This is Shavuot

Shavuot is right around the corner. So to all who may not know much about it, this may be of interest to you. If you would prefer the podcast of this post, you can find it at the bottom.
 The Torah states, "Three times a year, you are to observe a festival for me".1 This is referring to three festivals found on the Jewish calendar, Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (weeks, Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles, Ingathering). These are collectively known to the Jewish people as Shalosh Regalim, meaning “the three festivals”. On these occasions, the people (specifically the males)2 were commanded to make a journey to “appear” at the Temple in Jerusalem, as part of the celebration. These are three of seven festivals given by God in the Torah for commemoration, but these three are set apart for specifically coming to Jerusalem.
Each of these three festivals commemorates an important event in the history of the Hebrews. Passover commemorated the exodus of the people out of the bondage of Egypt; the freedom of slaves from 400 some odd years captivity. That is truly a cause for celebration. Shavuot celebrates the giving of God’s Torah or instruction/teaching (this is tradition, not actually stated in the scripture, although there are good Biblical reasons through which the Rabbinical interpretations on this are probably right, and does not really change the picture either way because it was in the same season). Even the book of Jubilees (written around the second century B.C.) links the giving of Torah to Shavuot. Sukkot was also a real event; it was the journey through the desert to the land of promise, and the celebration of the end of 40 years in wandering.
In addition to the things I just mentioned about these three festivals, they also have another meaning. Because Israel was always an agrarian based people, their festivals and calendar reflected it. During the season of Passover (this time period is called the festival of unleavened bread, as well as another holiday called Reshit Katzir, also known as bikurim) is celebrated as the first-fruits of the barley harvest. Shavuot is the first-fruits signifying the beginning of wheat harvest, and the end of the barley harvest. Sukkot is then the final “ingathering” of the produce. 
Like many other things in the Scriptures, especially for those who are believers in the Messiah Yeshua, these festivals (also called feasts) contain many more pictures and fulfillment in addition to an actual event at a specific time in history. For example, Passover was a real event that was and is celebrated. But is it possible that in the physical imagery that really happened at a specific point in time, something greater was at work; another picture that is framed in that one? Or perhaps it is the other way around. Maybe that was a picture of something greater that was to come, something that would culminate in the sacrifice of the Messiah. Can God do that? There were really lambs sacrificed at the original Passover, and because of obedience, the angel of death would Passover the people. The lamb is the Passover. Because of the Lamb we are passed over.
Then in the first century A.D., Yeshua instructed his disciples that when they observed this [Passover], to remember him; he is the Passover. So observing something that has been fulfilled or still seeing the picture, is not any different after the coming of Messiah, other than we see it with more clarity because we now know who the Messiah is, and we can see in vivid color the beauty of a picture that was only one layer visible in black and white.
In much the same way, Sukkot also was something that really took place, but I also believe it has implications in our future (as well as other festivals, possibly Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah). These festivals or feasts can have such an impact for those who desire to see the richness of what God intended for them to signify.
So, have you been counting your omer? What kind of question is that, and what in the world is an omer? The festival of Shavuot is also called the festival or feast of weeks (Shavuot means “weeks”). Well, again if we go to the Torah, specifically Leviticus 23:17 we find that we must count the days from the second night of Passover to the day before Shavuot, “seven full weeks”. This period is called “counting the omer”. An omer is a unit of measure. It is one-tenth part of an ephah.3 Well that doesn’t help much either.  It is a measurement of something dry containing, at least according to the Rabbis, two quarts, but according to Josephus, three and one-half quarts. At least it gives a little idea how much we are talking about.
On the second day of Passover, during the Temple period, an omer of barley was cut down and brought to the temple as part of what was called a “wave offering”. From then on, every night, until the night before Shavuot, a blessing is recited, and the omer is counted, cited in weeks and days. The counting is to remember that Shavuot is connected to Passover. Without the Exodus (coming out), we could have never come to the mountain of God and learn His instruction. The picture was also taken further in the promises that were made upon the Exodus; I will bring you out (used to be slaves), I will set you free (not even a slave anymore), I will redeem you (redemption at Sinai), I will take you (cup of protection, as a husband).4
The picture of Shavuot can be found in “I will redeem you”, and “I will take you”. The Hebrews looked at the giving of Torah as a marriage and the Torah as the ketubah (the marriage document). There are many other very neat pictures found at this “wedding” of the God of Israel and His people at Horeb (Sinai), but that is not my intent for now.
This feast is celebrated 50 days after Passover, which is the month in the Jewish calendar called Sivan (the third month). In Exodus 19, we find that the Hebrews reached Sinai “in the third month” (this is the religious calendar cycle, not the civil calendar).
Yeshua quoted the Torah in his desert experience (40 days just like Moses) from Deuteronomy 8, “a person does not live on food [bread] alone but on everything that comes from the mouth of ADONAI”. It fits very well then, on this day as the Torah is celebrated, that “bread” is part of the offering.
People streamed from all around in celebration of this feast, as commanded. They would bring their gifts to the temple in Jerusalem, and present them to the priest. This festival was based on the offering of “new grain”, so two loaves of bread were baked with a gallon of fine flour with the first of the wheat harvest as thanks for the harvest of the wheat. The priest would wave the loaves before the Lord. 5 The first of the harvest went to the Lord, with anticipation of more to follow. That is the meaning of a “first-fruits”. You can imagine the crowds one would encounter when all the people were obeying Torah and “appearing” before the Lord on this occasion.
In addition to all of this, sacrifices were also done. On the 50th day (after the Passover Sabbath), not diminishing the daily sacrifice, seven male lambs, one young bull and two rams were offered as burnt offerings. There were other offerings as well, two lambs for a fellowship offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. There were many things that took place, and there are many details that could layed out that would undoubtedly be interesting to you, but are not the whole point of what was being done. Take everything we have seen so far about this God given celebration, and use it as a backdrop and a Hebrew understanding for another point in time where we will go next.
Come with me to the Galilee. After Yeshua’s resurrection, according to Matthew, Yeshua told his disciples to meet him on a hill in the Galilee.6 All that distance for the disciples to go, and he gives them one message. He wanted them to continue his mission and know they went under the authority that was placed upon him. He told them to return to Jerusalem, and according to Luke, they are told to stay in the city of Jerusalem and wait until they received the “promise of the Father”,7 which is the Ruach, the wind, breath, or in the Greek translation, “Spirit” of God.
In the first chapter of Acts we find it was 40 days after his resurrection, Yeshua ascended to the right hand of God. There is no doubt about it that there was much anticipation for the coming feast of Shavuot, as the disciples would continue to obey God’s instructions (Torah) as Yeshua had done, and commanded. Yeshua having died on Passover, put in the grave on unleavened bread, and raised on First-Fruits (barley), made this a festival season for disciples unlike any they had ever experienced.
We come to the day of anticipation, Shavuot. Now some translations render this not as Shavuot, but Pentecost, which is the Greek literally meaning “fifty”, or “the fifty”.  It is now 10 days after Yeshua ascended, and in Acts 2:1 we observe, “The festival of Shavu'ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place.” What else would be expected on Shavuot? This is nothing out of the ordinary. They would gather at the temple. Where were the disciples? Where else would you expect to find Jewish males who were to appear before the Lord on Shavuot? They were at the temple with everyone else participating in the ceremony and celebration. “Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Notice the word “house”, which is another way of describing the temple, meaning “God’s House”.8 Showing that this happened at the temple is not my objective, although with all the things reflected in this festival, I don’t believe is very difficult to prove. Either way, some strange things began to happen.
At a prior festival (the last great day of the seven day festival of Sukkot called Hoshana Rabbah, at the water libation nisuch ha-mayim, which had to do with living water being brought and poured on the altar), Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!”(Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in him were to receive later- the Spirit had not yet been given, because Yeshua had not yet been glorified)” John 7:37-39. In the same manner as Yeshua had done, Peter stood up at this festival and proclaimed, “You Judeans, and all of you staying here in Yerushalayim! Let me tell you what this means! Listen carefully to me!”9 Peter was explaining to those who were apart of the activities, who might not have been privy to all that was happening, and had already happened with Yeshua, who the disciples and we know to be the Messiah, the anointed of God.
Peter gives us another clue as well, “nine in the morning”,10 the time that the ceremony would be going. Some scholars also believe it was at this time the portions from the Torah and prophets were read, which would have included the description of God on Mount Sinai11 (which was thunder, lightning, fire, smoke and trumpets and earthquake). It would have also included passages from the book of Ezekiel. The first two chapters of his account, tell of his amazing vision (which is a whole study in of itself and the creatures and visions he saw), but there was also lightning and fire. Ezekiel fell down, and was then commanded to stand. When he had done so, it says that ruach ([the] spirit, wind, breath) entered him, and he was spoken to. He, under what we might call this “empowering”, was to be a prophet, an emissary, a sent one, with a divine message to his people. Does this sound familiar? Did you know that this had been done before Acts? Does this surprise you? God’s power comes over His people to perform His tasks. It is His message, to be done His way.
In Acts we have the same ruach coming with wind and fire, and the gift of “tongues” allowing Yeshua’s disciples to speak the message of the Father to the “Judeans, and all staying in Jerusalem” which included many from different nations, as Acts 2:9 clearly shows. Without seeing the context, we cannot appreciate the full effect of what is happening.
Other passages read on this day are Habakkuk 3, and the story of Ruth. What is amazing about the story of Ruth, especially with the story of Acts in our minds, is that the book of Ruth in one sense celebrates the idea of a gentile being joined to the Hebrew people, a foreshadowing of what would be done in Acts through the disciples word and through the unity of the Messiah. There is another part to this as well. The story of Ruth is about harvest. In some senses we could say that the two loaves of Shavuot represent the Jews and the Gentiles together, being presented as an offering to God. Keep in mind as well that Ruth and Naomi’s survival was based on others, and their leaving some of their harvest to provide for them. This is a picture in Shavuot we will examine.
There is another direct and strong correlation to that of Acts and the giving of Torah. In chapter 32 of Exodus, Moses was on the mountain, and the people did not know what had become of him. The people decided to have an affair with another “god” as Moses was receiving the covenant of their “Husband” (God, YHVH). God told Moses to hurry down because of what was taking place. Moses saw what was being done, he took and ground the golden representation of the “god” to dust and made the people drink it. If you think the whole wife and husband thing is a stretch, look at Numbers chapter 5 verses 11-31 and the test for an unfaithful wife, and see if it matches what was done to the people with the golden calf. Ultimately, three thousand people die as a result of the affair. Now look at Acts again. How many people because of the power given the disciples were birthed into the Kingdom? Act 2:41So those who accepted what he said were immersed, and there were added to the group that day about three thousand people.” Do you think that is just a coincidence? That is a huge picture. The same could be said in relationship to the first-fruits offering; this was a type of first-fruits (the three thousand) of a larger harvest, or more to come.
In the Torah it also says the people washed their clothes.12 The next thing that happens in Acts is that those three thousand were immersed. Now true, it does not say the immersion was a water immersion, but whether it was or not, the picture is still there and it changes little either way. It is however noteworthy that near the place where all this would most naturally take place, are many ritual baths called “mikvoth”. These pools of water were for people (pilgrims) to wash in before going up to the temple.   
Being filled with the “Spirit” in one sense was not a new thing. But as Peter and Paul would later specify, God was giving much to the gentiles. The parallels to Sinai are unmistakable and not coincidence. It is still the breath, wind, or as most are acclimated to saying, the Spirit of God who gives life. God through this great festival included the gentiles and gave new definition and further meaning by allowing us to participate in something that was already there and started so long ago.
There is something else though that may give just a bit more of a glimpse as to what was being said through picture and being seen by the eyes and ears of those early followers. God had many ways of describing and showing His presence. But like we saw earlier with the giving of the Torah to Moses, the Tabernacle was also given. Then later on down the road, Solomon built the first stationary tabernacle in Jerusalem (a place that God had chosen to put His name). In Exodus 25 and 40 the Ark of the Covenant was a place where God said His presence would “dwell” (symbolized by smoke and fire). That presence was then moved into Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles 5 and 7. We already looked at the fire and smoke seen in Ezekiel’s vision of chapter 1. In chapter 2 of Acts we see God once again represented by “wind” and “fire”, but instead of being on the Ark, in the Holy of Holies (was the veil still torn from Passover not too long before this) we see His presence upon the people, suggesting that in the same way when His presence moved from the mobile tabernacle to the temple, His presence was once again moving to a mobile tabernacle. That is the picture. Is God that wishy washy that He can’t make up His mind where He wants to live? No, I do not believe that was ever the picture being portrayed. He never lived there anyway, as even God said to Isaiah, “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?13 This is attested at the witness of Stephen in Acts 7 when he testified saying, “Solomon did build him a house. But Ha'Elyon [Most High] does not live in places made by hand! As the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne,' says ADONAI, 'and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house could you build for me? What kind of place could you devise for my rest? Didn't I myself make all these things? “Stiffnecked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You continually oppose the Ruach HaKodesh! You do the same things your fathers did!”
The picture is that it is among the community, the people of God, the Sheep of His pasture, where His presence dwells. It was the same before. God still desires to “tabernacle” among His people. God wants His people, a Royal Priesthood to show the nations around, what He is like, to put Him on display. That is what the temple had been. The picture is not that of individualism to where we are all little temples walking around, the picture is we all together make up the temple, the House of God. Peter remarked in 1 Peter 2, “As you come to him, the living stone, [also said to be the cornerstone by the Messiah himself] rejected by people but chosen by God and precious to him, you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house [there is the temple again] to be cohanim [priests] set apart for God to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Yeshua the Messiah. This is why the Tanakh says,Look! I am laying in Tziyon a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and whoever rests his trust on it will certainly not be humiliated. Now to you who keep trusting, he is precious. But to those who are not trusting, “The very stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”14
This is the culmination of God writing the Torah on the hearts of His people.15 It is not about legalism and keeping certain rites and rules, as many religions propagate, it is instead having the desire to obey God, desiring His fullness in every area of our lives, allowing Him to fill us, and living in complete surrender so that God may be “all in all”.16
That brings me to the final picture that I see in Shavuot, another correlation to what Acts records from the Torah. In the harvest the people were to leave the corners of their fields uncut.17 Yeshua reprimanded those who tried to keep the “law” and made God’s words (Torah) of no effect.18 So in the same way, it would be hypocrisy to “bring your gift to God”, and have no concern for the poor by cutting the corners of your field. Yeshua also stated that if there is something between a brother and yourself, leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled to your brother first (it is more important) and then give your gift. Both things are commands of God, but loving your brother is greater.19 This “caring for others” (the poor among them) is one of great significance in the entirety of the scriptures. Specifically here in Acts we find, “All those trusting in Yeshua stayed together and had everything in common; in fact, they sold their property and possessions and distributed the proceeds to all who were in need. Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose to meet in the Temple courts daily and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart.”20 They really took obedience seriously.
There is a day coming in the not too distant future when this will happen again. God’s people will not only have to share with one another, but share with the unbelieving “nations” (represented by people, not geographical territories). Wouldn’t it be better to start now, and share and live in harmony out of love in our relationship not only with our Father, but also with our brothers in sisters with whom we “have all things in common”? How can we claim to have experienced “Shavuot”, but deny the least of what God has said? Can we have conflict with others in the “house” of God and claim to be living as He desires? Can we leave the “corners of our fields” uncut and still claim to be living in the obedience He instructs? As Yeshua said, “You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah- justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to- without neglecting the others!”21 
 This is Shavuot.

1 Ex 23:14
2 Ex 23:17, Deut 16:16
3 Ex 16:36
4 Ex 6:6-7
5 Lev 23:15-22
6 Matt 28:7, 10, 16
7 Luke 24:49
8 2 Chron 5:14, Acts 7:47,  Even to this day in Hebrew and among those exposed to it, the temple mount is called har ha-bayit meaning “the mountain of the house”
9 Acts 2:14
10 Acts 2:15
11 Ex 19:18-19, Deut 5:19-21
12 Ex 19:14
13 Isaiah 66
14 Quoted from Ps 118.
15 Jer 31 “new covenant”
16 1 Cor 15:28
17 Lev 19, 23
18 Mark 7
19 Matt 5
20 Acts 2:44-46

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