Monday, May 28, 2012

What's Shavuot gotta do with me?

The feast of Shavuot (pronounced Shav – oo – ot) is one of the 7 feasts found in Leviticus 23.  Shavuot comes from the Hebrew term “weeks” which is a major part of the feast, the counting of 7 weeks.  Most Christians know this feast by its Greek name, Pentecost.  This feast counts fifty days from the Sabbath of the Passover and Unleavened Bread festival.  Hence the Greek name Pentecost which means “fifty.”  This year, the feast is celebrated between May 26-28 or the third month of the Jewish Calendar.  It is also called the “Feast of Harvest” in Leviticus 23:16.

In the last post (below) I have a brief introduction to the feasts.  In summary, the feasts can be divided into two major categories, the spring and fall feasts.  The spring feasts begin with Passover, which is the start of the new year according to Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. So Passover starts on the 14th of the 1st month.  The next day begins Unleavened Bread that lasts for 7 days.  During this 7 day feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread there is a Sabbath.  That Sabbath is significant because that begins the count down for 7 weeks (49 days) of counting and then Shavuot/Pentecost feast begin on the 50th day.

Some features of this feast according to Leviticus 23:15-22 show that on this day, each person is to bring two loaves of bread to the Tabernacle/Temple and wave them.  Most likely they were to hold a loaf in each hand and wave them.  While Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread marked the beginning of the Exodus out of Egypt, this feast marked the end of the Exodus and the giving of the Law.  The book of Exodus, in 19:1-2 shows that the people of Israel came to Mt. Sinai in the third month and camped there while Moses went up the mountain to get the Law.  The  observance of Shavuot was connected to the giving of the Law, something that Jews even today associate Shavuot with in their celebration.  In fact, part of the current Jewish celebration is to read the Torah all night long on the first night, with special emphasis on the 10 commandments.  It is here, at Mt. Sinai that Israel was given the Law and where they became a “holy nation.”  One of the most significant events of this time was fire.  Exodus 19:18 states that Mt. Sinai was in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Some even wonder if the two loafs being waved were symbolic of the two tablets of the 10 commandments in Moses’ hands.

In the NT, this feast is only mentioned by name 3 times (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8).  The most significant is Acts 2, which is probably the most familiar to many Christians.  It is here that the first converts to Christianity begin to speak in tongues of fire.  Christ promised in Acts 1:5 that not many days they would be “baptized by the Holy Spirit.”  We see this happen at Pentecost in Acts 2.  We also know from 1 Cor 12:13ff and Gal 3:26-29 that the Spirit baptizes believers into the body of Christ.  This mean that the Holy Spirit places a believer into union with Christ and with other Christians.  In essence, Acts 2 shows the birth of the Church and the giving of the Spirit.  This event was something unique up to this point in redemptive history.

How amazing is that?  The same holy feast that God had appointed (Lev. 23:1) would be both the birth of Israel and the birth of the Church many many years later.  Here are a few more interesting connections.  Under the Mosaic Covenant – Fire on the Mountain, the giving of the Law, the Law written on stone and the birth of the nation.  Under the New Covenant – Fire on believers, the giving of the Spirit, the Law written in the heart through the ministry of the Spirit and the birth of the Church.

What a holiday worth looking back on and celebrating.  This should give us a great appreciation of the OT and how as NT believers, books like Leviticus shouldn’t be crispy!  I trust this was encouraging.  If it was, please leave a note.  If I see this as something beneficial to others, I’ll do more.  But If I am the only one reading this, well I’ll save the time, haha.

The Fun with Feasts

Everyone likes holidays.  You get to have a day off, hang out with friends and usually BBQ like today (Memorial Day) or have some type of abundant spread on the table (like Thanksgiving).  And with it also comes some type of remembrance or celebration.  That’s the fun with feasts.  The Biblical feasts are similar but have so much more, for they connected holidays with specific acts to remember what God has accomplished for His people. The most detailed account of the feasts can be found in Leviticus 23.  Unfortunately, because many Christians have crispy pages that happen to coincide with the OT, the feasts are largely unknown or ignored.  Yet these OT feasts have great significance for even the NT.

I started to think about blogging this when posting a reminder that this weekend was Shavuot (pronounced Sha-voo-ot) which we know mostly by its Greek name Pentecost.  Well, I will post some cool things I have learned over the years in my studies of the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), but first a brief introduction to feasts.

These feasts can be divided into two categories, fall feasts and spring feasts on the Jewish calendar.  In fact, the Jewish Biblical Calendar starts off in the Spring with Passover.  What can make this confusing for many is that this calendar is totally different than the calendar we use.  Their months are different and the dates for holidays change every year.

The first four feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First-Fruits, and Pentecost) are in the Spring and cover the first three months.  Then a four month period of silence with no feasts.  Then after these four months of no feasts or holidays comes the spring feasts, which occur all in one month!  The 7th month brings with it three feasts (Trumpet, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles).  That’s a lot to take in, so just look at the picture I’ve included to help you.  There is so much in these feasts that maybe we could do a series on each one and its NT theological significance. 

In the Jewish Spring feasts, the first three feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First-Fruits) happen within a week of each other.  The Passover celebrated God’s physical redemption out of Egypt.  The feast of Unleavened Bread starts the next day and lasts for 7 days. So naturally, one of these 7 days of the feast of Unleavened Bread would fall on a Sabbath.  This Sabbath is significant for a later feast, the Shavout. These three feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits) are closely connected to the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt and their journey to the Promised Land.  Even today they are a reminder of God’s deliverance, redemption and provision.   The next feast is Shavout or Pentecost which I will cover in the next post in more detail. 

In the Jewish Fall feasts, these all take place one after another.  The feast of Trumpets happens on the the 1st day of the seventh month (Tishri – Sept thru Oct).  This feast is a national call to repent and calls attention to the coming Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement then comes along on the the 10th of the seventh month, which is a national cleansing.  These first two feasts are somber feasts.  The next feast is the feast of Tabernacles, which comes five days later on the 15th and lasts 7 days and an 8th day was added.  This feast was a high point of Israel because it was a joy filled feast of celebration that brought the feasts to an end.

Remember, holidays are more than just a day off and eating, but a remembrance or celebration of something.  Today not only marks the remembrance of those who gave their lives for our freedom, but it also coincides with the feast of Pentecost, which will be the subject of my next post.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Year In Review

I noticed that it has been a year since my last post, which prompted an idea of doing a quick year overview. Last year I used the blog to keep people updated on my second trip to Zimbabwe where I taught the Gospel of Matthew to roughly 80 Zimbabwean pastors. A lot has happened since then and yet some things still remain the same. Here is a quick list:

Ministry happenings
  • I will be starting my 10th year in college ministry in June. These 9 years have been a great experience. Such a blessing.

  • We sent out our first home grown missionary family, the Hodzi’s, to Zimbabwe. It has been a wonderful journey to see the Lord grow and provide for them. They went on the field in September.

  • We said goodbye to Elijah Vogel. He graduated seminary and went up into the mountains of California to work at his home church. It was a blessing to see him join our college group roughly 5 or 6 years ago. He joined our leadership team and went to seminary. What a blessing to raise up and send out men who will bring the Lord glory. He left us in January.

  • College ministry was very fruitful this year. One of the highlights was our College worship team. It was a blessing to see roughly 40 students every Sunday get involved in our ministry in some way. We also have been working through the book of Ezekiel. On our Wednesdays Bible study, we have been continuing our study in Matthew and should complete that study by the end of the summer. The question now becomes, what will we study next?

  • We added 2 more missionary families in April. The Holmquist family and the Zeller family. We look forward to their ministry and to our part in that ministry.

  • Steph and I, plus an amazing lady from our church, Jan, were able to go to Italy again. I had the wonderful opportunity to teach Italian pastors and their wives the Gospel of Matthew. This was totally different than my teaching time in Zimbabwe. This class was geared more for an advance course and we spend much time getting into more advanced issues. It was a great time and we look forward to going back in a year, Lord willing.

Personal happenings

  • We added another bulldog to the family in January. He is a tan and white bulldog named Nacho. He is a very adorable bulldog but also is very stubborn. Rocco (our brindle bully) has just started to get along with him. It’s been an interesting process.

  • I finished up what appears to be my last official class of the ThM program. It was class in Dispensational Theology, which I enjoyed very much. Now all that is left is writing a thesis, which I will begin immediately. In fact, I am writing this at the Seminary Library.

Hope you enjoyed a quick summary. There is much more, but that would take way too long. I’m thinking I will begin blogging about things on the Gospel of Matthew and other odds and ends.