Shavuot & Redemption
by Moran Rosenblit
This coming weekend, we are celebrating one of my favorite feasts in Israel, the Feast of Shavuot. Growing up in a Kibbutz (an Israeli agricultural commune), I have fond memories of the entire community gathering together to celebrate and “show off” the best from our harvest. Representatives of the different industries from the kibbutz would bring their first “crops” to share with everybody. Mothers would also bring their babies who were born the previous year, which was always a sweet sign of our community growing. It was always a wonderful time of celebration and gathering together!
Yet, this holy day has a much deeper meaning, and the more I study it, the more significant this holy day becomes in my eyes. A few weeks ago, I sat down for coffee with Jonathan, a good friend of mine from Houston. During the course of our conversation, he shared with me some thoughts about Shavuot that made me want to dig deeper into God’s Word. I want to share a bit of what I found when I did just that.
The word Shavuot means “weeks”, and it occurs at the end of seven weeks (50 days) from Passover. Traditionally, one of the great significances of this holy day is that it commemorates “Matan Torah” – the giving of the Torah – on Mt. Sinai thousands of years ago. For us disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, we find the special day mentioned as “Pentecost” in the New Covenant in the well-known story from Acts chapter two.
While it may seem these two events are totally unrelated, they are in fact, deeply connected. This connection once again shows the incredible faithfulness of God, His endless grace, and the amazing continuity of His Word. In a word, it boils down to redemption.
I now turn to the Scriptures, because they hold the key to understanding the connection between Shavuot & Pentecost. I have included full parts of the text, and I encourage you to read it in full! In Exodus 32 we read an account that was a turning point for the children of Israel:
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou hast brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. And the tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear.”
And it came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water, and made the sons of Israel drink it.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control — for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies —then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD — for every man has been against his son and against his brother — in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”
And it came about on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin — and if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou hast written!” And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” Then the LORD smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made. Exodus 32 (NASB)
No doubt, this is a tragic story in so many ways. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the consequence of Israel’s disobedience was the death of 3,000 men:
So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Exodus 32:28
It turns out that 3,000 is a significant number! Let’s look to the New Covenant and see what it says about this. In Acts chapter 2, we find the same number, 3000, but with a complete different meaning:
And when the day of Pentecost (Shavuot) had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN UPON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT and they shall prophesy. ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE, AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BENEATH, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. ‘THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS, AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. ‘AND IT SHALL BE, THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.’
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Yeshua the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. “For David says of Him, ‘I WAS ALWAYS BEHOLDING THE LORD IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, THAT I MAY NOT BE SHAKEN. ‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL ABIDE IN HOPE; BECAUSE THOU WILT NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW THY HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. ‘THOU HAST MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; THOU WILT MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH THY PRESENCE.’ “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was prophet, and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS UPON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. This Yeshua God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR THY FEET.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah — this Yeshua whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Yeshua the 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.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:1-41 (emphasis mine)
Do you see the redemption of the 3,000?! In Exodus, God gave His teachings (Torah) through Moses, which Israel in a selfish act, rejected by choosing to not wait upon the Lord; the byproduct was the death of 3000 men. In Acts, during the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) during the time that we remember God’s giving of the Torah, He gave His Holy Spirit. 3000 souls chose to obey God’s call and the byproduct this time was life!
Only God’s redemptive power gives us hope and new life!
Hag Sameach! Happy Holy Day!
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