Shavuot: Feast of the Harvest

Just two short months ago, we joyfully celebrated Passover (Leviticus 23:5), the annual commemoration of Israel’s freedom from slavery, during which we as disciples of Messiah also celebrate our own personal freedom from sin—through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Yeshua. Then we began the week-long Feast of Matzah (“unleavened bread”; Leviticus 23:6-8), which memorializes how our ancestors left their oppressors in Egypt behind forever. It is also a period for practicing our own “unleavenedness,” and walking without sin—walking in the reality of who we are reborn to be in Messiah. After that, we began the seven-week journey of counting from the offering of the Omer (“sheaf”; Leviticus 23:9-15)—the time of year in Israel following the barley harvest, during which the wheat grows and matures to its fullness. It is during this season that we have the opportunity to observe our own growth and maturity—watching, waiting and working with God, as he moves us closer to becoming the true disciple He wants us to be.

A Unique Feast

This brings us to the closing Feast of the Spring season of God’s appointed times: the Feast of Shavuot (Leviticus 23:16-22). Shavuot means “weeks,” and is a reference to the seven weeks of counting from the Omer offering. Shavuot is the only single-day pilgrim Feast of the year, and is celebrated with another offering—this time from the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, in the form of two loaves of bread baked from the new harvest grain.

Unlike Passover and the Feast of Matzah, Shavuot—as it is commanded in the Torah—was not connected to any historical event in Israel. While Jewish tradition ties the momentous giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (beginning in Exodus 19) to the Feast of Shavuot, according to the Scriptures, the two events did not actually fall on the same day. From a Torah-perspective, then, Shavuot is simply a firstfruits celebration, offering thankfulness to God for a fruitful summer harvest.

This is one of the things that makes Shavuot so unusual and exciting. One would expect that if a Feast were tied to any Scriptural event, such an incident would have been recorded in the Torah, the Prophets, or the Writings. But the truth of the matter is that in the whole of Scripture, Shavuot is indeed connected to a significant historical event in but a single—if not unexpected—place: the book of Acts.

A Harvest of Souls

“And in the day of the Feast of Shavuot being fulfilled, they were all together at the same place. And there came suddenly out of the heaven a sound as of a driving, violent breath, and it filled the whole House where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues being divided—as if of fire—and it also sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Ruach HaQodesh [Holy Spirit], and began to speak with other languages, as the Ruach [Spirit] was giving them to declare.” (Acts 2:1-4, MJLT)

The Feast of Shavuot, prescribed in the Torah, was fulfilled following the Counting period in the year of Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection. That Shavuot, God filled the believers with the Holy Spirit to empower and embolden them to be witnesses and sharers of the Good News of our Messiah, Yeshua. And what was the result? “… and there were added on that day about three thousand [Jewish] souls” (Acts 2:41, MJLT). The firstfruits of a great, new harvest!

What God began on that special Shavuot, He is continuing today among the Jewish people of the world. As we celebrate Shavuot this month, let us never forget its fulfillment in that one, special Shavuot, as we remain committed to the message of salvation and the movement of God’s Holy Spirit for all Israel.

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