I think tonight upon this beginning of Pharisees Shavuot about seasons. I have gone through many spiritual seasons during the thirty years I have been walking in the Spirit with Jesus. These seasons have many times seemed to stretch on interminably with no end in sight. We have been enduring one such as that for the last three years. Previously, suddenly, they ended and another season commenced. My wife and I were discussing these things today during our devotional as we considered Paul's letter to the Galatians. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" is how the NIV renders Pauls words from the opening of Chapter 5. You started out free with Jesus. Are you still free? Religion can cause one to fall into spiritual bondage where seasonal change might not be quickly noticed...sort of like staying inside in a room with no windows as Spring begins. You might not even be aware of the bondage as you go from religious service to religious service. How will you know Spring has started unless you go outside? Even so, how will you discern spiritual seasonal change unless you are in the Spirit?
There is a sense in the Spirit tonight that we are getting very, very near to the commencement of the next season. I really hope so. We need Jesus to come suddenly to His temple right now, do we not? After all, that scripture says that when He comes, He will come suddenly (Malachi 3). It will be a season of tremendous empowerment. The Jewish Festival of Shavuot is the one single festival of the Hebrew calendar that most neatly and completely speaks about empowerment. After all, Shavuot (Pentecost) came on a Sunday so many years ago and the Church of Jesus Christ was born. This was not the birth of the powerless church that you are all familiar with, but a new birth of a church of great power and might: a church of miracles, healing and hearing the voice of Almighty God!
Tonight, we are told, Shavuot has begun. The Hebrew calendars tell us this is so, but I plainly tend to doubt it. I have for many years had great interest in seeking out the ancient paths (Jeremiah 18:15). Jesus plans a sudden arrival to start this new season and that will mean that readiness and alertness may turn out to be of very high value. I felt very strongly that the Spirit wanted me to write tonight, even though I do not believe Shavuot (Pentecost) will fully come until Sunday morning.
Here is a brief synopsis of the basic timeline of events that has been connected to Shavuot (Pentecost) down through the years and some discussion of the required observances as we find them in antiquity:
Passover was a one-day holiday.
Unleavened Bread lasted for seven days.
The sheaf of firstfruits of the first barley harvest was presented on the morrow of the first Sabbath (Sunday) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Harvest of the ripened barley could not commence until this had been completed. Jesus rose from the dead on this day: a Sunday.
There was the counting off of fifty days from the morrow of the Sabbath (Sunday) that fell during Unleavened Bread, called the Counting of the Omer.
Somewhere during the time of the second Temple, Pharisees and Sadduccees had an argument over the proper day to begin the counting of the Omer. Over time, the Pharisees held sway and Sunday remembrance of this event was lost to the Jews. This corruption of the calendar had occurred by the time Flavius Josephus wrote his histories at about the time of the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD, as the Pharisees were in control of all of the times of religious observance by then.
The firstfruits of the wheat harvest were brought in the form of two cakes of leavened bread at that time, fifty days after the sheaf of barley was waved in the Temple. Harvest of the ripened wheat could not commence until these two leavened loaves of wheat bread had been waved before the Lord. This would have also occurred on a Sunday in antiquity, but was also changed at some time by the Pharisees. In like manner, harvest of the Gentiles unto eternal life could not commence until the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Pentecost (Shavuot), which definitely happened on a Sunday.
Important historical events are possibly related to Shavuot (Pentecost):
David died on Shavuot according to Jewish tradition.
The Torah came down to Moses in the midst of fire on Mt. Sinai on Shavuot.
Jewish tradition holds that seventy nations rejected Torah before it was given to Israel.
Some believe that the languages heard and reported at Pentecost in Acts 2 numbered seventy different tongues.
Even today, many Jews celebrate Shavuot by reading the Torah late into the night and early morning.
I find the Sunday observance of Shavuot to be extremely ironic. I grew up in a Missouri Synod Lutheran church where we were told that Pentecost (Shavuot) came upon a Sunday and Easter (Resurrection) came upon a Sunday. I was born again of the Spirit at the age of thirty and found myself serving God in the midst of a large number of Messianic Jews. They were utilizing the printed Hebrew calendars of the Jews and I fell in with them, believing that certainly, this Jewish method of reckoning time must be superior. I very proudly took note every year when a third day after Passover failed to fall on a Sunday. I also noted every year when the printed calendar depicted Shavuot on some other day than a Sunday. After all, my Lutheran pastor had never taught us about the Jewish feasts. We did not even know there was a Jewish calendar. All we knew was that Christianity had a church calendar. Imagine my shock, years later, to find out that the Hebrew calendar is not the be all and end all, as they say. It has gone through some changes and the Hebrew calendar we have today is probably not the calendar they used at the time of Jesus in some very important respects. Surprising it was, to say the least, to discover that in antiquity, the resurrection of Jesus and the festival of Pentecost both fell on Sunday. Wow! Slay my religious pride and have mercy upon me, Lord Jesus.
Finding out the truth about the timing of Shavuot has been a very important pursuit of mine. You can search the internet as well as me in so far as that process goes. You will see there is a very lively debate about the subject that goes on even today in Messianic Jewish circles. I happen to think that Nehemiah Gordon-The Truth About Shavuot has done a really nice job of taking you through the many reasons why the traditional Jewish calendars are suspect with regard to this matter: I think he has it right that Shavuot falls on a Sunday every single year. I will not rehash his work, but I will present a few bullet points to emphasize a few high points that, to me, lead me to adopt a posture of alertness and readiness in this hour leading up to and including Sunday, June 4, 2017 (Sivan 10):
Take a look with me at Passover and Firstfruits in antiquity among the Jews. Please consider Joshua 5:10-12:
Jos 5:10 And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. Jos 5:11 And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. Jos 5:12 And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. Please realize that there is no linguistic reason why the KJV translators referred to "old corn" in those two mentions. Nehemiah Gordon says that the KJV Translators found no Hebrew word for old corn, but they consulted some Hebrew rabbi's to help with this translation. How convenient! The Hebrew word is the simple "the fruit of the land". See how the clear reading of scripture must be mangled to accept a waving of the sheaf offering that is controlled by the date upon which passover falls rather than the day during the feast of unleavened bread that falls upon the first day of the week, after the Sabbath, as Leviticus 23:11 clearly specifies: Sunday, "on the morrow after the Sabbath". The clear reading of this passage indicates that the Israelites celebrated the passover meal, ostensibly on a Saturday night on Nisan (Abib14), entered the land on "the morrow", Sunday, and began to eat of the grain as it was ripening in the fields. The KJV translators would have you believe that they had found some year old wheat in some barns somewhere even though the Hebrew scripture says nothing about it. They would not have been able to eat of this new barley grain until they had first celebrated the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits of barley, thus commencing the counting of the omer towards Shavuot, on a Sunday. This happened on Nisan (Abib) 15 in that year: on a Sunday. Shavuot would have then followed seven weeks later, on a Sunday, in their first year of living in the land of Israel.
Jesus gave Himself to be crucified. He fully submitted to His Father who controlled every single detail of these proceedings. Scripture clearly says that He (Jesus) permitted this abuse of Himself and could have stopped the process in an instant. He permitted this event to happen on the first day of Passover, Nisan (Abib) 15, the day after the evening Passover Seder on Nisan (Abib) 14 as it was clearly designated in Mark 14:16. He clearly fulfilled the Passover, yet we are given no specific day of our week when this occurred. It is properly variable on our calendars every single year. He died once for our sins: He will not die again. He is and was crucified but He did not remain in the ground. Jesus establishes by this action that He is the one who has fulfilled the prophetic implications of the Feast of Passover. He has fulfilled it once and forever by His actions.
Paul described Jesus as "Christ the firstfruits" in 1 Corinthians 15:23. Certainly, all who are in Christ believe that Jesus Christ was the first one who was risen from the dead; the first who has received His resurrected body. There were others who were raised from the dead prior to the resurrection of Jesus, but they were raised to inhabit the same body they had just suffered with in death. Jesus' resurrection was different. Paul called Him, in effect, Messiah The Firstfruits! What had Paul recognized? Jesus had been raised from the dead on the day the Sheaf of barley was waved before the Lord in the Temple. That day fell on a Sunday, the first day of the week, on the day of the resurrection of Jesus. The Jews could not commence the barley harvest until this event was performed on the day they regarded as the first day of "counting the omer". The clear reading of the Torah places this event on a Sunday every single year. His resurrection on the day of "Firstfruits" clearly fulfilled all of the prophetic implications of this festival and the Torah reminds us every year on Sunday that He is "Messiah The Firstfruits". This is His first establishment of the Lord's Day as a weekly day of remembrance for us. Counting fifty days from a day that varies every year as the Pharisees prescribed causes Firstfruits to fall on Sunday only intermittently. I am persuaded by Nehemiah Gordon's arguments that with respect to Firstfruits and counting the Omer, the Sadducees had it right. Their number was predominantly comprised of Temple priests and I believe their views would have controlled the dates for the celebration of these various feasts. To me, it is clear that the Sadducees were waving the Sheaf of barley in the Temple on a Sunday every single year during antiquity leading up to the Resurrection of Jesus. Every year, we were intended to have a reminder on the Jewish calendar that Jesus rose from the dead: a simple reminder that we too will rise. The church has it's celebration of the improperly named "Easter", but the day chosen for the remembrance is correct: Sunday. How sad it is to me that the Jews were also given an annual reminder of this Sunday resurrection, but this truth has been swept under the proverbial rug by Pharasaical manipulation of the calendar.
Commencing the counting of the Omer on a Sunday will lead us to a terminus every single year of a Pentecost (Shavuot) that falls on a Sunday, just as it was during the greatest fifty days this world has ever seen and just as it was on the first day when the Israelites entered the land of Israel. Once again, the Messiah has marked the Lord's day, Sunday, for remembrance. It is most likely that our highest day of alert as we wait for the soon and sudden coming of Messiah to His church to empower her remnant will occur on a Sunday of Shavuot (Pentecost). Just as it is with resurrection, we need a reminder every single year to look up on this Sunday of Pentecost. The Jews could have also been given this warning, but it has been hidden from them through apparent skulduggery. Perhaps you should prepare yourself this Sunday and bring a little something extra before the Lord in your worship. Worship with expectation, for one day, very soon, we will be suddenly empowered by our Lord who will be coming, at midnight when everyone is sleeping. Jesus is the One who fulfills all of the Feasts. We wait for Him alone.
Please accept my apology if I have given you a hurting head with any of this. I do ask that you open your mind to consider these things that I have brought before you. Please be open to the possibility that God may be ready to do some very big things: very soon. Please try to be especially alert spiritually for these next few weeks. Get right with God. Shake off the lethargy and watch!
Stephen L. Bening
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