Foundations of Our Faith May 2003
Pentecost is a holiday that the church has been celebrating for quite some time now. But would you be surprised to find out that it was celebrated as far back as the time of Moses? I hope not!
“Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a cereal offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two loaves of bread to be waved, made from two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven, for firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs, a year old and without blemish, and one young bull and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their cereal offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire, of a sweet and satisfying fragrance to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one he-goat for a sin offering and two he-lambs, a year old, for a sacrifice of peace offering. The priest shall wave the two lambs, together with the bread of the firstfruits, for a wave offering before the Lord. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. You shall make proclamation the same day, summoning a holy assembly; you shall do no servile work that day. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” - Lev. 23:16-21
There are several interesting facts about Shavuot, or Pentecost, that we need to look at.
In Leviticus 23:15-16, God commands that seven Sabbaths be counted (called counting the Omer) beginning with the day after the Sabbath after First Fruits - that would be a Sunday. Then, on the 50th day - another Sunday - you celebrate Shavuot. For this feast, two loaves of leavened bread are to be offered to the Lord, along with drink, sin and peace offerings. Leviticus 23:17-21 details who this feast is to be celebrated. Then, in verse 22, right in the midst of instructions for the feasts, God seems to digress and throws in a mandate that harvesters shall not wholly read their fields so the poor and strangers will be able to glean. I found that rather odd, but upon further investigation it seems to make perfect sense. We'll get back to this in a moment.
Shavuot is the only time that leaven is used during a feast. In Scripture, leaven is always a type for sin or something not clean - like Gentiles, for instance. So why would God purposely proscribe something unclean in a feast? If we look at the prophetic implications of the feasts, it begins to make sense.
If Passover, the Feast of Unleavened bread, and First Fruits were fulfilled in the Messiah's sacrificial death, and His resurrection, then Shavuot's fulfillment can be seen in the giving of the Holy Spirit. It was on Shavuot, or Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit was poured out on that room of believers in Jerusalem. But are there other parallels here? You bet!
“The third morning there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people from the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, for the Lord descended upon it in fire; its smoke ascended like that of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. As the trumpet blast grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with a voice.” - Exodus 19:16-19
“And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, when suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them. And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words].” - Acts 2:1-4
Both of these events took place on Shavuot and they bear striking similarities. On Sinai, the Law was given. In Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit was given that we, through Him can please God not by striving to keep the Law, but by accepting Yeshua's fulfillment of it. On Sinai there was the sounding of heavenly trumpets. In Jerusalem there was a sound like a violent tempest blast. On Sinai, God came down in fire. In Jerusalem He did it again. Wow! But that's not all that God has in store for us with Shavuot!
Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot. In the book we read of Ruth, a Gentile, who is brought in to God's family, and the Messiah's lineage, through her marriage to Boaz. Boaz was her kinsman-redeemer through Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi. (For a more in-depth look at Ruth, click here). (Naomi's son, Ruth's first husband, had died.) On Shavuot, we can see the inclusion of the Gentiles in God's plan of redemption as depicted in the two loaves of leavened bread.
It is also interesting to note that that “odd” passage about the parameters for harvest is included in the midst of the feast passages. It is Leviticus 23:22, and it is this instruction that afforded Ruth the opportunity to meet Boaz. Coincidence? Hardly. From the beginning God knew that this provision would be necessary and He made sure it was included.
On the day when we remember the redemption of a Gentile woman through marriage to her kinsman-redeemer, God birthed the body of Christ, that through our relationship with Yeshua, our kinsman-redeemer, we would find our redemption. Coincidence? I don't think so!
One more interesting thing to think about. When the apostles and disciples were gathered together I don't think they were simply waiting for some unknown day to come. They were counting the days to Shavuot, the day when the Lord completed the Passover season by giving Israel the Law. Did the disciples know what was going to happen on that day - that God would complete the work which was birth by Yeshua's death and resurrection? I have no idea. Also, is there significance to the 49 days of the omer - seven weeks of seven days? I'm sure there must be, although I don't know what that might be. All I know is that God never wastes an opportunity to point to the Messiah, nor does He do anything by chance!
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