Introduction to Pentecost

We are moving from the season of Passover into the season of Pentecost. The Israelites were instructed to count fifty days from the Feast of Firstfruits to the Feast of Pentecost. As we remember and count those fifty days, we will consider the history of Pentecost as well as the significance of Christ’s fulfillment of this feast.

Agricultural Significance

Sometimes the Feast of Pentecost is referred to as the Latter Firstfruits. It marks the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Pentecost celebrates another offering of the firstfruits of the harvest. Unlike the Feast of Firstfruits, however, the Israelites were not instructed to bring their raw harvest to the Lord but to bring two loaves of leavened bread, made with the wheat of the harvest (Leviticus 23:17). They did not burn this offering because leaven was forbidden on the altar (Leviticus 2:11). Instead, the offering of bread was waved before the Lord and later eaten as part of the priests’ feast.

Historical Significance

Over time, the Feast of Pentecost evolved into a celebration of the giving of the Law. The Lord gave the Law to the Israelites through Moses on Mount Sinai after He had delivered them from Egypt on the Passover.

While we may think of the Law as burdensome, the Law was a gift to the Israelites! The Law taught the Israelites how to live with the presence of a Holy God in their midst. The Lord had delivered them from their bondage in Israel and had set them free. The Law taught them how to live in that freedom and set them apart as the people of God.

If you’re following along with our reading plan for these fifty days, you will read through some of the giving of that Law this week. In Exodus 20:18-21, we see that the people wanted Moses to be the mediator between themselves and the Lord. They did not yet want or have personal access to the full glory or power of God. The people stood far off as Moses drew near (Exodus 20:21).

In the Law, the Lord gave His people instructions for the construction of His Tabernacle—the physical structure where the manifest presence of God would dwell:

“There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.” (Exodus 25:22)

The manifest presence and glory of God dwelt inside the Holy of Holies, behind the veil, where only the High Priest could enter once a year to atone for the sins of the people (Hebrews 9:7). The glory of God appeared as a cloud by day and a fire by night that led His people through the wilderness and later remained with them in the Land of Promise.

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” (Exodus 40:34-38)

Yes, the Law was a gift, setting the people of Israel apart for the Lord. It allowed the powerful, tangible presence of God to dwell among His people. The Lord had surely set them apart as His own. But the Law could only do so much.

Even though the Presence of God dwelt among His people, those people still did not have access to enter fully into that Presence.

All of that changed with the death of our Passover Lamb. When Christ died, the veil in the Temple, which had replaced the Tabernacle, was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51).

The Holy of Holies was opened that all might freely come. Access was granted to the full presence and power of God.

But what did that mean for the Feast of Pentecost? That is what we will continue considering as we move toward the next feast.

Filling in the Chart

If you’re following along with the study by filling in the chart about the feasts, here are your first two points for the feast of Pentecost:

  1. Agricultural Significance: Beginning of the wheat harvest.
  2. Historical Significance: The Israelites made offerings to the Lord, including a wave offering of two loaves of leavened bread. It came to remember the giving of the Law by the Lord on Mount Sinai.
  3. Redemptive Significance: Stay tuned...

Counting the Omer

As you read through the Scripture readings this week, consider the ways that the Law set the Israelites apart as the people of the Lord. Also pay attention to their interactions with the Powerful Presence of God. We still worship that same God. Reflect on His power and His holiness throughout this week.

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