Shavuot: God’s Perfect Timing
You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:15-16)
Traditionally, both Jews and Christians have thought of Shavuot as a “birthday”. For the traditional Jewish community, this feast was first celebrated around the time when God gave Israel the Torah at Mount Sinai, about fifty days after leaving Egypt (Ex. 19:1). Therefore, Shavuot is considered “The Season of the Giving of the Law.” It is considered the spiritual birthday of Israel since the Torah brought twelve tribes together into one corporate people. From Shavuot’s fulfillment in Acts, we can also call it, “The Season of the Giving of the Spirit” since the Holy Spirit makes all believers, from many tribes, to be one family in Messiah. Happy birthday, Body of Messiah!
The word Shavuot literally means “weeks.” This feast is also called Pentecost, from the Greek word meaning “fifty,” as the feast occurs fifty days after Passover. Does the name “Shavuot” indicate that the feast would be celebrated for weeks on end? No! It is called “weeks” because of the special way we find out each year when it is to be celebrated. Unlike the other Feasts of Israel, the Feast of Shavuot is dateless! In order to celebrate Shavuot, one has to count “seven weeks” from “the day after the Sabbath” of the Passover, and the next day, the fiftieth day, would be Shavuot.
Why don’t the Scriptures just give us the date for Shavuot? Many of us would have been inclined to say to Moses, “Forget counting fifty days; just give me the date and I’ll put it in my iphone, so I can remember to show up and worship!” But no, God commanded everyone to count fifty days regardless of how busy their schedule may be. Why? Allow me to explain…
Can you imagine if your mother never told you the date of your birthday? Rather, she told you to celebrate it fifty days after the anniversary of your Uncle Murray’s death. When you were young, this might have been ok, but in high school, it would be embarrassing not to know the date of your birth! “Hey Joel, when’s your birthday?” “Well it’s fifty days after my Uncle Murray died.” Eventually, you’d insist, “Mom, can’t you just tell me when my birthday is? Why do I have to count fifty days from the day Uncle Murray died?” Your mom’s reply would bring her purposes to light, “Because, your Uncle Murray left you his fortune, and I never want you to forget your Uncle Murray!”
In counting fifty days in order to celebrate Shavuot, Israel would be constantly reminded of Passover. God’s people were never to orient themselves around the giving of the Torah, but around the true foundation of their life as a people at Passover.
Shavuot may have been the time when God made Israel one people in the Law, but Passover was when God redeemed them from bondage and destruction through the blood of the lamb. Passover was and is to be the foundation and head of the year. It celebrates Israel’s redemption from bondage, and redemption is the foundation of our salvation. Thus, the foundation of Israel’s redemption was provided only in Passover, not Shavuot. Every year as Israel counted the weeks from Passover to Shavuot, they remembered that their redemption as a people was found in the Lamb of Passover.
In the same way, we are never to forget our Messiah who gave His life for us, and with that, the unspeakable riches of new birth in Him! Like Israel’s redemption from bondage, our foundation of faith as believers in Messiah Yeshua is forever tied to Passover and our redemption in the Lamb of God. We are not set apart to God just because we look to the Holy Spirit, but when we look to Yeshua as the true foundation for our spiritual lives. Through Him we are a first fruits offering (Lev. 23:16), for God’s use only.
Every Shavuot believers may thus remember Passover and the Passover Lamb, Yeshua. Though Pentecost is the “birthday celebration” of the Body of Messiah, we are never to look to the Holy Spirit as the foundation of our faith, either individually or as a body of believers. Our security is experienced only when we look to Yeshua as our foundation of faith. Our confidence is in the Lord, and in Him alone. Place your faith in Messiah’s eternal atonement for your sins, and receive new life in Yeshua, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Heb. 12:2) You are secure looking to Him!