“The festival of Shavuot 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. … They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit].” (Acts 2:1–4)
Shavuot is best known today as Pentecost (from the Greek word pente, meaning fifty), the day on which the disciples received G-d’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
Most Christians understand this aspect of Pentecost; yet, few realize that this holy day did not begin in Acts chapter 2. Pentecost has its roots in the Hebrew Torah, G-d’s Instructions.
The Hebrew feast Shavuot is an appointed day of the L-rd given to Moses and the early Israelite nation, one of three feasts when Israelites were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and present an offering at the Temple.
Let’s take a brief tour of the significance of Shavuot for the ancient Israelites and for followers of Yeshua (Jesus) today.
Shavuot: The Gift of G-d’s Ruach (Spirit)
While praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the disciples were waiting to receive a divine promise.
Only a few days earlier, Yeshua “ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. … ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 1:4, 8)
Some Bible versions say the disciples were to “wait for the gift my Father promised.” Though the word “gift” is not in the Hebrew text, receiving the Ruach of our G-d is without a doubt a more precious gift than any diamonds or fame or anything money can buy.
As promised, the Ruach descended on the disciples and empowered them to understand how Yeshua fulfilled the Scriptures and to boldly proclaim that understanding to everyone they met in Jerusalem and beyond.
G-d’s choice to give Believers this gift on this day was not an isolated incident or the creation of a new holy day. It was a fulfillment of the ancient appointed day of Shavuot first mentioned in the book of Leviticus in the Torah.
Shavuot: The Gift of the Harvest
Shavuot comes from the Hebrew word shavuah, which means “week.” Shavuot is the plural form, weeks.
Starting at Passover, G-d instructed the Israelites to count off seven full weeks:
“From the day after the day of rest—that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving—you are to count seven full weeks [shavuot].” (Leviticus 23:15)
Then, on the last day, the fiftieth day, the people were to present a new grain offering from their harvest to the L-rd along with a celebration, a sacred assembly.
“Until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to ADONAI.” (Leviticus 23:16)
Everyone brought something.
“They are not to show up before Adonai empty-handed, but every man is to give what he can, in accordance with the blessing Adonai your God has given you. (Deuteronomy 16:16–17)
So Shavuot was a time for the Israelites to thank G-d for His blessings upon them, primarily through giving a portion of their spring harvest at the Temple.
But, traditionally speaking, the Jewish nation was thanking Adonai for much more than their bountiful production of grain.
Shavuot: The Gift of Torah (G-d’s Instruction)
In Judaism, the significance of Shavuot goes back even further than the harvest celebration on the fiftieth day after Passover. It also commemorates the day Moses received the Torah, which it is said, occurred on the fiftieth day after God brought the Israelites out of Egypt some 3300 years ago.
On that day, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and received G-d’s marriage contract (ketubah) on behalf of His people. Those 613 instructions (Laws) represent G-d’s heart, His justice, and His merciful plan for how He expects us to live as a nation of His priests, set apart for His holy works, so that we can be a light to the nations.
In that way, Torah is another one of G-d’s supernatural gifts to us.
Like a marriage contract, G-d’s instructions (Torah) are our wedding vows, and the wedding gift of His Spirit is akin to our wedding ring.
His Spirit, however, is not on us but in us as a supernatural reminder that we belong to Him forever and that we are never alone. It is seen by others in our love of God and neighbor, in our words, and in our deeds.
“Doing your will, my God, is my joy; your Torah is in my inmost being.” (Psalm 40:8)
Let us celebrate together Shavuot in all its Jewish and biblical significance. Let us thank G-d for setting us apart for Him and for greatly blessing us with the gifts of His Torah and His Spirit.
And let us give back to Him the best of the harvest He has blessed us with in our lives, our worship, our praise, our everything.
Mark your calendar to be with us for our Messianic Shavuot celebration and claim your gifts.