As we continue to make our way through this section on the Feasts, we may get easily thrown off by events that don't seem to have much bearing on our lives today. But as we read through these verses, it would be helpful for us to remember 2 Tim 3:16, that this too, is Scripture breathed-out by God. What use then, does God have for us from this book and these laws.
(A) Feasts of Weeks: Gratitude for the harvest and God’s promises (Lev 23:15-22)
As we saw last week, each feast has a specific meaning. God gathered them as a "holy convocation" for a specific reason. The Feast of Weeks is linked to the Feast of Firstfruits and takes place 50 days after it. The Feast of Firstfruits was to celebrate the beginning of the harvest, but by the Feast of Weeks, they would have the whole harvest. Thus, this is a harvest festival and is marked by rest. Remember that Israel was an agrarian society, and therefore, both feasts celebrate God's provisions.
In the Feast of Firstfruits, they were to offer the sheaf of their harvest in a wave offering when they enter the land that God had promised them. The Feast of Weeks, then, is the culmination of the harvest, marked by the offering of the grain offering. What was the purpose of this? In an agrarian society, they sow without knowing when they can reap. The people would have to wait and depend on God to provide the right conditions (rain, sun) for harvest. This kind of income is God-dependent.
This may be foreign to us, because we have invented all of these ways to get around God. After all, our monthly salaries, our harvest, come in electronically and not tangibly. The Feast is therefore a celebration, and wrapped within it is a great reminder that everything they have in the form of the food they eat, is the gracious provision of God. Jas 1:17 is the NT equivalent of these verses. It forces us to reorient our entire lives to be around God. This means that the cars we drive are from God. Public-transport has also been provided by God. The clothes and shoes we wear and the things we have are all from God. These small things that we take for granted have all been provided by Him, and we are so prone to obscure this view of God. A life marked by gratitude and thankfulness arises from a view and orientation that has God at its centre. This is the same mentality that runs throughout the Bible. This is why Job can say, "He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
The Feast of Weeks compels us to think about God in this way.
Lev 23:16-20 lists the types of offerings to be presented at the Feast of Weeks. All the offerings mentioned in Lev 1-5 are mentioned here. This is actually a large-scale celebration, a significant feast! Inserted into this celebration are also the themes of atonement and sin (from the sin offering), devotion and worship (from the burnt and grain offering) and having fellowship with God (from the peace offering). What does this tell us about what it means to be a Christian? In our celebration, we are reminded that we owe God everything, and we are recipients of His grace, and therefore, we can approach Him with thanksgiving! How can we make this practical? We can bring these same things into our prayers today. We can thank Him for our salvation and atonement through Christ, that now we have fellowship with the Father and have been brought into the family. How
Also notice something unusual here at the Feast of Weeks. Here, there is leaven present in the bread that they were to wave and enjoy (Lev 23:17). In the Passover, they had no time for leaven to be added to their bread. A much better product -- bread instead of grain-- is therefore to be enjoyed in this celebration.
The Feast was to be celebrated in 2 other ways the Feast is to be celebrated (Lev 23:21-22). They were to gather for it was a "holy convocation" and were not to do any work (Lev 23:21). It was an official, national sabbath. They were also reminded not to drain the land of all its resources, and to leave some for the poor (Lev 23:22). This Feast was marked by celebration, but also rest and remembering the poor. Doesn't this sound strange? This is equivalent to saying that during Chinese New Year or Christmas, we are also supposed to rest and remember the poor as a nation. What do we learn here? God's people celebrated differently! Notice that they are not instructed to make charitable donations. Rather, they were reminded to leave some for the poor who are working. As we celebrate all that God gives, we are also to remember those that do not have all we have. How can we live these verses today? Do we think about the poor in our celebration?
In the New Testament, we learn that the day Jesus rose from the dead corresponds to the Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks, to Pentecost. The table below helps us understand the relationship between this Feast and Pentecost.
|What happened on Pentecost NT?||What does Peter say it means?||What does the Feast of Weeks mean in Leviticus?|
|Jesus is risen and living.(Acts 1:3)||When Jesus was raised from the dead, it was part of the promised of God. This resurrection was promised and also proven with witnesses. (Acts 2:30-32)||The firstfruits mark the start and signals the new age and coming harvest. (Lev 23:10b)|
|The promise of the Father (Acts 1:4)||The promise of the Father is now explained here -- as the promise of the Spirit. The pouring out of this Spirit has to do with the exaltation of Jesus. (Acts 2:33a)||The people celebrate the feast because of a promise. He commands the people to live in a different way. They were not to live like Egypt, but to look forward to the land ofCanaan, the Promised Land that He was going to bring them to. The God who promised to bring them to the land will also provide for them. The firstfruits signal a greater harvest. (Lev 23:10a, 18:1-4)|
|The Holy Spirit comes on the believers from different nations (what was actually promised) (Acts 2:1-12)||The Holy Spirit is poured. Jesus does the pouring out of this Spirit that He receives. He pours this out to believers of all nations. The harvest is the group believers. (Acts 2:33b)
The Spirit is given for a bigger purpose -- to bring in the nations. This is what Pentecost is all about -- God bringing in the harvest. People of every tribe, tongue, nation will come and worship. It will end with God offering the people as the grain offering. God's spirit is poured out to do this work.
|Finally, there is a harvest. (Lev 23:16)|
(B) Feast of Trumpets: Gathering of the people of God with holy summons (Lev 23:23-25)
The Feast of Trumpets mark the beginning of the seventh month, which will also have the Day of Atonement and Feast of Booths (Lev 23:23). Note that the Passover, Feast of Firstfruits and Feast of Weeks take place within a short timeframe. The Feast of Trumpets involves trumpets (as its name suggest), and the gathering of people. In Lev 23:24-25, we also learn that the people were to gather and not do ordinary work and present a whole series of offerings (c.f. Num 29:1-6).
Num 10:1-10 helps us understand what the trumpets would have meant to the people. The trumpets were to summon the people for there will be no congregation without a summons. It was also to disband the gathering. It signals war and is also used in celebrations. Num 10:10 also tell us that trumpets are to remind God of the people. Thus, the sounding of the trumpets to gather the people were also to draw God's eyes down to look at the people. Elsewhere in their history, in Num 31:1-6 and Jos 6:1-20 we see how the trumpets were used in battle.
What does the Feast of Trumpets mean for Christians today and why is it related to Pentecost? In Paul's writings in 1 Thess 4:13-18, we read of the events surrounding the coming of the Lord. When the trumpet sounds, God will look upon his people and descend. This final gathering will be a gathering of all the church - dead or alive. This is the day that we are waiting for, the greatest of all parties. Why is it related to Pentecost? Pentecost is the harvest, but it is not the end of it. The final gathering will bring together the nations but also the dead. We are to encourage one another with these words, and wait for this at the end.
These feasts remind us of basic truths to live by. We are to remember that:
Every good and perfect gift is from above.
God has kept his promise and gave the Spirit. What other promises will He not keep?
We have a hope to look forward to at the end. Only at the end, at the gathering, will we have full vindication.
Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we are to remember that we are sojourners and this place is not our home. We're waiting for the final trumpet to sound and our Lord to descend, and only then will our hope be finally satisfied.