Shavuot and Pentecost -- Jews and Gentiles in One Body

This Saturday, May 26, is the first night of Shavuout , which in Greek means, “Pentecost,” also often referred to as the “Feast of Weeks.” On Shavuot, the Jewish people celebrate the events that took place on Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 19, when God descended on Mt. Sinai, thunder ripped throughout the sky, the ground shook, and a shofar blew a long blast. A dense cloud of smoke and fire surrounded the summit because the Lord descended on it. No one was to touch the mountain; not even animals. To disobey meant certain death. Moses spent 40 days up on the mountain, where he received God’s law. God’s promise to the Israelites was that from that day forward, if they were to fully obey the covenant, they would be a nation of priests.

The Israelites immediately disobeyed. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw them worshipping idols. Moses allowed the Levites to take up their swords and 3000 who did not follow the Lord were killed that day.

Approximately 1300 years later came the Day of Pentecost (the Greek word for Shavuot). The Disciples were observant Jews and came to Jerusalem, celebrating the anniversary of the covenant. Jews were required to come to the temple three times a year to celebrate and Shavuot was one of these occasions. From all over the world, they came to celebrate the anniversary of their covenant with God.

In Acts 2, we read that a violent wind came from heaven and filled whole house. As Tongues of fire came to rest on each them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. Peter commissions the crowd in Acts 2:38-39: saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2: 38-39)

3,000 became believers that day. Ephesians 2 speaks to the Gentiles (anyone other than a Jew) and explains that Gentiles were “strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were cut off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one….”…”and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross….”

Leviticus 23:17 says “You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering….” The two loaves would be lifted high, one in each hand and waved as arms were crossed in the air. This wave offering of the two loaves is represented in Pentecost where the two groups….Jews and Gentiles were brought together!

The feasts and festivals of the Bible are filled with types and symbols that point to the Messiah. The connections between Shavuot and Pentecost are obvious and exciting. Here are some parallels.

Shavuot Pentecost
Moses acted as an intercessor between God and His covenanted people Jesus had already intervened on behalf of the world
At Mt. Sinai, the fire descended only on the summit of the mountain with Moses Fire came to rest on each individually
God established His covenant with the Hebrew people God’s covenant was made available to all who believed
The Holy Law was inscribed on stone by the finger of God The Holy Spirit wrote the Law on their hearts
Mt. Sinai 3,000 were killed due to their disobedience In Jerusalem 3000 were granted salvation in return for their faith
God declared the Israelites a nation of priests Believers became priests to all the nations

This explains one covenant grafted into the first. We celebrate the common anniversary of our receiving God’s revelation at both at Mt. Sinai at Jerusalem.

Today, as believers, we celebrate on Shavuot the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. According to tradition, dairy foods such as cheese, cheesecake and milk are eaten on Shavuot because Torah is compared to the sweetness of milk and honey. In Ecclesiastes, one line reads "Honey and milk are under your tongue." In some communities children are introduced to Torah study on Shavuot and are given honey cakes with passages from the Torah written on them.

Let us use this feast to make a public commitment, just as the people of Israel did, that "we will do and we will listen."

Chag Sameach

חג שבועות שמח