During biblical times, in obedience to God’s commandment in the Torah (Law), the ancient Israelites came up to Jerusalem to present the first fruits of the wheat harvest in the Temple.
Beginning on the second day of Passover, Jews begin the counting of the omar for seven full weeks or 49 days, hence the name Shavuot, which means “weeks.”
“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:15-16)
While Passover commemorates physical deliverance — the exodus from Egyptian slavery — Shavuot represents redemption by the giving of God’s Law on Mt. Sinai.
The Torah is central to Jewish life. Every Shabbat (Sabbath) in synagogues throughout the world, the same weekly Torah portion is read. The cycle of reading through the first five books of the Tenach (Hebrew Scriptures) begins anew every Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).
On Shavuot, it’s traditional to gather in groups and stay up all night studying the Torah.
The New Covenant
It was also on Shavuot that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples of Jesus, waiting expectantly in an upper room in Jerusalem, to be imbued with power from on high, as they’d been promised.
The apostle Peter, standing before the large crowd, began by quoting the prophet Joel.
“Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose since it is only the third hour of the day.”
But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:14-18)
Some 3,000 Israelites, moved by the Spirit of God, decided they wanted the promise Peter spoke of for themselves and their children.
“For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)
Today, that promise of the Holy Spirit continues to move in the hearts of men and women around the world and produce a harvest for the Lord.
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