Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)

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The Feast of Shavuot (The Later First Fruits/Weeks/Pentecost)

“and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field;” (Exodus 23:16)

“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,” (Exodus 34:22)

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. 18 And 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. (Leviticus 23:15-21)

26 ‘Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. 27 You shall present a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, 28 with their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 29 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 also one kid of the goats, to make atonement for you. 31 Be sure they are without blemish. You shall present them with their drink offerings, besides the regular burnt offering with its grain offering. (Numbers 28:26-31)

9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12) But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) (Part 2)

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The Feast of Shavuot (The Later First Fruits/Weeks/Pentecost) Part 2

“and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field;” (Exodus 23:16)

“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,” (Exodus 34:22)

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. 18 And 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. (Leviticus 23:15-21)

26 ‘Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. 27 You shall present a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, 28 with their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 29 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 also one kid of the goats, to make atonement for you. 31 Be sure they are without blemish. You shall present them with their drink offerings, besides the regular burnt offering with its grain offering. (Numbers 28:26-31)

9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12)

In the previous post, we explored the ceremonial aspects of the Feast of Shavuot specifically focusing on the agricultural and betrothal elements found in this important holiday. As promised, in this post we will focus on the rather significant aspect of the Feast of Shavuot, namely the remembrance and celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

The counting of the omer up to the beginning of Shavuot represented the time from the crossing by Israel of the Red Sea to the day when Israel received the commands of God at Mt. Sinai. Thus, Shavuot “is called the season of the giving of the Torah (Z’man Matan Toraseinu) in Hebrew because this is the literal day that God revealed Himself to the people of Israel as they stood at base of Mt. Sinai.”[1] One may argue that Scripture does not specifically state this was the exact day God revealed the Torah to Israel, however, the significance of this event in the course of Israel and for that matter, all believers, cannot be overlooked. As such, the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides noted, “just as one who is expecting the most faithful of his friends is wont to count the days and hours to his arrival, so we also count from the omer of the day of our Exodus from Egypt to that of the giving of the law, which was the object of our Exodus, as it is said: ‘I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself.” And because this great manifestation did not last more than one day, therefore we annually commemorate it only one day.” [2] But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Feast of Sefirat HaOmer (The Early First Fruits)

Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Feast of Sefirat HaOmer

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (I Corinthians 15:20-23)

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain…32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:23-24, 32)

What significance does the Feast of Sefirat HaOmer have for us today? How can a largely agricultural celebration of the early harvest have any possible relevance in the life of the believer? As we alluded to at the end of the previous post, while arguably one of the more overlooked feasts of the Lord, Sefirat HaOmer is nonetheless pregnant with theological importance. So let’s get started looking at how Jesus fulfilled this feast.

The Apostle Paul noted in I Corinthians 15:20-23 that Jesus, haven been raised from the dead has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Furthermore, in John 12:23-24, Jesus alludes to the idea of the Son of Man falling to the ground in like manner as a grain of wheat which dies, after words producing much grain, a picture of Jesus dying, being raised from the dead and then as noted in v. 32, drawing all peoples to himself. The key resides in this picture presented by both Jesus and Paul. Barney Kasdan rightly notes “the grain that had come from the earth was now lifted up high for all to see!”[1] The symbolism of the grain harvest being lifted up from the ground represents the resurrection of Christ from the grave. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – The Feast of Sefirat HaOmer (The Early First Fruits)

The Feast of Sefirat HaOmer (The Early First Fruits)

9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “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 first fruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 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. 12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. 13 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. 14 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 statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. (Leviticus 23:9-14)

The period of time between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost is known as the Feast of Sefirat HaOmer, more commonly known as the Feast of the Early First Fruits. While arguably one of the lesser known biblical feasts, Sefirat HaOmer is nevertheless outlined in Leviticus 23:9-14 as a feast of the Lord, a statute to be established forever throughout the generations in the same manner as the other feasts of the Lord. Often, Sefirat HaOmer is connected with the counting of the omer and thus this feast is also known by that description.

The time between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost consists of seven weeks for a total of forty-nine days with the fiftieth day beginning the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost). Furthermore, this time period typically consisted of the number of days between the reaping of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. As noted by Barney Kasdan “The meaning of this holy day is understood in its name. Sefirat HaOmer literally means “counting of the sheaf.” It speaks of the earliest harvest that takes place in Israel, the barley harvest. Like the fall holy day, Sukkot, this festival emphasizes the agrarian culture of the ancient Middle East.”[1] But wait, there’s more!

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Anthony Weber – Old Testament Law: The Unclean and Clean

As noted in the previous post, Old Testament law is not meant to be read in a literary vacuum. We need to consider context and purpose in order to understand what God was trying to accomplish in the world. While this may not make Exodus and Leviticus leap off the page, this will hopefully allow us to more clearly see a God whose desire was for humanity to flourish.

In some ways, the flourishing brought about by the Law was a very practical one. The dietary laws God gave Israel have proven to be remarkably good even by 21st century standards. Laws for cleaning mold out of a house sound a lot like the processes we use today. Laws about quarantine were insightful from a medical perspective. So in one sense, many of the laws were simply instructions on how to stay physically healthy. (Even the laws for more controversial issues like slavery and marriage point away from human subjugation and toward a society in which people are intended to flourish – but I will address that in the next post.)

I believe, however, that the fundamental purpose of the law was much greater. God intended for the Law to help the Israelites understand holiness in every aspect of life. The laws emphasize that holiness is “separateness.” God is holy, and by extension His people are to be holy. They are “called out” or “called away” from things that could corrupt them. The law was intended to create a wholeness within the community of Israel and a distinctiveness from the surrounding pagan cultures.

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Dr. Albert Mohler – Torah and Truth: Theology in the Obituary Pages

Theological lessons appear in the most unexpected places. The February 12, 2012 edition of The New York Times included an obituary for Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, who died February 8 in Toronto at age 99.

The obituaries in The New York Times are legendary, rivaled only by those in The Times of London. Both papers feature unexpectedly lengthy obituaries devoted to those who made a difference in their times.

Rabbi Plaut was one of those figures. As Margalit Fox of the Times explained, the rabbi was one of the most influential figures in Reform Judaism, North American Judaism’s most liberal major branch.

As Fox stated, Rabbi Plaut was “a rabbi whose vast, scholarly and ardently contemporary edition of the Torah has helped define Reform Judaism in late-20th-century North America.”

Rabbi Plaut’s commentary on the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) was “the first non-Orthodox full commentary on the Torah published in English for congregational use,” said Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, an official with the Union for Reform Judaism.

Previous to Rabbi Plaut’s work on the Torah, congregations had been dependent on the work of Rabbi Joseph M. Hertz, written from the perspective of Orthodox Judaism, affirming the divine inspiration of the text as given through Moses.

Reform Judaism does not require any belief in a personal God, and many adherents are agnostics or atheists in terms of traditional theism.

Rabbi Plaut wrote his commentary on the Torah for this movement and its congregations, and in the introduction to the work, he stated what he believed about the Bible:

“God is not the author of the text, the people are; but God’s voice may be heard through theirs if we listen with open minds.”

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