Sunday, May 3, 2015

Counting the Days

'And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave [loaves] of two-tenths [of an ephah]. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. [They are] the firstfruits to the LORD.    Leviticus 23:15-17 NKJV

Fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits comes Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks.  We know it as Pentecost, derived from the Greek word “penta” meaning fifty.  It also has other names such as the Festival of Weeks, the Festival of Reaping or Ingathering, and the Day of Firstfruits.  It occurs at the end of the wheat harvest in Israel, which is why it is associated with the theme of harvesting and the bringing of a sacrifice of grain to the Lord.  Yet it is also a time of celebrating the harvest of the land, which includes all seven of the fruits of the land listed by God in the book of Deuteronomy.

“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; “a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;     Deuteronomy 8:7-8  NKJV

Something I personally found interesting when I first began to study this feast was the tradition in Israel of reading the book of Ruth during this time.  One of the greatest love stories to be found in the Bible is the Book of Ruth. It is a story of how a Gentile, (non-Jew), was "redeemed", or bought with a price, by a "kinsman" or relative (who was a Jew) according to Jewish law, and then becomes the bride of her redeemer. This story is situated in Bethlehem with the events transpiring during the fifty days between the barley and wheat harvest.  The redeemer (Boaz) takes his bride at the end of that time or at the Feast of Pentecost. 

As this story demonstrates how a Gentile could become a Jew, we can also see a perfect example of how Jesus Christ chose to redeem all who choose to accept His sacrifice allowing us to become His bride, the body of Christ.  This was illustrated by the events which occurred on the Feast of Pentecost that followed fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? “And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, “Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, “Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”       Acts 2:1-11  NKJV

Because the Feast of Pentecost was one of the three feasts in Israel that were compulsory to attend, Jerusalem was full of Jews from different lands.  It was for this reason that the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in different languages, allowing the Gospel to be shared with everyone who was there.  This is the day that many consider to be the birthday of the Church as not only did God send the Holy Spirit to indwell all who believe, but also arranged for the good news to be spread to other countries by virtue of these Jewish pilgrims to return home with the message of Jesus Christ.

The sixth of Sivan is a day which certainly has many different events associated with it, yet curiously only one central theme and that is redemption.  Enoch was raptured, Ruth who was a Gentile was redeemed, and the Church was born and given the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell.  As the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, is this a day that the Church might look to as a possible day of redemption, and possibly a wedding?

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.                       Romans 8:22-23  NKJV

As we have seen, there are more than a few references to a "rapture" type event associated with the Feast of Pentecost. Will the Church be raptured on its birthday? Of course, no one knows for certain and I certainly can't say for sure but I hope I'm not the only one who finds it more than curious that there seem to be so many events common to this particular day of the year. Jesus commanded us to watch for His return, and I for one think it very important to take Him at His word. I'm watching every day, and I hope the words I share with you in these pages encourage you to watch as well.

There is one more thing, however.  I can never talk about this day without sharing something we are told by the Jewish historian Josephus in his work “Wars of the Jews”.  This is of course, non-biblical, but it is also something I have found fascinating and consider believable in light of the proven accuracy of the other works of Josephus.

"Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call PENTECOST, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, THEY FELT A QUAKING, AND HEARD A GREAT NOISE, AND AFTER THAT THEY HEARD A SOUND AS OF A GREAT MULTITUDE, SAYING, "LET US REMOVE HENCE." (end quote)    Josephus, "Wars of the Jews" VI. V. 3

Wouldn’t we all love to hear the trumpet sound and the call to come home in light of what we see the world becoming all around us right now?  Will it be on this day?  I have no idea, but I do know we are called to share the same Gospel that the disciples did on that Pentecost so many years ago.  Make it a point to tell others of the gift of redemption which is available to all who choose to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.  As always,

Keep watching.