Today, we’ll cover another important feast of the Jewish nation, the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot,) as described in Leviticus 23. The feast is coming up this weekend on June 3-4, 2017. It’s important for us to understand the significance of these feasts as they shine light on many aspects of God’s plan. This is the second of the three solemn feasts that the Jewish males were required to travel to Jerusalem to attend where they would present the first fruits grain offering in expression of thanksgiving for God’s provision. The feast got its name from the fact that it starts 7 full weeks, or exactly 50 days, after the Feast of First Fruits (barley harvest.) It is also known as “Pentecost” which means 50 days. It is in celebration of the wheat harvest. The date changes each year as it is calculated exactly 50 days to the day after the seventh Sabbath.
Like other Jewish feasts, the Feast of Weeks is important in that it foreshadows the future coming Messiah and His ministry. Each and every one of the seven Jewish feasts signifies an important aspect of God’s plan of redemption through the Messiah, though most still do not recognize that Jesus was their Messiah, and hence, they are still waiting and watching for His return to the earth. Ironically, they are putting an extremely heavy emphasis on this particular year, 5777 (to us 2017), as it is also the final 120th jubilee (which we’ll discuss in another post).
The spiritual significances of the Feast of Weeks are many. Some see the two loaves of leavened bread that were to be a wave offering as foreshadowing the time when the Messiah would make both Jew and Gentile (those who are not Jewish) to be one in Him (Ephesians 2:14–15). This is also the only feast where leavened bread is used. Leaven in Scripture is often used symbolically of sin, and the leavened bread used in the Feast of Weeks is thought to be representative of the fact that there is still sin within the church (body of Christ) and will be until the Messiah returns.
As a Christian, believing that Jesus, the Messiah, has already come once, we can see in the book of Acts that on the day of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), the Holy Spirit descended to the earth for the first time and made His temple within each believer. This happened because Jesus, the first fruits of the harvest (wheat harvest), ascended to heaven and so sent the Spirit as a promise of receiving the rest of the harvest later at the end of the age.
To the Jews, according to the Old Testament, the original Pentecost occurred in Exodus 19:5-6 when God came down Mt Sinai to enter into a marriage covenant with His people. Though the people of Israel accepted the covenant by their words, they almost immediately broke the covenant of their relationship with God. And so the story continued through the rest of the Old Testament (and the Gospels) when God continually attempted to restore the relationship by pursuing Israel to plead for them to come back to Him and honor their marriage covenant. He even used the prophet, Hosea, to paint a picture for them showing how they were disobedient to their marriage covenant, but even this did not work. Hosea was told to marry a harlot who continually cheated on him and he was told to continually pursue her and beg her to come back.
“When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” Hosea 1:2
Finally, the Lord’s patience ran out for the nation, and He sent away the nation with a degree of divorce because of the hardness of their hearts…
6 The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? 7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9 Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 3:6-10
“He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:18
We can be thankful for Israel’s disobedience to God because God turned His attention to others who would believe, and this is the Church (the Gentiles.) During the Church/Gentile age, God would graft the Gentiles into His Israeli family, so we could all by one.
“11 So I ask, did [Israel] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, ” Romans 11: 11-17
God’s desire is still for the nation of Israel to return to Him. He will pursue them once more during the last seven years of the earth. This is called the week of Jacob’s trouble.
“Return, O faithless children, declares the Lord; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.” Jeremiah 3:14-17
Because the nation of Israel understands that God will take them back, their tradition is to read from the book of Ruth during the Feast of Weeks. This book details the story of Ruth, a Gentile woman who was widowed and did work in the wheat fields. At midnight (the last hour), Ruth goes to Boaz (the kingsman, Jewish redeemer) with a proposal of marriage. He accepts her proposal and the two enter into a marriage covenant, both Jew & Gentile. This took place on Pentecost. Ruth hence converted to Judaism and became a part of God’s family.
The imagery of marriage surrounds the festival of Pentecost, and according to tradition, many Jews will stay up the entire night to watch for their groom in the clouds, so we can conclude that God will reinstate His marriage with Israel, once again, on this important feast day, in the year of His choice.
Thank you, God, for helping us to understand Your feasts, Your symbolism, and for Your desire to be in a relationship with both the Jews and with us as well. What a gift for us to have come to know You through the blessing of Your Son, Jesus. We pray for the nation of Israel, that they, too, will come to recognize and accept Jesus as their Messiah so that they can be brought back into the marriage covenant with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.