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Pentecost is June 12th
Pentecost- what does that mean? Borrowed from Jews for Jesus.orgHow Much Does Pentecost?* by David Brickner
May 16, 2009
Actually, Pentecost is first and foremost one of the most important and least appreciated Jewish festivals in the Bible. And since it is coming up in just a couple of weeks, June 7th, I think it would be helpful for RealTime readers to become better acquainted with this Feast of the Lord.
The Hebrew Bible gives three names for this holiday; each is significant because each reminds us of a truth God wants us to understand.
Pentecost is best known by the name, Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks: "And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest" (Exodus 34:22). The Hebrew word "Shavuot" means "sevens" or "weeks." The name of the holiday does not describe its duration: it is not celebrated for weeks—or even one week. It is actually a one-day festival. Shavuot refers to the amount of time between Passover and this holiday. God commanded the Israelites to count seven weeks from the day after Passover until this particular holiday.
Pentecost is Greek for "the 50th day," describing that same period of time. "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD" (Leviticus 23:15-16; see also Deuteronomy 16:9).
Whether you count in Hebrew or Greek—weeks or days—the countdown is the same, and begins the day after Passover. This process of counting the days emphasizes the theme of godly anticipation that is unique to this holiday. The sense of anticipation this holiday raises cannot be overstated.
Have you ever talked to a bride or groom-to-be who is counting the days and hours until the wedding? Or to a student who is counting the days until summer vacation—perhaps even graduation?
All of life's activities begin to organize themselves around one special event and as anticipation grows, the count down intensifies.
The Feast of Weeks points to a principle: God wants us to eagerly anticipate the celebration of time spent with Him, to look forward to fellowship with Him and with those who love Him. No doubt this principle applies to our hope of heaven, but we should anticipate the times we set aside here and now to be in His presence and to worship Him with His saints.
A second biblical name for the holiday is "Hag ha bikurim." "Hag" means festival or pilgrimage and "ha bikurim" is Hebrew for the first fruits:
"Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your [Feast of] Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work" (Numbers 28:26).
The Hebrew word "bikurim" is related to the root word "bekhor," which means first-born. The connection between first fruits and the firstborn is important because the Bible tells us that the firstborn, both humans and beasts, belong to God.
"Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, [both] of man and beast; it is Mine" (Exodus 13:2).
The Jewish tradition of "pidyon ha ben" (the redemption of the first-born), is based on God's claim in the above Scripture. In Numbers 3:40-51, we see that, after the Exodus, God required a census be taken and a price paid for every firstborn male of the children of Israel. This was a practical demonstration of His claim, helping His people understand what they owed Him, and what He was willing to accept, by grace, instead. We see this in the New Testament as Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to dedicate Him in the Temple in Jerusalem.
In the same way as God claims the firstborn, He tells His people that the first fruits of the ground also belong to Him. Thus this festival of hag ha bikurim—the festival of first fruits—speaks to us of the importance of dedicating our first and our best to the glory of God.
Scripture promises a direct connection between our dedication and God's provision. "Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine" (Proverbs 3:9-10).
This passage and the principle it expounds should not be abused to raise false hopes that prosperity is attainable in proportion to what we give. It would be foolish to calculate one's giving according to what one expects to receive in return. That is not giving at all. The key to this verse is to honor the Lord.
When we recognize that all we have belongs to God, we honor Him. When we dedicate ourselves and the first fruits of what He provides for His use, we honor Him. When we trust that giving our first fruits for His special use will not leave us destitute, we honor the Lord. This leads to His blessing. He blesses us because we acknowledge that we and all we have are rightfully His, and He blesses us because in giving back first fruits, we demonstrate our trust that He will continue to provide for us. So how much does Pente cost? It costs our first and our very best.
A third biblical name for the Feast of Pentecost is "Hag ha kazir," which simply means the festival of the harvest. This is likely the first name given to the holiday. (See Exodus 23:14-16)
Most of us are far removed from the kind of agrarian society that the Israelites experienced during Bible times. Almost everything we eat has been at least partially prepared by someone else. We may be somewhat affected when a drought or flood ruins a harvest in one part of the world, raising prices for that particular commodity, yet we still manage, at least in this country, to have food simply by purchasing it. But in ancient Israel the cycle of sowing and reaping was absolutely central to the existence of the Jewish people; it was part of the day in, day out rhythm of life. The feast of Pentecost is an important juncture in that cycle. It commemorated the ending of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest in the land.
This harvest festival emphasizes the themes of God's provision and our gratitude to Him for His covenant faithfulness. But there is a strong connection to Passover—a link created by counting the days. This reminds us that had God not redeemed the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, there would be no land, no crops, no rejoicing over God's provision. According to tradition, it also marks the day when God gave the great gift of the Torah to Israel at Mt. Sinai. The Law was to show God's redeemed people how He wanted them to relate to Him, and to one another.
For Christians, the Jewish Feast of Pentecost is an historic milestone in the history of Jesus' followers. It is the day that God chose to send His Holy Spirit, which far surpasses the Law. God's Spirit not only instructs us but also empowers us in our relationships with God and one another.
Through that Spirit, God continues to produce in us a harvest of righteousness in good times and in bad. His righteousness is a wealth of truth and wisdom and blessing to all who heed its instruction. In a season when many have faced a loss of wealth, a loss of employment or a whole host of other kinds of economic uncertainties, we can remember that the Lord of the Harvest promises to continue to faithfully bless us with every good and perfect gift, to provide "all our needs according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus." That is a comforting thought indeed.
Shavuot is Sunset of June 7 through nightfall of June 9
In Bible times, this holiday was an agricultural festival-a time for our people to present the firstfruits of the crops to God, gratefully giving back to the Lord that which He had given to us.
A firstfruits offering was actually presented at the end of Passover (Leviticus 23:9-14). Then, seven weeks after Passover came Shavuot. This feast literally means "weeks." Shavuot fell fifty days after the Sabbath which came during Passover (Leviticus 23:15, 16), thus in Greek it was called Pentecost, or "fiftieth."
After the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, the agricultural rites associated with the biblical feasts could no longer be observed. Jewish tradition made a connection between Shavuot and the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, which was understood to be the fiftieth day after the Israelites came out of Egypt. The holiday also came to be called, "The Season of the Giving of the Law." To this day, it has become traditional to observe Shavuot by staying up all night and studying Torah.
In Acts 2 and 3, the New Covenant records that the Holy Spirit was poured out at Shavuot. As a result, 3,000 Jewish people recognized that Y'shua was indeed the Messiah, and they turned to God. These souls were the firstfruits of God's gospel harvest. Today, Jewish believers in Jesus participate in Shavuot in various ways, as you'll see in this section.
Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks
How to say it and what it meansThe Hebrew is shah-voo-oat, but it is also correct to say Shavuos (shah-voo-ohs). Shavuot means "weeks." The Greek word for this holiday is Pentecost, which means "50th."
Shavuot in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 23:15-21)
- Shavuot occurs 50 days or seven weeks after Passover.
- It is a harvest celebration commemorating God's provision for and sustenance of His people.
- Shavuot shares two important characteristics with the holidays Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles):
- All three holidays involved a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
- All three holidays involved firstfruit offerings at the Temple.
- Passover, in early spring, included firstfruits from the first harvest, barley.
- Shavuot, in late spring, included firstfruits from the wheat harvest. Among the many offerings given, was a "wave offering" of two loaves of leavened bread. This was the firstfruits offering.
- Sukkot, in the fall, was the final harvest and included firstfruits of olives and grapes.
Shavuot and Jewish Tradition
- According to Jewish tradition, Moses received the Law from God at Mount Sinai during Shavuot.
- Jewish tradition also suggests that King David both was born and died on Shavuot.
- Revelation: God's Word was revealed through the Law.
- Community: the giving of the Law taught the Jewish people how to relate to one another as well as to God.
- The Ten Commandments are read to commemorate the giving of the Law.
- Some Jewish people stay up all night studying the Torah (Law) to "re-live" the revelation at Mount Sinai. Book of Ruth is read, tying in with the theme of harvest as well as the theme of community. This also ties in with the belief that King David was born on Shavuot, since the last verse of the book shows that Ruth was one of his ancestors.
- A 12th century Aramaic poem, Akdamut, which heralds the Messianic future, is read.
- Jewish people traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with flowers and greens.
- An older tradition prescribes that two loaves of leavened bread be baked; some say they represent all of humanity (one loaf is the Jewish people, the other Gentiles), while others see them as representing the two tablets Moses brought down from Sinai.
- It is traditional to eat milk products, because the rabbis say that when our people received the Law they were as newborn babies.
Shavuot in the New Testament(see Acts 2)
- The giving of the gospel: God's grace revealed through the Living Word
- When the Holy Spirit came to the disciples in tongues of flames and they began speaking other languages, they were preaching the gospel of Jesus to God-fearing Jews who had come to Jerusalem from every nation under heaven to observe Shavuot at the Temple.
- The Resurrection connection: King David and Y'shua
- Peter seemed to know the tradition that King David was born and died on Shavuot as he gave his sermon. He used the prophecies of David in the Psalms to speak of the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of David.
- Prophecy fulfilled
- Peter pointed out to the crowd that what they were witnessing was a fulfillment of prophecy from the book of Joel (Joel 2:28).
- An experience of revelation and community
- A mighty revelation occurred that day as 3,000 Jewish people understood the truth of Peter's words and became followers of Jesus.
Shavuot in the future: the harvest festival to comeJust as there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that Jewish people heard and accepted Jesus in a supernatural way on Pentecost, so an even greater outpouring is predicted by the prophet Zechariah: "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).
Yes, there will be mourning when all of Israel finally realizes who Jesus is, but after the mourning and the repentance there will be great joy. Y'shua said this regarding the end-time harvest of souls:
"The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest"You may ask yourself why are they so passionate about the Jewish History. Because God loves the Jewish people and He has not forsaken them. Jesus and his crew of men were Jewish. We would not be Christians if it wasn't for the men and women who left their comfort zone to follow Jesus and his followers. Right now, Israel is under attack again! It seems always! Others want them dead, annialated and to take their land.
Our prayers are needed, our finances are needed, and your ears to be perked up to what is happening over there.
This is an archived article. It originally appeared on May 16, 2009. Some information may be outdated.