Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Transformations: The Feast of Weeks, Part 8

By Brenda Cathcart

Our name in this blog is a different kind of name. It is the name of an event. The disciples are anticipating the Feast of Weeks, but what is a Feast? We think of a feast as a huge meal! In our minds, one person can have a feast all by herself. Of course, feasts are usually more fun when shared with family and friends. On the American calendar, our biggest feast is Thanksgiving. Everyone eats way too much and then all the men fall asleep on the couch watching football. In Hebrew the word feast has an entirely different meaning.

Leviticus 23:1-2 NKJV 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.

The word for feast is moed (#4150) meaning an appointment, a fixed time. God says that these events that Moses is to proclaim are His appointed times.  God’s words read like this, “The appointments of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are my appointments.” When you have a doctor’s appointment, you tend to make sure you keep that appointment. Sometimes doctors or dentists will charge you for the visit whether you show up or not making it important to keep your appointment. God has placed specific times on His calendar that He agrees to meet with His people. I think these appointments should be at least as important as your doctor’s appointment.

The disciples are eagerly awaiting this appointed time with God. On the fortieth day of the counting of the Omer, Jesus ascended into heaven in front of their eyes. And as they watched, they worshipped Him and God the Father.

Luke 24:52-53 NKJV 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.

Our conventional picture of the disciples is that they were still frightened and discouraged hiding in the upper room. Luke tells us they spent those last ten days of the count up to the Feast in the temple praising God! In fact, they are getting ready to testify to Jesus’ resurrection even going so far as to appoint a man to replace Judas Iscariot.

Acts 1:21-22 NKJV 21 "Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 "beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."

What are they anticipating on this day? Can we even imagine? If we look at the historical significance of this day, we can begin to see the coming of this Feast, this appointed time through their eyes. This day is for them like the Fourth of July is for us! This is the day they received the Covenant with God. God Himself came down and spoke all the words of the Covenant directly to them! On this day, they became more than a displaced bunch of people; they have a constitution, laws, and government. They became the nation of Israel. Like the United States, they still have much to accomplish before realizing the actual status of a nation but this is the day it began.

The Feasts of the LORD are all connected to events of the Exodus and the months immediately after. The Passover is when the Hebrews killed the lamb and put the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses as a sign of their allegiance to God. The firstborn of all the Egyptians died on this night. The Feast of Unleavened Bread remembers their flight from Egypt up through their ultimate deliverance through the Red Sea and the death of Pharaoh’s army in the sea. The Feast of Firstfruits is their exodus from Egypt itself taking with them the bones of Joseph leaving behind an empty tomb. The days are counted up to The Feast of Weeks which is the day the Israelites received the covenant at Mt. Sinai.

The Israelites arrive at Mt. Sinai on the first day of the third month, just days before the Feast of Weeks. Moses runs up and down the mountain relaying God’s words and the people’s replies back and forth. Poor Moses! He’s 80 years old running up and down a mountain!

Exodus 19:3-6 NKJV 3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 5 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."

The people answered God in one voice. The Jewish sages write that they answered God in total unity like a single person with a single heart, “All that the LORD has spoken, we will do.”  In three days, God will come down and offer the covenant in person! Let’s look at a description of that day.

Exodus 19:16-19 NKJV 16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.

The Midrash, which is a commentary on the Torah, gives further details of the events at Mt. Sinai. The Midrash says that tongues of fire circled and touched all the people gathered at Mt. Sinai. It says that there were thunderings and lightnings plural because God’s voice came in all 70 languages of the nations but only Israel answered and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” After making sure that the people didn’t come too near the mountain, God spoke.

 Exodus 20:1-3 NKJV 1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.

What follows is the very voice of God speaking what we call the Ten Commandments. The Jewish people call them the ten words because the first sentence begins, “And God spoke all these WORDS…” These are the words of the Mosaic Covenant that would eventually by written by the finger of God on Tablets of Stone (Ex. 31:18). We discover that the finger of God is the Spirit of God by comparing two different accounts of the same incident in the New Testament.

Matthew 12:28 NKJV 28 "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 11:20 NKJV 20 "But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

We will see how this is significant as we connect the events at Mt. Sinai with the events at the Feast of Weeks when the disciples receive the Holy Spirit.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote of the restoration of Israel and a New Covenant that God would make with the people of Judah and Israel.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV 31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law (Torah) in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

We can imagine what the disciples are thinking. The eleven were with Jesus on the night before His death at His last Passover Seder. Luke records it this way.

Luke 22:19-20 NKJV 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Jesus told them the events that began at Passover were the beginning of the New Covenant written of by Jeremiah. The disciples are surely expecting some manifestation of God similar to that at Mt. Sinai. Perhaps they think that Jesus will return at this time and establish His kingdom. Thoughts of that were uppermost in their minds in the days before Jesus’ ascension when they ask Him about the restoration of Israel.

Acts 1:6-7 NKJV 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

Will Jesus now come as the King who sits on David’s throne? They know that they are waiting for a gift from God because Jesus told them to wait.

Acts 1:4-5 NKJV 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

At Mt. Sinai, God gave them the tablets of the Commandments written by the Holy Spirit. What form will this gift of the Holy Spirit take? The anticipation builds as the day approaches. Imagine the day before the feast; the disciples are once again, like they were every day, in the Temple praising God. As the services end, they join in the recitation of the counting of the Omer. “This is the 49th day of the counting of the Omer.” I wonder if they got any sleep that night as they anticipated the Feast.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

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