Another Jewish Holiday, Really?
Our family really emphasizes Passover and Easter, so we naturally emphasized it on our blog. But after 40 days of Lent, Palm Sunday, Feet Washing, Last Supper/First Communion, Unfair Friday, and Easter Sunday, it seems like we should take a break for a while and talk about children’s books or marriage or cooking or budgeting or something. Enough about religious holidays already!
But that’s not how God drew it up. He bunched two of the major holidays right together, 50 days apart.
God commanded the Israelites to gather in Jerusalem three times per year. Passover was one, and probably the most ‘famous.’ The Feast of Booths is another one, which comes along in October this year. The third holiday that required a trip to Jerusalem is found directly after Passover. More specifically,
“‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. Leviticus 23:15-16 (NIV)
This holiday, often called the Festival of Weeks, is described as a 50-day countdown to Shavu’ot, or what we now call Pentecost. (Pente from the Greek word for 50.)
Over the generations, this countdown has prepared the people to celebrate two major themes:
1) The First and Best of the Harvest – God supplies our needs, so we should honor Him with our best. Do you honor God with the first, or with your leftovers? Do you trust Him enough to give up something before you’ve seen it all? In their culture and climate there were a variety of crops with a variety of harvest times, so it is easy to be confused. Regardless though, the original purpose of this holiday was to celebrate God’s provision. They were then told to share that physical blessing with the clergy and with the needy. (see verses 20 and 22)
2) Giving of the Law in the desert – It has been assumed for millennia that the giving of the law (Exodus 19:1) occurred during this festival. This seems plausible, as there were about 50 days of traveling from leaving Egypt to receiving the Law. More on this later.
There are nice echoes to this holiday. God physically saved the Israelites from slavery by bringing them out of Egypt, commemorated in Passover. 50 days later He gave them spiritual health and guidance with the Law, commemorated with Shavu’ot. In the same way, many Passovers later, Jesus died and rose again to give us life. But that new life was incomplete until 50 days later when the Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost.
Humans love anticipation. You can look at our celebrations of the 100th day of school, countdown to Christmas, the New Year’s Eve ball drop, and excitement about baseball’s opening day as just a few examples. Sunday, June 8 is Pentecost Sunday. What are your ideas for building anticipation and getting ready for it? What are ways that we can drive towards the twin themes in two eras? We look forward to hearing your ideas!
The traditional Jewish prayer for each night from Passover to Shavuot is: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.”
Here is a modern adaptation:
“We bless You, Lord our God! You are the King of the Universe. You have purified and set us apart with Your Commandments, and You have commanded us to count down to Pentecost!”
Jews For Jesus: Shavuot
This is the book we have been using to get most of our information: Christ in the Feast of Pentecost