The Spirit Gives Life
The Hebrew word שָׁבֻעֹת֙ – Shavuot (sha-voo-ot) literally means ‘weeks’. Exodus 34:22 says, “And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest.” The phrase ‘feast of weeks’ is translated from the Hebrew – חַ֤ג שָׁבֻעֹת֙ – chag shavuot. In Modern Hebrew, the word חג – means ‘holiday’. The time of Shavuot is given in Leviticus 23:15-16: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.” The phrase ‘seven sabbaths’ is from the Hebrew – שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת – sheva shabatot (plural of Shabbat). So Shavuot occurs 7 weeks plus one day or 50 days after Passover. According to Jewish tradition, Shavuot marks the giving of the Law, the Torah on Mt. Sinai and the Hebrew phrase, Matan Torah ( מתן תורה ) refers to this. Therefore, much emphasis is placed on the Word of God and the Ten Commandments at Shavuot. In Israel, many students will study the Torah ALL NIGHT on Shavuot!
The first four mo’edim are also very prominent in the New Testament and it is important to understand the connection back to Leviticus 23. The first key is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” His coming was to fulfill or bring to completion, the law and the prophets (ie, the T’nakh), not destroy or do away with it. Later the Apostle Paul explained that the holy days of the T’nakh, ie., the mo’edim, “are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17) Just as a shadow points back to the person who cast it, so the mo’edim point to different aspects of Christ’s work.
The New Testament book of Acts says “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come …” Since the New Testament was written in Greek rather than Hebrew, the Greek term ‘Pentecost’ is used for Shavuot. The prefix ‘pente’ refers to five referring to the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot. Recall that after His resurrection, Jesus was upon the earth for 40 days before He ascended to Heaven. (cf. Luke 24:49-51; Acts 1:3). He instructed His disciples, “…tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) This happened 10 days later (or 50 days from Passover) as Luke records in Acts 2:2,4, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting … And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Shavuot is also one of the three pilgrim feasts known in Hebrew as Shalosh Regalim – שלוש רגלים. The other two are Passover and Sukkot. Exodus 34:23 states, “Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.” The men were required to make the journey to Jerusalem three times a year for these three feasts. If they could, they took their families also. This explains why Jews from ‘every nation’ were in Jerusalem on
Shavuot: “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:5) Verses 9-11 lists all the countries that they came from: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:9-11) God worked a special miracle on the day of Pentecost to allow the disciples to speak to these who had come in Jerusalem in their own language. The word ‘tongues’ simply refers to the languages of those present. This miracle was like a reversal of what occurred at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10. There God divided the languages of the people. At Pentecost, God worked a miracle to allow those of many different languages to hear the good news of what Jesus had accomplished in Jerusalem.
The New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit birthed ‘the church’ on the day of Pentecost with ‘church’ referring not to buildings, but to those who believed on Jesus. The church is not an organization created by men. It is not a ‘denomination’. It has NOTHING to do with Rome. It is a living organism birthed by God. While on earth, Jesus referred to believers as ‘his body’. He did not mean a physical body of flesh and blood, but the company of all who believed in Him. I think it is truly amazing that Shavuot (Pentecost) marks God’s “inauguration” if you will, of both Covenants: the Old Covenant on Mt. Sinai and the New Covenant on the day of Pentecost.