Monday, May 28, 2012

What's Shavuot gotta do with me?

The feast of Shavuot (pronounced Shav – oo – ot) is one of the 7 feasts found in Leviticus 23.  Shavuot comes from the Hebrew term “weeks” which is a major part of the feast, the counting of 7 weeks.  Most Christians know this feast by its Greek name, Pentecost.  This feast counts fifty days from the Sabbath of the Passover and Unleavened Bread festival.  Hence the Greek name Pentecost which means “fifty.”  This year, the feast is celebrated between May 26-28 or the third month of the Jewish Calendar.  It is also called the “Feast of Harvest” in Leviticus 23:16.

In the last post (below) I have a brief introduction to the feasts.  In summary, the feasts can be divided into two major categories, the spring and fall feasts.  The spring feasts begin with Passover, which is the start of the new year according to Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. So Passover starts on the 14th of the 1st month.  The next day begins Unleavened Bread that lasts for 7 days.  During this 7 day feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread there is a Sabbath.  That Sabbath is significant because that begins the count down for 7 weeks (49 days) of counting and then Shavuot/Pentecost feast begin on the 50th day.

Some features of this feast according to Leviticus 23:15-22 show that on this day, each person is to bring two loaves of bread to the Tabernacle/Temple and wave them.  Most likely they were to hold a loaf in each hand and wave them.  While Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread marked the beginning of the Exodus out of Egypt, this feast marked the end of the Exodus and the giving of the Law.  The book of Exodus, in 19:1-2 shows that the people of Israel came to Mt. Sinai in the third month and camped there while Moses went up the mountain to get the Law.  The  observance of Shavuot was connected to the giving of the Law, something that Jews even today associate Shavuot with in their celebration.  In fact, part of the current Jewish celebration is to read the Torah all night long on the first night, with special emphasis on the 10 commandments.  It is here, at Mt. Sinai that Israel was given the Law and where they became a “holy nation.”  One of the most significant events of this time was fire.  Exodus 19:18 states that Mt. Sinai was in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Some even wonder if the two loafs being waved were symbolic of the two tablets of the 10 commandments in Moses’ hands.

In the NT, this feast is only mentioned by name 3 times (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8).  The most significant is Acts 2, which is probably the most familiar to many Christians.  It is here that the first converts to Christianity begin to speak in tongues of fire.  Christ promised in Acts 1:5 that not many days they would be “baptized by the Holy Spirit.”  We see this happen at Pentecost in Acts 2.  We also know from 1 Cor 12:13ff and Gal 3:26-29 that the Spirit baptizes believers into the body of Christ.  This mean that the Holy Spirit places a believer into union with Christ and with other Christians.  In essence, Acts 2 shows the birth of the Church and the giving of the Spirit.  This event was something unique up to this point in redemptive history.

How amazing is that?  The same holy feast that God had appointed (Lev. 23:1) would be both the birth of Israel and the birth of the Church many many years later.  Here are a few more interesting connections.  Under the Mosaic Covenant – Fire on the Mountain, the giving of the Law, the Law written on stone and the birth of the nation.  Under the New Covenant – Fire on believers, the giving of the Spirit, the Law written in the heart through the ministry of the Spirit and the birth of the Church.

What a holiday worth looking back on and celebrating.  This should give us a great appreciation of the OT and how as NT believers, books like Leviticus shouldn’t be crispy!  I trust this was encouraging.  If it was, please leave a note.  If I see this as something beneficial to others, I’ll do more.  But If I am the only one reading this, well I’ll save the time, haha.


Mrs. Davis said...

Very interesting! I like seeing the similarities between the OT feast and Pentecost. Thanks!

Andrew Derr said...

J-Beals- I loved reading this! I think that we should all camp in the parking lot at the bottom of the mountain by COC next year and read the Pentateuch. We can even wave two loaves of bread each!! :D Haha. It's interesting to think of how important Pentecost is in the Christian's history. First for Israel, then for the church in general. Thanks for writing this!