Saturday, May 23, 2015

Shavuot, Pentecost, & Feast of Weeks

All these names can get sort of confusing. What you need to know is that those 3 titles mean the same thing! 

“You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year." Exodus 34:22

Feast of Weeks is, of course, our English term.
Shavuot is the Hebrew word for weeks.
Pentecost is the Greek term used in the New Testament, but it is the same holiday that is observed above. Pentecost literally means fiftieth for The Feast of Weeks was to occur 50 days after the Passover.

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths.‘You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. Lev 23:15-16

Christianity celebrates Pentecost Sunday as the day the disciples received the Holy Spirit but while this year Pentecost or Shavuot does happen to fall on a Sunday, that is not always the case. Shavuot is always 50 days from Passover and Passover always begins on the 15th of the month of Nisan.

So enough with the dates and the names, lets get what to this holiday is all about!

The counting began for us the day after Passover. Jews call this the counting of the omer. We used barley to count the 50 days but I confess we failed to do this daily. I often had to catch my calendar up!  Each day (when we remembered) we would say "Today is the ___ day of the Omer" and glue on one piece of barley. Others use a path up a mountain to celebrate the giving of the Torah and say a special blessing.

The Feast of Weeks was one of the 7 appointed observances of the Lord given to Moses.

"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts." Lev 23:2

Leviticus 23:15-22 tells you about the Feast of Weeks but other than explaining what you are to sacrifice and commanding that you not work it doesn't really say what you must do to celebrate it. We do know that the disciples observed it for in Acts 2 they were in Jerusalem observing Pentecost when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jewish tradition has this day set aside as a day that commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The focus will be on learning the 10 commandments and some will even stay up all night studying the Torah. 

What I find fascinating is the connection between the giving of the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Remember, when Moses came down from the mountain he found the people in rebellion against God worshiping a golden calf.  Moses called all those on Lord's side to stand with him and they slew those who rebelled. They lost about 3,000 men that day

And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. Exodus 32:28

Yet, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit fell upon his people, Peter preached the gospel identifying Jesus as the Messiah. At the end about 3,000 people were saved.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:41.

As many souls that were lost in Exodus were restored at Pentecost!  What a beautiful restoration! So, while I don't see an exact command in Scripture to celebrate the giving on the Ten Commandments on this holiday, there is a connection I find compelling and I will start adding that into my celebration. We actually never celebrated the day of Pentecost at our church anyway, so even that is new to us.

Here are some resources that aided us in our celebration of the many facets of this special day.

The first is a great video from Buck Denver asks What's in the Bible. It explains what happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Their web page What Is Pentecost has this video, the history of Pentecost and some coloring pages.

To learn about the Ten Commandments we decided to read them from Scripture and watch a movie. I think Gess chose Prince of Egypt, but I might put in the original Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston myself!

I would recommend memorizing them. We have done that already so we simply reviewed them. I shared how we went about Learning the Ten Commandments a few years ago. We used these visuals from Living Waters.

My church also taught them with motions. Here is Gess doing them!

A fun song Gess has on her Go Fish Guys DVD Superstar is The Ten Commandment Boogie.

Another Jewish tradition is to read the book of Ruth during the holiday. The Feast of Weeks is also the Feast of Firstfruits and that is when the Barley is harvested. The book of Ruth certainly takes place during that time!  The fact that it was a beautiful picture of redemption gives it yet another connection to our redeemer and the gift we received from him on Pentecost!  We read that this morning.

This is our first year celebrating Pentecost but it certainly won't be our last!  I look forward to finding new ways to celebrate in the years to come.

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