The Feast of Shavuot (pentēkostē in Greek, Pentecost in English), one of the three great pilgrim Feasts that God told the Jewish people to celebrate (Deuteronomy 16:16), occurs fifty days after the Feast of Pesach (Passover). This holiday, described in Leviticus 23:15-22, was primarily an agricultural festival and celebrated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. However, very early in Jewish history, it also took on an even greater significance. The Rabbis determined that the timing of the Feast of Shavuot coincided with the great event in Jewish History of God giving His Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
The Israelites left Egypt on the fifteenth day of the first month, the morning after the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. They arrived at the foot of Mt. Sinai on the fist day of the third month (Exodus 19:1), which would have been approx 40 days. Moses then went up on Mt. Sinai and stayed there several days and then brought back down the two tablets written on stone by the finger of God. This total time-line closely approximated the fifty days after Passover that the Feast of Shavuot was supposed to be held on.
Since Passover was an Exodus related feast as was Sukkot in the fall, the Jewish sages concurred that Shavuot must be Exodus related as well and was to celebrate the occasion in which God revealed Himself to His people and made a covenant with them by giving them His written instructions on how to live (Torah). Why is this of significance to Christians today? The great event described in Acts 2 in the New Testament, when the Holy Spirit appeared and rested as tongues of fire on individual believers, occurred on the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)! The same day that the Jews were celebrating God’s giving of His Torah on tablets of stone, the Holy Spirit came and wrote His Torah on people’s hearts! This confirmed God’s promise in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and was the promise from the Father that Jesus had told His disciples about in Acts 1:4. A look at these two seminal events in Bible history will reveal some remarkable parallels and similarities and will increase your faith in the awesome God of the Bible! God had planned the Acts 2 events even from the time of the Exodus and then He brought them to pass in the framework of the Jewish Feasts that had been set up 1200 years prior. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some amazing parallels between these two events that happened 1200 years apart, to the day!
- Both events occurred on a mountain (Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion) known as the mountain of God – Exodus 24:13 & Isaiah 2:3
- Both events happened to a newly redeemed people. The Exodus marked the birth of the Israelite nation while the Pentecost events recorded in Acts 2 marked the birth of Christianity.
- Both events involved God’s people receiving a gift-Torah and Spirit.
- In both events the gift was given by God settling on a mountain with the fire of His Spirit
- Both events took place at the same time on the same month
- The Israelites left Egypt on Passover and 40 days later arrived at Sinai. Then Moses went up on a mountain to see God (Mt. Sinai). Ten days later Moses came down with the Torah and the Israelites broke the covenant and 3000 people died as a result. Jesus died on Passover and 40 days later went up on a mountain to see God (Mt. Of Olives). Ten days after Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit came down and 3000 people were saved!
- Fifty days after sacrificing Passover Lamb, the Israelites received a covenant from God50 days after sacrificing Jesus, Our Passover Lamb, believers received a new covenant from God.
- Both events had similar sounds and symbols-wind, fire, smoke, voices-the Hebrew word translated thunder in Exodus is “kolot” (Strong’s H6963), which means voices or languages. Think about this in light of the Acts 2 events.
- The fire at Sinai was one fire visible by all; the fire at Pentecost was individual fires on every person. In the event at Mt. Sinai, the people were kept away from the fire, but in Acts, the fire came to the people.
- Both events had theophanies, that is God showed up (Exodus 19:18-20 & Acts 2:4)
- In both events God gave His Torah (Law) to His People and in both cases He sealed the covenant that He had made with them. At Sinai He gave the Law written by His finger on tablets of stone. At Pentecost, He gave the Law written on Tablets of the Heart.
- In both events a mixed multitude of people were represented (Exodus 12:38 & Acts 2:5)13) The Torah attempted to change people from the outside (without). The Holy Spirit changes from within. The word “Torah” means teaching and in John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is called the teacher.
Think about these parallels! Wouldn’t they have been powerful to the Jewish people that would have been there to celebrate this time long ago when God showed up in fire, wind, smoke and voices? Suddenly, it looks like God is showing up again in the same way that He came before! They see fire and smoke and hear voices and the place is shaking violently! God is back! What is He telling us?
Looking at the history of Shavuot and what God did there makes the story of Acts so much deeper and increases our faith in the God of the Bible. His plans for us were made since the beginning of time and are exact down to the last detail. What a mighty God we serve!