Application of the Old Testament sometimes eludes the modern Christian. When we do read the Old Testament – and many do not - we often read merely as narrative, and superficially at that. However, we will never fully understand the New Testament, especially the types and figures that are used unless we have really read the Old Testament.
In previous messages we had a quick look at the Feasts of Jehovah, in particular Passover, First Fruits and Unleavened Bread. It seems that people work best when there is order – which is one reason we have the Lord's supper weekly, and the reason we put routines into place - especially for our children. We all work best, with less likely chance to slack off if we have a work plan or routine – this the Feasts of Jehovah did for Israel.
For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. Leviticus 11:45 (NKJV).
The first three feasts speak of three things:
1. Grace – We are saved out of bondage to sin by the grace of God, who, because he loved his people so, allowed the death of his son at Calvary in order that we might be saved. The key here is the fact that blood was shed. The Passover lamb represents this, and Christ is our Passover lamb.
2. Resurrection – If Christ died, then Christ needed to rise in order that we might have life. It is one thing to be saved out of Egypt, which represents the world and all that is in it, but it is another to be saved from eternal death which is separation from God.
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:18 - 20 (NKJV)
The Feast of First Fruits speaks to us of resurrection, without which we have no hope. Also of importance is the fact it shows the sufficiency in Christ's sacrifice – and adds content to the faith we have. If Christ was raised from the dead, then so will we. Furthermore, if Christ is the first fruit, there will be a second, third and so on into a great harvest – which is a figure of those that have come to Christ – his saints, who will also be raised at the last days.
3. Holiness - since Christ has done away with sin at the cross, and the fact that earth and heaven will be done away with we ought to live a life of holiness, without blame:
The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives …
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3:10-15 (NIV)
The unleavened bread in the Feast of Unleavened bread speaks of this - where the unleavened nature of the bread represents the sinless life of that Christian aught to walk. Overall, therefore we are taken from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from unholiness to holiness.
The next feast in cycle of the feasts comes after a seven week break during which the barley is harvested followed by the wheat. This feast is called the feast of weeks but also called Pentecost or Shavuot. Later, at the end of summer there are three other feasts, which, if the Lord is willing, will be spoken of next Lord's Day. The Feast of Weeks is mostly forgotten by the Jews, however, if of most importance to the Christian.
15 '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. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. 18And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
22 'When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.'" Leviticus 23:15 - 22 (NKJV).
This is a very interesting passage. Note that if follows on from the summary of the other feasts but has a strange codicil at verse 22. What does this all mean, and how is applicable to the Christian?
Now let us leave this for a little while and turn to two passages in the New Testament that may shed light on this strange feast. The first reading is some background as to what happened in the second reading. In John Chapter 16 Our Lord speaks of the fact he had to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come. John records in verse 7:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (KJV).
This passage is often overlooked, but is highly instructive of the economy of God. Jesus the Son of God incarnate, if he remained with his small band of disciples, could not achieve what the Holy Spirit achieved. The Son of Man on this earth was not omnipresent - He could not be in more than one place at once. Christ returns to the Father and the Holy Spirit is sent. The one that can be in all places at once (I suppose this is not entirely true, because he cannot reside in sin, but the point is, he can dwell with all believers) is sent. Indeed the Holy Spirit is with us today in this room, but also with the small secret house churches, also meeting at this moment in time, in China. What a blessed thing that Christ returned to send the Spirit.
Why was it important for the Holy Spirit to be sent – salvation comes in the way of Christ does it not. Jesus set out exactly why he needed to be sent.
(7) Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (8) And when He has come, He will convict (reprove) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
Note he is called the Comforter, translated as Helper or Counsellor in some English versions. The Greek is difficult to translate – in essence it means intercessor, an advocate, helper or counsellor. He is sent to perform three functions and the reason is also given. His functions are:
The word "convict" is not altogether a good translation. In some ways it means "to demonstrate" – in the case of righteousness and judgement that which Christ achieved on the cross. The reason why the Holy Spirit had to convict the world of sin is also given: "they do not believe in Me". This is a sad indictment – the world does not understand that it is in sin and requires a saviour. We must also note the truth that no man has ever been saved except by the Holy Spirit. Hence, this passage states that Holy Spirit would come to show people the great sin in taking Jesus and hanging him on the cross. By rejecting Christ, they rejected the one they should have believed. If you reject Christ, you too will be rejected.
4But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4,7 (E-NKJV)
The sin alluded to in the John 16 passage is all sin, but in particular, is the sin of rejecting the Son of God, because Israel specifically and mankind generally did not to be saved from sin. This leads to eternal damnation.
The rejection of Christ is the opposite of righteousness. All righteousness rests in Christ;
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 (NIV)
Judgment has two parts - (1) the Holy Spirit convicts us that all sin requires judgment and (2) that Christ Jesus has indeed judged all sin. This he has done by conquering and overcoming the devil and death.
Now let's look at the Luke's narrative of the day of Pentecost found in Acts chapter 2. In Acts we have the sending of the Holy Spirit. Note verse 1:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 (NIV)
And in the next few verses we see the coming of the Holy Spirit
2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (KNJV)
The purpose of the Feast of Weeks – that is Pentecost - was to celebrate the grain harvest by offering a free will offering to the Lord in response (Deut 16:10). It is therefore linked to the Feasts of First Fruits. Both these therefore speak to Christians. We have the free will offering of Christ at the Cross, his resurrection (as seen in the Feast of Firstfruits) followed by ascension to heaven, and in direct response with have the sending of the Holy Spirit 50 days latter at Pentecost.
The Feasts speaks to us of the new order of things, based on resurrection (first fruits always speak of new life). Hence it speaks directly of the gathering together at the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, who would be presented to God, consecrated (without spot nor wrinkle or any such thing ... but holy without blemish. Ephesians 5:27). In some ways it alludes to the mystery of the Church. The two loaves are in fact one offering, in which yeast (or leaven) is used then killed by the cooking of the bread. It is instructive to see that the Holy Spirit does remove the sin – which Romans 7 so beautifully illustrates. And indeed the effect of the leaven is seen by all, although it has been killed by the heating. We add yeast to bread, and it causes an irrevocable change in the dough – it rises and rises, until either it uses up all its energy or it is placed in a hot oven, which kills it. However, the effect of the air bubbles that stretched and pushed the dough in the characteristic shape of bread does not change. This is the same in our lives, the effects of sin are still borne in our bodies – it is only when we reach heaven will we have new perfect bodies. However, sin needs to be reckoned dead, and this is accomplished only through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, on a practical sense, we need to reckon ourselves dead to sin daily, which can only be accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit. On a spiritual sense our sin has been covered up, atoned (which is what atonement means), but the blood of Christ.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:11 (KJV)
So we have sin put to death in the cooking of the two loaves, where "two" are the figures of the Jews and Gentiles being joined in one as the Church. This is the mystery of the Church.
He made known to me the mystery…which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, Ephesians 3:4 - 6 (NKJV)
The entire ceremony also points the gathering of God's people by the Holy Spirit. Note that in Acts at least 15 regions/nationalities were represented in the market place. Unlike Passover, where only the chosen people of God could participate – at Pentecost all could participate including the stranger. The two loaves also appears to give the weakest of testimonies, being the smallest number of witnesses in a testimony (Deut 17:6, Matt 18:16).
1. I think that Paul writing to the Romans in chapter 6 really summarises this feast along with the other three. The entire chapter needs to be read, but the following is a good summary:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (NKJV).
In verse 6, one phrase stands out – the third clause in verse 6 reads we should no longer be slaves of sin. Spurgeon writes on this clause:
Christians can never sin cheaply; they pay a heavy price for iniquity. Transgression destroys peace of mind, obscures fellowship with Jesus, hinders prayer, brings darkness over the soul; therefore be not the serf and bondman of sin. There is yet a higher argument: each time you "serve sin" you have "Crucified the Lord afresh, and put him to an open shame [Hebrews 6:6]".
The practical application is to observe at the end of each day activities that would not have pleased our Lord, and seek in prayer & supplication, a strategy to avoid situations when the temptation to sin again would arise.
2. Christian needs to realise that our position now is in God. We are no more of the fallen Adam nor of the world, but we are in the Second Adam. This must but give us great comfort, and great hope.
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—1 Corinthians 1:30 (NKJV)
Oswald Chambers writes:
Pray with the realization that you are perfect only in Christ Jesus, not on the basis of this argument: "Oh, Lord, I have done my best; please hear me now."
This is called sanctification where sanctification means the holiness of Jesus becoming mine and being exhibited in my life. This does not mean imitating Christ, but allowing Christ to exhibit himself in my conduct everyday. The question is: are you willing to allow sanctification to be real in your life. A saint's life is to be filled with the Spirit! Our thoughts need to be filled of His thoughts and we must let Him guide us.
This means we must be in prayer and in the Scripture all the time. In times of quietness, ponder a verse, a hymn a song, repeat a prayer, have the name of Jesus in your consciousness all the time.
3. A saints daily walk (life) should be ordered by the Lord (Holy Spirit & the Word), carrying out the good works prepared for him to do.
Do the worries or cares of the world overwhelm you – dear friend you need but go to Jesus? Do this in prayer and pass over to Him the worries. Write out each worry and pray Christ concerning each. Be assured Christ is able, beyond all measure, to help.
4. And to the Church: She belongs to God. We are to be presented holy and without blame – hence we are exhorted to walk in this manner (Ephesians 1:4) and we need to start now. The codicil to this feast is for the poor and stranger, which both represents the Church, and something churches do very poorly at - the poor and stranger must be cared for – as James exhorts us to do, and reminded of by Paul. Indeed this an irony, the gentile that received the gleanings, who stood outside of the economy of Israel, now forsakes those in need, having receive the highest of all blessing – a place at the marriage supper
Hence the Feast offerings prefigures the perfect glorious work of Christ in fulfilling the work to the glory of the Father, along with the joy of His voluntary death on the Cross, together with the prefigurement of the redemptive work of Christ, the Passover lamb, and the spotless life (unleavened) of Christ as our example.
8Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
1. The Jews do not recognise this feast today for what it is. Indeed this is the most forgotten feast of all (Shavuot). If the feast is recognised the Jews commemorate the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai. They read Ruth, as it highlights the willingness of Ruth to be "yoked" to the Torah (see Exodus 19 and 20; the 10 Commandments). For a Christian, the book of Ruth speaks of redemption of the non-believer, and the grafting of the gentile to the root of Jessie – Christ Jesus.
2. In this message I am speaking outside of the type in the broad sense. Typically the Feast or Weeks at Pentecost is: This is the feast of Pentecost as a type is God's people, gathered by the Holy Spirit, and presented before Him, in connection with all the preciousness of Christ.
3. Literally being everywhere at once.
4. An overview of the offerings from the first six chapters of Leviticus is given at http://www.life-everlasting.net/pages/messages/Leviticus/Synoptic view of the offerings.php (Accessed 18 April 2014)
5. Romans 16:25, and explained in Ephesians 1:9-12, 3:6 & Colossians 1:26
6. Morning and Evening, May 30th Evening.
7. Oswald Chambers My Utmost For His Highest, June 21.
8. Typically this is the church's portion after Israel has taken the harvest, although the Church has a portion that is with the Bridegroom. Ruth fully explains this type.