It's holiday time again over here in Israel!
In the Bible, one of the three pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Sukkot) is Shavuot – and it starts tonight.
Shavuot marks the giving of the first five books to Moses in the Bible – known here as the Torah.
That happened on Mt. Sinai, seven weeks after the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. The word “Shavuot” literally means “weeks” and is celebrated exactly seven weeks after the first day of Passover, which marks the exodus itself. You can find it outlined in Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10.
So what happens in a typical Jewish home for this celebration?
On Tuesday night, June 7, after festive evening prayers and a festive meal, many people will follow the custom of staying awake all night and studying religious texts, followed by some morning prayers. This represents the 'enthusiasm' of the Jewish people to receive the Torah – or the Law.
Here in Jerusalem, there is a widespread custom of going to the Western Wall – which will be packed – for prayers, often accompanied by dancing and singing.
In ancient times, Shavuot marked the end of the barley harvest, and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Jewish farmers brought their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 26:1-11), where special offerings were brought (Numbers 28:26-31).
Shavuot is also referred to as the “Day of First Fruits” and the “Harvest Festival” (Numbers 28:26 and Exodus 23:16). And when we consider all the symbolism and meaning it is a solid reminder of God's faithfulness to give us grace when He comes to redeem us.
You see, if you followed the Church calendar – we just celebrated Ascension Day – where Christ left us the promise that He will come again – and until then we are to labor in the fields of salvation.
Friends – it will happen… God keeps His Word – and I'm glad He does, because this pilgrim needs to be set free from my slavery to sin, I need grace to save me from the Law – and all that will culminate at His second coming… and what a celebration that will be!
Middle East Correspondent