Pentecost: A Time of Joyful, Spiritual Life

Pentecost kinda sneaked up on me this year. This is the only one of God’s holy days where we’re not given a specific date to observe it on (like the 14th of Nissan or the 1st of the 7th month). It moves around a little each year, always 50 days after the wave offering on the Sunday following Passover. This year, Pentecost is happening tomorrow, on June 5th.

Many Messianics and Jews count the omer each evening as a new day begins, praying a specific blessing. In Leviticus, God told His people through Moses, “You must count for yourselves seven weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day you bring the wave offering sheaf; they must be complete weeks. You must count fifty days—until the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Lev. 23:15-16, NET). That’s what the word “Pentecost” means–it’s transliterated from the Greek word pentēkostē, or “fiftieth” (as in we’ve counted up to the fiftieth day).

Much like Passover, Pentecost takes on additional significance for the New Testament church. After Jesus’s resurrection and His ascension to the Father on the Sunday when priests in the temple did the wave sheaf offering, He remained here on earth with His disciples for 40 days. Then, He told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait (Acts 1:1-5). They did as they were told, no doubt expecting something to happen at Pentecost since it was coming up just 10 days from when they last saw Jesus. “Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place,” and the Holy Spirit came on them in a powerful way (Acts 2:1-4).

What about us today? We have instructions from the Old Testament about Pentecost, traditions that tell us God established his Sinai covenant with Israel on this day, and the story of the New Testament era of the church getting its start on Pentecost in the first century. Clearly this day is important and God tells us to keep observing it, but what is the significance for believers today?

A Time of Hope and Sharing

When I’ve written about Pentecost before on this blog, I usually focus on the book of Ruth. It’s traditionally read on Pentecost because of the connection with gleaning. In Leviticus 23, God included these instructions when He told us how to keep Pentecost, which coincided with the wheat harvest:

When you gather in the harvest of your land, you must not completely harvest the corner of your field, and you must not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. You must leave them for the poor and the resident foreigner. I am the Lord your God.’”

Leviticus 23:22, NET

It’s this instruction to landowners that allowed Ruth to glean for grain in Boaz’s field to keep herself and Naomi alive (Ruth 2). She started gleaning during the barley harvest (around Passover time) and continued on through the wheat harvest (around Pentecost time). This is one of the social safety nets God built into ancient Israel. He cares deeply about the poor, widow, and orphan–the people who struggle most to provide for themselves. A good man like Boaz would even order his workers to drop extra grain for someone like Ruth (2:16).

Ideally, harvest isn’t a time for hoarding your new wealth into a barn. It’s a time for sharing your bounty and offering hope for a brighter future. This principle works on a spiritual level as well. If we sow “in righteousness” and “reap according to kindness” while seeking the Lord and doing good, we will “from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Hos. 10:12-13; Gal. 6:7-10, WEB). Pentecost is a joyous festival day where we remember all the good Lord has given us to “harvest” in our lives and gather with others who are also doing their best to sow good things.

Image of a man standing in a field with his hands raised in worship, with text from Deuteronomy 16:10-11, NET version: “Then you are to celebrate the Feast of Weeks before the Lord your God with the voluntary offering that you will bring, in proportion to how he has blessed you. You shall 
rejoice before him—you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slaves, the Levites in your villages, the resident foreigners, the orphans, and the widows among you—in the place where the Lord chooses to locate his name.”
Image by Aaron Cabrera from Pixabay

Gifts from the Lord

When we look at the book of Exodus, keeping in mind that the Israelites left Egypt right after Passover and it took about two months to travel all the way to Mount Sinai on foot, it seems reasonable to accept the Jewish tradition that says God gave the 10 commandments on Pentecost. That would place the establishment of one of the most important covenants in scripture on this holy day.

At Sinai, Yahweh set Israel apart to Himself as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” He warned them to purify themselves and respect His holiness, then presented the terms of the covenant starting with the 10 commandments (Ex. 19-24). Finally, the people said, “We will do all that Yahweh has said, and be obedient” (Ex. 24:7, WEB). This covenant was an incredible gift–the only fault with it was in the people who couldn’t keep the covenant as perfectly as God did. That’s why we needed a New Covenant established on better promises (Heb. 8).

Jesus enacted this New Covenant on Passover when He shared bread and wine with His disciples (Luke 22:19-20), outlined the terms of the new covenant (John 13-17), and died to end the old covenant and establish the new (Heb. 9:11-28). Then on Pentecost, He started giving His New Covenant church the gifts involved in these better promises.

Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. …

Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice, and addressed them… “this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'”

Acts 2:1-4, 14, 16-18, NET

Life in the Spirit

There is a beautiful symmetry to think that on the same day, centuries apart, God gave His people the Law and the Spirit. For us today who “serve in the new life of the Spirit,” we get to keep the law on a spiritual level as God always intended. Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, “the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 7:5-6; 8:3-5).

Pentecost helps remind us to rejoice in the abundant gifts God gives us, particularly the gift of His Spirit. God Himself is dwelling in us. That’s a wonderful thing. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Paul writes about the “joy that comes from the Holy Spirit” (1 Thes. 1:6, NET) and says joy is part of the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22). Even after being thrown out of a city for preaching God’s word, “the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52, NET). The joy of the Lord is a persistent, irrepressible thing.

We can also have this same joy when we follow God in the spirit and intent of the law.  We know that God’s kingdom consists of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people” (Rom. 8:17-18, NET). As we use the gifts God gives us and cultivate spiritual lives, God’s holy days remind us to also embrace the joy that comes along with being a child of the living God.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13, NET

Featured image by J F from Pixabay

How Should We Honor The Days God Sets Apart For Him?

Practicing righteousness. Learning to love. Developing the mind of God. Following Christ. Those are all essentials of the Christian life, and there are many “tools” God has given us to help us succeed in these goals. These include prayer, Bible reading and study, the Holy Spirit inside us, and fasting.

God’s Sabbaths and holy days are also vital, and often overlooked, gifts given to help us align with God and His ways. Keeping these days as God commanded helps line us up with His will, reinforces His plan, and deepens our relationship with Him. Just as responding to an invitation to get together with your physical family lets you build relationships with them, so does responding to our heavenly Father’s invitations help us build relationships with Him, our Bridegroom, and the other children in His family.

For many Christians, keeping God’s holy days is a foreign concept because they’ve been (incorrectly) told “that’s just a Jewish/Old Testament thing. But when you start to recognize there’s lasting value in the days God calls holy to Him, you come up against the question, How do you keep the Sabbaths in a way that honors God?

Even if you have been keeping these days for a while, you know this isn’t always an easy questions to answer. There are certain rules and guidelines in scripture, but they don’t answer all our questions. Plus, knowing what to do, and what not to do, in keeping the holy days is about more than a list of rules. It’s about honoring God’s instructions on how to come before Him. So let’s take a look at what God says to do for these days and how we can obey those commands in the spirit and from our hearts. Read more

Understanding The Days That God Calls Holy To Him

Did you know that there are certain days in the Bible that God calls holy? One of these holy times happens every 7 days and we call it the weekly Sabbath. The other 7 holy days happen at set times in the spring, early summer, and fall.

If you’re reading this when it was posted, the fall holy days ended a couple weeks ago and the spring ones won’t start again for 6 months. This in-between time seems to me like the perfect opportunity for those of us who do keep the holy days to reflect on their meaning, along with how and why we keep them. And if you’ve never observed God’s holy days before, I hope you’ll find value in learning about them and maybe even join us in keeping them.

All the holy days are outlined in Leviticus 23, and then expounded on in other passages as well. In this chapter they’re all called “set feasts” (mo’ed) and “holy convocations (miqra). This identifies them as appointments that God has set at specific times for specific reasons. We talked about these Hebrew words, and others that describe God’s holy days, in last week’s post (click here to read it).


“The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Ex. 31:16-7, WEB)

As spiritual Israel (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:29; Eph. 2:12-13), this covenant is transferred to us (see post “Inheriting Covenants“). The author of Hebrews talks about this from 3:7 to 4:9, which concludes, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” The Greek word sabbatismos literally means “keeping Sabbath” (G4520, Thayer’s dictionary).

The Sabbath (which happens every Saturday) is a time when we stop doing work and other things that clutter our weeks and enter God’s rest. It’s a time to gather with other believers in God’s presence, to learn from Him, and take on His delights as our own. The Sabbath reminds us of His plan, purpose, and presence, and let’s us practice His rest. Read more

What Are God’s Holy Days and Why Would We Care?

Prayer is a time we can choose to come before God however we are, whenever we want, and whatever we need. In these cases, we’re sort of “in control” of the interaction. There are also times when God commands/invites us to come before Him on His terms. Those times when God “hosts” us are His weekly Sabbath and the yearly holy days.

Though I’ve been keeping the holy days outlined in Leviticus 23 my whole life, I hadn’t thought about them quite like this before. My family and I kept the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) with a group in West Virginia this year, and one of the Bible studies there was called “Keeping A Holy Convocation.” It’s one of the best, most thought-provoking messages I’ve ever heard and it’s what prompted today’s post (click here to listen to that Bible study).

I won’t take the time here to address the question of whether or not modern believers should keep these holy days, but you can check out my posts “Top 5 Reasons for Christians to Keep God’s Holy Days” and “Rhythms of Worship” if you’re curious. One reason these days are important to us is that they teach us about God’s plan and His priorities, including who we’re meant to be in Him. They’re part of our identity as God-followers, which makes them a key part of our faith and it also relates to this blog’s theme of finding our true selves in God.

This is probably going to be the first post in a series, since there is so much to explore in this topic and I don’t want today’s post to become unreadably long. So for now, let’s just take a look at the ways God describes His holy days. There are 5 key Hebrew words that give us a picture of what these days are and why we should care about them. Read more

The Bridegroom’s Pledge

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know my favorite way of looking at the Lord’s relationship with His people is as a love story. This seems to be one of God’s favorite analogies as well, since He weaves betrothal and marriage imagery throughout His word.

Pentecost, which takes place tomorrow, isn’t often talked about in the context of God’s love story. It’s best known among Christians as the day when the disciples received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and as a harvest festival from the Old Testament. But just a little digging into this day’s context within a Hebrew mindset and Jewish tradition reveals how strongly it’s connected with the love story God is writing between Him and His people.

A Promise To Come Back

The Bridegroom's Pledge |
Photo by Brooke Cagle on StockSnap

The Jewish name for Pentecost is Shavuot, which means “sevens” in reference to counting seven weeks of seven days from the Sabbath after Passover. Pentecost is then kept on the Sunday after the seventh Sabbath (hence the name “Pentecost,” which means count fifty). The root word for Shavuot is shaba, which means the number seven as well as an oath or pledge (TWOT entry 2318 and 2319).

In Jewish wedding traditions, brides are chosen by the groom’s father just as God the Father chooses whom to call into relationship with His Son. The groom pays a bride price for her, just as Jesus (or Yeshua, to use His Hebrew name) bought us with His own blood (1 Cor. 6:15-20). The betrothal agreement was a covenant, the same type of relationship that God has made with His people at least as far back as Noah. Once the bride consents to this arrangement the marriage covenant was sealed with a cup of wine, as Yeshua sealed His covenant with us at Passover (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

Then the bridegroom went away to prepare a home for His bride, which is what Yeshua told His disciples He’d be doing while He was gone (John 14:1-3). A Jewish bridegroom would be gone for about one to two years before returning to claim his bride. He didn’t just drop off the face of the earth, though. He left a gift with her and made an oath or pledge to come back.

A Gift For The Bride

When Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac, he “brought out jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah” (Gen. 24:53, WEB). Similarly, Yahweh talks about the lavish gifts of clothing and jewelry He gave Israel when He entered into covenant with them (Ezk. 16:8-14). Our bridegroom, Yeshua, did something similar for us on the day of Pentecost. Read more

Top 5 Reasons for Christians to Keep God’s Holy Days

Today we celebrate Yom Teruah, also called Feast of Trumpets and Rosh Hashanah. But why? After all, I’m Christian and most people think of this as a Jewish holiday. Same goes for Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, which we’ll observe 10 days from now, and Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles that starts in two weeks.

I believe these festival observances, along with others already completed this year, are for Christians today. When Jesus came to this world, it wasn’t to set up a new religion. He was the next step in God’s plan for the world and these days are part of the covenant He makes with His family. He’s still inviting us to gather for “reunions” at certain times of the year.Top 5 Reasons for Christians to Keep God's Holy Days |

1. They Belong To God

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “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.” (Lev. 23:1-2)

The holy days aren’t Jewish or exclusively Old Testament. They belong to God Himself. We talk about Leviticus 23 as the chapter where God gives Israel the Feasts, but that’s not quite accurate. God doesn’t say, “Here are your holy days, Israel.” He says, “These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times” (Lev. 23:4). Read more