This past weekend churches across the globe celebrated Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is one of the three feasts the Lord ordained for the Hebrew people to celebrate their covenant relationship with Him. In these celebrations, God appointed sacrifices and ceremonies to remind the Hebrew people of His power, promises, provisions, and presence. These feasts hold significance not only for Jewish people but also for Christ-followers as each one is perfectly fulfilled in Messiah Jesus. It is my honor to welcome Dr. Gayle Timberlake to the Redeemed Girl Blog today as she shares the heart behind the Feast of Pentecost and how the Lord reveals His covenant heart to us in this sacred celebration. –Marian Jordan Ellis
A year and a half. That’s how long Jonah waited to marry my cousin Amy. At the ceremony, Amy walked down a flower-lined staircase, through the aisle to the front of an open-air chapel where Jonah stood waiting under wispy white draped fabric. She looked stunning, her train trailing behind. They both said yes. You could feel love in the cool air, like a taste of heaven.
Being a part of this wedding celebration made me wonder what celebrations look like in heaven. So, I decided to do some research to see what the Bible has to say about it.
I opened the Bible to the book of Exodus where people gathered at the base of a mountain for a big wedding ceremony, a destination wedding of sorts, with incandescent lighting, a fireworks show, and surround-sound music. Spectacular. Lots of passion went into the planning, all done by the groom. He arranged it down to the smallest detail, including a place for the couple to stand under whitish/gray draped material. The whole thing seemed dreamlike.
The groom’s representative showed up first, carrying a marriage agreement, called a Ketubah. If you have never seen a ketubah at a Jewish wedding before, it’s like a contract describing the bridegroom’s obligations to his bride. This one was short, topping out at ten lines. Each of the ten outlined how the groom planned to take responsibility for his bride and how he hoped she would respond. He waited a long time for this day.
If there were surprises in the ketubah, they’d be in the bride’s favor. His mission was to empower her, bring out her very best and give her room to express herself while growing in her strengths. And he wanted the date to be remembered by all, including the wedding guests. In a way, the ketubah was theirs, too.
Take another look at this story. Imagine that the groom as God and his bride, the entire guest list, the whole Hebrew people. The mountain is Mt. Sinai. That ketubah I mentioned earlier is the 10 commandments written by hand on stone tablets. The representative of the groom is Moses and that drapey fabric? Made of 100% organic material: clouds. In Jewish weddings, it’s made of real fabric and called a Chuppah (pronounced hopa). This day is called Shavuot in Hebrew, “The Feast of Weeks” in English, and Pentecost in Greek.
Sound like a new twist on an old story? This version is one that ancient leaders told, like a commentary, so people could understand the meaning. Today many Jews think about Pentecost as a time to renew their vows to God and celebrate the commands written on tablets of stone, a short version of 613 instructions. Some call it the Torah.
Celebrating Our Anniversary
The agreement Moses brought down the mountain focused on keeping the marriage between God and his people alive and fresh. How? By celebrating special occasions on the calendar each year with him. We might think of them like date night or a romantic anniversary. Shavuot has eleven names in Scripture, after all it’s a very old event, and is among the seven celebrations God gave to Moses.
Here are five fun facts about the celebration of Shavuot/Pentecost.
The first Pentecost happened 50 days after the Exodus from Egypt when 3 million Hebrew slaves arrived at Mt. Sinai. God brought them out of catastrophic circumstances, through the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai to solidify their relationship.
God told his followers to count the days following Passover for 7 weeks. That’s how the day got its name. Shavuot is translated into English as the Feast of Weeks. The days between Passover and Shavuot/Pentecost, all 49 of them, are to be counted one-by-one, and week-by-week according to Leviticus 23.
Almost fifteen hundred years later, Jesus was crucified after a Passover dinner (the Last Supper) and later appeared to his followers for 40 days. He told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem that year while they counted the days.
When the presence of the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, they began speaking in other languages, and tongues of fire rested on their heads. Perhaps the fire and music of different languages summoned the memory of fire and music at the first Shavuot, the same date millennium earlier.
Around the world, the book of Ruth is read on Pentecost as an ancient tradition to remember the harvest season and the first fruits gathered on the 50th day.
On that Pentecost day after Jesus’ death, his disciples gathered for the celebration in the upper room, in Solomon’s Portico on the Temple Mount. Unlike the years before when they celebrated Shavuot, that year they enjoyed a special gift from the Father. Forever changed when the Holy Spirit fell on them, they were empowered to take the good news of the Gospel around the globe. In spectacular detail, the book of Acts tells all about it.
I understand more about my faith thinking about this day on the calendar. Perhaps you do too. God chose this day to pour out his love and affection on people in the Hebrew Scriptures and later his followers in the New Testament. Like a groom who longs to see his bride thrive and live in joy, he loves you with the same passion today. The big day happens every year without fail, like a taste of heaven. Each anniversary gives a new opportunity to renew vows—to say and receive the Big Yes!
Dr. Gayle Timberlake
Dr. Timberlake is a Professional Life Coach and Mentor who meets with clients to close the gap between where they are, and where they want to go to live the life they love. She is also a Professor with a Ph.D. in Second Temple Judaism, and a Biblical Scholar so you can find her speaking, leading women’s retreats and teaching on subjects related to the customs and traditions of the earliest Church, including their celebrations. To connect with her to speak at your next conference you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo credit: Trent Timberlake