Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost/Feast of Weeks

Because every blog about faith should have shiny, happy music in the background, this is my selection for Pentecost.  This YouTube video is perfect for this joyous, completely optimistic day!  

Read on, if you like:

Today is Pentecost.  I know that not every church observes this day, but ours does, and we observe all of the other holy days of Leviticus 23.  This is because of their rich dual meaning, in almost every case pointing to something that happened in the past and something in the future.  As they say, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it!  And I would add the corollary that those who have something to look forward to find it easier to stay on track.  Last, but not least, we observe these holy days because God actually calls them "His Feasts."

Lev 23:2  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 

They are the "Feasts of the Lord," not "Feasts for the Jews alone."  And actually, if you look up the word translated as "Feasts," it looks more like "appointments."  I like that concept.  I feel that I'm accepting an invitation from God when I circle these days on my calendar and make a point to spend that day with the Lord.

Pentecost (actually a Greek word for "fiftieth" used in the New Testament for the observance), was built around the wheat harvest. It was called Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament (Hebrew), based on the instructions for calculating its date (7 weeks + 1 day).  It is also sometimes called "Feast of First Fruits."

Exo 34:22  And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end. 

Specifically, it is counted from the first Sabbath to fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Thus, it is by design 50 days from the first Sabbath that falls after Passover:

Lev 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 
:16  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 

Yes, I know numbers can be boring.  But the fact that it needs calculated at all is really interesting.  Every single other holy day is on a fixed date.  It makes you wonder what you were meant to contemplate in that intervening time between Days of Unleavened Bread, when you are supposed to be putting sin out of your life, and the day God baptized His people with the holy spirit.

The most famous Pentecost, of course, was the one which followed the death and resurrection of Jesus:

Act 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 
:2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 
:3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 
:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

How cool is that?

It is sometimes overlooked that the people were actually gathered there to keep the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost when the holy spirit fell upon them.  They weren't just hanging out at the coffee house, playing mini-golf or even attending Sunday School (although it was the first day of the week).  Read the first verse once again:

Act 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 

They were there, specifically observing the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost.  Jesus' followers were in the right place at the right time keeping their appointments with God when God set their church on fire in such a delightful way. So rumors that this was the first Pentecost are somewhat exaggerated.  There had been something in the neighborhood of 1,500 other Pentecosts by this point in time, a point that may be obscured by the switcheroo from the Hebrew to the Greek name for the event.

Just before His ascension, 40 days after his resurrection and 10 days before the coming Feast of Weeks/Pentecost observance, Jesus had actually told His followers to remain in Jerusalem for this special occasion:

Act 1:4  And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 
:5  For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 

It sure pays to be where Jesus tells you to be, especially when He tells you to keep that appointment with God!  I'd have hated to have heard about this event later around the water cooler.  These days, someone would've surely caught it on Instagram, but back then, you'd have just been out of luck.

Fun fact:  3,000 were baptized that day.  Wow!  I'd love to have heard that sermon.

Reaching farther back into the history of Pentecost, a whole lot of people believe that Pentecost is, in fact, the day that God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Most of Judaism, in fact. But there's some controversy about whether all the travel to Sinai from Egypt could have been accomplished within that 50 days from that Sabbath following Passover.  I don't have a position on that.  I suspect it to be so, but I can't prove it and it really doesn't matter to me.

There is so much more to be said about Pentecost.  About how awesome it would be to open your mouth and speak and be understood in the language of all the disparate people around you.  About why the loaves of bread waved by the Priests were leavened. (Because we are yet sinful, but are made holy before the Lord.) What it means that Jesus was the first fruit and what it means that we are meant to follow Him.  But I will end it there, with a very enthusiastic wish for a Happy Pentecost!

1 Cor 15:20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 
:21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 
:22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 
:23  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 

James 1:18  Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 

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