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Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are seven weeks past and we are almost finished in the counting toward Pentecost. God’s Holy Days are rich in meaning and anticipation as we rehearse them once again – each of them unique in what they picture and adding to what has gone before. The upcoming Feast of Pentecost is no different in these regards.
One unique aspect of Pentecost is that it is not a fixed date on the Calendar unlike the other Holy Days – so while it is always on the same day of the week, it can “move” in terms of which week in May or June it ends up being on.
God charged the Jews with preserving the Old Testament, but the interpretation has not always been handed down accurately. During the first century A.D., the Pharisees gained complete control of the Jewish religious observances. They figured Pentecost beginning with the day after the first annual Sabbath - the first Day of Unleavened Bread. Is this what God instructed? Preserved in a book called the Mishna is recorded how Pentecost had been counted from generation to generation before the Pharisees took control. How the Jews count Pentecost now is not always how it had been done, or should be done. The Jews count from the first High Sabbath of the Days of Unleavened Bread - rather than from the Sabbath in the Days of Unleavened Bread. If Pentecost was to be counted from the High Sabbath of the Days of Unleavened Bread, what would be the point in saying to count the days? Why not simply say keep Pentecost on Sivan 6? Instead, the weekly Sabbath can fall on 7 different days within the Days of Unleavened Bread - hence the need to count to know when to keep Pentecost. We must pay attention to know the right time, or day, to keep.
God instructed Israel to count 50 days from the Days of Unleavened Bread to determine when to keep Pentecost. We are to count “from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the…wave offering” (Leviticus 23:15, NKJV). The Hebrew word there for Sabbath is the word used for the weekly Sabbath - the same word used in verse 3 when God reminds Israel to keep the weekly Sabbath. God instructs us to count 50 days from the weekly Sabbath which also means that Pentecost will always fall on a Sunday (first day of the week). Pentecost this year is on May 27th. Have you ever thought why God did that with this Holy Day? Every other Holy Day is set on a given day in a given month in His calendar – but not Pentecost.
Part of the reason for counting is to be reminded of the distance that we should be gaining in coming out of sin during the Days of Unleavened Bread, and part of the reason is to count with anticipation of the giving of God’s Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:4 Christ told those assembled in Jerusalem not to leave that city (before the Day of Pentecost), but “…to wait for the Promise of the Father…” that is, the giving of the Holy Spirit. Although we have been called and given access to God through His Holy Spirit, do we also count toward the day when all of mankind (1 Timothy 2:4) will have access to the knowledge of the truth?
As we finish the count toward Pentecost, let’s remember why we count Pentecost and what God wants to us to see and anticipate in that counting. It indeed will be a wonderful time when “…the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Eternal as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).