Thank you to Elaine Venning for this paper and I’d add that this year’s Passover was a unique repeat of the first Passover when people were locked away during plague. So too, will this Pentecost be unique because believers have been locked out of churches and thus waiting upon the Lord in their homes and internet meetings, wherein we’ve witnessed the Holy Spirit being repeatedly active – similarly to when Jesus breathed upon His disciples in their locked meetings before Pentecost (John 20:22 – again!)
A TALE OF TWO PENTECOSTS and HOW GOD VISITS HIS PEOPLE
Our feast day of Pentecost falls on 31st May 2020 when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and so the birth of the Church. Two days before (Friday) is the Jewish feast of the same name. That celebrates the conclusion of the Passover season with recalling the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Torah. The Jews calculate the passing years from this time and for them this is 5780. We do the same, taking our year, now 2020, from the approximate year of Jesus’ birth.
We serve the same God. Both feasts remember how God comes down from heaven to visit His people. He comes as Word and as Spirit. The first time the people of Israel were gathered together on the mountain where they heard a loud trumpet sound and experienced the smoke as of a furnace. The second time, violent wind and tongues of fire descended upon each person present. The parallels are very striking.
Sadly, a little later some of the sons of Israel turned back to idolatry. With the fear of the Lord fresh upon them, the Levites acted to uphold the holiness of God using brute force resulting in the killing of 3,000 Hebrews – see Exodus 32 v 28. Was it a coincidence when the Spirit filled disciples spilled out onto the streets of Jerusalem 3,000 people were baptised in the Spirit to become believers?
Most of these people had come to Jerusalem for the Torah-appointed feast of Pentecost also known as ‘Shavuot’ or the Feast of Weeks. It is the second of three harvest feasts where the men of Israel were required to come to Jerusalem. That year they and their families came from across the known world – see Acts 2. Many would have been devout pilgrims bent on observing all that God commanded – Deuteronomy 16:16.
A key offering in this Feast is that of two loaves of bread made with finest wheat and leaven given in a wave offering. Scholars say this is an act of remembrance representing the Old Testament Covenant that God established with His peoples and was made on the two tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were chiselled. It has also been seen as a prophetic fore-telling of the New Testament Covenant as well.
With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this the New Covenant God makes, both Jew and Gentile are brought together, as in His mercy the Father fulfils the exchange Jesus purchased for those who accept His blood sacrifice with the taking away of our sins and the giving to us of His own righteousness. Thereby, God allows us to become His own dear children.
In both, God is drawing near to His people Himself and is making us Holy. He has done this by firmly making the Resurrected Jesus to be the cornerstone upon which everything holds together, the one new man, the second Adam – see Ephesians 2.
5780/2020 is double blessing time, the importance of Word and Spirit coming to God’s people. It is when the great harvest of souls can be expected to start with the fresh empowering of God’s people. It is the herald of a new age of wonders and miracles.
Like the Jews at this time we can benefit from reading the book of Ruth with its beautiful story of mercy. The harvest comes in loving kindness, with its tale of surprise acceptance and redemption.
Let us do all that He asks of us. Prepare to be witnesses!
As the Taize chant says, “wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Keep watch, take heart”.