Sunday, May 31, 2009

In One Accord

Today the Christian world observes Pentecost, which means "Fifty" and comes from Acts 2:1 when the Holy Spirit of the resurrected Lamb, the Messiah, was poured out on His disciples. Yeshua, or Jesus, had sent them specifically to Jerusalem to await the outpouring of His indwelling Spirit.

The reason behind calling this outpouring "Pentecost" may not be so clear to most Christians. It is because it is according to what God commanded Israel in observance of the Feasts of the Lord. These three Feasts are appointed by God to prophetically portray the seasons of the salvation of Israel.

Pentecost - Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks - in the scheme of God's appointed Feasts for Israel was to be determined by counting 50 days after the Passover. The counting began the first day after the first Sabbath (which begins at sundown on Saturday night) following Passover.

According to Lev 23:15-16 - "You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath (after the Passover), from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord."

The scripture Christians relate to the observance of Pentecost is Acts 2:1-4. The apostles and some of Jesus closest disciples, some 120 people, were gathered "together unanimously" in the upper room, as the translators say in "in one accord".

It is interesting that "there were two competing views at the time of Christ on how to calculate the day of Pentecost. For the Sadducees, Pentecost always fell on Sunday, while the Pharisees had it on various days of the week."

It is interesting to me because the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection, but the Pharisees did. "The difference was that the Sadducees started counting 50 days after the first weekly sabbath and the Pharisees started counting 50 days after the Yearly Sabbath, ie Passover."

In other words, the Pharisees regarded "Passover" itself as the 'annual Sabbath' so they counting began counting days the next day. Since Passover was calculated on the lunar calendar it could come on any day of the week, so the Saducess would not start counting 50 days until the day after the weekly Sabbath.

I don't want anyone to fall down the rabbit hole of the complication of these countings, but only wanted to point out that it was interesting to me that the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection from the dead regarding the Passover as a special Sabbath, and the Sadducees who did not believe in a resurrection did not regard the Passover as a special "Yearly Sabbath" so they did not believe the counting of 50 days should begin the on the day after Passover.

Also, lest any of us grumble at how complicated everything is in the Hebrew scripture, let us remember these counting instructions were given by God. The Jews did not invent these instructions, God did, so He must have a good purpose for having do so.

Seeing how early in church history the date of observing "Easter" was changed so it would never fall on the same day as "Passover" to distance Christianity from its Jewish foundations, this may be a perfect example of the spirit of the law which forbids changing your neighbor's boundaries. (Deut 19:14 and Prov 22:28)

Yesterday, part of my Bible reading schedule had me reading in John 4, where Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well (she is not Jewish and the Samaritans are looked down in Jewish society). Jesus told her,

John 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

23-24 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Anointed Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

I was struck by what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, that the Samaritans worshiped what they did not know and, speaking as a Jew, He told her, "we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews."

This morning as I consider what it would mean for the worshipers of the Father to gather together before Him in one accord, I believe it means that we could not disregard that it was Jesus who said that what the Jews knew about the Father was important because "salvation is of the Jews."

The apostle Paul later wrote, Romans 9:3-5 (just before explaining the plan of God as it relates to setting aside Israel temporarily to extend salvation to all the nations)

" brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Messiah came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

In the Christian celebration of Pentecost, we are much like the Samaritan woman to whom Jesus said, you know not what you worship. We observe the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1 based on a holiday we have named after a number of days that we don't really know the significance of.

We don't have to get hung up on Judaism to acknowledge and know where we come from and how we are organically related to the foundation of our faith which God laid in a people He chose for that very purpose. Like in the 1970's epic movie, ROOTS, which connected Black Americans to their African heritage, all Christianity has a heritage that is rooted in the foundations God laid in Israel.

We are are organically rooted in and related to Israel of God and there remains a coming together of Jew and Gentile in the Messiah that is written of even in the New Covenant scriptures. Instead of denying the significance of our roots, we should embrace this heritage and seek to know it.

My prayer today, this day of Pentecost - the Jewish observance of Shavuot having been observed last Thursday night through Friday night) - is that we really would come together in one accord.

If we would cease all the arguments between the Jewish and Gentile members of the Body of the Lord - which is nothing less than the disciples as they are walking with Jesus arguing which of them would be greatest in His kingdom.

Today my prayer is that we go past the "in one accord" of former days and begin to reach into the "one new man" in Messiah that is our destiny.

No comments: