Shavuot (Pentecost): The Gifts of Torah & the Holy Spirit

This article has been reproduced with permission from Petah Tikvah (Door of Hope Ministries).

Almost 3500 years ago, our Heavenly Father unveiled the “Eseret D’varim” (the “Ten Commandments,” but more literally, the “Ten Sayings”) to the people of Israel. Passover begins as the 14th of Abib (Nisan) is turning into the 15th of Abib at sunset. Abib (Nisan) is the first month on the sacred calendar of Leviticus 23. “In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.”[1] The third month on the sacred calendar is Sivan, roughly equivalent to late May to early June.

The Israelites had just received freedom from slavery to the Egyptians. However, freedom without any rules won’t last. Freedom without laws is anarchy, chaos. God set us free from slavery to sin by placing His Spirit in us to enable us to live as He intended. Passover without Shavuot is incomplete. Therefore, Shavuot is called Atseret shel Pesach (Completion of Passover).

It was in the month of Sivan that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai, specifically on Shavuot, also called Pentecost or “Weeks.” By the way, according to Galatians 4:25, Mount Sinai is in Arabia—that is, what is modern day Saudi Arabia. Christian archeologist Jonathan Gray believes that the waters of the Red Sea parted for the Israelites on the eastern edge of what is called the Sinai Peninsula, and the Israelites arrived on the western shores of what is today Saudi Arabia. Here there is “land bridge” only 1000 feet below the surface of the Sea, compared to 5000 feet deep in most of the Gulf of Arabia. It is perhaps here that the waters of the Red Sea parted for the Israelites.

We should be happy that the Ten Commandments were composed by YHWH, and not by a modern-day lawyer. There is an expression: Keep It Simple Stupid, otherwise known by the acronym KISS. If a modern lawyer had composed the Ten Commandments, we could count on them filling up a fairly thick book.

According to the Rabbis, the Ten Commandments were given in the “Bat Kol” (Heavenly Voice) simultaneously in all 70 of the major languages of the ancient world, since they were intended for all mankind. They were also given outside the Land of Israel, as an indicator that they were not intended just for Jews. The other purpose for giving the Ten Commandments outside the Land of Israel was to show the Israelites that they must obey Torah even in the Galut (Diaspora—lands outside of Israel).

The first “commandment,” or “saying,” according to Jewish reckoning, is: “I am YHWH your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” [2] The Rabbis have turned this into a commandment, since it implies that we must believe in God. Most Jews do this one pretty good. I have met so-called Jewish atheists, but it is my opinion that most Jewish “atheists” believe in God, but are angry at Him, and the most insulting thing they can do to Him is to proclaim that they don’t believe in Him. It is my opinion that the overwhelming percentage of Jews believe in God.

The second and third commandments of Christian reckoning are combined into one commandment in the Jewish reckoning. That is, the commandments to not make idols or worship idols or other gods is all one commandment, according to Judaism. The third commandment on, it is all the same for both Christians and Jews, basically as follows:

  1. Don’t take the name of God (YHWH) in vain.
  2. Remember (or observe) the Sabbath.
  3. Honor your father and your mother.
  4. Don’t murder.
  5. Don’t commit adultery.
  6. Don’t steal.
  7. Don’t bear false witness.
  8. Don’t covet another’s property, etc.

The fourth commandment about Shabbat (the Sabbath) takes up 4 verses of Scripture. God takes up more time with this commandment than any of the other commandments, so I assume that He is pretty serious about this one. Also, in no place of Scripture is the Sabbath changed from “Saturday” to Sunday. The Seventh day is Shabbat. All ten were written on tablets of stone by God’s own finger, in what amounts to the Big Ten. The Ten Commandments were originally a much larger part of Jewish liturgy, and were originally on the tiny scrolls in the mezuzah[3] and in the tefillin.[4] However, when Christians began placing so much emphasis on the Ten Commandments, Jews started de-emphasizing them. Unfortunately, one of the ways that the scribes chose to de-emphasize the Ten Commandments was to remove them from the scrolls that can be found in mezuzahs and tefillin. (Similarly, Jews used to kneel when praying, but stopped kneeling when they saw Christians kneeling. The Hebrew word for blessing is b’rakha, from the word for knee, which is berekh.)

Shavuot is one of the only holidays in which no specific date is given for it in Leviticus 23. Instead, we are supposed to compute the proper day to celebrate it. According to Leviticus 23:11, the First Fruits (of barley) were to be waived on the “day after the Sabbath” that occurs during Passover. The Hebrew word for “Sabbath” in this case is “Shabbat.” This is the 7th day Sabbath. There is another word for a High Holy Day Sabbath, which is Shabbaton, as in Leviticus 23:24. The First Fruits wave offering for the First Fruits (of barley) is always “Sunday,” which begins Saturday at sunset.

“And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete. Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto YHWH. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves[5] of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firs fruits unto YHWH.”[6]

The day after the seventh Sabbath is always Yom Rishon (“Sunday”). The Church got this one right! Pentecost (Shavuot) is always on Sunday, but it begins Saturday at sunset and ends Sunday at sunset. The Sadducean and Karaite reckoning for Shavuot is also on Sunday. Rabbinically, the count for Shavuot begins on the day after the first day of Passover, and ends 50 days later, so rabbinically it can occur on any day of the week.

Curiously, Pentecost is one of the few “Jewish” holidays that Christians are interested in. It should be noted that the holidays of Leviticus 23 are the Biblical holidays. Also, “One statute shall be for you, and also for the stranger that sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations: as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one ordinance shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourns with you.”[7] Truth is truth, whether one is Jewish or Gentile. For the most part, God’s standard is the same for all peoples, although there are some commandments which are specific to certain groups, such as the Levites, kohenim, etc.

Shavuot seems to have been relegated to being a relatively minor holiday in our times. However, Biblically, it is one of the Big Three. “Three times in a year shall all your males appear before YHWH thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), and in the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), and in the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). And they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of YHWH thy God which He has given you.”[8]

We blow the shofar at all Holy Days. “Blow the shofar at the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.”[9] The shofar isn’t just for the “Feast of Trumpets”!

All of the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 have prophetic fulfillments, some of which were fulfilled, such as Passover, and some which will be fulfilled in the future. We see a prophetic fulfillment of Shavuot in Ezekiel 36.

“For I (YHWH) will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.

In other words, God will bring the Jews back into the Land in unbelief, and then He will sprinkle clean water on the Jews and cleanse them, and cause them to walk in His statutes. I have heard some who claim that the Jews shouldn’t be back in the Land in unbelief. However, this as it was prophesied, according to the will of God.

“And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith YHWH of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith YHWH of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith YHWH of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith YHWH of hosts.”[10]

The “House” being referred to is the Temple of God. The First Temple under King Solomon was an architectural wonder, a magnificent structure. The Second Temple was built after the return of the Jews from Babylon. However, it was like nothing compared to the First Temple. However, we have a marvelous promise in which “the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former…” When did this occur? I would like to suggest another prophetic fulfillment of Shavuot:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 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 there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” [11]

The result of this infilling of God’s Spirit was an enablement that emboldened the disciples of Messiah to be his witnesses. The very first place in which this occurred was in the Temple in Jerusalem. As you may remember, Shavuot was one of the three pilgrimage festivals in which all the males were to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. Also, the only one in town to have a house big enough to hold many thousands of people was God. The disciples, all being good Jews, were at the Temple, in obedience to the command.

In addition, there were proselytes to Judaism also worshipping in the Temple.[12] I think that they were just as surprised as anyone else at the outpouring of the Ruakh HaKodesh.[13] They began speaking actual known languages of the many Jews who were visiting Jerusalem from many other countries of the Galut. Even in the First Century, most Jews lived in countries outside of Israel. Just as it is today, most Jews living in the Diaspora did not speak Hebrew fluently.

In order to fully understand the Gospel message, they needed to hear it in the language of the country in which they lived. The problem was resolved when the disciples of Yeshua suddenly supernaturally began speaking in other languages that they had never learned! However, the greatest miracle of Shavuot wasn’t speaking in unknown tongues; the greatest miracle of Shavuot was the changed lives as a result of the Holy Spirit writing the mitzvoth on the hearts of the disciples.

After this rather unique experience, Shimon Kefa (Simon Peter) delivered a rousing sermon based primarily on Joel chapter 2 and Psalm 16. Remember Shimon Kefa denying his Master Yeshua three times just prior to the crucifixion? Remember the disciples bolting the doors shut and basically “hiding out” after the crucifixion of Yeshua? Suddenly they have become empowered and emboldened. The result was a conviction of the Holy Spirit on the hearts and minds of those present. Shimon Kefa said, “Repent, and let each of you be immersed in the name of Yeshua the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”[14] Those who received the word were immersed, about 3,000 souls! This “Upper Room” obviously was in no ordinary house. Nobody in Jerusalem had enough bathtubs to immerse 3,000 people except for YHWH! Mikveh baths[15] dotted the Temple Mount for the many who made pilgrimages to Jerusalem. I wonder how many rejected the word that was given that day? Like I said, that was a mighty big house!

There are many who point to this day of Pentecost as the birthday of the Christian Church. More accurately, this was the birthday of Messianic Judaism as a dynamic movement. The myriads (tens of thousands) of Jerusalem Jews who had accepted Yeshua as Messiah were “all zealous for Torah.”[16]

The New Covenant

The writer of Hebrews quoted the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) in explaining the New Covenant that God made with His people:

“Behold, the days come, saith YHWH, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith YHWH. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith YHWH: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.[17]

It’s interesting to note the New Covenant is made only with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. In order for a Gentile to partake of the covenant, he or she must be grafted into the Jewish olive tree, according to Romans 11:17-24. Those who reject the Jewish olive tree have no covenant relationship with God. Similarly, Rav Shaul wrote the following:

“That at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the citizenship[18] of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who sometimes were far off are brought near by the blood of Messiah. For He is our peace, who has made both (Jew and Gentile) one (echad), and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby, and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord: In whom you also are being built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”[19]

The Book of Ruth is traditionally also read at Shavuot. She sets the example for us today. Ruth the Moabitess said to her beloved Jewish mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 1:16):

“Do not urge me to go, or to return from following after you. For where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried: YHWH do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part you and me.”

Ruth was a proselyte to the God of Israel.

 

Endnotes:

[1] Sh’mot (Exodus) 19:1.

[2] Exodus 20:2.

[3] The little boxes on Jewish doorposts containing scripture verses.

[4] “Phylacteries,” the leather boxes containing scripture verses held onto the body by straps.

[5] According to the Rabbis, one loaf represented the Jews, and the other loaf represented the Gentiles, both made with leavened bread, indicating that both had sin.

[6] Leviticus 23:15-17.

[7] B’Midbar (Numbers) 15:15-16.

[8] D’varim (Deuteronomy) 16:16

[9] Teffilin (Psalm) 81:3.

[10] Haggai 2:7-9.

[11] Acts 2:1-4.

[12] Acts 2:10.

[13] Holy Spirit.

[14] Acts 2:38.

[15] For ritual immersions and cleansings.

[16] Acts 21:20.

[17] Hebrews 8:8-10.

[18] English translations translate the Greek word “politeia” as “commonwealth,” but only in this verse. “Politeia” is much more accurately translated as “citizenship,” which is how it is translated in other places in scripture, and how it is always translated into other languages other than English. This is a much closer relationship than being in the “Commonwealth of Israel.” For instance, a man in India is part of the British Commonwealth, but he doesn’t have any of the benefits of British citizenship (although he is given preference for immigration to Britain.) Gentiles who attach themselves to the Jewish Messiah have a spiritual citizenship with Israel.

[19] Ephesians 2:12-22.

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