Celebration of Torah and the Harvest!

Happy Shavuot (aka: Pentecost) everyone!

The first time I heard the real story of Pentecost was in 2003. I remember sitting at the desk with tears in my eyes. Some, were tears of astonishment, for realizing how amazing God truly is; some were tears of embarrassment, for living my entire life as a Christian and realizing for the very first time this was a Jewish holiday and some were tears of anger, wondering why no one ever told me these amazing truths…only later finding out they too, did not know. I share this festival with you not to change the foundation of what you know Christian Pentecost to be, rather to open your hearts and eyes once again, to the pictures of our Jewish rabbi. I’m not here to make dogmatic statements or to tell you what is right or wrong, I’m simply here to share a teaching that has opened my eyes to the scriptures in a profound way.
As with the Passover Blog I won’t go into detail regarding tradition that takes place today. There are amazing celebrations around this festival and I encourage you to do your own research and make this holiday part of your family. I will jump back to the first century in order for you to see the picture of the Holy Spirit more clearly.

Before you partake in this journey with me, I encourage you to read the following scripture. I will be taking bits and pieces from these and it helps put it all together if you have the entire perspective as your background.
Ezekiel 1-3
Habakkuk 3
The book of Ruth
Exodus 19-20, 32
Leviticus 23:15-22
Joel 2:28-29
Acts 2

What is Shavuot?
Shavuot is a celebration of harvest and a celebration of Torah.
It is a celebration of the early wheat harvest; the second harvest in spring. (Remember after Passover, we celebrated the Feast of First Fruits with the beginning of the barley harvest and the fulfillment through the raising of Jesus out of the ground as the first fruit of those raised from the dead.) It occurs in the third month of the year, Sivan, in the Jewish calendar. It lasts one week, but the single day of Shavuot was when the scripture was read and defined as the holiday itself. It is a festival commanded in Leviticus 23. Shavuot (Sometimes referred to as the ‘Second First Fruits’) is referred to as the ‘Feast of Weeks’ in literature and in the Old Testament; this name comes from the meaning of the Hebrew word Shavuot or ‘weeks’. It is commanded to be celebrated seven weeks from the Sabbath of Passover week and then ‘the day after the Sabbath’, which always puts it on a Sunday. We get the name ‘Pentecost’ from our Greek ancestors, ‘PentÄ“kostÄ“’. Pente or ‘50’ and koste or ‘days’, which represents literally 50 days after the Sabbath of Passover week plus one day. (Also 50 days after Easter and it was also 50 days after the exodus that the commandments were given).
Why is this important?
It was commanded by God to ‘be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.’ Also, it helps us understand why Pentecost is so vitally important to Christians as fulfillment of Jewish prophecy.

What did the Jewish people do to celebrate the festival?
There were many customs surrounding the festival by the time of Jesus. God commanded that the people bring loaves of bread baked from their first wheat harvest into the temple to generally say, ‘God, this is our bread baked from the finest (and only) of all our wheat and we give it to you to thank you for giving us this harvest.’ They were also to bring a small offering of the wheat itself. The Sadducees were in charge of things at the temple and instilled customs regarding what the people were also to bring. Each family would bring a basket with one of each of seven species God promised to grow in holy land. (Deuteronomy 8:8) This was not a requirement by Biblical standards, but it was a cultural requirement. The baskets contained honey, barley, wheat, figs, pomegranates, olives, and grapes-it was not the time of year for these, but were brought anyway to express such devotion to God that they brought their food out of their storehouse, (or savings account), to give to God.
Pharisee tradition said yes to all these things, but also instated the celebration of Torah because this was the day God gave the commandments on Mt. Sinai to Moses; this idea was celebrated in the time of Jesus and is still celebrated today. (If you would like information on how can we know this, just let me know)
A very important part of Pentecost came from the scripture regarding your generosity. 
• Leviticus 23:22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’ 
Rabbis of the day taught that this commandment was placed here in Leviticus with the context of the feast because Pentecost is the feast where you come to God to say ‘thank you’ and it is the height of arrogance and blasphemy to go to God and say ‘thank you’ for all this stuff and give nothing to those in need around you. The proof you really were celebrating Pentecost and were truly thankful to God was not how much you brought to the temple, but rather if you left the corners of your field un-harvested. The principle of this commandment was there was no need for Welfare in the nation, you took care of each other no matter what. This was a dignified way that those who were not as blessed would be provided for just as adequately as those who had been blessed more. No permission required, no shame insinuated. As you see in the book of Ruth.
Why is this important?
It’s important to know the customs that were participated in during the time of Jesus. He would have celebrated Pentecost in this way, every year. It gives us clues as to why Pentecost was celebrated in the first place, to give God our very best, to be thankful for everything He’s blessed us with and to remind ourselves that we must take care of those around us. It’s also a good time when churches should have their ‘Kingdom Advancer’ (as our church calls it) services, or services asking for a little extra funding for missionaries, or expenses above and beyond the tithe because this is a requirement of Pentecost.
If Acts 2 is a spiritual fulfillment of Pentecost, then the true sign is generosity. We read ‘They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.’ So what does it mean to be filled with the spirit? The gift of tongues, the gift of healing, the gift of prophesy, the fruits of the spirit…all good things, but THE most fundamental sign that we are filled with the Spirit of God is that we care and share with those around us who don’t have what we have, it must come first or the other gifts are worthless.
Mathew 7:22 'Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Matthew 25:34-46 'Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

What scripture was read in the temple?
Four passages were read every year at the temple on the day of Pentecost.
• Ezekiel 1-3
• Habakkuk 3
• The book of Ruth
• Exodus 19-20
Why is this important?
If you don’t know what was read, how do you know what is fulfilled? How do you connect the dots of God’s word and God’s action if you don’t know the Text or don’t know the significance of the Text to the festivals? Read through and see the connections for yourself, here is just one:
• Ezekiel 1:4
‘And I looked, and behold, a loud wind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself; and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.’
What does fire and thunder mean? Every single time God’s presence comes down to live with the people throughout the entire Old Testament, there is sound and fire. Think of Mt. Sinai, tremendous sound/thunder, and fire covers the mountain. 2 Chronicles 6 tells us when Solomon built the temple, out of the eastern sky came fire and wind. Acts 2, we have fire and wind again. God is coming to live again with His people. He hadn't left the temple, but He was changing addresses again.
I think it’s pretty amazing that the very same time (9 am) that the scripture was being read to millions of people about the sound of thunder and the appearance of fire, that God appeared and shook the temple and came in fire.

How does Christian Pentecost correlate to Jewish Pentecost?
Exodus 19-20 tells us the story of Moses and the ten commandments. It’s a bittersweet story, relaying the events of how great God is to come down and give Moses a perfect way of life, and in turn, the Israelites, having just left Egypt with their gods, had turned to a golden calf for something to worship. So what in the world does this have to do with the Christian Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit? Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he sent his disciples back to Jerusalem to wait for the ‘Holy Spirit’ or the Hebrew word, ‘Ruach HaKodesh’ which literally translates ‘Holy Wind of God’. They’re in Jerusalem, in one place, and ‘suddenly, the sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaved and filled the whole house where they were sitting.’ This was not unexpected, the disciples were expecting something big to happen, for Jesus had died on Passover, was buried on Unleavened Bread, was raised in First Fruits, and this is the next greatest Jewish pilgrimage festival. This was no accident that God chose to use ‘the beginning of the harvest’ as literal terminology for the beginning of the harvest of converts. Jesus often refers to the harvest in terms of converts to Christianity. So if ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ are the same word, then this wouldn’t be a surprise to the disciples, they were expecting the wind to come and they were expecting big things. At 9 that morning at the temple, the readings began. History tells us there were at least 2 million people there, listening to the priest read. So what else was read?
• Ex 19:16
‘On the day that morning dawned there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled…and Mt. Sinai was covered in smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire.’ God answered Moses in THUNDER or the Hebrew word ‘kolet.’ Because the Hebrew language does not have a large vocabulary, there are duplicate meanings of words; Kolet means both thunder and voice. So thunder was always God’s voice to a Jewish person. According to Jewish tradition, when God marked out the nations in Genesis 10, He divided them into 70 nations and Genesis 11 tells the story of the Tower of Babel where God, in His judgment, confused the languages of those 70 nations and divided them through an inability to communicate. Another Jewish tradition states that when God gave the Law at Mount Sinai, each of the 70 elders of Israel had flames above their head, representing the languages of the 70 nations of the world.  This illustrates God’s intention that all of the nations would see and hear; God’s self-revelation at Sinai was to be carried to all nations in accordance with His love for all people. 
Finally, when Moses returned with the covenant, he saw the people worshipping the golden calf (Read Exodus 32) and he had the Levites kill all those who were responsible, how many were killed?
Why is this important?
There are many connections between the story in Exodus and the accounts of Acts.
• Acts 2:2-3 we see God appearing to the disciples in loud sound and fire just like He appeared to the Israelites at Sinai.
• Acts 2:6 tells us that everyone heard the message in his or her own language from every nation under heaven, just like He spoke to every nation at Sinai.
• Acts 2:41 tells us that 3,000 people were saved that day just has He had 3,000 Israelites killed at Sinai. 
• What Mt. Sinai/Shavuot is to a Jew, Pentecost becomes for a Christian, and where Torah was inscribed on the stone then, Torah is inscribed on our hearts on Pentecost today.

Where did the disciples experience the fulfillment of Pentecost?
We often hear that Pentecost occurred in the upper room. First, the Bible does not say that. Second (and logically), there is not a place in the Upper City (where the upper room was) where thousands of people could gather as a group, a space like that didn’t and doesn’t exist. The disciples were at the temple.
• Luke 24:53 “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
• Acts 2:1-2 “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.”
The Hebrew word ‘beit’ or ‘house’ is used every single time in the entire Bible as the word for ‘temple.’
• Acts 7:47 ‘But it was Solomon who built the ‘house’ for Him’
As we read Acts 2, we know that the disciples were around thousands of people or more, that there were God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven and Peter addresses all those living in Jerusalem at 9am in the morning. It is Pentecost, so where do all God-Fearing Jews go on one of the three holiest pilgrimage days of the year? They would have to be at the temple according to law and custom. So we know the scripture was being read and the celebration is occurring at the temple and you went to the temple for the 9am sacrifice, especially on a holiday and by law on Shavuot.
It could have been anywhere on the temple mount (not in the temple itself as the disciples were not from the tribe of LEVI), but we know from Jewish history and scholars that give us a pretty good clue where exactly Pentecost happened. All pilgrims had to enter through a certain set of gates to enter the temple courts, the Southern Stairs or the Great Pilgrim Staircase or the Hall to Gates. Also known as the rabbis ‘Teaching Staircase.’ Those rabbis who had a teaching they wanted to get to a large group of people would go to this location, as they were not supposed to disrupt the temple itself or the courts. They stood on the stairway and presented their ideas as the people went up the steps and if you liked what you heard, you could stop and listen. Right next to the staircase is a building containing 48 mikvot. ‘Ritual baths’ where Jewish people were required to partake in by standing in water and putting some to cleanse and purify their ‘head/thoughts, heart/words, hands/actions, and feet/walk’ before going to the temple. So when we see that 3,000 people were baptized that day, it is possible they used the water that was right next to them.
Why is this important?
The temple was the place God chose to live, in the arc at the tabernacle, then in the holy of holies at the temple on Mt. Moriah. This wasn’t a superstition, this was GOD, the creator of heaven and earth, and He moved into this building. Anyone in the world who wanted to find the presence of God could go to Jerusalem, climb the temple mount, go to the mikvah, up the steps, stand in front of the temple and say ‘in there, lives God!’ and you could take your kids there and teach them and not worry about their future because you knew where the presence of God lived and you could visit Him. So when we read in Acts about the temple (1200ft long 900 ft wide) greatly shaking and fire coming out of it, we know God’s presence is on the move and this time, He moved directly from the temple into us, we carry the very presence of the one true God with us all the time, we don’t have to hike thousands of miles to find Him anymore. He wants to show the world who He is and He’s going to do that by living in us.

So celebrate Pentecost with joy this year! God's prophesy rings true and is fulfilled in Jesus!


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