Shavuot: Possessing Their Inheritance
Most of you are already familiar with this holiday, although you know it by its Greek designation, Pentecost. The Bible also refers to the holiday as, “Feast of Weeks.” The Hebrew title is, “Yom Bikurim (Feast of firstfruits).
[The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fifty.” It comes from the ancient Christian expression pentekoste hemera, which means “fiftieth day.”]
And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. —Leviticus 23:15-17
In the Feast of Weeks, “the mystery of God was revealed” with the establishment of God’s Kingdom community consisting of BOTH Jews and Gentiles. God’s eternal purpose was to create a community who would know Him, love Him, worship, and celebrate Him. He started with a family from whom He built a nation. Ultimately, He made provision for the entire world to become citizens and members of His Kingdom. Did you notice that this holiday is also called Firstfruits? The Feast of Weeks is the second of the three firstfruit holidays. This has tremendous redemptive implications, so read on!
The Feast of Weeks is celebrated fifty days after the wave offering of the spiring harvest during Passover. “Weeks” is the second harvest festival for the summer crops including wheat and barley. As a harvest festival it is also the second pilgrim festival in which Jewish males would bring the firstfruit of their summer harvest to Jerusalem to offer unto the Lord.
I suggest there are at least five points of significance this holiday has to the nation of Israel:
- Possessing their inheritance
- Remembering and rejoicing
- Inclusion of all people
- A unique offering
- Rabbinic tradition
Today I want only to focus on the first one: Possessing Their Inheritance: When Israel came into the Land, God’s provision of manna ceased as He provided a harvest for which the people had not labored. They then had to sow and reap their own harvest. This second harvest was another fulfillment of God’s covenant promises:
On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” —Genesis 15:18-21
Before them were two daunting tasks. First, they had to TAKE the land. As harsh as it seems to us today, God’s instructions were clear:
When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Numbers 33:51b-53
The former inhabitants of the land had defiled it to such an extent that God’s judgment on them was to come from the hand of Israel. Israel was to take the land, remove those inhabitants, and leave no prisoners! Second, Israel had to KEEP the land. Taking the land was a long and challenging task, but keeping it was even harder. In fact, Israel was unable to consistently remove the -ites who were determined to remain. As God warned, these idol worshipers became a distraction and a snare to Israel, eventually leading her into worship of foreign gods and sins of great disobedience. Taking and keeping are two different issues. Taking is an activity, whereas keeping is a lifestyle. An activity (program or project) has a beginning and an end. Once the goal is achieved, you can applaud yourself and relax. Or can you? Possessing your possession—keeping your achievements—requires diligence and perseverance. The difference between an activity and a lifestyle is evident in my clothes closet, where there are sizes ranging from Petite 4 to Regular 14!
for a more in-depth study on all the feasts order Celebrate Jesus!