Pentecost series (1)
Today is Pentecost Sunday, and before we get to the today’s texts, let us learn something about Pentecost or Shavuot which has many names in the Bible (the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the day of the first fruits). Shavuot, its literal meaning is Weeks, denoting Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost which is Greek, meaning, Fiftieth, is celebrated on the fiftieth day counting from the second day of Passover. It was a celebration for first fruits of wheat harvest, a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings for the new grain of the summer wheat harvest in Israel. This festival is one of the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles) that every Jewish male had to come to Jerusalem to celebrate.
As you can see this is a very important religious festival in Israel. The name “Feast of Weeks” for Pentecost was given because God commanded the Jews in Leviticus 23:15-16, to count seven full weeks (or 49 days) beginning on the second day of Passover, and then present offerings of new grain to the Lord as a lasting ordinance.
When we think about it, Pentecost is just a harvest festival for new grains, but God strictly commanded all Jewish males to come to Jerusalem to celebrate. Strange, isn’t it? As some of you may know already, these three festivals have deep and rich theological meanings, Passover as atonement for sins by the lamb of God, Jesus, Pentecost as celebrating God’s saints being presented before God, and Tabernacles as symbolizing living in the Kingdom of God finalizing God’s redemptive work on earth. Did you know that Feast of Weeks, is to be counted from the second day of Passover, on which they are to present the first fruits of barley on the first day and on the fiftieth day, on the Pentecost day, the first fruits of wheat are to be presented? Do you get it? It starts with presenting the first fruits of barley on the first day, and it ends with presenting first fruits of wheat! Meaning they have two harvests in the spring. They harvest barley, first, so presenting the first fruits of barley on the first day of the fifty days and they present the wheat later on the fiftieth day. Grains being God’s saints to be saved, do you know that barley is a symbol of Israelites and wheat is a symbol of God’s saints in New Testament? In Judges 7: 13, we see a Midianite man telling his dream on the night before the war with Israelites led by Gideon. He said, “I had a dream. A loaf of barley cake came tumbling into the Midianite camp, struck a tent and it fell.” Sure enough, Gideon and his three hundred Israelites defeated the Midianites and destroyed them completely. We see wheat as the symbol of the New Testament saints first come with John the Baptist’s words that Jesus had come to gather His wheat. (Matt 3:12). In Matthew 13:24-30, we can see that wheat is also used as a symbol of God’s saints that will be harvested in the latter days.
Not only that, in Leviticus 23: 17-18, on the fiftieth day, counted from the second day of the Passover, the priest was to present two loaves of bread made with leaven accompanied with unblemished lambs. Did you hear? On the day of Pentecost, (Festival of Weeks), the priest was to present two loaves of bread made with leaven. This is the only feast where leavened bread is used especially when presenting to God. Leaven in Scripture is often used symbolically of sin, and the leavened bread used in the Feast of Weeks is thought to be representative of sinful people who need to be atoned for. First of all, what do two loaves of bread signify? Remember? On the first day of counting off the fiftieth day, they were to present the first fruits of barley and then to present the first fruits of wheat on the fiftieth day, and that barley symbolizes Israelites and wheat symbolizes New Testament saints, dominantly gentile believers? Two loaves symbolize one for Israelites and the other for gentiles and these two loaves made with leaven means both of the groups are in needing of atonement for their sins, so the unblemished lamb symbolizing the lamb of God, Jesus, was to be present with two loaves of bread. Do you see? Once again, our bible is all about how sinful we are and how we are in need of God’s redemption provided by His son Jesus the Christ, the lamb of God. Old and New Testaments are through and through about God’s love, God’s plan of salvation. All the festivals, stories and the meticulous laws of sacrifices are the types of God’s plan of salvation in and through Jesus the Christ. Do not ever say, Old Testament and its laws are outdated, do not ever say we do not need to read Old Testament. Every book of Old Testament is about Jesus, how he will be sacrificed, how he will save the sinners like you and me. Without the Old Testament, we cannot understand New Testament, without New Testament, we cannot fully understand the Old Testament.
Another important aspect of Pentecost, the feast of Week, Shavuot, is that the celebration is also tied to the giving of the Torah, and thus bears the name Matin Torah or “giving of the Law.” Jews believe that it was at Pentecost that God gave the Torah to the people through Moses on Mount Sinai.
Throughout Jewish history, it has been customary to engage in an all-night study of the Torah on the first evening of Shavuot. Children were encouraged to memorize Scripture and rewarded with treats. The book of Ruth was traditionally read during Shavuot. Jewish people have been preserving customs and rituals without really knowing the significance of their practices. Pentecost is a celebration, signifying God’s salvation of both Israelites and Gentiles. Jewish people, they have been reading the book of Ruth during this feast of Pentecost. And the book of Ruth is about gentile, Ruth, getting married to the family redeemer, Boaz, a type of Jesus, which tells about how Gentile believers coming to God through Jesus.
In relation to the festival of Pentecost, once again we see the Old Testament revealing a shadow of the things to come through Christ! After Moses went up to Mount Sinai, the Word of God was given to the Israelites at Shavuot, at Pentecost. When the Jews accepted the Torah, they became people of God. Similarly, after Jesus went up to heaven (mountain where God dwells), the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. When the disciples received the gift, they became witnesses for Christ. Jews celebrated a joyous harvest (a type of saints) on Shavuot, and the church celebrates newborn souls on Pentecost.
Again, Torah is all about God’s plan of Salvation through Jesus the Christ; it tells about his sacrifice, his atonement, and his salvific works. Likewise, Holy Spirit is revealing who Jesus is, –guiding, teaching and making people understand about Jesus.
Finally, on the day of Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus was ascended to Heaven, his disciples were gathered in one place to pray as they were anticipating the Holy Spirit to come unto them. We know this from Acts 1, just before the resurrected Jesus was taken up into heaven, he told the disciples about the God’s promised gift of the Holy Spirit which will soon be given to them. He tells them to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will empower them to go out into the world and be his witnesses.
On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples were all together in one place when a mighty wind rushed in from heaven and tongues, like flames of fire, appeared and rested on each one of them. We have to note here that disciples all gather together in one place, implying being in one mind praying to receive the Holy Spirit. Gathering in one mind is important. But what is more important is gathering in one mind in God. Being of one mind is generally considered as a good thing, but not always. In Genesis 11, people gathered together to build a tower so “they could make a name for themselves”, the original Hebrew says, they were building a tower so that “they could make a shem for themselves”. “Shem” is the Hebrew word for name, and I numerously mentioned that a person’s name wasn’t just a means of identification. A person’s name referred to their authority, reputation, personality, ability, traits, –who one is as a whole person. In this sense, humans cannot make their names. True names are given from God. The God-given mission is from God, one does not make mission by themselves. But these people gathered in one mind to build a tower to make a name for themselves, –a form of idol worship apart from God. Their decision to make a name for themselves was a testament to those people’s supreme fleshly confidence in their own ability.
In order to accomplish their plan, they did not want to be scattered around, but gathered together in one mind, an attempt to maintain their legacy and preserve their posterity for generations apart from God. “People were echad”, “one”. “Echad” is the Hebrew word for “one” and it is the same word used in the verse, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one“. God was displeased with them becoming one because It was not God-approved oneness. Peace without God is no peace at all. One world government, new world order is the same thing: becoming one without God approving it.
Do you see the day of Pentecost contrasts with the Tower of Babel?
At the Tower of Babel, the “human spirit” was the driving force behind the construction of the Tower becoming one in mind apart and without God.
Whereas on the day of Pentecost, it was the “Holy Spirit” that was the driving force because the disciples became one in God.
On these disciples, Holy Spirit was descended on them. “Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
To be continued….