The following article is based on the book, Israel's Feasts and Their Fullness by Batya Ruth Wootten
We will soon celebrate the Feast of Weeks, the first fruits of the wheat harvest. This feast is also called the Feast of the Ingathering, Shavu'ot, and Pentecost (Exo 34:22; Num 28:26; Deu 16:10,16; Lev 23:15-20). However, we suggest that an important, enlightening and encouraging Scriptural truth is missing from most Shavuot celebrations...
For Believers, the forty nine days between Pesach/Passover and Shavuot mark the time between the Festival of our Physical Redemption (Passover) and the Festival of our Spiritual Empowerment (Shavuot). In Jewish tradition, the countdown from the Wave Sheaf to Shavuot is called Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the omer. Most Jews associate Shavuot with the giving of the Book of the Torah. However, in her book, In the Jewish Tradition, Judith Fellner explains that the rabbis developed this idea after the Diaspora, because the Omer count was being forgotten. So, they attached one of Israel's great historical events to Shavuot. By the third century, it became known as "The time of the giving of the Torah," and it depicted the idea of the marriage covenant between Israel and the Almighty. It came to signify the idea of Israel entering into "Covenant" and saying "I do" to the Holy One, even as she said "I do" at Mt. Sinai. And yet, among the Jewish people, Shavuot continues to be the least observed of the major feasts.
Ancient writings tell us this feast was celebrated by bringing first fruits of the seven species (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates) to the Temple. This vivid ceremony, described in elaborate detail in the Mishnah, marked the beginning of a new agricultural season (See, In the Jewish Tradition, A Year of Food and Festivities, Judith Fellner, "Shavuot," Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, NY, 1995, pages 101-108).
Thus, some believe that Shavuot began with the giving of the Law/Torah and was further fulfilled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Some 2,000 years ago, Israelites gathered in Jerusalem on a Shavuot day and were empowered by the Ruach. As promised, fifty days after His Resurrection, Yeshua sent the Comforter, and His followers experienced the first New Covenant Shavuot. Yeshua began to reap a harvest in His New Covenant ekklesia. Today, we too, can receive the Holy Spirit - Who will write His Torah wisdom on our hearts and empower us to walk in His truths if we will ask Him (John 14:16,26; 15:26;16:7; Jer 31:31-33; 1 Cor 14:2). We need this empowerment so that we can clearly hear the Father's voice as He whispers in our ear, "This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isa 30:21).
Shavuot and Jubilee
In Israel every fiftieth year is a Jubilee year. Because Shavuot comes on the "fiftieth" day, it is thought to be a mini-Jubilee. In Hebrew, fifty represents liberty, freedom, and deliverance. Jubilee is a time when slaves were set free and debts were cancelled at the sound of the shofar (Lev 25:8-17). We too, need to be liberated from the sins that enslave us.
When the Law was given to ancient Israel, it testified against the immorality of their flesh, and "about three thousand men fell that day" (Exo 32:28; 1 Cor 10:8). When the Holy Spirit was given, an empowered Apostle Peter began to preach, and "and that day there were added about three thousand souls" (Acts 1:8; 2:38, 41; 3:12-26; 4:33). Even so, the wheat sheaves of Shavuot foretell the promised resurrection of those who put their faith in Messiah Yeshua (Mat 13:39; Mark 4:26; Luke 10:2; 1 Thes 4:16-17; Rev 14:14-16).
Embracing the wisdom of Torah is essential to our well-being. Being empowered by the Ruach to be able to walk in those truths is likewise essential to our well-being. However, there is another important aspect to Shavuot that we need to embrace in this hour. Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel is likewise essential to our well-being, and enlarging our understanding of Shavuot will help us to better arrive at that glorious end-time goal (Isa 49:8; Acts 1:6).
Shavuot in Scripture
Scripture reveals that Shavuot was established as an agricultural feast that was related to the wheat harvest. On this day a unique sacrifice was offered: The priests waved two leavened loaves of bread made from the finest of the newly harvested wheat flours. These loaves were then presented to the Holy One, but, they could not be placed on the altar, because YHVH declared that, "No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD" (Lev 2:11).
These two leavened loaves could be "waved" before YHVH, but they could not be "offered up in smoke" on His altar: "As an offering of first fruits you shall bring them to the LORD, but they shall not ascend for a soothing aroma on the altar" (Lev 2:12). Moreover, Israel could not eat bread from the new wheat harvest until after this wave ceremony was completed. Two lambs were also offered at this time, and the feast was traditionally concluded with communal meals to which the poor, and the stranger were invited.
We suggest that understanding of this feast has largely been lost, and that the two leavened loaves depict "both the houses of Israel" (Isa 8:14). Of all the bread offerings, only the two wave loaves of Shavuot were baked with leaven. Leaven symbolizes sin, and there are two houses of Israel - both of which have stumbled over the One who would be a "Sanctuary" to them.
Both houses have fallen short, and will continue to fall short as long as they are divided and antagonistic toward each other (Isa 8:14; John 2:22; Rom 11:25). Both Ephraim and Judah are plagued by leaven, meaning, they are puffed up with error. As they stand, neither house is fit to be "offered" on YHVH's altar. Singularly, neither house can be a "soothing aroma" to the Holy One. Something is missing. And, something is present that keeps them from being fully acceptable to Him. To be an acceptable offering, bread must be unleavened. So it is that both houses fall short of the glory of GOD. The sins found in their houses are a like a stench in His nostrils and it prevents them from being fully acceptable to Him (Isa 65:5). Both are missing the quality of sinlessness. That quality is found only in Messiah. He is the Unleavened Bread of Pesach, and in Him, both houses can be made whole, sinless.
And yet, we note that even in their leavened state, both loaves are nourishing "bread," which depicts and ability to "feed people." Both houses of Israel offer some sustaining words of life to the children of Israel. Neither house is perfect, so we should partake of that which is nourishing from each house, and ask the Father to help us move on, to the Fall Feasts, and to that perfect place of sinlessness, wherein we will be able to Tabernacle with Him forever.
Again, both loaves were acceptable to the Almighty in that they could be "waved" before Him, but in themselves, they were not fit to be a sacrifice. This shows us that, if our GOD can look upon these leavened houses with mercy, and ever seek to draw both of them to Himself, we should seek to do no less. We should have proper regard for both the houses of Israel. We also see that both loaves could be in Yah's Holy Presence, and yet not be consumed. So it is that Judah and Ephraim are imperfect, and yet are not utterly consumed by the Holy One. He sees their defects, yet He loves them and longs for them.
Shavuot featured a "new grain offering" (Lev 23:15-16,21), but, Israel could not partake of their new wheat harvest until after the leavened wave offering of Shavuot was fulfilled. Similarly, we will not be able to fully partake of the Bread of Life until, like Him, we desire the full restoration of both houses. He preached the "Gospel of the Kingdom," which included the restoration of King David's divided kingdom/house/tent. Yeshua declared that a house or kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. We therefore, need to work toward Israel's reunion. Then, and only then, will her kingdom be fully restored. Then and only then, will we see and partake of the fullness of Israel's coming harvest. We will experience this only when we begin to properly honor both of her houses. Then, we will fully taste of the loaves of Shavuot and be prepared to move forward.
Two lambs were offered at Shavuot, and the feast was traditionally concluded with communal meals to which the stranger was invited. This tells us that Israel's Kingdom restoration will include all who belong to Messiah's "one flock," all who sojourn with either house, be it with Judah or Joseph/Ephraim (Eze 37:16-22; John 10:16).
Finally, we read that, "On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well...It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations" (Lev 23:21). Making a proclamation, a qara, is a perpetual command for Shavuot. We are to proclaim, mention, publish, and preach the truth about this appointed time (Strong's word # H 7121).
But exactly what do we need to proclaim in this hour?
Just as the twelve unleavened loaves of "show bread" found in the Tabernacle represented the twelve tribes of Israel, so the two leavened loaves of Shavuot represent both the houses of Israel - Ephraim and Judah. The Father told Moses, "You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times." We need to declare the truth that, the twelve unleavened loaves of the Bread of the Presence spoke of the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel, and two leavened loaves speak of the current division in the two houses of Israel.
Our division is the stench that keeps us from being acceptable in the sight of our GOD, and it keeps us from our much desired end-time harvest. We need to cry out about this matter. We need to repent if we are guilty, and we need to remind our brethren to repent and to forgive one another.
How can we be cleansed of this condition?
In Romans 11:16, we read: "If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too." With the Spring feasts, the first piece of dough mentioned is that of Unleavened Bread, which represents Messiah Yeshua. He is "holy" dough. The second lump of dough mentioned is, the two leavened loaves of Shavuot. We are part of that latter "lump." We are made holy only when we abide in our Messiah. He is the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. He is the Living Word of Life. He said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Mat 4:4; John 1:14; 6:48-51; 1 John 1:1; 1 Pet 1:23). He can transform us by His Spirit.
His Word, from Genesis to Revelation, is like bread to us. The two loaves of Shavuot represent the two covenant people who have charge over "Two Books of the Covenant." Judah has had charge of the Old (First) Covenant, Torah, and they tend to eat only of that covenant loaf. Ephraim, or Israel, has had charge of the New Covenant, the covenant of the heart (Jer 31:31-33), and they tend to eat only of that covenant loaf. The Father has used these two houses to maintain these Books of the Covenant. However, what is really wants is to have "one loaf," He wants to have "One Book of Covenants."
Although the overseers of these two Covenants have made mistakes in the way they have presented His truths, nonetheless, the two leavened loaves continue to be YHVH's prescribed wave offering and neither should be unfairly disrespected.
Each feast of Israel is called a Kodesh Miqrah, a Holy Rehearsal. The feasts are anointed rehearsals for a Divine Play that tells of our salvation. Each feast reminds us of coming stages in our salvation walk, and Shavuot is one of our stops along the way. However, we want to make it all the way, we want to make it to the end of the play, to the Eighth and Great Day of Tabernacles. And, to get there, we need to help fulfill the feast of Shavuot.
Shavuot is a day that tells of our Father's patient endurance, love, and high hopes for both the houses of Israel. Let us therefore do as we are told and make a Shavuot Proclamation about this truth. Let us wave two leavened loaves before Him and declare to the world the truth about Israel's coming full restoration!
Hallelujah! Let us celebrate Shavuot!