I can’t shake the idea that each of the Biblical Feasts tell a thematic story when studied in order (or better yet, actually honored through DOING them in their proper seasons). It’s always reminded me of Pilgrim’s Progress, in the sense that the precise plot or even the characters themselves don’t matter as much as the meanings of the names of the characters, or the imagery being described in the text. Of course John Bunyan snuck in very subtle man-made adjustments to some of the actual Biblical truth–but we don’t have that problem in the original Torah!
For example, the Spring Feasts (Pesach, Matzah, and First Fruits) tell the story of Redemption, Sanctification, and the beginning of the process of Salvation. These are three distinct yet inseparable Holy concepts which are expressed in the correct order and timing by the themes in these distinct but inseparable Feasts.
The thematic narrative of the Israelites’ relationship with Yah though these Spring Feasts is very inspiring and eternally relevant. According to Exodus 6:3-4, Yah only revealed Himself in a limited way to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To them, he was only (only?) “El Shaddai” –“God of the Mountain”, or perhaps “Almighty God”. But to Moses, He says, “I am YHWH!”
Sadly, when Moses declares “YHWH” to the people, they pretty much say, “umm…who?” However, once the Israelites are free from bondage, the rest of the narrative (Exodus Chapters 14-24) is Yah is teaching Israel who He is, slowly, step-by-step. Trying to win their hard hearts, turn their stiff necks, and make his name, YHWH, known to them. He’s been doing the same thing with every generation ever since. In fact, if those 4 letters mean nothing to you, look in the front of your bible and look for your translator’s explanation as to why they replaced those 4 letters with the phrase “the LORD.” We need our Father’s name restored in our generation as well.
You might see Shavuot as the process of “unwashing” the brains of folks programmed by the Egyptian captivity.
You might see Shavuot as Yah wooing his lady, showing His love, offering her gifts, and finally proposing marriage.
You might see Shavuot as a newborn child, born at the Red Sea, but toddling along toward the mountain, being patiently taught the nature of his Father, and the blessings that come with trusting faithfulness.
And you’d be right.
This thematic narrative is designed to map over Shavuot itself. As a 50-day Feast, Shavuot has 7 themes embedded within it–one for each of the 7 embedded Sabbaths (in addition to the kickoff events of Day 1 and, the finish-line of Day 50.) Here they are in order for reference:
First Fruits (Day 1): The Red Sea Crossing (death is defeated)
Shabbat 1: Bitter water made sweet (Yah is our Healer)
Shabbat 2: Manna from Heaven (Yah’s provision and Yah’s Shabbat)
Shabbat 3: Water from the Rock (Yah will quench all spiritual thirst)
Shabbat 4: Yeshua defeats enemies for us (need I say more!)
Shabbat 5: Jethro’s advice (a community wisely guided by Yah’s Law)
Shabbat 6: The Ten Words [Commandments] (instilling the Fear of Yah into Israel)
Shabbat 7: Conquest promised (Yah’s Promise of a Land, a Future, and a Hope)
Day 50: 70 Elders dine in Yah’s presence (Yah’s Eternal Covenant)
Seeing the narrative unfold in this way is very helpful while celebrating this Feast, as we too should be expecting to know Yah deeper every day. This will manifest in the evidence of Fruit in our own lives–it will also, sadly, produce the occasional grumbling and complaining that comes with our impatience with the process and the death throes of our fleshly nature. Every one of these aspects of Yah’s character (His Name) is eternal and relevant to every believer today. As you count towards Shavuot, don’t be hasty. Instead, prayerfully and intentionally identify with our original Hebrew ancestor’s pilgrim’s progress.
Them is us.