By Bonnie Saul Wilks, Senior Writer
A Messianic Study of the Jewish Feasts and Holidays
“In addition to the Sabbath, these are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the official days for holy assembly that are to be celebrated at their proper times each year” (Leviticus 23:4 NLT).
Feast – Shavuot or Pentecost
Summary – Shavuot falls on the Jewish calendar fifty days after Passover Sabbath. It is the second of three major feasts unto the Lord and holds both great agricultural and historical significance. Sandwiched in between Passover and Sukkot (or Feast of Booths), its historical background commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. On Passover, the Jewish people were delivered from Egyptian slavery, and on Shavuot they received the Torah. Shavuot’s agricultural significance is connected with the harvesting of the first fruits that were brought to the Temple annually.
Christians commemorate Pentecost, coinciding exactly with Shavuot. They remember the miraculous falling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples after the ascension of Yeshua. As the 120 waited in Jerusalem for this great gift of fire and embodiment, their hearts grew desperate for a visitation from the One they loved.
Read – Leviticus 23:15-17 and Exodus 34:22
Hebrew Words— Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew, and the Jewish spring feast is called “Feast of Weeks.” Christians call this holiday “Pentecost” which means “fifty” in Greek, from counting fifty days after the Passover Sabbath to figure the celebration day of Shavuot. It was on that day after the death and resurrection of Yeshua that the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit fell upon those who waited on God for boldness and power in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. This is considered to be the birth of the Church or the Body of Messiah (Acts 2). According to Jewish tradition, the Torah in Hebrew (the first five books of the Bible), also called the Pentateuch in Greek, was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai during Shavuot. The Hebrew word for “milk” is chalav, and for “honey” is devash.
Devotional Thought – To fully understand Shavuot, it is necessary to grasp the relationship between Passover and Shavuot. Passover marks Israel’s physical deliverance from the slavery of Egypt (Exodus 12:7). During the week of Passover, according to Exodus 12:20, “bread without yeast” was commanded by God to be eaten by the Israelites. Lamb’s blood slathered on the doorposts was the redeeming symbol on the historic first Passover meal so many years ago. To reinforce this significant event, lambs were sacrificed every Passover until Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. Later the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Messiah our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.” Those who embraced Yeshua were instructed to keep the Passover of the New Covenant or the Lord’s Supper “not with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Corinthian 5:7-8).
Shavuot or Pentecost contrasted the rituals of Passover. Israelites were instructed to prepare and present “two loaves of bread baked with yeast,” made from the first fruits of the wheat harvest which comes ripe at the first of Shavuot. These yeast loaves are waved before the LORD in thanksgiving with a grateful heart (Leviticus 23:15-20).
Leavening was a symbol of humankind’s sinful nature. Traditionally Jewish rabbis taught on the yezer ha-ra or the proclivity to do evil that resides in man and woman from the time of birth. Paul teaches us to get rid of the leaven of “malice and wickedness.”
The two yeasty loaves presented at Shavuot stood as a symbol of sinful man – both Jew and Gentile (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:9-10, 23). But on the first Pentecost a promise in prophecy was fulfilled as the priests waved these two loaves in the Temple. Prophets of old, centuries earlier, foretold of the sending of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel proclaimed that God would “pour out His Spirit upon the house of Israel (Ezekiel 39:39), and that He would give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them, removing the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
Zechariah spoke of how Messiah Yeshua would be of the royal House of David and would die for our sins and pour out a spirit of grace and supplication on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that they would gaze upon Him whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 22:16; John 20:37).
Joel foretold the “outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh,” and this became a hope for all believers in all nations (Joel 3:1). During Yeshua’s ministry on earth, He confirmed His Father’s promise to His disciples: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name will teach you all things and guide you into all truth” (John 14:26).
At the ascension of Yeshua, He stated again to those who watched Him ascend into heaven to His Father, “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Act 1:4-8).
I have experienced and witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit numerous times in my life. The outpouring of Toronto, Canada, attracted thousands for many years. The same for the visitation in Brownsville, Florida. My home church in Texas had years of revival. I saw children at their academy filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesy, and see visions over a two-week period after a period of repentance (Joel 2:28).
In an Ethiopian courtyard, a group of about 20 were unexpectedly overcome by an encounter with the Holy Spirit after an elderly Jewish man told us his story of persecution and the martyrdom of other believing Jews.
These are the days the prophets foresaw! As we celebrate Shavuot or Pentecost, let us cry out for the manifest presence of God in our private lives and in our corporate worship services. The Holy Spirit is a sign to the world that God is real among us and powerful to move miraculously in our midst.
Prayer – Dear Lord, I welcome the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as in the book of Acts that descended upon all those who waited with great expectation. I desire to receive boldness and power to proclaim that Yeshua is “Lord of all and that at His name every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is Lord.”
Holiday Celebrations and Traditions: Jewish tradition tells us that it is customary to enjoy one or more dairy meals during Shavuot. Some say this tradition serves as a reminder of God’s promise to bring the Israelites, who wandered in the desert, to a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). Another good reason to enjoy milk products abundantly is that the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, and Jews were to receive its words as newborns receive “milk” that nourishes their bodies. The “milk” of the Torah nourishes the spirit and soul. Every day of life should be served with the milk of God’s Word!