Scripture readings: Exodus 19:1 – 20:23, Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12, John 1:32-34, Matthew 3:11 – 17
“You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.” (Exodus 34:22)
The festival of Shavuot is one of the most meaningful Feasts of the Lord (moadim); since on this day God gave us not just one, but two of His most precious gifts: The Torah and the Holy Spirit.
Yeshua promised that there would come a day when true worshippers would worship God – in spirit and in truth. These are the kind of worshippers God is seeking. (John 4:23)
We need both Spirit and Truth. I’ve heard it said, “If we only have the Word we dry up; if we only have the Spirit we blow up; but if we have both the Word and the Spirit we grow up.”
The Torah is the Word of Truth (D’var Emet); but it is the Spirit that gives us the grace to live out that Truth in our daily lives. God said to the nation of Israel, “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
While many Christians celebrate Pentecost as the time of the ‘pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the church’; many do not realize that this special day originates in the ancient biblical festival called Shavuot (meaning ‘weeks’ in Hebrew).
What is Shavuot all about?
Shavuot (Festival of Weeks), according to tradition, commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. Another name for Shavuot is Chag Matan Torah (the festival of the giving of the Torah). It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals (‘Shalosh Regalim’ שלוש רגלים) in which the Israelites living in Judah would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem as commanded in the Torah (Exodus 23:14–17).
It is also an agricultural festival which marks the end of the ‘counting of the Omer’ – the seven week period beginning on the day after the first Sabbath of Passover and ending on Shavuot.
“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven Sabbaths.” (Leviticus 23:15)
The Torah commanded the Jewish people to count the days – from the time of this ‘wave offering’ seven weeks (7 X 7 = 49 days) until the evening of the festival of Shavuot on day 50. Fifty is the number of Jubilee – representing freedom and liberation.
What is the connection between Passover and Shavuot?
Why is this day so amazing that we would be commanded to ‘count the days’ until it arrives?
It was on Passover that the Israelites were set free from slavery in Egypt; but on Shavuot they received the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God.
As worshippers of the one true God, and followers of the Messiah Yeshua, we must also go through the same process. Once we receive eternal salvation, we cannot miss this essential pit stop at Mount Sinai on our way to the Promised Land.
We are set free from slavery to the Kingdom of darkness on the day we receive Yeshua as our Passover Lamb who was slain; but then we must also receive God’s Torah and become committed to living according to His commandments.
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103:17-18)
Shavuot – Giving of the Torah (Matan Torah)
If Passover (Pesach) was the birth of the nation of Israel, then Shavuot is its Bar Mitzvah – the coming of age ceremony by which a Jewish son or daughter of Israel accepts, as part of their own personal faith, the commandments (mitzvot ) of God as written in the Torah.
Seven weeks after their miraculous exodus from Egypt, Israel received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, which meant not only accepting the privilege but also the responsibility as living as God’s set- apart (holy) people. The Torah became the agreed upon standard of behavior or code of conduct for both the native born Israelite and the stranger who came to join them.
“One law (torah) and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.” (Numbers 15:16)
The Torah is God’s written instructions to His people. The entirety of Psalm 119 extols the beauty, blessing and liberty contained in living according to God’s word in the Torah.
“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the Torah of the Lord….so I shall keep Your Torah continually, forever and ever, and I will walk at liberty…I delight in Your Torah…Great peace have those who love Your Torah and nothing causes them to stumble.” (Psalm 119)
When we meditate upon and observe to keep the ways of Torah, we will enjoy prosperity and good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Keeping Torah is not how we may be saved; it is how we live because we are saved.
The Torah, however, is so much more than a list of rules. Mount Sinai was not simply a place to receive the law, but rather the sealing of a Covenant between God and His people, as a Bridegroom with His beloved Bride. Love is the fulfillment of the Torah.
The Bridegroom and the Bride
Far from a legalistic directive handed down to Moses from the mountain top, this Divine encounter between God and His people contains many elements of a traditional Jewish wedding. These include the chuppah (marriage canopy), ketubah (marriage contract), shofar, wedding ring and wedding gift.
- The cloud covering on Mt. Sinai represented the Jewish wedding canopy – the chuppah
- The shofar call announced the arrival of the Bridegroom
- The Ketubah – the Marriage contract outlines the privileges and responsibilities of each party
- The vows – “I do!” God asked the people if they agreed to the terms of the Ketubah, as written on the tablets of stone, and the whole nation of Israel said in unison, “We do!’
- The wedding ring (sign of betrothal) – The 7th day Sabbath was given as a ‘special sign’ of our covenant relationship with God.
- The wedding gift – God gave to His Bride an eternal gift of the Land of Israel.
Now that God has given us the Torah, He has entrusted us with a sacred mission – to spread the light of Torah to all the nations. The message of Shavuot is that we are significant; we have been chosen, appointed, and anointed to promote God’s purposes in this world.
We have each been given a holy calling to bring more love, peace, kindness, and justice to this world – to be a shining light in the midst of a dark and perverse generation. When we understand and come to realize that we have actually been selected by God to reveal God’s beauty and wonderful attributes to the world, then we have discovered the secret to a truly meaningful and fulfilling life.
Yeshua’s final words to us were to go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them all God has commanded us in the Torah. Let us fulfill that holy commission in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Go and make disciples (talmidim) of all nations, immersing them in the mikvah (baptism) in the name of the Father (Av) and Son (Ben) and Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh), teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you……..” (Matthew 28:19-20)