summary sacred law that was written on inflexible stone (see Deut. 9:10).  The Torah as a Covenant was necessary to establish and preserve King Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) kingdom with His one nation of Israel with one Jewish culture.  This first Covenant was intended for one ideal nation with one culture; therefore it was appropriately first written in summary on inflexible stone tablets.

        However, the single inflexible and idealistic first Covenant was insufficient and ineffective to reach all nations and make Elohim’s (God’s) kingdom established over all the Earth.  So, a new and flexible second Covenant was necessary, a sacred law that could be effective and treasured in people’s hearts, and thus transcend all nations and cultures.  The new Covenant would enable and edify sincere believers in YHVH Elohim (LORD God) and Meshiakh Yeshua (Christ Jesus) among all nations and societies.  This is the second great Covenant that the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel predicted was coming (see Jeremiah 31:27-37; Ezekiel 36:25-31; Joel 2:28-32). 

        Apostle Paul is thinking of the first and new Covenants when he says:

“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”  (2 Corinthians 3:3, niv)

        The new/second Covenant was and is given through the Ruakh Kodesh (Holy Spirit), not written on stone tablets.  The new/second Covenant is Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) law written on fleshy human hearts and minds, among all nations and cultures.  Acts chapter 2’s Day of Pentecost event is the delivery of the new/second international Spirit-imparted Covenant.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.   (Acts 2:1-4, niv)

        The Shavuot/Pentecost holyday celebrates Adonai Elohim (Lord God) bestowing His two Covenants:  the first written on stone by “the finger” of Elohim (God) (Deuteronomy 9:10), and the second written on human hearts by the Ruakh Kodesh (Holy Spirit).  The giving of the first Covenant occurred at Shavuot time at Mt. Sinai.  YHVH (LORD), being consistent in His design, gave the second Covenant also at Shavuot, recorded in Book of Acts 2.

        The new Holy Spirit-based Covenant is valid for all believers in Meshiakh Yeshua (Christ Jesus) and Adonai Elohim (Lord God).  The Holy Spirit-based Covenant does NOT destroy or do away with the old/first Covenant, because the two Covenants have different scope and reach.  The two Covenants have the same divine source and the same purpose – to sanctify and direct YHVH’s (LORD’s) people; yet the Covenants vary in scope and capacity. 

        Both Covenants are true, sacred, useful, and beneficial.  The first/old Covenant is not abolished by the new/second Covenant (compare Matthew 5:17-18).  The first Covenant’s scope and reach is for one physical nation of Israel with one unified culture.  The second Covenant establishes believers in one Messiah among all nations and cultures.  The second Covenant mission is evidenced by the tongues-speaking of multiple existing languages on Shavuot/Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11).  The two Covenants are complements, not opponents.  The two Covenants can be viewed in complement, for example, as follows:

 

First Covenant:

Elohim’s Law written on stone:

Ten principles (Commands); Exod. 20:1-17; compare 1 Pet. 2:9-10

 

Second “New” Covenant:

Elohim’s Law written on believers’ hearts:

Ten principles [4]; Gal. 5:22-23; compare 1 Pet. 3:8

 

Mission:  The people of YHVH as one physical idealized nation with one culture.  Covenant still valid as much as possible.

 

Mission:  The people of YHVH among many nations and cultures; one Spirit-nation with a Spirit-culture.  Covenant still valid.

 

Ten Summary Rules:

1.  Strict Monotheism

2.  No man-made idols/gods

3.  No misusing Lord’s name

4.  Keep a Sabbath rest day

5.  Honor one’s parents

6.  No murder

7.  No adultery

8.  No stealing

9.  No false witness

10.  No coveting (envy)

 

Ten Summary Rules:

1.  Love

2.  Joy

3.  Peace/harmony

4.  Patience

5.  Kindness/compassion

6.  Goodness (good quality)

7.  Faithfulness/loyalty

8.  Gentleness/meekness

9.  Self-control/discipline

10.  Humility

 

 

        In his Shavuot/Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, Apostle Peter refers to the Book of the prophet Joel as a proof that Adonai Elohim (Lord God) predicted this international outreach by the new Spirit-based Covenant:

I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days . . . before the coming of the great and dreadful day of YHVH.  And everyone who calls on the name of YHVH will be saved.”   (Joel 2:28-32, niv)

        It may be that the Book of Joel was written as a prophetic message deliberately for, or pertaining to, the holiday of Shavuot occasion.  All aspects of Shavuot holyday are found in Joel’s book.  Joel rebukes his sinful audience for turning away from YHVH (LORD) and tells them they must repent and turn back to worship Adonai Elohim (Lord God) properly.  Because they turned away from Adonai (Lord), their entire harvest has been destroyed by terrible locust swarms.  If they repent and return to worship YHVH (LORD), He will restore and heal their land, as noted above in 2 Chronicles 7:14. 

        Spiritual revival requires the listeners’ repentance and obedience to Elohim’s (God’s) law.  Adonai’s (Lord’s) promised future blessing also involves the new Spirit-law Covenant mentioned in Joel 2:28-32.  Perhaps the Book of Joel was written at a Shavuot in Joel’s lifetime, when sinful and apathetic Israelites saw their whole harvest destroyed by locusts.  Joel preaches this happened because they turned away from Adonai Elohim (Lord God).  But healing and restoration of prosperity is had in sincerely and devoutly returning to YHVH (LORD).

 

2 loaves of bread for Shavuot wave offering

(4)        We realize that Elohim (God) is reaching out to all the nations of the Earth through His Ruakh Kodesh’s (Holy Spirit’s) work.  Elohim’s (God’s) Spirit-seed will prosper and bear fruit, Joel preaches, before the end of this present world.  For the fourth aspect of Shavuot/Pentecost holyday, we try to appreciate and take a part in Elohim’s (God’s) own great global harvest that He is working on.

        Elohim’s (God’s) harvest is of saved and redeemed lives and souls of mankind who genuinely relationship with Him and Messiah.  Naturally, Elohim (God) and Meshiakh (Christ) want as huge and genuine a global harvest of mankind as can be grown, as is shown for example in Psalms 2 and 67.  And here is where we discover the meaning of the two loaves of bread made with yeast (leaven), which the Shavuot statute required.    

        The Shavuot legal statute in Leviticus 23 specifies a special grain offering:

From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to YHVH.  (Leviticus 23:17, niv)  

        The two loaves of bread baked with yeast are a unique symbolic firstfruits-of-the-harvest offering; unique because normal grain offerings did not permit yeast (see Leviticus 2:11).  These two required loaves are made with yeast.  Leaven (yeast) is a symbol of sin, imperfection, and corruption (see Galatians 5:9).  Therefore, the two special loaves can represent two sets of Elohim’s (God’s) true people, Messiah’s “harvest” from mankind:  Jewish believers and Gentile believers.  All genuinely redeemed believers in Messiah are still imperfect sinners in their earthly lifetime.

        Consequently, the two special loaves of bread containing yeast remind us to do our active part in being workers—sowers, cultivators, reapers—for Elohim’s (God’s) and Yeshua Meshiakh’s (Jesus Christ’s) harvest of redeemed mankind (see Matthew 28:19-20).  May we care about and labor for Messiah’s harvest of souls (see John 4:34-38).

 

Conclusion

        I hope you see the wonderful spiritual meaning in Shavuot/Pentecost holyday. 

        Please take this chance to pray and seek Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) presence and blessing.  Rededicate all the works of your hands and mind (your “harvest”) to Him for the rest of this Biblical calendar year.  Repent from your sins and apathy as need be.  Celebrate, enjoy, and embrace YHVH’s (LORD’s) laws and commandments in His two Covenants.

        Follow YHVH’s (LORD’s) guidelines and directives as much as you are able considering your daily circumstances and the culture and laws you live in.  Open your mind and spirit to the Ruakh (Spirit)-based Covenant of laws and commands written on your flexible heart by sincere faith in Meshiakh Yeshua (Christ Jesus).  Overall your devotion will prove itself in your obedience as possible to YHVH’s (LORD’s) two Covenants.

        In these ways, we reach for our revitalized intimate fellowship/ relationship with our precious Heavenly Father Elohim.  We joyfully look forward in faith and hope for more blessed and prosperous, holy and righteous, full “harvest” of accomplishments for Him in this Biblical calendar year, and until the next Shavuot!

        In light of Shavuot/Pentecost celebration, may we please take heed to Meshiakh Yeshua’s (Christ Jesus’) own words:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. . . .

 No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”   (John 15:1-2, 4-6, niv)

 

Barukh Shavuot/Pentecost b’Meshiakh!

(Blessed Feast of Weeks in Messiah!)

 

 

[1]     There is long-standing disagreement among observers over how to date Shavuot accurately on the calendar. The disagreement results from the imprecise Biblical dating of the holyday. This document agrees that Shavuot is the 50th day after Bikkurim (Firstfruits) holyday. Therefore, both Bikkurim (Firstfruits) and Shavuot/Pentecost are always on Sunday. However, it is possible to date Shavuot as the 50th day after Passover. 

[2]     The Ten Commandments is the foundation of the whole Law of Moses (called Torah). The Law of Moses is the foundation of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the foundation of the New Testament. Therefore, the Ten Commandments and Torah have great significance for our entire Bible, and as believers in Yeshua (Jesus).  The Ten Commandments and Torah are the “first Covenant” between YHVH Elohim and His people as a Jewish nation.

[3]     The Biblical Israelite farmer represented the whole Israelite society. Blessing and prosperity upon the farmer’s harvest season implied blessing and prosperity for devout and obedient Israelites of any other occupation. The harvest season ran from April to October. Devout and obedient Israelites would thus dedicate their harvest to YHVH Elohim three times each year:  at harvest beginning (Feast of First Fruits in April); middle of harvest season (Shavuot/Pentecost); at end of harvest season (Feast of Tabernacles in October). The harvest season began in April. Shavuot marked the start of the very important wheat harvest.

[4]     These principles can be labeled as “fruits” of the Ruakh Kodesh (Holy Spirit). These principles show themselves as believers’ attitudes, values, and character traits that fuel actions and words. These principles are not the entire content of the second Covenant, but they nicely represent the flexible nature of a Spirit-law in believers.