Thoughts on Shavuot

Shavuot, Festival of the Harvest, Feast of Weeks, Pentecost, …there are more names for this particular pilgrimage feast than either of the other two, being Pesach (Passover) and Sukot (Feast of Tabernacles).  And the nuances don’t stop there.  Additionally Shavuot has no ‘historical’ root.  Pesach historically references the Exodus from Egypt, moving from physical slavery to freedom, and Sukot is the reminder of the journey of the Hebrew nation through the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land.  Pesach and Sukot have both historical reference and seasonal reference, relating to a particular season of the year. Shavuot is only related to a particular season.  There is a suggestion in the timing of Shavuot that relates to God giving Moses the Torah/Instructions, as both happen in the third month of the Hebrew calendar, but it’s not a certainty.

In fact, Shavuot is the one ‘God commanded feast’ that has no fixed calendar date.  Instead of being on the first of the month, like the majority of other feasts, the Feast of Weeks is dependent upon the count of 7 weeks ‘from the time you put the sickle to the standing corn’ as in Deuteronomy 16, or is 50 days from ‘the first day after the Sabbath’ as in Leviticus 23.  The Sabbath referred to here is for the offering of Firstfruits, the Sabbath after the Pesach meal, so happens on the first day of the week - the Sunday that Yeshua rose from the dead.

In this way, Shavuot can be seen as a compliment to Pesach - Pesach is not complete without Shavuot and Shavuot cannot begin without Pesach.  According to some Rabbi’s it is a picture of moving from the physical freedom from slavery, into the spiritual freedom of receiving God’s commandments and instructions at Mt Sinai, noting, “The Torah was given not to enslave but to instruct and teach Israel how to live in freedom by relationship with a holy God”.  It’s a beautiful picture of the day the covenant between them, as the people of God was established, “a joining not dissimilar to a wedding when God ‘married’ Israel and established the beginning of His bride”.

A poignant thought when we consider the journey of Yeshua (Jesus) at Pesach as he embraced the cross to give freedom to us all from our slavery to sin, and move through to Shavuot (Pentecost) when the Holy Spirit was given to instruct and teach us how to live in freedom by relationship with a Holy God!  Without Pentecost, Yeshua’s journey would not be complete, and without Passover, Pentecost could not have started.  The Holy Spirit empowering the church is the compliment to Yeshua’s walk and sacrifice that brings us salvation. It is, to quote the Rabbi’s, a beautiful picture of the day the covenant between us as the people of God was established, “ a joining not dissimilar to a wedding”, when we as one’s grafted into the covenant, join and become part of His bride.

The story of Ruth is set in Shavuot - another poignant and timely reminder that ‘whosoever will’ may come into the family of God, of being grafted into the story of God’s people, His plan and strategy of redemption. She was a widow, an immigrant and a foreigner from a non-allied country. She had lost her husband, her home and all the men in her husband’s family had died.  What a great time to consider packing up your belongings and moving to your dead husband’s homeland with your also-widowed mother in law - not! Yet Ruth found herself at the very roots of redemption - such a ‘grafted in one’ was the ancestor of King David, and even greater, the ancestor of Yeshua, the Messiah. Bethlehem, the house of bread, responded with joy at Ruth’s inclusion to God’s family (Ruth 4:11-13) and today it is our privilege and joy to witness God’s chosen people being welcomed back into God’s family, once again becoming His bride and seeing the fulfilment of both Passover and Pentecost fulfilled in their lives throughout the Land.

And a final thought. Whether titled in Greek, English or Hebrew, the significance of the name of this Feast is in highlighting the count of 7 weeks or 50 days. In Psalm 90:12 Moses picks up on the thought of ‘numbering our days’, asking that God teach us to do so, “that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.  Shavuot is a time of anticipation for the coming harvest, and celebration of God’s provision.  It’s an opportunity to remind ourselves to make every day count. To be ones who have God’s wisdom ‘set deeply in our hearts’. To ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, to instruct us so that we live each day on purpose, remembering our joy to be His bride, our honour to walk in His footsteps and delight to ‘live in freedom by relationship with a Holy God!