Two Pentecosts, Part One

The First Loaf of Bread

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  Exodus 19:5-6a

Three months after the Israelites left Egypt, they came to the Desert of Sinai and camped there. Moses climbed up the mountain to meet with God and received the Law–including the Ten Commandments, instructions for the priesthood, sacrifices, offerings, and feasts (Exodus 19:25-31:18).

One of the feasts was called the Feast of Weeks. Later Hellenistic Jews gave it the name Pentecost, pentēkonta, “fifty.”* Pentecost was to be held seven weeks after the Feast of Firstfruits that is, on the fiftieth day.

Even though the Israelites were homeless in the desert, God told Moses, “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest” (Leviticus 23:10b). This offering would be called firstfruits, Hebrew re’shiyth, which means “beginning, first, or chief.”* Firstfruits would represent the whole harvest to come.

No laborious work could be done on this feast day or the next feast day, Pentecost. Fifty days later, the people would bring two loaves of bread to the priest (Leviticus 23:17). The loaves were baked with yeast—the only grain offering which contained yeast, which is used in Scripture as a symbol of sin (Matthew 16:1-12; 1Corinthians 5:6-8).

Jews today still celebrate the feast of Pentecost as Shavuot, the Giving of the Law, which occurred at Mt. Sinai.** This feast has been called the birthday of Judaism because this was the day a group of people became a nation and received instructions on how a finite, unholy, sinful people could approach an infinite, holy, sinless God.

Fifteen hundred years after the Law was given at Mt. Sinai, God chose this feast day, Pentecost, as the day on which to send the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus Christ. Some consider that a coincidence. In part two of this devotion, I’ll show the connection. God’s timing is never a coincidence.

Have you seen an example of God’s perfect timing in your life? For what provisions do you thank God?

DIG DEEPER:

Why do you think this feast included two loaves of bread made with yeast?

Read Deuteronomy 16:1-17. What are the three main feasts mentioned and what was required for each? What gift can you bring in gratitude for the blessings the Lord has given you?

Read Exodus 19:1-25. What characterized God’s coming to Moses on the mountain? Contrast this with the way God described Himself in verse 5. How would you characterize God’s presence in your life?

Jews today read the book of Ruth because of its harvest setting. See the devotion Ruth under Dig into Words the Christian view of Boaz as a type of Christ in his role as kinsman-redeemer.

Nancy J. Baker

*Hebrew transliterations and their definitions are taken from the Gesenius Lexicon provided by www.blueletterbible.com.

**This devotion is based on The Gospel in the Feasts of Israel by Victor Buksbazen (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1954).

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