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A LOOK AT THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH

Part 11

Review

Heb 4:12

12 For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.      AMP

So if the emphasis of God is on His Word then it would stand to reason that words are extremely important. Thus a study of specific words and their origins is essential to understanding the importance of not only their meaning but the implications that they have on our lives and how we respond to what we believe to be true.

We started the series on the festivals with Rosh Hashanah because that was the season we were in at the time in 2013. Appropriately, we are going to end the study of the Feasts of God with a look at Pentecost.

As I studied this Festival, I realized that this feast is given a lot of attention by the modern "church", but it's Jewish roots are seldom mentioned or even taught. It seems that most of the celebration of Pentecost is structured around the events recorded in Acts 2:4. The following summary is from Kehilat Sar Shalom's website and I couldn't explain it much better. There are some very significant roots to Pentecost that are revealed. This, in my mind, begs the question; "Why are we not taught these foundational elements of the Pentecost experience?

Again, we have provided a couple of answers for that question in the first few sessions regarding the church councils over a period of 500 years starting in 325 AD, whereby the Jewish roots of Christendom were purposely omitted from the "liturgical" services. We call our Christian faith Judeo-Christian, but there really isn't too much Jewish, other than by name, involved in the modern church services. The beauty of these feasts is that they are really joy filled festive times of celebration and praise to a magnificent, awesomely glorious God and His plan for man and His direct involvement by foretelling of the coming Messiah. Click on the following link to see the online version of this article on "Shavuot" and give you an opportunity to browse the website of Kehilat Sar Shalom in St. Paul, MN.

Kehilat Sar Shalom

Shavuot and Pentecost

The Church Holiday most of us know only as a remembrance of Acts chapter two is actually a Biblical appointment filled with a wealth of meaning and symbolism.

Pentecost (Shavuot) is still remembered in Christianity. Even when all the rest of the Biblical Festivals have long ago been discarded, Pentecost has somehow retained a place in the Church lection. Pesach, Rosh HaShanna, Yom Kippur and Sukkot all disappeared from Christian observance within three hundred years of the birth of the Church, but in many churches, Shavuot is still acknowledged. It is known by its Greek name, Pentecost, but it is still Shavuot. There is even a movement within the church which identifies itself as Pentecostal!

The reason the Church still remembers Pentecost is the narrative of Acts chapter 2. Everyone remembers the story of the mighty wind, the tongues fire, the Holy Spirit and the speaking in every language. But most of us are unaware of the Torah background behind the story. The Church Holiday most of us know only as a remembrance of Acts chapter two is actually a Biblical appointment filled with a wealth of meaning and symbolism.

Numbering the Days

The festival of Shavuot begins with a countdown. The Torah commands us to count the days to Shavuot. On the Day after the Sabbath during the week of Unleavened Bread, that is on the day on which the First Fruits of the Barley were harvested and offered up in the Temple, we are commanded to begin a countdown to the next festival (Leviticus 23:9-12). We are commanded to count off 49 days. After the 49 days are completed, the 50th day is the appointed time of the Festival of Pentecost. Both the English and Hebrew names for the festival reflect the counting. The English name is Pentecost. It is from the Greek for "Fiftieth Day." The Hebrew name for the festival is Shavuot. Shavuot means "weeks" and is so named because of the seven full weeks (49 days) of the counting. The counting is a chain that links Shavuot to the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In this sense, Shavuot concludes the festival season begun with Passover.

Shavuot is referred to as the Atzeret (conclusion) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread just as the Eighth Day of The Feast of Tabernacles is the Atzeret (conclusion) of that festival. In that sense, Shavuot is a sort of 8th day festival, concluding the 7 holy days of Unleavened Bread.

From Harvest to Harvest

Shavuot is a harvest festival. Just as the First Fruits of the Barley, which occurred during the week of Unleavened Bread celebrated the ripening of the Barley crop, in a similar way Shavuot celebrates the ripening of the wheat crop. At Shavuot, the first fruits of the wheat harvest were brought to the Temple and baked into two loaves of leavened bread. The 49 days of counting are called the counting of the Omer because it was begun with the harvest of a single barley sheaf (omer) and concludes with the harvest of the wheat sheaves.

In addition to the wheat, the pilgrims celebrating Shavuot brought with them the First Fruits of all their crops and offered them before the altar (Deuteronomy 26:1-11).

The Mishnah (Bikkurim 3:1-8) vividly describes a pilgrimage of Israelites bringing their First Fruits to the Temple. They converged on Jerusalem from all over the land of Israel.

It is a time of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the year's harvest.

For the disciples of Yeshua in Acts chapter 2, the Shavuot festival already carried extra significance. For them Shavuot came exactly 50 days after the Master was resurrected. He was the First Fruits of the Resurrection. In fact, the disciples and followers of Yeshua were themselves the First Fruits of Messiah's ministry. On Shavuot, 3,000 were added to their number and the great harvest of souls was begun.

A Remembrance of Mount Sinai

Just as Passover is a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt, so too Shavuot memorializes an Exodus event. According to Jewish tradition, Shavuot is the anniversary of God's descent onto Mount Sinai. Therefore it is celebrated as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah.

For that reason, Shavuot is called the festival of Mattan Torah, the "Giving of the Torah." Exodus 19 and 20, the story of the giving of the Ten Commandments and the covenant at Sinai, are the principal Torah readings in the Synagogue on Shavuot.

As the disciples of the risen Messiah gathered to celebrate Shavuot in Jerusalem, they were gathering to celebrate the anniversary of the Giving of the Torah.

Midrash and Mystery

Great miracles, signs and wonders accompanied the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. We read about them in Exodus 19. There was the smoke and fire and cloud on the mountain. The mountain trembled and the blast of a shofar sounded louder and louder. The voice of God was audibly heard by the entire nation. According to Midrash, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was accompanied by additional wonders, two of which are significant to our reading of Acts chapter two.

The Midrash speaks of flames of fire which came to each individual at Sinai: "On the occasion of the giving of the Torah, the Children of Israel not only heard the LORD's Voice, but actually saw the sound waves as they emerged from the LORD's mouth. They visualized them as a fiery substance. Each commandment that left the LORD's mouth traveled around the entire camp and then came back to every Jew individually." (The Midrash Says. Shemot)

The second miracle the Midrash preserves is the voice of God speaking in every language known to man. In Rabbinic lore, there are 70 mother languages. "It says, "And all the people witnessed the thunderings." (Exodus 20:15) Note that it does not say "the thunder," but "the thunderings"; wherefore R. Yochanan said that God's voice, as it was uttered, split up into seventy voices, in seventy languages, so that all the nations should understand." (Shemot Midrash Rabbah 5:9)

Whether or not these traditions preserve actual historical memories of the Mount Sinai experience is not important. It is important to remember that the disciples and followers of Yeshua were all well aware of the Shavuot legends. They knew the story of the Giving of the Torah on Shavuot. They knew the story of the words of fire resting on each individual on Shavuot. They knew the story of God's voice speaking to all mankind in every language on Shavuot. Therefore, the miracles and signs and wonders that came upon them in Acts chapter two carried deep significance. The tongues of fire and the speaking in every tongue were both direct allusions to the Mount Sinai experience and the receiving of the Torah. God was underscoring a connection between his Holy Spirit and His Holy Torah!

The Spirit and the Torah

Shavuot draws a line of connection between Exodus 19 and Acts chapter 2. The festival superimposes the giving of the Spirit in Jerusalem over the giving of the Torah at Sinai. The two events are forever inseparably linked. This link creates a profound theological implication for believers. The Torah and Holy Spirit are substantially of the same essence.

Jeremiah the prophet foresaw this when God declared through him, "Behold, I will make a New Covenant . . . I will put My Torah within them and on their heart I will write it, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jeremiah 31:33) Ezekiel the prophet foresaw this when God declared through him, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Ezekiel 36:27)

According to these prophets, the Holy Spirit was given in order to place the Torah within the believer's heart. If that is true, then the Spirit within us and the Torah of God must agree. Both are from the same God, and God is One. The Spirit and the Torah must agree.

The Holy Spirit is within us in order to enable us to walk in the statutes and observe the ordinances. The Spirit and the Torah are not, God forbid, opposed to each other. Instead, as Paul says in Galatians, "Opposed to the fruit of the Spirit there is no Torah." (Galatians 5:23). The Holy Spirit is the same essence as the Torah: the full expression of God, dwelling within, so that He might be our God, and we might be His people. That was the stated purpose of the first Pentecost at Mount Sinai. It was the purpose of the Shavuot of Acts chapter 2, and it is the purpose for which we have been recreated.

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OK, for all you folks that want to celebrate this feast, here is a tasty recipe for "blintz" you can use. Because dairy is an important part of Pentecost, this is a common food prepared for this feast. Below the recipe are a couple of websites you can access for variations to this kosher treat. The transcript from the video is below.

Blintzes are a favorite Jewish food. Cheese blintzes are traditionally served for Shavuot and other Jewish holidays. Mushroom blintzes are a popular appetizer for Friday night Sabbath dinner. You can make a large batch of blintzes in advance of the holiday or Shabbat, and store them in the freezer. Then just defrost, heat and serve for a festive and delicious first course. Here are recipes and step-by-step instructions for making blintzes.

Transcript:Easy Cheese Blintzes

One of my favorite breakfasts of all time - you think this would be heavy, it's not. Because the cheese is just barely sweet, the crepe is thin: cheese blintz with fruit sauce. So simple yet such a special breakfast recipe to pull out. Let me show you how to put this together.

Make the Blintz Crepe Batter

Okay, so we're going to do our crepe batter - this is going to get mixed up and it's going to go in the fridge for an hour to rest. So you want to do that head of time. So I have one cup of regular all-purpose flour - into that we're going to add two eggs, three tablespoons of vegetable oil, a pinch of salt. We're going to throw in a tablespoon of sugar, just white sugar, I'm going to put in a quarter cup of cold water. So I'm going to put in a cup of milk and that's the last ingredient, go ahead and stir that in, and don't expect a thick pancake batter. Crepe batter is actually a really thin batter. So we're going to throw that in the fridge - one hour - and then we're getting our blintz on.

Simmer the Fruit Sauce

I love the little shortcut of fruit preserves - it's already made. So all you've got to do is melt your favorite fruit preserve with a little bit of water - this is blueberry, which is really traditional with blintzes. So we're going to put about a half a cup of preserves, and then maybe a tablespoon or two of water, and we're just going to bring that to a simmer on low heat, and you're going to have an instant fruit sauce. So that's going to go down on the plate underneath the blintzes.

Mix the Blintz Cheese Filling

We're going to do four ounces of softened cream cheese - just leave it out at room temperature - and one and a half cups of ricotta cheese. We're also going to put in one whole egg and then we're going to sweeten this up just a little bit with some confectioner's sugar, some powdered sugar - about three tablespoons. Before we mix this up, we're going to do the zest of lemon, about a tablespoon - and that is our blintz filling. Alright, after this is mixed up, I'm going to go ahead and put that back in the fridge, and when our crepes are ready,we're going to start filling.

Make the Blintz Crepes

Non-stick pan, butter, medium heat, go ahead and dump in your batter right in the center. Almost in real time here, you can see that crepe just drying out and cooking through. This has been in maybe a minute and a half - I'm just going to flip that over. And that's really all you need to do. Alright, our crepes are ready to stuff.

Fill the Cheese Blintzes

I'm going to put a spoon with the filling in the center, and then the rolling could not be easier. Just like you're rolling up a package Fold it over, fold it over, and just roll it up into a blintz-like shape. If burrito helps, then there you go. And then what you're going to do is take a buttered baking dish, and transfer them very carefully, with the seam-side down into the baking dish. So we're going to do the rest of those.

Fry and Bake the Blintzes

Couple table spoons of butter - as soon as the butter foams, we can start laying the blintzes in. Once they're browned on both sides, we're going to transfer them back over to our casserole dish. These are going to go in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes - that's just to set the cheese and cook the egg through, and then we're going to plate it up, and it's going to be amazing.

Alright - there we go - our blintzes are done. They baked at 400 for ten minutes - the egg is cooked, they firmed up - I'm so excited. We're going to place our nice, hot blintz in there - give it a little powdered sugar. And that is a very fancy, yet really simple breakfast. I really hope you give this a try - one of my favorite breakfasts of all time.

I'm Chef John Mitzewich - for more information, please go to food.about.com.

 

 

Blintz Recipe

Easy Cheese Blintzes - Video

 

MORE WEBSITES

Jonathan Cahn - The Portable Mountain Top

Shavuot

Seven Ways to Celebrate Shavuot *****************************************************************

This is only the beginning of this journey with our living God.

                DO NOT TELL ANYONE "Bob Berning said to leave your church." That is not what this is about!

o   Am I telling you to convert to Judaism?                                Absolutely not!

o   Am I suggesting leaving your current fellowship?                 Absolutely not!

o   Am I suggesting maybe looking into the scriptures to learn for yourself and seek the fellowship of like minded believers?                                                YES

"As Christians, we read what we believe, but do we believe what we read?"