Birth of a Nation, Birth of a Kingdom
Birth of a Nation, Birth of a Kingdom
by Lonnie Lane
Shavuot is about birthdays. It will take place beginning sundown May 28th to sundown May 30th this year (2009). Shavuot has great historical and spiritual significance for Israel and for the church. To begin with, it is recognized as the day that Judaism was born. It also happens to be my own birthday. I was born on Shavuot. Judaism and I were born on the same day, only thousands of years apart. It was also Memorial Day, and as I was born again on my birthday it’s a triple blessing. I mention this because it is indicative of how Shavuot is a multi-birthday celebration. Read on and you’ll see why.
Shavuot is also called the Feast of Weeks because seven weeks is counted from the Feast of First Fruits which follows on the heels of Passover among the Feasts God gave to the nation of Israel. As outlined in Leviticus 23:9-21 beginning from the Feast of First Fruits (23:10) we count 49 days (7 weeks) which brings us to Shavuot on the 50th day. It comes just when the first harvest is ripe for the picking and the first of the harvest is brought to wave before the Lord in recognition of His goodness to them. This same feast day had profound meaning for the fledgling Believers in the risen Messiah. But we’ll get to that later.
On this day on the Hebrew calendar, since the days of Moses, the people were to bring to the priests from their homes, “two loaves of bread for a wave offering” (23:16, 17). Numerous sacrifices were to be made including, “seven one year old male lambs without defect…; they are to be a burnt offerings to the Lord along with grain offering and libations, as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:18). The whole city would smell like a feast was being cooked as the sacrifices roasted on the altar all day. It was to be “a day of a holy convocation.” No laborious work is to be done (Rest!) and it is to be “a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations” (23:21). In other words, “Don’t forget to do this!” They had no idea it had the prophetic significance it did or the reason it was so important to continue to observe Shavuot throughout their generations.
Unlike Passover and Tabernacles (Sukkot) which look back on historical events that took place in Israel’s past, Biblically speaking, Shavuot is mainly about harvest. God sees agricultural harvests as worthy of a
“Biblically speaking, Shavuot is mainly about harvest.”
celebration and a holy one at that. It’s a recognition that all our provision comes from Him. The soil, the rain, the sunlight, the whole process of photosynthesis (which it’s unlikely Moses knew about) — that things grow at all, that food is provided, that there are seeds which yield another harvest — it’s all quite remarkable, don’t you think? Miracles, season after season, year after year. We can so take things like food for granted when they come to us as easily as they do in our Western society that we can forget how dependent we are upon the goodness of God to provide for us. Kids today often think milk comes from a super market in a carton, not from a cow. There’s no wonder in a carton, but do you remember as a child seeing a cow and the wonder you felt that your milk comes from a cow like that one? I do.
My brother and his family have chosen to live in a Christian community that pretty much raises their own food. It has made them very aware of how God is involved in such things as providing our food production. They horse farm, which means no tractors. When I questioned why, the man I asked gave me the sweetest smile and then looked into the distance as if he was remembering something dear to him and said, “Because you never have to wake up your son or daughter in the middle of the night to see a new baby tractor being born.”
Well, perhaps God wanted Israel (and us too) to take delight in what He’s provided for us, and in that He allows us to participate in His provision for our wellbeing. That is what walking with the Lord is, isn’t it? All that we receive from God is by grace; it’s all undeserved. But still there are requirements from us. We have our part to do. We participate in all He gives to us. He allows us to be co-workers with Him in so many ways. We believe in Him as our provider, we rest in Him, He gives to us as we accept it and do what is necessary to receive His provision.
Well, speaking about requirements, Shavuot has been recognized as when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1). The rabbis have ascribed this day to that event though no one can know the date for sure. Seems reasonable though since God tends to do things on the anniversary or birthday of other things He’s done and so Shavuot is considered as the birthday of Judaism. Israel even while in bondage had expectations of what God had promised their ancestors, (a.k.a. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and yearned for the land He had promised to them, but it was not until they were freed and had what we could call a constitution, that is, their covenant that God gave to Moses, supposedly on Shavuot, that they became a nation.
No doubt, the generation that received the Torah still thought like slaves. After all, God’s promises notwithstanding, they had been slaves for 400 years. That’s a lot of generations of being slaves. No one could remember being anything but slaves until God brought their miraculous Passover deliverance. God began to reveal Himself to them upon setting them free from Pharaoh’s power and to bring them through various experiences and crises to come to know Him. It was a process of unlearning a slave mentality and reprogramming them to think in ways that are consistent with the Kingdom of God. Torah provided them with those new thought processes and turned them from slaves to a people through whom, as God told Abraham, “all the families of the earth (would) be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b).
Shavuot always falls on the sixth of Sivan and is observed outside of Israel on both the sixth and seventh of Sivan. This is one of the three Feasts for which God requires men to appear before the Lord (Ex. 23:14-15). After the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, they were required to bring their offerings to the Temple. Seven kinds of first fruits were acceptable: “wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates… olive oil and honey” (Deut. 8:8). Wheat was mentioned first as it was the primary offering since Shavuot occurs at the time of the wheat harvest. So since their presence was required during this feast, thousands and thousands of people would amass in Jerusalem. As the people traveled up to the city, they would sing praises to God and rejoice in His goodness.
Can you picture this? The men were required to go, but often the whole family would if they could. You might come with your family, or your village, but you’re part of thousands of other Jewish people all heading to the same destination to Jerusalem to honor God while joyfully singing His praises. I can imagine someone along the road starting to sing a song and those around them joining in, and then it being picked up by those near by until people for miles walk along as they all sang together. Then another song started somewhere else — songs heard for miles stretching across the landscape. What a sense of belonging and security, of purpose and identity would accompany them as they were all a part of this together. Oh, perhaps the kids were tired of walking or a wagon lost a wheel. Things happen, but I don’t doubt the joy of the Lord was with them. I don’t know how some people miss Yahweh’s goodness and see the God of the Old Testament as harsh and stern. What a loving Father He is, who delights in His children delighting in Him! I can also imagine looking forward to this year after year. And the little kids saying, “Abba, can’t I go? I’m big enough. Dani’el and Shimon are going with their Abba. I’m almost as old as they are. Can I, Abba, can I go, please?” And so off they all went, bringing their baskets filled with their offerings.
On the day of Shavuot, the priests would wave the two loaves as God had prescribed in Leviticus 23:17-21. While other grain offerings were not to contain any leaven, God commanded that these two loaves be baked with leaven. The priests waved them before the Lord on the day of Shavuot along with the required animal sacrifices.
There is no Temple today in Jerusalem, but still those who observe the Feast within Judaism often decorate their homes and synagogues with flowers and greenery as a reminder that this feast has to do with harvest. But for the most part, the main emphasis is upon the rabbinic declaration that Torah was given to Moses on Shavuot. Prayers are prayed in the synagogue and the Book of Ruth is read because the story of Ruth took place around the time of the harvest and also because Ruth is a woman who voluntarily submitted herself to the precepts of Torah which supposedly was given to Moses initially on this day.
As we said, God tends to do things on the anniversary of something significant He did earlier or will do later. That’s one of the ways we can recognize that it is God fulfilling a prophesy. It’s one way we know that what is
“Yeshua is the initial One of the harvest of resurrected souls for God’s Kingdom.”
taking place is legitimately from God. Accordingly, at the Feast of First Fruits, we see the Hand of God once again weaving His prophetic tapestry in bringing about the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua on Shavuot. Yeshua is the initial One of the harvest of resurrected souls for God’s Kingdom. Yeshua is the First Fruit: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Messiah the first fruit; afterward they that are Messiah’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). The prophetic fulfillment of Shavuot occurred when the Lord was raised from the dead. Just as we are dependent upon God to provide all that yields a harvest, so we who are His, recognize that only God could raise Him from the dead. His resurrection ensures that all who are Yeshua’s will be also resurrected at the time of His glorious second coming.
But there was a further fulfillment. That fulfillment of the Feast of Shavuot—which is also known as the day of Pentecost—was when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples while they were in the Temple for the occasion of Shavuot. Now I know that many believe they were still in the upper room (Acts 1:13), but this is days later. Where else would Jews be who were in Jerusalem on Shavuot but in the Temple? And even if they weren’t, all the other Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast would have been. When the Spirit descended upon them, they were where others could observe them under the power of the Spirit, acting unlike men generally act on Shavuot, especially at 9 a.m. Some thought they were drunk, others wondered why they could hear the declarations of the glory of God in their own languages. (Acts 2:8, 13.)
I’d like to point out that no one observing them seems to have noticed the tongues of fire. No one is recorded having said, “Hey, look. Fire. Tongues of fire are on them” (Acts 2:3). You would think someone would have mentioned it if they saw it. Likely it was only the Believers that saw the fire on each other because they saw them “by the Spirit” while the others saw only their reaction to all that Holy Spirit power going through them.
It is significant to note that when God descended from heaven onto Mount Sinai to give Israel the Ten Commandments, He did so in fire: “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire…” (Exodus 19:18). “The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire” (Deut 5:4). Now, on this same day on God’s calendar a few thousand years later, God descended upon the Disciples by sending His Spirit who manifested Himself through tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). But this time these men weren’t terrified as they were at Mount Sinai, as Moses recalled to Israel: “I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain” (5:5). I have heard Christians say that Israel didn’t want to hear from God themselves so they told Moses to stand in for them out of some rebellion. That wasn’t it at all. What they were confronted with was the fearsome holiness of God with no covering between them and Him. It would make you tremble and we’d all be terrified too just as they were. This gives us a small inkling (I don’t know that we will ever fully grasp) how Yeshua’s atonement removed the full wrath of God against all unrighteousness from us so that we will be able to “stand the Presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).
I’ve had an experience with the power of God that exists when God manifests Himself and all I can say is it’s more power than we can endure in our natural bodies. Let’s not fault Israel for fleeing for their lives when under such conviction in the manifest presence of God, who was not just making Himself known, He was making His holy requirements known. Then, on that same day some fourteen to fifteen centuries later, now that the wrath against all unrighteousness had been satisfied by Yeshua’s death, the Spirit could come to those men who experienced not fear but only the joy of God’s presence as they exploded with worship in praise and declarations of God’s goodness, even in languages they didn’t understand. My experience of God’s power was one of experiencing His joy so that I thought I would die or indeed explode, there was so much power in it. The power is of joy unhindered! That’s what I believe they experienced. Plus the Spirit was making God known through their speaking of the glory of God in other tongues besides Hebrew.
Shavuot became known as Pentecost (“pent” meaning fifty), when the Holy Spirit came upon and indwelt the Believers for the first time. Though Yeshua died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2) the Body of Messiah is
“Shavuot became known as Pentecost… when the Holy Spirit came upon and indwelt the Believers for the first time.”
comprised of those who by faith accept Yeshua’s death as atonement for their own personal sins, and receive the Holy Spirit in a born-again experience (John 3:3). Pentecost, being the first time Believers were Spirit-filled, is the day the church was born. While there were only Jews there on that first Pentecost occasion, and while Peter may not have realized how far reaching his statement would be, I believe he prophesied the emerging of “one new man,” Jew and Gentile joined as one in Messiah the world over when he said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized (the Hebrew is literally immersed) in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself” (Acts 2:38, 39, my emphasis ).
The two loaves that were offered by the priests on Shavuot were a prophetic picture of Jews and Gentiles offering their lives to the Lord as His own possession. The loaves contained leaven, just as we contain sin, but together we are one offering unto the Lord.
As a further confirmation of the prophetic fulfillment of God’s intention, while Moses was up on the mountain receiving the rest of the Commandments from God, the people below, thinking he would never return, made for themselves a golden calf. When Moses saw what they had done he hurled the stone tablets at them which contained the Commandments and they broke when they hit the ground. Then Moses cried out, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me! And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him” (Ex 32:26). He then ordered them, under direction of the Lord, to put to the sword everyone who was involved in the golden calf incident. “And about three thousand men fell that day” (:28).
But God is a God of redemption. The parallels between this tragic event and the glorious bringing of spiritual life by the Holy Spirit that took place some fifteen hundred years later brought three thousand souls into the Kingdom of God on Shavuot, the day the church was born: “So then, those who had received his (Peter’s) words were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). That was truly a birth-filled day! First Shavuot, then Pentecost though the Jews would still call it Shavuot. Pentecost is not a Hebrew name, and the event was still within Judaism. There was no breaking away into “the church” then. It was Judaism fully realized when all persons could be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to fully follow the God of Israel.
Yeshua saw not the least of His purpose as being the harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God. It was as food to Him: “He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about…. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.…Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:34, 35). Shavuot is about harvest, and so is Pentecost. Those three thousand new Believers that entered the Kingdom at Shavuot (Pentecost) did so with a passion to share the truth of Messiah Yeshua and they changed the world around them so that “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). May we again be so filled with His Spirit that His purpose of a harvest becomes our purpose. In the mean time, Happy Birthday, Church!
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2009.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.