SHABBAT, 3 Iyar 5777 — יוֹם שַׁבָּת ג אִיָּר ה' תשעז Saturday, 29 April 2017
Shavuot

Introduction:

Each day on my way to the office from my house, I drive past a house converted into an office on a corner. There on the front lawn is a sign, Dr. Zucker, Dentist. I never thought much about it, perhaps I kind of mused to myself. Zucker, probably Jewish, and naturally a Doctor of some kind. But one day while I was driving by that office sign with my wife, she was laughing over it, and I thought it is not that funny. But you see my wife speaks German. Zucker is German. She says to me, "don't you know what Zucker means? Sugar. Whoever heard of a Dentist named Dr. Sugar?"

So all this to say, that often times things you see every day or think you understand and can take on a completely new perspective with a little added information.

Today, I hope to give a little added information as we look at the feast of Shavuot or Pentecost. As we read in Acts chapter 2, on the day of Pentecost, it was the day, the Holy Spirit was given, and the preaching began. This Sunday, churches around the world will celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the church universal.

I think it was no coincidence that God chose the feast of Shavuot on which to have this historic day recorded in Acts, chapter 2.

Today, we are going to look at Shavuot. Firstly, in the Torah, or the 5 books of Moses, then as it is in Tradition, and finally as we see its fulfillment in the New Testament.

Firstly in the Torah. Lets look back at Lev. 23.

Appointed times

Lev 23 discusses 7 appointed times for the people of Israel. Theses were times when Israel was to especially stop all they were doing, and focus on God. The first appointed time was the Sabbath, which was a weekly reminder to focus on God. Then came the three Spring Feasts, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread, the feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot and then the three Fall Feasts, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippor and Sukkot.

Now, one should underestimate the importance of this feast calendar. And I confess often I want to emphasize it less, because of the extremes some people go to. And I am not talking about the celebration of them, but the theology from them. But don't let people's extreme thinking ever fool you into complancency regarding their significance.

Why Look?

It was the day of Passover, at a Passover meal, in which Jesus held the Last Supper, and then later was crucified. It was on the Feast of First fruits that he rose from the dead, and it was on Shavuot that the Holy Spirit was given. These feasts are not merely pictures of these events, they actually happened on those days. As people were celebrating these feasts, the Lord enacted these history transforming events. God obviously packed tremendous meaning into them.

Passover

On Passover, it was the familiar story. As Judgement was to come upon Egypt, The Israelites were commanded to slay a spotless lamb, and put its blood on the doorposts of their homes and then Judgement passed over their homes. The first born of Israel was spared because the Passover Lamb was slain. 1400 years later, Y'shua, while celebrating the meal, took the traditional elements of that Passover meal of Remembrance of God's deliverance and said now remember me, I am that Passover Lamb. I will die in your place. He was crucified that same Hebrew day in the morning.

First Fruits

2 days later was the celebration of First fruits. The people were to go out and pick the first of the first harvest of the year, the Barley. They would take the sheaves and prepare the grains that night. A huge procession would go out from Jerusalem to a certain designated spot to pick it.

In the morning, the priests would wave it before the Lord. They were acknowledging that the Lord had given them the harvest that was before them, so the very first bit, they brought to Him. It was that day, that Y'shua rose from dead, first fruits from the dead as Paul says. The very first of the Harvest, and a promise of the rest of the harvest to come, of the resurection of all of God's people. Paul says because God raised him from the dead, we know he will raise us up also.

Shavuot

Now we come to our holiday of attention today: Shavuot. Let's turn to Leviticus 23:15-21, which we read earlier.

Discussion of 7's

In verse fifteen, from the day of that first offering of the sheaf, count 7 weeks, or 7 sevens. In the Bible 7 is the number of divine perfection, 7 days of creation, Joshua was told to circle Jericho 7 days, then 7 times on the last day. You may remember the Jubilee was 7 sevens of years. Here they are to wait 7 sevens, a perfect amount of time.

In verse 16, It says count 50 days actually, a day more than the seven weeks. Pentecost means 50 and if refers to the 50 day interval between the feast of first fruits and this feast. Pentecost was the name the Greek speaking Jews and non-Jewish Christians gave the feast. Most Jewish people today know it as Shavuot, which means weeks in Hebrew. This feast is actually known by three different names in the Torah, most commonly the Feast of Weeks, but also the Harvest feast and the day of first fruits.

You know this is an important feast for it is mentioned, twice in Exodus, in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is even mentioned 2 other times in the New Testament besides Acts 2.

Wheat Harvest

In verse 17, they were told to bring in 2 loaves of bread from where they lived and have the priest wave them before God, they were to be baked specifically from the first fruits of the Harvest. This was also a first fruits offering. The other feast came before anything was harvested, it was the first bit of Barley, then the people would harvest the barley, and by that time, the wheat had ripened and the people harvested that. But then before you ate any of it, you would make this offering to God of first fruits. At this time the people would usually bring the first fruits also of other foods like figs, grapes, etc. and make offerings to God.

Giving God our best:

In principle, First fruits were an act of trust and promise in the harvest to come and recognition of who brought the harvest. The people would bring the first and best of the crop before God.

This brings up an interesting idea. Sometimes we slack from Giving God, our first and best. In the book of Malachi, God rebukes the Israelites for that. He says:

Malachi 1:8 when you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" says the LORD Almighty.

There is a simple logic here. If you can't understand why you need to give God your best, imagine if you came before a king, you of course would try to please him and give him your best. After all, he is soveriegn over the land, he could take it if he wanted, he could have you thrown in prison, he had control over your life.

Can you imagine if you gave him a mediocre offering, not your best. You would not be respecting him, you would be denying his sovereignty over you and the Land, and even potentially incurring his wrath, should he find out. How much more when you don't give God the first and the best of what you have, you deny Him who creates the world and everything in it.

Free will offering

In fact in the passage about Shavuot in Deuteronomy it ads this line.

Deuteronomy 10 then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you.

The people would then make free will offerings to God out of the abundance of what had been given them - in proportion to his blessing. That is one of the themes of Shavuot - Giving. Giving out of all God gave to you, acknowledging it came from him. Then enjoying it with him. The offerings made to God in this way were eaten by the giver with all the family or people in need who were about. It was a feast unto the Lord. Joy, thankfulness and fellowship.

Also, at the end of the passage in Leviticus about Shavuot it commands people not to go back over their fields for every last bit but to leave that for the poor. If you are not willing to share of what God has given you with those in need, you must not really believe God has given it to you.

Leaven

But there was an odd thing about the offering of loaves on Shavuot. They were specifically to contain leaven. Now why with Leaven? You can't help but see the connection to the earlier part of the chapter surrounding the Passover, when in verse 6, it says for 7 days you are to have no leaven. In fact it is called the feast of unleavened bread. In Exodus, it says to cut off from Israel anyone who eats leaven during that feast. Then just a few verses later, it says now, I want you to make an offering specifically with leaven. Clearly leaven has signficance.

Even beyond the obvious shift in that text, normal sacrifices were never to include leaven, it was specifically excluded. Earlier in Leviticus it says:

Leviticus 2:11 'No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven.

In fact no sacrifices were ever to be with leaven. Leaven was never to get anywhere near the priests. Why?

Leaven seem to defile things, at least symbolically. In the New Testament, Paul says leaven is a symbol of sin. That is why it makes sense that it should never be anywhere near any offerings of worship to God. No offering to God can ever be tainted with sin, it is to be holy. The unleavened bread, which Y'shua held up at the Last Supper, he attributed to himself. "This bread is my body." Sinless.

So why now offer bread to God with Leaven? What an abomination!

But that is not the only uniqueness about what was to be offered on Shavuot. Look at Verse 19, Unlike Passover and first fruits, there was also to be a goat for a sin offering and 2 lambs for peace offerings. All of these were to be waved before the Lord together and were to be for the priests. Even the fellowship offerings are not for the priests normally but for the people. The priests only ate that which was holy to God, the fellowship offerings were for the people and were not holy. I think in this unique and unparalled offering in the Torah we find one the secrets to understanding Shavout.

Fellowship with God

In verse 20, all of these were for the Priest, holy to him. The priests was to eat these offerings, the bread and the fellowship sacrifices. The priests, who stood in between God and man as intercessors, stood eating these foods, not burnt up, but as fellowship between God and man. Yes, there was leaven, there was sin, but so was there the sin offering by which God was able to forgive them make them clean, make them holy and thus able to have fellowship with Him.

Man was rejoicing in the harvest, offering his fruits of the abundance of what God had given them, in thankfulness to Him, and in incredibly enough in Fellowship with him, being made able by the sin offering. They were recognizing God, praising God, giving thanks to God by celbrating this feast and making this offering to God. But most importantly they were enjoying God's abundant provision with God.

In Tradition

Now that is what Shavuot means in the Torah, but it takes a very different emphasis as we move to Tradition:

Shavuot was always traditionally the day of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai as we read in Exodus 19. While that is not stated in the Bible anywhere, Exodus 19 did occur in the third month, so the timing would be right.

But the radical stress on the giving of the Law and the study of the Torah on Shavuot really took off after the destruction of the Temple and the final revolt in 132 ad with Rabbi Akiba and Bar Kochba. Really that was the last attempt to regain Jerusalem and then re-build the Temple. So the Sanhedrin convened in 140, and moved the emphasis of Shavuot from the temple and agricultural offerings, to the historical event of the giving of the Law. So while Shavuot had already been the traditional day of the giving of the Law even at the time of Y'shua, much of the unique emphasis did not come until later.

Many orthodox Jews celebrate a tradition which began in the 16th Century of staying up all night to read, taking breaks for cheesecake in keeping with the dairy emphasis of the holiday, consuming the milk of the Word.

Downstairs there may be some other traditional foods eaten at this time of Blintzes and Kreplach.

Reading the book of Ruth, because a great event happened at the Harvest there. And also David was her descendent, and there is a traditional stress on David on Shavuot. Some sources I read say he was born on that day, others say he died.

New Testament

Setting

Now, as we move on to the New Testament.

Shavuot was one of three festivals where all of Israel was commanded to come before the Lord. Passover was the first, Shavuot and then the Feast of Tabernacles in the Fall, the late harvest. All three at times of Harvest.

An Agricultural Society:

Some of us have trouble relating to all the agricultural feasts, why they are so important in the Bible. Climb into a mindset of total orientation around the harvest. Our ability to live was based on whether grain came in or not. No Stop and Shop around the corner, if stuff goes bad in the fridge. It was obvious that everyone was totally reliant on God for the Harvest to come in. Are we going to be able to eat this year? Will I be able to feed my family? You can imagine the temptation and commonness of Idolatry, when you were willing to try anything, pray to anything, to make the crops come in or to have proper weather. The Lord was always trying to show them that it was only He that provided. That is why the first fruits must be brought to Him. Today we are often deceived by the ease with which we can have material and foods. We are deceived into thinking we are not totally dependent on God. We don't realize we are blind and naked apart from Him. Therefore God used the harvest and agricultural feasts to teach us spiritual realities about Himself.

So It makes sense whenever there was a harvest, God specifically made sure that all came to give thanks and recognition to Him.

At time of Y'shua

At the time of Y'shua, Jews were already scattered around the known world of that day. Pilgrims from around the globe had descended on Jerusalem in its glow of summer.

Try to place yourself in their shoes and imagine what it would have been like. The fields had been reaped; the harvest had been brought in. The people had finished with the hard work and now could relax, see all fruit of their labors before them. They can rejoice and give thanks to God for all He had given them. They were now ready for the great festival of Shavuot to be shared with their brothers making pilgrimage from around the world.

In the Temple

First, your ears would hear the Trumpets of priests' blast, commemorating the feast. Then people were flocking to the temple courts trying to get approval for their free will offerings. Were they good enough, flawless? Then announcement would come. The morning glow had reached Hebron, it is time for the daily morning offerings, and the inspection process came to an end. Listen to how Alfred Edersheim describes what happens after the morning offerings

The Levites were now chanting Hallel (or praise) to the accompanying music of a single flute, which began and ended each song, so as to give it a sort of soft sweetness. The round, ringing treble of selected voices from the children of the Levites, who stood below their fathers, gave richness and melody to the Hymn, while the people either repeated or responded. - Edersheim - the Temple

Can you picture that beauty, a single flute, the chanting of psalms by the Levites, then accomapanied by their children below them, with the people in the temple repeating and responding to the hymn?

Shavuot offering

Then came the peculiar offering of the day - the 2 loaves were brought forth with the accompanying sin and peace offerings. The priest would take these rather large loaves, the misnah said that each loaf of bread would be about 10 inches wide, 18 inches long, and a 3 inches high, and weigh about 5 pounds each. He would wave these in all directions;

After this high point of the Ceremony, this climatic special offering by the priest, the people then offered their free will fellowship offerings to God. There were so many people offering so much that it is said there would be feasting for as much as a week after.

Acts 2

So now we come to Acts 2, there in v. 14, it says it is the third hour of the day. So it was probably following all these offerings, it says they were together in one place, obviously a huge group Peter was preaching to, if not in the temple then very near by. Basking in God's abundant provision, all he had provided, feasting in fellowship with God. The offerings of the day happened. Then here is what it says in Acts 2:

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

3 they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

4 all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. (Because this was the feast when pilgrims from all around the known world had gathered to Jerusalem)

6 when they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?

8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?

(skip a couple of verses)

11 ... we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"

12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"

Then Peter stands up and says essentially as God has promised, so he has done, he has poured out his spirit, he has fulfilled his promises, he has sent the Messiah. He even quotes Psalm 16, in saying Y'shua's resurection is a fulfillment of that, for we know David was not speaking of himself, because he is dead and buried here in Jerusalem, an interesting allusion on a day traditionally held to be the anniversary of David's death.

Then 3000 of the crowd respond. And with God's perfect timing, not only the 3,000 but all who had witnessed the events in Jerusalem, all the pilgrims would then return to the nations they had come from bearing witness to all that they had seen. You could not have picked a better time.

It is clear that from the beginning God had chosen to pour out his spirit and birth the church, the body of Messiah on this day. But how exactly Acts 2 is a fulfillment of the feast of Shavuot is not quite as clear cut. But I think there are two beautiful pictures here.

Firstly, as Shavuot ended the season of the spring feasts which were inaugurated with the Passover, so the giving of the Law ended the season of redeeming the people out of the bondage and affliction of Egypt inaugurated by the offering of Passover lamb.

So you see the spring sequence, Passover, the redemption out of the land of Egypt and leading them to the Mountain, and then the covenant with God as the Law was given. And they were now His people.

So here the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Law in our hearts closes the season of redemption inaugurated in the death and resurrection of our Messiah Y'shua.

One can see an illusion to Exodus 19 in the first verses of Acts chapter 2. Here it says there came from heaven, a noise, like a violent rushing wind and it filled the whole house. You feel like you are at the foot of that Mountain, where they was thunder and lightning, but now rather than the Lord descending on the Mountain in fire, it says in Acts 2, that the fire appeared in tongues descending on the heads of individuals; pouring out the Holy spirit onto them; circumcising their hearts, writing the Law upon their hearts as promised by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

But as powerful an image as that is, I think there is more. I think there is another and very different picture as you think on the picture in Leviticus 23. There is the whole Harvest picture. On the day of Passover, Y'shua was crucified, then at 1st fruits he had raised Jesus from the dead, as Paul says, first fruits from the dead. The very first bit of the Harvest. A Promise of a harvest to come. Now with Shavuot, the harvest has just begun to come in, the very first offering is made unto God.

First fruits of souls

And down in verse 41, it says that day three thousand souls were added.

The beginning harvest of souls was there, the early first fruits was Jesus, but now the later first fruits of Shavuot, the beginnings of the church. It is as if Peter put in the sickle and 3000 souls were harvested and were offered to God a wave offering, and a promise of a Harvest of come. Yes this offering was loaves, it contained leaven, sin, all of us do. But just as those loaves were accompanied by a sin offering, thus enabling the fellowship offering. So Peter's offering was not of 3000 perfect unleavened people, no but of sinful people, offered to God, cleansed by the blood of the lamb of God. As it says in the Book of Hebrews, the 10th Chapter:

Hebrews 10:14-17

because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."

Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."

This was an offering of Fellowship with God of peace with God joyously partaking in his abundant provision.

Ending - Final Harvest

Romans 8:23 - says we have the first fruits of the spirit, there is still a harvest to come. In Lev 23, the feasts climax and close with Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles. That happens it says, when the final harvest has been brought in. It is a 7 day feast where we are commanded to rejoice before him. That will be fulfilled ultimately in the Kingdom of Heaven when the Lord comes and the final harvest is made. Now, we see through a glass darkly, then we will see him, face to face.