Pentecost (or Shavuot, the “Feast of Weeks) has a special meaning to Christians and Jews…
The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians, and around 1,400 B. C. God used a man named Moses to deliver them from their slavery. After leaving Egypt, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness on their way to a good land, which God wanted them to live in. While they were in the wilderness, God gave Moses the law, which Moses taught the Israelites to obey. The 10 Commandments were given at Mt. Sinai, a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. This law provided the infrastructure for their society, for generations to come, and still impacts us today.
Every year on the holiday of Shavuot the Jewish people renew their acceptance of God’s gift, and God “re-gives” the Torah. The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot.
The giving of the Law (or Torah) was a far-reaching spiritual event, compared to a wedding between God and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day God swore eternal devotion to the Jewish people, and they in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.
Two wheat loaves would be offered at the Holy Temple, and the Jewish people would begin to bring their first fruits, to thank God for Israel’s bounty.
Just as Passover celebrates physical freedom of the Israelite’s redemption from bondage in Egypt, Shavuot celebrates spiritual liberation through their experience of God’s presence and revelation at Sinai. In the Passover exodus, God brought a people out from among the nations.
At Sinai on that first Shavuot and later at Pentecost, God created a nation set apart for Himself. He revealed Himself and how to live as a redeemed community, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6).
As the Jewish people celebrate this feast year after year, they recount the awesome events that took place at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It is what defines them as a people. Therefore it was not by chance that God chose Shavuot, called Pentecost among Christians, for this miraculous event took place exactly seven weeks following Jesus’s last Passover. This was a time when Jerusalem would have been filled with Jews from all the surrounding lands who had come with great anticipation to “meet with the Lord”—the meaning of the “appointed times” listed in Leviticus 23—Jewish people of that time had a keen sense of this.
The first followers of Jesus must have had a greater sense of expectation as they were told by the Lord Himself that, “in a few days you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit!” (see Acts 1:5) before He was taken up before their eyes.
Acts 2 records that approximately 120 followers of Jesus were gathered in Jerusalem for the Shavuot celebration when “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 Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).
No longer would man walk by commandments on tablets of stone, but by the Holy Spirit, who would write the law on hearts of flesh and give power to overcome the powers of darkness…the law of sin and death…while empowering us to become witnesses to the ends of the earth! The “church” had been born.
Just as the nation of Israel had been created in the wilderness of Sinai to reveal the one true God to the world, now the doors had opened to the nations to come and know and worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Whereas God once dwelt in the Temple fashioned of bricks and mortar, by His Spirit, He now dwells in vessels of clay.
Whereas men once went up to Jerusalem to enjoy God’s presence, His presence now remains with us as we travel the earth taking His wonderful message—this Good News of the Messiah of Israel to the Jewish People and to the nations.
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18-29)