As we’ve been going through the feasts in Leviticus 23, we’ve begun to notice that they go back to the book of Exodus. It is no different with Shavuot. From the day after the Sabbath, the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. How many days is that? 7 x 7 = 49. So, we’re looking at 49 days after the Sabbath, which is a Sabbath. Then, in the next verse we read, “Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.” Now, as we continue to read, we find that God wants us to bake two loaves of bread with yeast to present to Him as a wave offering of first fruits. Notice that this is not an offering upon the altar – no yeast is allowed upon the altar.
The word Pentecost comes from these 50 days that we count off. Where does that come from in Exodus? On the tenth of Nisan, the Israelites brought the lamb into their homes. On the fourteenth of Nisan, they slaughtered the lamb. The following morning (15 Nisan), the Israelites fled Egypt. Then, Israel crossed the Red Sea as is celebrated with the Feast of First Fruits. Then, in Exodus 19:1, we read, “On the first day of the third month, they came to the Desert of Sinai.” I think that this is the best way to translate the Hebrew. A more literal translation would be, “In the third month, on the very first day…” How many days is that between the crossing of the Red Sea and coming to Sinai?
The second month in the Hebrew calendar is Iyar, and it has 29 days total. The first Hebrew month (Nisan) has 30 days. The crossing of the Red Sea was on the 17th. How much is 29 and 13? The first of the third month would have been 43 days after crossing the Red Sea (to add 29 and 13 would give you to the last day of the second month). So, we find ourselves here at the base of Sinai one week before the Feast of Shavuot. Now, we have in Exodus 19:10-11, God tells Moses to prepare the people for three days, and on the third day God will visit them. Moses then goes and tells the people to prepare for the third day. This would be 45 days.
The question is, where does the fifty come from?
From the time that the Israelites would have examined the lamb (the tenth of Nisan) to this point, we’re looking at fifty days. But, the book of Leviticus says to count off from the Feast of First Fruits… I’m not sure where the extra seven days fit in. It doesn’t work to say that the giving of the Ten Commandments fits, for that is forty-five days. But, it also doesn’t seem to work to say that it is when God gives Moses the Torah, for Moses goes up the mount on the 47th day (Exodus 24:1-12). My best answer is that the Feast of Shavuot was to be celebrated the day after the Sabbath, but the actual number game working alongside of the Feasts leads us to Exodus 19:1.
Notice Matthew’s Gospel. We have in Matthew 2-5 an allusion to this same narrative in the life of Jesus. We see at Jesus’ birth, Herod kills all of the children ages two and under. The book of Exodus begins with the Pharaoh killing all of the Hebrew children. Matthew quotes from Hosea, “Out of Egypt I call my son.” Hosea was reflecting back on Israel, that Israel was called out of Egypt. It seems like a blooper, but here Matthew continues to show us, just like God called Israel out of Egypt, God is calling Jesus out of Egypt. Israel then crosses the Red Sea, and Jesus is baptized in the Jordan. They are paralleling the same significance. Then, Jesus is tempted in the wilderness for 40 days, just as Israel wandered 40 days to come unto Sinai. Finally, at the beginning of Matthew 5, we see Jesus coming up onto a mountain and teaching. Unlike Israel hearing the Ten Commandments in Exodus 19, Jesus now expands upon the Law that they received.
This is definitely a pattern that God wants us to see and comprehend. If Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of Passover, and His resurrection was our First Fruits, what is it that represents Shavuot? Notice Acts 1:3, “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” Where does that put us? We have Jesus’ death, then three days later is Jesus’ resurrection, and now forty days later we begin to read about just before Jesus’ ascension. We’re at one week before the Feast of Shavuot.
Acts 1 continues by saying that the disciples went back to the upper room in which they were staying. “In those days, Peter stood up among the believers… and said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago…’” When is “in those days”? This would be those seven days before Shavuot. Then, chapter two begins, “When the day of Pentecost had fully come…” What is Pentecost? Pentecost is the Greek for Shavuot. This is the Feast of Weeks. When the disciples gathered together in the upper room, they weren’t just gathering together for prayer and expecting that “something” might happen. They were there because the Feast was coming, and they stayed in Jerusalem until the Feast had fully come.
Then, when Pentecost did come, there was a sound like the blowing of a violent wind, they saw tongues of fire separate and come to rest upon each of them, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them. What is happening?
Pentecost is about Sinai. Sinai is about covenant made with Israel. Therefore, Pentecost is about the new covenant. When we look at the Feast of Weeks, we’re looking at the inception of covenant. When we now return to Leviticus 23, we read about presenting an offering of the new grain unto the Lord. Why is it that we present first fruits, and then we present new grain? The answer lies in the heavenly reality of these two feasts. The first fruit is about resurrection, and Shavuot is about the new covenant. While in the first fruits we’re still eating of the old grain, here in Shavuot we’re now able to take and enjoy of the new grain.
It is interesting that the end of Leviticus 23:15-22 speaks about not harvesting the edges of the field or gathering the gleanings from the harvest. We are to leave them for the foreigner and the poor. What significance does this have in Pentecost? It has much significance in every way! For, it is not just the disciples that were brought into this new covenant in the upper room. In Acts 10, even the Gentiles are being given the Spirit! Here it is that God had desired that this would not be a phenomenon for only the elite. No, this is something that God had desired for everyone. Joel prophesied, “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh.”
Does all mean all? Or, does all mean only those who are saved? Or, does all mean only the Jews? Or, does all mean only the Gentiles in Christ? What limits “all”? Why is it that even the pagans don’t have the Spirit of God poured out upon them? Why is it that Israel is not experiencing this outpouring?
This gets into our discussion of “first fruits” from the last post. We are the “first fruits” with Christ. And, when we read Romans 8, we come across verse 23 where Paul talks about us who have “the first fruits of the Spirit.” This idea of first fruits has an implication: there are more to come. What we see is not the finality. We are not the end of the story. There is still a mass of people (namely, anyone who has yet to be a part of that “all”) who are to come into the promise. When we celebrate Pentecost, we are looking forward to a time when the Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh, and you and I will be resurrected from the dead.