We began learning about the feast of Shavuot, or the feast we call Pentecost. We learned in our last program that Shavuot takes place 50 days, or seven weeks from Passover and it’s a celebration of the giving of the Law. We learned that for this celebration an offering of two loaves of bread were to be made and those loaves had be made with leaven, something that was never required in the other feasts of the Lord. In fact, in all the other feasts, leaven was strictly prohibited.
Not only that, but we learned that during the celebration of Shavuot, the book of Ruth is always read and studied. Ruth was a Moabitess who chose the Jewish people to be her people, and the God of the Jews to be her God. She lived in Israel with her mother-in-law Naomi and through a course of events, married one of Naomi’s kinsmen, who redeemed her, and Ruth and Boaz became the great, great grandparents of Jesus.
So let’s continue with the significance of the Feast of Shavuot.
Acts 2 begins on Shavuot, the Day of Pentecost, the word ‘Pentecost’ is the Greek word that simply means ‘the fiftieth day’. After Jesus rose from the dead, after He was crucified on Passover, He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised gift from the Father that would come to them. Fifty days after Passover they were gathered together in Jerusalem, it was the Feast of Shavuot and just like God visited His people on Mt Sinai and gave them His Torah, His Law, written on stone tablets by the finger of God Himself, God visited His people gathered together in the upper room and the Holy Spirit was poured out on each one of them and the fulfillment of the giving of the New Covenant began. They were all Jews.
There needs to be some clarification about the New and Old Covenant Scriptures; there’s a common misconception that the Old Covenant is Jewish and the New Covenant is Gentile. That’s absolutely wrong. It’s absolutely true that the Old Covenant is Jewish, but it’s also absolutely true that the New Covenant is Jewish…it’s not a Gentile book at all! This is a misunderstanding that many Jews and Gentiles believe but the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is Jewish, it’s just that the New Covenant that God promised to Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 31 has opened the way for the Gentile world to become grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel. (Eph 2:12)
In Jeremiah 31:31-34, the Lord promised that the day would come when He would make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the House of Judah, that would involve His law being imprinted on the hearts of His people rather than on tablets of stone. He would fill and empower His people to live out His law from the innermost desires of their heart, not just out of perfunctory duty and ritual, rather, they would obey His law out of love for Him. This would be a relationship that of course, honoured and revered the Law He’d already given them, but their obedience, their love and devotion would be internal, rather than merely external forms.
It’s amazing that on the very day that Jews from around the world gathered in Jerusalem to reaffirm their commitment to the covenant of Moses, the Holy Spirit descended upon Israel with the ushering in of the promised New Covenant to all who would believe. (Acts 2:1-42) Again, this New Covenant makes the Law – the Torah – a matter of the heart, written there by God the Holy Spirit, so that those who believe yield a life that is fruitful.
Jesus was the Passover Lamb in the Feast of Passover.
Jesus was the sinless Unleavened Bread in the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Jesus was the First Fruit, the first to rise from the dead in the Feast of First Fruits.
Jesus birthed and implemented the New Covenant poured out on the Jewish people by the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Shavuot, the giving of the Law in their hearts, making their religion internal with outward manifestations.
Interestingly, the two loaves of bread are symbolic of both the Jewish people who believe in Jesus and the Gentiles who believe in Jesus and are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel.
We know that leaven is representative of sin and that the Jewish people were to separate themselves from the Gentile world so as not to be seduced by their sin and the inclusion of leaven in this particular feast shows that the Gentiles are now welcomed into God’s people. Two loaves of bread – Jews and Gentiles – whom Paul describes as ‘one new man.’
The feast of Shavuot is the celebration of God giving His Law both at Sinai on tablets of stone on the day that Judaism was born, and again on the day that God gave His law through the pouring out of and into the hearts of the believers by the Holy Spirit was the day the New Covenant was revealed.
Ephesians 2:14-18, ‘For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away (the Gentiles), and peace to those who were near (the Jews), for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.’
The account of God giving His Law on Mt Sinai and His presence physically descending on the mountain in fire, smoke, thunder and lightenings, absolutely terrified the Israelites. They’d seen His power on display in momentous ways in Egypt and there He was, demonstrating His power again right in front of them on the mountain. They were terrified and wanted Moses to be their mediator.
On the fiftieth day after Passover, after God led His people out of slavery, God gave Moses the Law on Mt Sinai and there is a curious Jewish tradition that is very ancient – it’s NOT IN SCRIPTURE – but it’s an ancient tradition from a book called ‘Legends of the Jews’ that says that when God came down on Mt Sinai, angels brought ‘crowns of fire’ for every Israelite.
‘And when God spoke, “The Divine voice divided itself into the seventy tongues of men, so that all might understand it… All heard indeed the same words, but the same voice, corresponding to the individuality of each, was God’s way of speaking with them. And as the same voice sounded differently to each one, so did the Divine vision appear differently to each.”‘ (Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginsberg)
Again, this isn’t a Biblical account, I’m not even implying that it’s historical or even correct, it’s just a legend, but the Jews were all very familiar with it and it’s interesting that this is how God visited the Jewish believer’s in Jerusalem on the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) on the very day the New Covenant was born.
God rested on each one in the form of a tongue of fire and gave them the ability to speak in foreign human languages so that the international Jewish community who were in Jerusalem at that time to celebrate Shavuot, would be able to hear the Word of God regarding Jesus and His Gospel clearly in their own languages.
There are other interesting passages of Scripture that reference wind and fire.
Ezekiel 1:4, 13, ‘As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.’ – ‘In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright and lightning was flashing from the fire.’
Isaiah 6:6, ‘Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”‘
If you read both these passages in their full context you discover that God was specifically calling both Ezekiel and Isaiah to speak His words, His message not only to the people of Israel, but to the world.
In Exodus, God commissioned Israel to represent Him as His people and He gave them His Law so they would reflect His holiness and speak His truth.
In Ezekiel and Isaiah, God commissioned His prophets to proclaim His Word to His wayward people.
In Acts, we see God possibly replaying scenes from Israel’s history, commissioning His people who believed in His Son, Jesus, to take the message of His Gospel to the world, and bring Jew and Gentile together as ‘one new man.’
We see too that the story of Ruth, the Gentile bride, who is accepted into the nation of Israel, who believes in their God and aligns herself with them is redeemed by a Jewish kinsmen-redeemer, her groom.
The Feast of Shavuot, Pentecost, is the perfect picture of the Gentile bride being accepted and grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, into their New Covenant written on their hearts, the Law / Word of God that transforms their religion from a system of duty and rituals, to a relationship of love and devotion. Jew and Gentile together as one.
The interesting thing about this ‘one new man’ that Paul describes is that Islam recognizes the joint relationship of Christians and Jews and jointly refers to them as the ‘People of the Book’. The only people who don’t see the ‘one new man’ relationship are Jews and Christians and that’s primarily due to Replacement Theology and secondly to an ingrained anti-Semitism that most don’t even realise is there.