On the eve of Tuesday, May 30th, fully 7 weeks after Passover, we celebrate the Feast of Shavuot, or as it’s called in the Greek of the New Testament, “The Day of Pentecost”. Both the Hebrew name “Shavuot” (“weeks”/”oaths”) and the Greek name “Pentecost” (“fiftieth”) refer to the span of weeks that culminate with Shavuot on the fiftieth day after Passover (Leviticus 23:15–16, Deuteronomy 16:9–10).
One of my personal favorite ways that Shavuot is celebrated is in the tradition of eating a great variety of cheeses and cheesy dishes during this most joyful holiday. I grew up in the cheese loving Midwest in America, so you can imagine how excited I am every time I see that beautiful array of cheesy foods on the table during the Shavuot celebrations!
An especially life-affirming focus during Shavuot is on its connection to the offering of first fruits. There are some who still celebrate this connection to this day even in the absence of the Temple (Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 23:16–17; Numbers 28:26). On the kibbutzim in Israel, for instance, they have special traditions such as those Moran recalls from his childhood:
“I can remember the entire community gathering together along with the representatives from different factories and farms to display and share their first crops. Mothers would proudly show off their ‘first fruits’, their babies, from the previous year and it was a great time of celebrating together.”
Shavuot is also when we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai as well as the the outpouring of God’s spirit on the Jews in the temple during Pentecost 2,000 years later. I can’t think of any better day for God to pour out His Spirit in power, leading 3,000 to the saving message of Messiah Yeshua (as described in Acts 2). In fact, it’s worth noting that when God gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai, 3,000 people ended up dead for idol worship (Exodus 32:28). By the time we get to the first Shavuot after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Messiah, we find 3,000 people saved from spiritual death!
For me, in light of all these traditions, I can’t help but be reminded of God’s sovereignty and his faithfulness to Israel and more broadly to mankind throughout these past many generations. Through many miracles, the Jewish state has obtained its independence and is thriving in our day. Just this last week, we got to celebrate 50 years since Jerusalem was liberated and reunited. And now Israel has once again become a truly bountiful land—95% of Israel’s food requirements are produced right here in Israel! Today, just as with Ruth and in the events described in Acts 2, many gentiles are coming to an understanding of the Jewish roots of their faith and of the centrality of Israel in God’s plan of redemption for mankind. So for this Shavuot get some friends together to enjoy some cheese while considering the “first fruits” God has given you this past year and consider how you might turn around and offer those back to Him.
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