Feast of Weeks – Shavuot
By: Bruce D. Curtis, MA, M.Div. ©2016
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2)
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Has Christendom Failed to Understand its Holy Days?
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The Church as a whole seems to have lost its contact with the Lord’s ordinances and to even know when it was founded and when its harvest will be, nor the difference between the two. Not as a sidetrack, but really a central question, wasn’t the Church really founded when Christ breathed upon His disciples and said “Receive Spirit [Breath] Holy.” (John 20:21-23). There we find the calling and commission and empowerment all in a face to face communication from the Lord Himself.
For most of the world, the major established denominations and other sundry groups that claim Jesus Christ as their Lord, May 15th was celebrated as Pentecost, the Sunday commemorating the presumed birth of the church recorded in Acts chapter 2. For the Orthodox Church in America, Pentecost lies ahead on June 19th. In either case there is a reliance on traditions of men, rather than the appointed times <moadim> of God, which based upon the sun, moon, and stars, which are appointed to keep the times and the seasons, the Lord’s calendar affixes Sunday June 12 as Pentecost 2016. In the Episcopal and other large protestant denominations [along with the Roman Catholic] the fellowships bring out their crimson red paraments to decorate the sanctuary and pulpit with the color symbolic of the falling of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Throughout Christendom, on Pentecost Sunday, one can be treated to eloquence regarding the “birth” of the Church on a Sunday in 31 AD when the disciples were gathered together waiting for power from on high, proclaimed by the Lord himself.
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
And Houston, we have a problem. If it is not for the disciples to know times and epochs, <cronous> or <kairous> which “the Father has fixed by His own authority,” why did Jesus speak to the disciples of the ‘appointed times’ or <kairoi> (Matt. 24), and why did the Lord speak to Moses saying, “These are my appointed times <kairoi> (Lev. 23:1) when speaking of the Sabbaths and Feasts of YHWH? It seems rather that the Father and His Christ actually would like disciples to know his ‘appointed times,” to keep His days holy, as Leviticus speaks straightforwardly. This scripture [Acts 2] is a red herring that actually prophesies that the church will remain intentionally ignorant of the Feasts of YHWH and will keep the WRONG feasts on the WRONG days for the WRONG reasons. It appears like it might have been introduced by an agent of the adversary, for this would have disciples willfully ignorant of the Lord’s ways and unwilling to search out matters of importance telegraphed through the prophets in advance as Amos 3:7 reminds us is the Lord’s custom. How then are we to search out the truth of this matter?
Moving forward to chapter 2, verse 1, when “the day of Pentecost had come,” we can see that Jews from all over the east had gathered in Jerusalem for Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks or <sevens>, and it was for commemoration of the harvest of ‘First Fruits.’ This high Sabbath was set apart as one of the 3 times of the year that all males in Israel were to go up to Jerusalem for celebration. Pentecost <Shavuot> was set 7 sabbaths and a day following the Wave Sheaf Offering, which falls on the Sunday after the weekly Sabbath in the Feast of Unleavened, and it was an observance of the gathering of the entire early barley harvest, for which reason 2 loaves baked with the leaven in were waved by the priest before the Lord.
By traditions of men, Constantine and others, the count to Pentecost has been tied to Easter, which is not hard-linked to Unleavened, but to Ishtar’s day, i.e. the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Hard-linked to Acts 2, the day of Pentecost has lost its meaning for the harvest and came to be connected to the Holy Spirit being given to disciples and the founding of Christ’s ekklesia, or ‘called out.’ And herein lies the rub. For the ‘appointed times’ of the Lord, which the Father “has fixed by His own authority,” with very specific meanings to be communicated, have now been transformed into entirely ‘other’ festivals with entirely distinct meanings, thereby subverting their prophetic significance, hence blurring events of the time of harvest at the end of days.
Since the prophetic dimension of the Feasts is to commemorate the future ‘end of days’ which will culminate in the demise of the wicked and the end of evil, and the ingathering of the righteous, then a very serious error has been made by someone and has been sewn into the fabric of the church. It has become so grievous that the foundation of the church has become synonymous with the harvest, so that judgment and harvest are bypassed, and membership in that order founded by the Holy Spirit constitutes salvation in the minds of the sweeping majority that founded Christendom. Thus are Christ’s good teachings in the parables rendered null and void, and we see yet again how the ministers of Satan transform the truth into a lie.
To see prophetically through the lens of this festival which shall arrive in 2 weeks we need to examine the ordinances which the Lord established for Israel, so that they could commemorate end-time events at the time of the harvest of sons of God.
Once again, for teaching purposes, The Feast of Weeks [sevens] is about the physical harvest as it is the shadow of the spiritual harvest, and therefore, from God’s perspective it is about the final ‘seven,’ the final week, which culminates in the harvest of ‘firstfruits’ of humanity, the early barley harvest. Appropriately, the feast is also known as “First Fruits” because on this high Sabbath the two loaves baked with leaven are a wave offering of first fruits before the Lord (Lev. 23: 17).
Leaving aside the question of the problem of Acts 2, and its partially correct usage of Joel’s prophecy, we must return to God’s institution of the ‘appointed times’ in order to hear what the Lord says of these matters. There we can unravel the fuller prophecy in the practice and to determine how endtime disciples may want to observe a day that is Holy and upon which no ordinary, read ‘worldly,’ work is to be done.
The second Sinai covenant (Ex. 34:10 ff.) is the context for the announcement of the three times in the year all males must appear before the Lord, and “the Feast of Weeks, the first fruits of the wheat harvest” (Ex. 34:22) is one of those three times. Deuteronomy 16:16 reiterates the required appearance of all males before the Lord. Leviticus 23 lays out the full order of service, sacrifices and manner in which the observance is to be carried out, and it is this Levitical ordinance that reveals the prophetic disclosure of the Lord’s harvest. We will return to that in a moment.
Numbers 28:26 reminds God’s people of the holy nature of the day: “Also, on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to the Lord in your [Feast of] Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work.” As the book of Numbers is titled “B’midbar,” ‘in the wilderness,’ it is evident that without either temple or priesthood, the emphasis for the day is a Sabbath, with a holy gathering and no laborious work.
The linkage between the Wave Sheaf Offering and the Feast of Weeks is again commanded in Deut 16:9, where the counting of 7 weeks from the Wave Sheaf leads to a festival with a tribute of a freewill offering from one’s hand. As this regulation is stated within the Moab covenant, a covenant whose eventual mediator will be Christ Jesus, then it is here that we find the ordination for how end-time disciples shall observe the feast, with a free offering given “just as the Lord your God blesses you” (Deut. 16:10).
And now we return to the question of prophecy, the main focus of this writing which addresses whether Christendom has failed to understand its Lord’s own holy days, and has taken the Walmart route, substituting the traditions of men, as if they were cheap Chinese goods. For if believers are willing to believe their Lord, as He told Amos (3:7), then they know full well that He will disclose His secret counsel to his servants the prophets [including Moses], and that will of necessity include the plans for the harvest.
So, what are the plans for the harvest time of humanity? Let us examine the words the Lord <YHWH> spoke to Moses.
Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, “When you enter the land which I am going to give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits for of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the Lord. . . . You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [that is, the weekly Sabbath in the Feast of Unleavened], 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.” (Lev. 23:10-12,15-16, emphasis added)
From this first section we comprehend the counting of the weeks, including Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks of Messiah [this is a fractal of the 7 weeks of Shavuot] and determine the meaning and reference point of the Wave Sheaf Offering which is the sacrifice of the lamb and the acceptance of the sacrifice. As a fresh sheaf of grain, unprocessed, and received by the Lord [YHWH], so is Christ Jesus the first fruits of the harvest, in no need of processing or baking. He is without leaven, and on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath [see Matthew’s gospel in Greek for the language of the first day, or day after] He was accepted before the Father as an acceptable offering, i.e. for us to be accepted. So the 50 days of Pentecost do not pertain to the founding of the Church after Christ’s acceptance as the spiritual reality of the Wave Sheaf offering [the physical enantiomer of which was the fresh cut barley grass of the first fruits], but rather to the harvest of the first fruits of that Church, or body of His.
We also understand why so much disagreement on dates occurs between various wings of Christendom as well as throughout Judaism and even the Hebraic roots movement. If we look to the words of Moses, confirmed by the events in the life of Jesus in the year He was crucified, AD 31 according to the Julian calendar, we can get the precise dates which the Lord has set. But the church sets its clock according to Babylonian time, and therefore they look to Ishtar’s day and it’s counting to compute the day of Resurrection and from thence the day of Pentecost. Christ did not rise from the grave on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. He rose on the Wave Sheaf Offering, the day after the weekly Sabbath in the Feast of Unleavened – and yes, it was a Sunday, but not Ishtar’s Sunday. Hebraic Roots Christians go back to the rabbinical authorities [with their roots in Pharisaical Judaism] and compute the calendar according to the traditions of men, neglecting the words of Moses. They count the Wave Sheaf as the day after the high Sabbath at the beginning of Unleavened. Thus it always falls on the same day of the month and therefore Pentecost always falls on the same day of the month, but not necessarily on a Sunday. The Orthodox church count Easter from Passover, but not Passover as calculated on the Lord’s calendar. So the whole setting of Holy Days in the spring is a regular mathematical tower of Babel, with no one being able to speak to one another in the same language. So much for dates.
Now, as for the significance of the detailed offerings of the celebration of the Wave Sheaf just given in these words which Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, let us work to discern the Lord’s signifiers assigned to the linguistic signifiers, so that we can grasp the inner meaning of the celebration of Shavuot. This inner meaning gives us great detail as to what we are commemorating in the endtime events of the early harvest of God’s people.
You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the Lord. Along with the bread, you shall present seven one year old male lambs without defect, and a bull of the herd, and two rams; they are to be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their libations, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord. You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering and two male lambs one year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings. The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with the two lambs before the Lord; they are to be holy to the Lord for the priest. On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord <YHWH> your God.” (Lev. 23:16-22, emphasis added)
Without using the Lord’s lexicon, key to his vocabulary and assignment of symbols, it would be impossible to understand the choice of sacrifices, both of grain as well as animal sacrifices. Intertextuality, the use of one text to illuminate another, becomes essential to hearing what the Lord is saying to the sons of Israel. Also, it is critical to know who is being addressed by Moses.
The key term ‘perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations’ should be important to Christendom if they stop and realize that they have been grafted onto the root of the vine of Israel, and that there is no longer two people, but one! Therefore, there is no excuse that this applies to physical Israel until the end of time and that Christendom has its own license for freedom. That would invalidate all that the Lord revealed to Paul and he carefully explicated to the Romans, Galatians, and other congregations in Christ. This perpetual statute applies to the Church and the Church better get to understand it, or they will find themselves to be branches cut off and thrown into the fire.
Returning to the Lord’s use of symbols in the enactment of this harvest of ‘first fruits’ observance, carefully observe the key symbolic figures in Revelation, from chapters 5 through 19, which is the 7 weeks (years) that lead up to the harvest of first-fruits. Those end-time figures are paired as anti-types. Just as Christ has his two witnesses, so the dragon, the Devil, Satan, has his beast and false prophet. And as the slaughtered Lamb of God has 7 horns on His head, so the beast coming up out of the sea has seven heads (along with 10 horns). The Beast who came up out of the earth “had two horns like a lamb, and he was speaking as a dragon.” (Rev. 13:11) In the battle that is finished with the conquering Messiah, Christ Jesus, returns with the name ‘O LOGOS TOU THEOU,’ The Word of God, and finishes off the enemies of God. Within those 7 tumultuous years, many sacrifices occur; some are holy and some are beastly. Thus, the following typology prophesied in Leviticus 23 should give us contours of the sacrifices with representative types offered.
There is a ‘wave offering’ of two loaves of bread baked with leaven together with two male lambs that are a peace offering to be waved with the two loaves. The two loaves represent the one third of the ‘little ones’ (see Zech. 13:8-9) that are brought through the fire and are the people of God. Just as there were two houses of Israel with only the House of Judah remaining at the time Assyria invaded the northern kingdom, at the end of time there will be two bodies coming together as one, viz. the physical Israel, circumcised of flesh, and the spiritual Israel, circumcised of heart. This offering of first fruits will be those of the single, now unified, House of Israel, who have had their ‘leaven’ killed by passing through the fire of the tribulation.
The two male lambs, “as a peace offering”, [their death means peace to Heaven and all those destined for Heaven, as confirmation of the mortal blow to death by the 2nd and 3rd witnesses], having been filled with the Spirit at the time of the second Passover, clearly symbolize the two witnesses that are accepted by the Lord as they are waved in His presence, just as the two loaves are “accepted” as the people of God. Since these two lambs are linked in Leviticus with the goat [the sin offering] we understand them to be the witnesses to the liberation of a second Israel from sin and death, along with Christ Jesus who is ‘present’ during this 70th week of His ministry, beginning with the second Passover. Is there any uncertainty as to Jesus Christ as the goat, the spiritual reality of the sin offering? Perhaps a second witness from Numbers 28:30 can remove any lingering doubts, where it says of the sacrifices to be offered in Weeks, “one male goat to make atonement for you.” Yes, Christ, our Passover Lamb, is also our goat for the atonement, for He took all sins onto Himself.
These correspondences will be witnessed in real time events and figures during the final week of Messiah’s ministry, with sacrifices abounding to remove wickedness for the establishment of the kingdom of God (cf. Prov. 25:5). These two lambs – note the anti-type of the 2 horns of a lamb on the adversary – as a peace offering are accepted by the Lord as the first of the first fruits [with Christ], along with the two loaves that represent the fuller body of first fruits in the times of the Lord’s spiritual harvest, the first yield of His spiritual planting.
There is also a burnt offering of 7 male lambs without a defect, a bull of the herd and two rams. These are a burnt offering to the Lord, to be made along with grain offering and libations, which is body and blood. At the second Passover when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the church, the seven congregations will be as the 7 horns on the head of the slaughtered Lamb of God, and therefore 7 male lambs. When empowered by the Spirit, they will be capable of living in the affliction without sin, thus lambs “without a defect.” They will, however, mostly be sacrificed as the man of lawlessness conducts his own purging of ‘his faithful.’
A bull of the herd and the two rams as part of the burnt offering must really represent the triad that stands against the Lord and His people. At the end of the Endurance, the last 1260 days in the tribulation period, the false prophet and the beast are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). These two who are rebels like the prince of Persia [who is depicted as a ram] are thrashing around and butting like rams until cast into the lake of fire by the returning Lord who is now KING OF KINGS – thus, the burnt offering. The bull eventually ends up in the fire (Rev.20:10), but is temporarily locked away in the abyss until after the millennium (see Rev. 20:3). He too, is a burnt offering to the Lord, and collectively embodies all the wild bulls, like the “Bulls of Bashan” [there are numerous OT references for the enemies of God’s throne being called wild bulls]. It is significant that the bulls and rams which are spoken of frequently in the prophets carry this connotation of rebelliousness, of butting and ramming into things, trampling upon others, which has been the activity of Satan and his minions from time immemorial.
It needs to be observed that in Numbers 28 the array of the sacrifice is slightly varied from the offering given in Leviticus 23. If this wilderness period is a shadow of the wilderness period beginning in Revelation 12, then it is understandable that the 2 lambs are missing, since they have been taken up into Heaven (Revelation 11). Further, we now have 2 bulls and 1 ram, rather than 2 rams and 1 bull. The disciple may understand this to be the wilderness period of the Endurance, when the 2 beasts or bulls dominate, one rising from the sea and one rising from the earth, whereas in the time of the Affliction, the false prophet and man of lawlessness are the 2 rams and the adversary, whose spirit animates them, is the Bull sacrificed. Does this mean end-time disciples should keep the Feast of Weeks differently during the Affliction than later in the Endurance? Perhaps.
From this typological view of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, it becomes more apparent that God’s salvation plan for the harvest of humanity has been laid out in detail, far in advance, with God “declaring the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10). It also reminds us that there are two harvests, the first-fruits, and the ingathering of the later and larger wheat harvest. The millennial reign of Christ is book-ended by these two harvests which serve to teach us that the millennium is a longer growing season in the preparation of the sons of God, who are created in that day.
This brings us to the final questions as to observance of this feast. In the absence of a physical temple where all males are to appear for the Feast of Weeks, how then, are end-time disciples to observe Shavuot? Does it matter? If there is no temple, do we really need to observe these ‘appointed times?’
As we are God’s people and these observances are ordained for all generations, we ought to remember that there is a temple, namely the temple of God’s Spirit we have within us (1Cor.3:16, 2Cor.6:16), “we are the temple of the living God.” And if we are to believe the apostle Paul, then “Let not anyone judge you in eating and in drinking or in respect of a feast or a new moon or of Sabbaths, which things are a shadow of things coming, but the body is of Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17) In this compact distillation of truth, Paul not only supports the keeping of the feasts which portray and prophesy what is coming – as just demonstrated above with the Feast of Weeks – but He explains how the Feasts are a shadow cast by the body of Christ which is what can be found in the festivals, new moons and Sabbaths. Paul says elsewhere: we establish Law. If we do not celebrate His ‘appointed times’ are we with Him casting the shadow of His spiritual reality? Disciples need to carefully consider this question, because it does matter. If we do not show the Lord that we acknowledge His works by keeping His appointed times, it is a witness of our unbelief. It demonstrates we do not understand nor believe in His plan of salvation.
As the question of observance seems settled back at the time of the first century church, what is to be the manner of observance now that the temple of Jerusalem is in ruins? What is the format for celebration for end-time disciples, those who live on the eve, or even during the times which the festivals prophesy?
Maybe the words from Deuteronomy, from the words Moses delivered on the plains of Moab, can give us a more definite idea. Chapter 16 recounts the celebrations of Passover, Shavuot, and Succoth [booths].
You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name. (Deut. 16:9-11, emphasis added)
Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering [yourself as part of the harvest] to the Lord in your Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. (Nu. 28:26)
On this day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. (Lev. 23:21)
For end-time disciples this Feast of Weeks means: proclamation, Holy convocation and freewill offering based on the blessing of the Lord. We offer back to the Lord the freewill offering of our hands, rejoicing before Him and giving thanks, not glorifying ourselves for our ‘own creation.’ This remains distinguished from Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice of the work of his hands, as he sought acknowledgment from the Lord, rather than acknowledging the Lord with his gratitude.
During the Affliction we see this contrast again, with the attitude in the seed of Cain, who remain in fellowship with demons. “And the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons.” (Rev. 9:20) These will be sacrificed as a part of the burnt offering of grain which we present an acceptable odor to the Lord.
And what shall be the sacrifice of the People of God, Zion, for their God? And how are they to observe the Feast of Weeks as they wait upon the Lord’s return?
Again, Paul brings forth the truth of our sacrifice for the Lord, as we are His harvest. In fact in his epistle to the Romans, he speaks of the first-fruit and the sacrifice within the same context. Consider his use of the loaf and vine illustrations.
Moreover, if the first fruit [beginning of a sacrifice] is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, also the branches. (Rom. 11:16)
Amazing how the apostle linked the bread and wine, the offering of His body and blood as the beginning of the sacrifice, with the holiness of His whole body, given in the disciples that are part of His vine and part of His loaf.
If Christ is this reality of first-fruits in His body, how can we, the body of Christ, not celebrate it?
But we are not to celebrate it as a dead event, an obligatory offering, but as a living reality. For this reason, Paul moves the sacrifice language forward in chapter 12, by bringing life to an old practice, now dead and fermented with leaven of Pharisees.
I beseech you therefore, brothers, through the compassion of God, to present your bodies a living holy sacrifice, well-pleasing to God, your divinely reasonable sacred service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, emphasis added)
Thus, the observance of Shavuot by end-time disciples should “prove what the will of God is,” by exhibiting what is “good and acceptable and perfect.” In that way we may be found to be a living holy sacrifice, allowing the radiance of Christ to shine through our mortal frames, proclaiming this treasure we have in clay vessels (2Cor.4). It is not a time to sacrifice bulls and lambs, God will provide the sacrifice. It is a time for us to sacrifice our animal nature and to offer back to Him a freewill offering of our hand in His service, for that is the “divinely reasonable service.” Shavuot is a time for complete rest and contemplation of the Lord’s saving work, for proclamation of His feasts as displaying His actual plan of deliverance, and for glorifying Him by convocation of the body of Christ.
This is the meaning of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks; the feast that finds its spiritual fulfillment with the early harvest of first-fruits of them that sleep, the first resurrection that comes with the appearance of Christ Jesus, our Lord (1 Cor. 15:23).