Counting The Days

[Note:  This sermonette was given on the afternoon service of the Last Day of Unleavened Bread in Tampa, Florida on April 25, 2011.]

Introduction

In only a few hours the Days of Unleavened Bread for 2011 will be over and done with. It won’t be long now until we put away our Triscuits and matzos, and return to our bagels, crossiants, and cornbread muffins. Today I hope to tell you a few things that you have probably never thought about in connection to the time of year we are now in. To begin, I would like to ask three questions, which I will answer during the course of this sermonette message. Question #1: What important but often-neglected biblical Holy Day was yesterday? Question #2: What is the longest Holy Day in the Bible? And question #3: Why does this matter for us today as Christians?

The Wave Sheaf And The Feast of Weeks

To answer the first two questions and begin to answer the third, let us turn in our Bibles today to Leviticus 23 verses nine through sixteen. Leviticus 23:9-16 reads as follows in the New King James Version: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall over on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma, and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statue forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 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.”

Considering that most of our eyes glaze over when we read about sacrificing hins of wine, we may miss some important details about some of the more obscure parts of scritpure. We should note a few details about both the wave sheaf offering and the Feast of Weeks. For one, the Wave Sheaf offering was not a holy convocation, but it, like the Sabbath and Holy Days, remains in effect for Christians today. We should note as well that this obscure festival required the sacrifice of a young lamb without blemish, and it was required before any grain from the harvest of the firstfruits could be eaten. Who is our wave-sheaf offering? Who is the firstborn from the dead, our elder brother, the first fruit of the firstfruits? None other than Jesus Christ, the good shepherd and the spotless lamb who paid the death penalty for our sins so that we may receive the free gift of salvation? Who are the firstfruits celebrated in the Feast of Weeks? We are—not only every baptized man and woman here and around the world, but also our children, whom God has called and sanctified, if they will choose the way of God for themselves.

Let us note one more curious but important part of these festivals. For one, the Feast of Pentecost begins on the day of the wave sheaf offering, which occurred yesterday. The Feast of Pentecost, which lasts fifty days, is the only Festival of God that does not have an exact and precise lunar date. Instead, it is organized so that every single year it lasts for seven entirely complete weeks and ends on a commanded assembly on its fiftieth day. This ought to immediately clue us into a symbolic meaning. Do we know of any other cycle of 50 with seven sevens and a special and glorious ending? We do—it is the Jubilee cycle of 50 years, after seven cycles of seven Sabbath years, described in detail in Leviticus 25. During the Sabbath years, just like the Sabbath day, no ordinary work was to be done in the fields, so that the land could rest. In the Jubilee year, which begins on the Day of Atonement, symbolizing the removal of Satan, just as the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread symbolize the removal of sin, all slaves were freed, and all land was returned to its original owners so that the families could have a chance to start again without the burden of debt. At the Passover, the children of Israel celebrated their freedom from slavery and we celebrate our freedom from the slavery of sin and the burden of sin in our own lives. There are a lot of paraellels here, that ought to clue us in on some of the precise importance of these fifty days of the Feast of Weeks.

Counting The Days

The Bible itself gives us some clue on how we ought to be counting these days, but the clues are obscure and often hidden in translation. To give some indication of how hidden the clues are, let us go to the Book of Luke. In Luke chapter 6 we get some hint of the meaning of these fifty days of Pentecost that we are now celebrating. Luke 6:1 reads: “Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields.” This is the first verse of a passage where Jesus Christ shows that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. On what Sabbath does He do so? On the second Sabbath of the Feast of Weeks, which shows that Luke, with a precise understanding of time, was using the label of “second Sabbath after the first” to precisely pinpoint the exact day within the Feast of Weeks when this incident occurs. It is also noteworthy that it was during this time of the Pentecost that Jesus Christ in Luke 6:12-16, after the miraculous healing of a man with a withered right hand, that our Lord and Savior chose this season to call his twelve disciples, the firstfruits of the leadership of His Kingdom. Just as the Ten Commandments were given by God to Israel at Sinai and the Holy Spirit was given to the early Church in Jerusalem during Pentecost, these incidents ought to help us be more aware of the deeper symbolic meaning of these days for us as Christians.

Since we are the firstfruits, let us examine what sort of fruit we are to bear as Christians. Let us turn to Galatians 5:19-25 to add another layer of symbolic meaning onto the meaning of these fifty days of the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. In Galatians 5:19-25 we can contrast the works of the flesh which spring from the old leaven of sin with the new leaven of righteousness that, through the working of God’s Holy Spirit within us, brings fourth the fruits of the Spirit. It reads as follows: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Crist’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

What does this mean for us today. Since we are the firstfruits and now is our day of salvation, God is judging us here and now, holding us accountable for the way in which we live our lives. As we count the days of Pentecost, we are to also hold ourselves accountable to the extent the Holy Spirit of God is working through us so that we may show the fruits of the Spirit rather than the rotten works of the carnal flesh. If we wish to inherit the Kingdom of God, after all, Paul tells us that we cannot practice the sins of the flesh, but must rather exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, showing the character of God in our daily behavior. It is a tall order to obey God’s laws, but with God dwelling inside of us with His Holy Spirit once we are baptized, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all time to pay the price of our sins so that we may enter into salvation in the Family of God as the younger brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we can become a new creation free of the burden of sin and corruption, obedient to God and loving with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Conclusion

Let us now tie all these threads together as we conclude. As our wave sheaf offering, Jesus Christ symbolizes the first of the firstfruits, opening the way into the Kingdom and Family of God. As we spend these fifty days celebrating our freedom from sin, let us practice obedience as we show our appreciation for both the law of God given at Sinai but also the Holy Spirit given on the last day of Pentecost as well. Let us cast aside the works of the flesh and instead show the fruits of the spirit in our day-to-day conduct as Christians. As God is holding us accountable here and now, let us go about counting the days of Pentecost and further developing and practicing godly character. In that spirit, let us prepare to parake of the new leaven of godliness as opposed to the old leaven of sin that we have been without these seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Sermonettes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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