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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pentecost - is it for us today?

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
(Acts 2:1-4)

Unless we were raised Jewish, we likely don't have much understanding of the meaning of the Feast of Pentecost.  This was a feast, rich in meaning, that the Israelites were first commanded to keep and was also known as the Summer Festival.  It was celebrated in honor of bringing in the first fruits of all their work in the fields and the celebration of a season rich in harvest and ingathering.  It was part of a week-long feast as we see in Exodus 34:

22 "Keep the Feast of Weeks with the first cutting of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.

From the Feast of Passover (in remembrance of God's delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt) to the Feast of Pentecost was 50 days.  It was at the time of Passover that Jesus was offered as the "perfect" sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (the Passover Lamb).  Most of us don't realize the significance of the day Jesus rose from the dead - it was on the Feast of First Fruits - he was the evidence of the "first fruits" of resurrection from the dead!  His resurrection took place 50 days before Pentecost - at the time Israel was celebrating one of their other feast days known as the Feast of First Fruits.

Looking at some other awesome facts about Pentecost, we find that Moses first received the instruction to keep this feast at Sinai when God gave him the Mosaic Law (the rules and regulations that God was requiring Israel to live by in order to be under his blessing in their new-found freedom).  Moses only had stone to etch the Law on at first.  The New Testament believers learned about a totally "new kind" of Pentecost in a small "upper room" in the city of Jerusalem - that day, their new-found freedom in Christ was etched on their hearts.

At the beginning of the Feast of Pentecost, the bringing of the "first fruits" offering was significant because it was a yielding of the very best part of their harvest to God - the very one who had provided their increase.  The feast of Pentecost was a celebration of "ingathering" - a celebration of increase.  At the moment the Holy Spirit descended on those gathered in that upper room, there was a door opening in heaven for a tremendous "ingathering" of souls.  At the Feast of Pentecost on the day of the Holy Spirit's infilling, there was a yielding of their very best to God.  There was a yielding of the heart.

As we study the significance of some of the numbers or time-frames that we see in scripture, the meaning of "50" becomes apparent as linked with "liberty", "deliverance", and "freedom".  The Israelites were instructed to keep this feast 50 days after their celebration of their deliverance.  The Israelites were instructed to keep another feast period known as the Year of Jubilee.  It occurred every 50 years (after the passing of 7 periods of 7 Sabbatical years - in other words, at the end of every 49th year).  It was a celebration of the release of the servants into a life of freedom.  Even the land was allowed to rest from its "service" of providing crops.  

The meaning of the Feast of Pentecost taking place 50 days after the resurrection - the time of the filling of the followers of Christ with the Holy Spirit and with power - is significant as both a time of "ingathering" and of the celebration of "hearts set free".  

Over the next couple of days, we will begin to look at some of the events that transpired on that Feast of Pentecost so many years ago.  Stay tuned!