Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reorienting Our Lives: 50 Days From the Cross

Last week, I concluded with the thought that "We need to know the Jesus of Scriptures.  However, to understand Him fully, we must not reject His Jewish-ness but must, instead, seek to understand what it has to teach us more about this Savior whom we serve."

In an effort to learn more about Jesus Christ, this blog is working through a series on the seven Feasts the Jews of Moses' day were commanded in Leviticus 23 to observe.  The whole purpose is not to burden anyone with more rules and regulations concerning their walk with the Lord but, instead, to reveal to us the care God took when creating those Feasts and how He was foreshadowing Messiah through the Feasts' symbolism.  

Over the past few weeks, we have looked back to Passover and two Pentecost celebrations in Exodus and Acts.  This week, I want to look at two interesting (and symbolic) commands concerning the celebration of Pentecost. 

First, according to Scripture, The Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) holds no specific date on the calendar.   In fact, it's the only Feast with no set date.  Instead, God said to Moses, "From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath" (Lev. 23:15-16).

If one wished to celebrate Pentecost, he had to count forwards fifty days from Passover.  For fifty days, God's people were to be looking back to the sacrifice of the lamb and the ensuing redemption of life through that sacrifice.  

Think of the symbolism!  For those of us who understand Christ to be Messiah, our once and for all sacrificial lamb, God is showing us that our lives literally "begin" with Christ's sacrifice at Passover.  

There can be no Pentecost without Passover--both literally and figuratively.  There can be no Pentecost harvest of souls or gift of the Holy Spirit (as happened at in Acts 2) without Messiah's sacrifice at Passover.

Eternal life begins with death on the cross.  Pentecost begins 50 days earlier with Passover.

In essence, the Passover sacrifice is the very foundation of life, itself as opposed to death found in sin. God's plan in making His people count forward fifty days was for them to "reorient" themselves to Messiah's sacrifice at Passover by looking backwards.

How beautiful a picture of how our lives should be, reoriented to where we are constantly looking back to the cross as the start of our new life in Him.

A second interesting command concerning Pentecost was the sacrifice the people were to bring to God. The people were to "bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord" (Lev. 23:17).

This seems odd, especially since in Scripture, Leaven (yeast) is typically symbolic of sin.    Jesus  warned His disciples of the Pharisees' sinfulness: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matt. 16:6).  Paul even later uses the image of leaven as sin, warning his readers, "Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:6-8).

Yet, for the wave offering of Pentecost, God called upon His people to give two loaves made with leaven.

Here, too, the symbolism is important.  Through the bread, God is giving a picture of us, as people full of sin despite our best attempts at righteousness.  Just as He asked the people of Israel to bring their leaven-filled loaves to Him, He beckons us to come as we are to Him.  Full of sinful leaven and in a completely hopeless state, He accepts us with our sin...but only because we are looking back to Messiah, only because we are covered by that sacrifice fifty days earlier at Passover.

Additionally, Professor Sam Nadler argues that the required sacrifice of two loaves (versus one) also provide a symbolic picture of us in Christ, as well.  Nadler says the two loaves represent Jew and Gentile together in the body of Christ, both united but still diverse.  Thus, there is unity but not uniformity in Christ.*

I don't know about you, but I find God's attention to detail in these Feasts comforting, humbling, and awe-inspiring, all at the same time.  Seeing His promises fulfilled over and over shows just how much He loves me.  Honestly, it's baffling.  But it makes me love Him all the more.


*Feasts of the Bible. Video. Torrance: Rose P, 2011.
Image: Breathtaking "Pentecost" frontal at Wells Cathedral in the U.K.


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