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The Feast of Pentecost
“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:15-22)
Studying the Book of Leviticus, I keep praying that the Lord will be pleased to be my Teacher and show me his message for our souls in each type and picture it describes. I want us to behold the wonders of his law. May he be pleased to anoint our eyes (yours and mine) with the eye-salve of his grace and lead us as he led John through the wonders of the streets of the New Jerusalem. I want us to see the fine gold and every precious stone. May our Lord, the Lamb, be our light, as we open his Word. He promised…
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)
Oh, may he be pleased, once more, to come to us and lead us again to fountains of living waters as we seek to understand by his teaching and grace God’s message to us in the Old Testament feast of Pentecost.
In the passage before us we are given instructions concerning the feast of Pentecost. In the Old Testament it was called “the feast of weeks” (2 Chronicles 8:12-13); but we know it best as the feast of Pentecost because that is how it is referred to in the New Testament (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8). It was called “the feast of weeks” in the Old Testament because it was observed seven weeks and a day after the feast of passover. It is referred to as the feast of Pentecost in the New Testament because it was observed seven weeks and a day (50 days) after the Jews’ passover, and the word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth.”
The feast of firstfruits was held at the beginning of the barley harvest. This feast, the feast of Pentecost, was held seven weeks later at the beginning of the wheat harvest. We cannot help noticing significant differences between the two feasts. The firstfruits of the wheat, like the firstfruits of the barley, were to be offered to the Lord, but not as a sheaf. The wheat offering was to be offered in the form of two loaves of bread. This offering must be made of leavened bread, which the priest would eat (v. 20). This offering was to be made with specific animal sacrifices. And these two loaves of leavened bread were to be waved with two lambs of the first year before the Lord by God’s appointed priest.
What is the significance of all these things? Why are they given? What does the Holy Spirit teach us by this typical, costly ceremony of divine worship? Without question, this was a ceremony of thanksgiving to God, acknowledging that all our daily provisions come from him (James 1:17). But there is more here than an act of thanksgiving. The feast of Pentecost was a picture of the ingathering of God’s elect by the mighty operations of God the Holy Ghost (Joel 2, Acts 2).
The two loaves of leavened bread represent God’s elect, gathered from the four corners of the earth by the Holy Ghost, and presented before him, in connection with all the perfection and preciousness of Christ our Passover, who was sacrificed for us. In the passover, we see the sacrificial death of Christ, the Lamb of God. In the sheaf of firstfruits, we see the resurrection, ascension, and acceptance of Christ as our sin-atoning Substitute. Here, in the feast of Pentecost, we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh for the ingathering of God’s elect, which was the result of Christ’s accomplished redemption (Galatians 3:13-14).
Christ had to die, redemption had to be accomplished, sin had to be put away, before we could be brought to God and accepted of him. The sheaf must first be offered. Then, and only then, could the loaves be baked and presented to God with and upon the basis of the slain Lamb’s atonement. Let’s look at this feast of Pentecost more closely and observe those things that are so obvious that they are commonly overlooked.
The Time of the Feast
We should observe the time of the feast. I do not usually pay much attention to ancient Jewish traditions, or any other religious traditions. But the Jews have, from ancient times, contended that the feast of Pentecost was to be observed 50 days after the passover because this was precisely the time that God gave the law to Israel by the hand of Moses. Though the Scriptures do not verbally connect the two, there is an obvious connection. The Israelites left Egypt on the day of passover. They arrived at Mt. Sinai sometime during the third month, (Exodus 19:1), which begins about a week before Pentecost. It was then that Moses was called up into Mt. Sinai to receive the law of God, the revelation of God’s holiness and justice.
I find those things very significant. You will, too, I am sure, if you consider these things. — The law was given to shut us up to Christ, to make us know our sin and our need of Christ as our Substitute. The law’s revelation of God could not be complete without its fulfilment by Christ. And that fulfilment could not be known without our Lord’s resurrection, ascension, and acceptance as our Substitute in heaven, declaring that he has fulfilled all the law in putting away our sins by the sacrifice of himself. Yet, this glorious fact, by which God is revealed in all the splendor of his glorious holiness, can never be known by any sinner until he has been brought in, gathered in, by God the Holy Spirit in regenerating grace.
Two Loaves of Leavened Bread
Be sure you do not miss this. — We are told that the sacrifice of this feast of Pentecost must be a sacrifice of two loaves of leavened bread. — “They shall be baked with leaven” (v. 17). Why was this?
These loaves were to be baked with leaven and presented to the Lord as leavened loaves because they were intended to represent us, God’s people in this world. There were two loaves because God’s church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. The loaves were leavened loaves because saved sinners are sinners still.
Though, born of God, justified by blood, and sanctified by grace, though filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit, though adorned with the gifts of his grace, believers are still people personally defiled with the leaven of sin. And we constantly acknowledge that painful, sad fact (1 John 1:7 - 2:2; Romans 7:14-24).
On the day of Pentecost the Spirit filled church stood before God in the full perfection and acceptance of Christ’s blood and righteousness, crowned with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Yet, they were leavened with the flesh. The regenerating (new creation) grace of God the Holy Spirit in us does not eradicate or in any way change or take away the old man in us. Indwelling sin is something we must live with and are at war with as long as we live in this world.
Acts of sin may be suppressed and kept out of view; but sin is in us. Our natural hearts are just as depraved as ever! This fact is portrayed in the type before us by the leaven in the two loaves. And it is set forth in the actual history of the church, and in the life experience of every ransomed soul.
The fact is, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” The flesh will never be anything but flesh. The Holy Spirit did not come down on the day of Pentecost, and does not come down in saving power and grace, to improve nature or do away with the fact of its incurable evil. — Not at all! He came on the day of Pentecost to put God’s church into an entirely new realm of life. On that day, the King of Glory baptized his church and kingdom in the Holy Spirit. He comes in saving grace to give us a new nature, to bring us into one body, and unite us with Christ, our living Head in heaven, that we might “walk in the Spirit (live by faith, and no longer) fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”
These two waved loaves were made out of the wheat seed, the fruit of that which had been sown in the earth (John 12:20-32). The two leavened loaves were accepted, though leavened, by the holy Lord God, as an offering of sweet savor, because of another sacrifice (v. 18).
I have already shown you that the leavened loaves portrayed God’s people in this world, saved by grace, yet sinners still. Clearly there is an indication in that fact that our God knows and acknowledges the evil that is in us. But, blessed be his matchless name, the evil that is divinely recognized is divinely provided for! Look at verse 18.
“And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:18)
Here, we have an immediate connection between the leavened loaves and the presentation of an unblemished sacrifice, typifying the great and all-important truth that it is Christ’s perfection and not our sinfulness that is ever before the eye of God (Ephesians 1:3-7; Colossians 1:12; 2:9-17).
Here is rest and comfort and joy for our hearts and souls, even as we acknowledge our sin. God omniscient knows exactly what we are. — “He remembereth that we are dust!” He knows the worst of us. Yet, he does not deal with us after our sins. He does not reward us according to our iniquities. He deals with us in grace and rewards us according to Christ’s righteousness. Our great God, who delights in mercy, has made provision according to his wisdom and knowledge, according to his justice and truth, according to his goodness and grace, according to his mercy and love, according to his holiness and righteousness, not according to our merit.
“Ye shall offer with the bread, seven lambs without blemish.” — Seven is the number of perfection and the number of grace. Seven represents the work of God. Seven is the number of completion. And seven is the number of rest.
This is not religious theory and speculation. It is exactly what this type was intended by God to teach us. As I said before, this is obvious. Look at verses 19 and 20.
Two Lambs and a Priest
In verses 19 and 20 we see that these two leavened loaves were offered and accepted because of two lambs of the first year offered by God’s appointed priest as a peace offering, waved before God with the lambs.
“Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.”
The priests took the two lambs and the two leavened loaves and waved them as one before God, and God accepted them as one. Christ is our Priest. He is our sacrifice, our peace offering, and our priest. Christ presents us in union with himself to God upon the basis of his sacrifice. And God accepts us as one with Christ.
C. H. Mackintosh rightly observed, “Thus, on the day of Pentecost, the church was presented, in all the value and excellency of Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Though having in itself the leaven of the old nature, that leaven was not reckoned, because the divine sin offering had perfectly answered for it. The power of the Holy Ghost did not remove the leaven, but the blood of the Lamb had atoned for it.”
The work of the Spirit in the believer does not remove indwelling evil. It enables us to detect it, judge, and reckon it as God does — put away by the blood of the Lamb (Romans 6:11; 1 Peter 4:1).
Our sin is never under the eye of God. It has been put out of sight, purged, removed, put away, and forgotten by God forever; and we are accepted in all the acceptableness of Christ, who offered himself to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, that he might perfectly glorify him in all things (Numbers 23:21).
These two leaven loaves were for the priest and were the priest’s food (v. 20). John 4:32-34 gives us the meaning of this part of our typical picture.
“But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”
Next, we see rest proclaimed in verse 21.
“And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.”
That is what happens when the gospel of Christ is preached. Preaching Christ crucified, God’s servants proclaim rest, rest for weary sinners in Christ. He says…
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” (Psalm 37:7)
“Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.” (Psalm 116:7)
“This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:14)
Gleanings for Poor Strangers
Verse 22 speaks of gleanings God required the Jews to leave in their fields for poor strangers.
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.”
Without a doubt, this is a picture of God’s provision for us, both Jews and Gentiles. As gleanings of the harvest were to be left in the corners of the field for the poor and the stranger, so in every corner of the earth there are gleanings of grace for poor and miserable sinners, “handfuls of purpose” left by our great Boaz (Christ our Kinsman Redeemer) to bring us to himself. — “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16).
We are by nature poor, needy, bankrupt sinners, strangers far off from God. Our Boaz scatters his grace through the four corners of the earth for strangers far off from God.
Our inheritance with Christ is the inheritance of Christ, bestowed by grace and bestowed upon all God’s elect alike. The gleanings of grace, the gleanings of heaven, the gleanings of the fields of glory are boundless, infinite bounties of grace, free grace in Christ. The gleanings of Canaan represent the glories of heaven — the glories of Christ. God’s Church is not merely blessed by Christ, but with Christ and in Christ. The bride of Christ in heaven shall possess and enjoy her own wealthy and happy home in heaven, the home she rightfully holds as her own, the home to which she belongs, her Husband’s house!
We are one with Christ! — Can you get hold of that? God’s Church is the King’s Bride, the Queen of his throne, and the sharer of his joys, his dignities, and his glories. The eternal mansions of the Father’s house on high is the church’s rightful portion in and with Christ. May we ever bear this in mind, and live worthy of such a holy and elevated destination.
Come, poor sinner, glean in Canaan’s boundless fields. Come, strangers to grace and to God, come and welcome. What boundless blessedness we shall possess when all the Lord’s wheat has been gathered into his garner (Ephesians 2:7; 5:25-27; Hebrews 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Jude 24-25).