For almost two millenia there has been controversy, particularly in Gentile Christian thinking regarding the Biblical festivals the Jewish people have upheld.
By way of contrast, what most Christians have upheld traditionally in Sunday observance and Christmas and Easter celebrations are not directly given by God in Scripture.
The origins of the Jewish feasts are clear and precise in Scripture as being God given, Holy convocations (special assemblies) which were intended by Him to be eternal.
Most Christians have dismissed these God-given festivals as Old Testament and only for Israel and many believe that if New Testament believers were to observe them in any way, we could be placing ourselves under law and in effect negate the New Covenant benefits in our lives.
If, however, we believe that the Body of Christ (Messiah) is consistent with Paul’s description in Ephesians 2, comprising both Jew and Gentile, we should at least be looking for a level of mutual understanding on these important issues with our Messianic brethren.
We cannot expect Jewish believers to abandon the God-given Biblical Festivals in favour of our man-made alternatives.
Let us look at the God’s 2nd. major festival which He introduced from Leviticus 23
PENTECOST / SHAVUOT
“Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD.”
It should not seem strange to Gentile believers that Jewish believers in the Messiah would, in most cases, continue to keep Sabbath and the Feasts which God gave them. Unfortunately, many Gentile believers have little understanding nor teaching on these matters.
According to rabbinical teachings, Shavuot (weeks), remembers the time when the nation of Israel received the Laws of God inscribed in stone and in fact became a nation under God at the foot of Mt Sinai. From the Greek, we have inherited the word pentēkostē in Greek, Pentecost in English.
God fulfilled His prophetic Word by sending the ‘The Promise of the Father’ to His waiting believers
This day then, as recorded in Acts 2, was not a random event but a specific occasion when God fulfilled His prophetic Word by sending the ‘The Promise of the Father’ to His waiting believers, initiating the New Covenant church/assembly.
“The festival of Shavu`ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place.”
“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. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.”
“Now there were staying in Yerushalayim religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered; they were confused, because each one heard the believers speaking in his own language …….How is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done?”
…Acts 2:1-6 & V11. Complete Jewish Bible, D. Stern.
There are some amazing parallels drawn with what happened at Sinai and the events of this Day of Pentecost some 1200 years later….
1. Both events occurred on a mountain (Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion) both of which were called the mountain of God – Exodus 24:13 & Isaiah 2:3
2. Both events happened to a newly redeemed people. The Exodus marked the birth of the Israelite nation while the Pentecost events recorded in Acts 2 marked the birth of the church.
3. Both events involved God’s people receiving a gift-Torah and Spirit.
4. In both events the gift was given by God settling on a mountain with the fire of His Spirit
5. Both events took place at the same time on the same month
6. The Israelites left Egypt on Passover and 40 days later arrived at Sinai. Then Moses went up on a mountain to meet with God (Mt. Sinai). Ten days later Moses came down with the Torah and the Israelites broke the covenant and 3000 people died as a result. Jesus died on Passover and 40 days later went up on a mountain to meet God (Mt. Of Olives). Ten days after Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit came down and 3000 people were saved!
7. Fifty days after sacrificing the Passover Lamb, the Israelites received a covenant from God, 50 days after sacrificing Jesus, Our Passover Lamb, believers received the Promise of the Father, the Promised Holy Spirit. (John 1:33)
8. Both events had similar sounds and symbols-wind, fire, smoke, voices—the Hebrew word translated thunder in Exodus is “kolot” (Strong’s H6963), which means voices or languages. Think about this in light of the Acts 2 events.
9. The fire at Sinai was one fire visible by all; the fire at Pentecost was individual fires on every person. In the event at Mt. Sinai, the people were kept away from the fire, but in Acts, the fire came to the people.
10. Both events had theophanies, that is God’s presence was evident (Exodus 19:18-20 & Acts 2:4)
11. In both events God gave His Torah (Law) to His People and in both cases He sealed the covenant that He had made with them. At Sinai He gave the Law written by His finger on tablets of stone. At Pentecost, He gave the Law written on Tablets of the Heart. (2 Corinthians 3:3)
12. In both events a mixed multitude of people were represented (Exodus 12:38 & Acts 2:5)13) The Torah attempted to change people from the outside (without). The Holy Spirit changes from within. The word “Torah” means teaching and in John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is called the teacher.
How amazing that each of the Lord’s Festivals have both an Old Testament fundamental meaning, but also a New Testament fulfilment. This is why it is so important to have insights as New Testament gentile believers into the Jewish or Hebraic roots of our Christian faith and heritage.