The LORD's Feasts and Holy Days

Countdown to Pentecost- 2017

pentecost countPrelude Music

Opening prayer

Opening hymns

Hymn 1: p. 2.11 – Brethren We Have Met to Worship

Hymn 2: p. 17 – Thou Art Our God Forever

Introduction:                                          

In both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the LORD God declared the following specific instructions leading to the observance of the Feast of Pentecost:

“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.”Leviticus 23:15-16 (NIV)

“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.”Deuteronomy 16:9-10 (NKJV)

From these directives, it is clear that God designed Pentecost (also called “feast of Firstfruits”) to be anticipated and desired. God sets the pattern for us (which is based on the harvest seasons in the Middle East), amplifies it with His words and many historical precedent, and even encourages everyone to continue on today.

They are twice specifically connected in the Bible by way of a countdown, in the book of Leviticus and again in Deuteronomy.  This is called the “counting of the Omer”. This counting of the “days” and “weeks” provided a chain of events that directly links Passover and Pentecost together in a 50-day count.

This also makes Pentecost very much connected spiritually to the Exodus story. What started as deliverance during Passover (DUB), ended in the receiving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. According to Jewish sages, the counting began at the Exodus and ended when God gave Moses the Commandments. It is believed that Moses provided them this insight:

“The whole purpose of their being freed from Egyptian bondage was in order that they should receive the Torah (Law) at Mt. Sinai, and they eagerly and impatiently looked forward to it, counting each day that brought them nearer to that great moment. On the basis of this, God had later made it a requirement for Jews to count these days of the Omer, which connects Passover, the Festival of Liberation from physical slavery with Pentecost, the Festival of Mattan Torah (True Spiritual Freedom).” –Yetziyas Mitzrayim [The Exodus from Egypt]

Thus, the liberation of the children of Israel at Passover was not yet complete and still to be realized at Pentecost. God’s demand for Egypt was not simply to “let my people go” but “let my people go that they may serve me. (Exodus 8:1,20; earlier in Exodus 5:1 God said, Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me) To finally serve and worship the true God is the culmination of the deliverance. This is why the countdown and anticipation should begin immediately.

We are all familiar about countdowns. We make a countdown when we release or launch something. Countdowns get us from where we are to where we actually want to be. This idea very much applies to the coming Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost)! In today’s Songs and Scriptures, let us understand why this countdown and anticipation is important to us and the lessons God wanted to convey to us.

Our first batch of bible readers will be reading some introductory remarks concerning the importance of our counting for Pentecost.

Bible Reader 1 – Why Count?

Leviticus 23:9-16

Bible Reader 2 – Why Count?

Exodus 23:14-16

Deuteronomy 16:9-10

Thank you bible readers. Brethren, let’s all stand and sing the following hymn…

Hymn 3. p.49 – The Sacred Bond

B. Countdown to Firstfruits (Omer) Harvest. It is not merely coincidence that God patterned His plan of redemption for mankind according to the harvest seasons in the Middle East. While this feast is known by several names depending on its application and timing, as the feast of Harvest, it represents the firstfruits gathered as the result of the labor of those who completed the spring grain harvests in ancient Israel. The dictionary defines 'firstfruits' as: "The first gathered fruits of a harvest, offered to God in gratitude." In the symbolism of the Omer Wave Offering, the barley must be offered before any other harvesting can take place. One can only imagine the expectations the farmers had while waiting for the harvest to be offered before they can truly taste the fruits of their labors.

The Firstfruits harvest plays an important role in the celebration of God’s festivals. On the day after the first high-day Sabbath of the feast Unleavened Bread, to have a meaningful and festive celebration for the entire week, the priest must wave the “sheaf of the firstfruits” before God (Leviticus 23:9-11). On the day of Pentecost (which is also known as the ‘feast of Firstfruits’), fifty days later, two loaves made of fine flour (or wheat) were waved before God as an offerings (Leviticus 23:20). This harvest represented the best and finest of crops, specially selected for God Himself. This is to represent His people, the first ‘called out’ people to  Himself.

Our next set of Bible readers will be providing us some of these instructions and applications:

Bible Reader 3 – Countdown to Firstfruits Harvest

Exodus 23:17-19

Exodus 34:18-26

Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Bible Reader 4 – Countdown to Firstfruits Harvest

Leviticus 2:1-16

Leviticus 23:17-22

Numbers 28:26-31

Thank you reader. Please all rise as we sing

Hymn 4 p.105 Father, Send More Laborers

Hymn 5p.97 Onward Christian Soldiers!

C. Countdown to Receiving God’s Law/Commandments. To the Jewish people the most popular name for this festival is the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, in Hebrew. When celebrating this feast, they recall and connect to one of the greatest events in their history: God’s revealing of the commandments and the covenant they had made at Mount Sinai. The Biblical narratives are also quite clear: the children of Israel left Egypt on the 15th of the first month, the morning after the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. They arrived at the foot of Mt. Sinai on the third month of Sivan (Exodus 19:1), which would have been around 40 days. Moses then went up on Mt. Sinai and stayed there several days and then brought back down the two tablets written on stone by the finger of God. This total time-line closely approximated the fifty (50) days after Passover that the Feast of Shavuot was first celebrated with “thunderings and lightings”.

Moreover, Pentecost doesn’t just picture the giving of the law; it also shows—through a great miracle that occurred on the first Pentecost in the early Church—how we can truly follow God by living the spiritual intent of God’s commandments.

Our next Bible reader will read to us this encounter with God and the giving of His commandments for our holy and righteous living…         

Bible Reader 5 – Countdown to Receiving God’s Law/Commandments

Exodus 19:1-20

Exodus 20:1-17

Thank you reader. Please all rise as we sing responsively…

Hymn 6p.180 Now Let Us Go

Hymn 7p.106 We Are The Hands of God

D. Countdown to Receiving God’s Holy Spirit. At this time of year some 2,000 years ago, a very miraculous and momentous event occurred: the New Testament Church was founded on the Feast of Pentecost. What made this occurrence so astounding—and Acts 2 recorded that the circumstances of that day were truly dramatic—is the giving of God’s Spirit to the followers of Jesus Christ as He had promised. The early believers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ counted on His promise and received one of the defining miracles of all—the empowerment and transformation of their lives!

Jesus clearly said that His followers would “receive power” when the Holy Spirit come upon them, and directly connected with that power would be the transformed lives, as powerful witnesses of Him, starting in Jerusalem, then spreading throughout Judea and Samaria and ultimately to the end of the earth.

As we countdown to Pentecost, it serves as a reminder to all that our Creator still works miracles today, granting His Spirit to those called to be the “Firstfruits” of His spiritual harvest, empowering them to be overcomers and they carry out His work in this world.

Our next bible reader will read these empowering verses...

Bible Reader 6 Countdown to Receiving God’s Holy Spirit

John 14:16-17;

John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-14;

Acts 1:4-7; Acts 2:1-21

Thank you Bible Reader. Brethren, please all stand as we responsively offer our next hymns:

Hymn 8: p.107 Go Ye Therefore Into All the World

Hymn 9:p. 2.39 –Come and See The Shining Hope

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Watch And Pray:Thank you, brethren. Let us pause now as we hear the news that we need to watch and pray for.

Thank you for the special music offering and for our watchman.

E. Countdown to Our Spiritual Growth. Beginning at Jerusalem, God’s people were imbued with great power. But more important than the sights and sounds of Pentecost are the events that could not be seen or immediately apparent: the power of the transformed lives in action. But how can a once timid, fearful, and hesitant men manage to engage a very large crowd of people, and thousands got baptized on that same day?  It’s only this, that same power that ignited the sun, moon and the stars—the power that formed every creature and set the universe in motion—is that same power that can now literally live in you! (John 14:17). But this power must be asked for and harnessed. You must be willing to grow in grace and in the knowledge.   This same power that can manifest great miracles, can also make life changes and the much needed spiritual growth that will sustain you for the long haul. Just like apostle Paul—the same man who violently persecuted the early church — stood up to be the beacon of faith and righteousness. His many travels and letters moved many believers in contending and in holding on to the faith once delivered to them. As Jesus said it would, that Spirit of Power transformed the disciples from the inside out. These people to whom the Spirit dwells would never be the same again!

Would you like to have this same power transforming you? Would you like profound changes in your life today? Our next bible readers will provide us more on these empowering verses...

Bible Reader 7– Countdown to Spiritual Growth

Acts 2:37-47

Ephesians 2:19-22

Ephesians 4:11-16

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

Bible Reader 8 – Countdown to Spiritual Growth

1 Peter 2:1-3

2 Peter 1:5-10

2 Peter 3:17-18

Galatians 5:22-26

Galatians 6:6-10

2 Timothy 1:6-7

Thank you Bible Reader. Brethren, please all stand as we responsively offer our next hymns:

Hymn 10: p.2.12 –Count Your Blessings

Conclusion-

F. Countdown to Being the “Firstfruits” Bride in God’s Kingdom. The counting of the Omer begins and ends with special offerings that carry the designation ‘firstfruits.’ However, we often need certain forms or rituals to help us not only grasp, but to hold on to the truths that we have learned. It would be easy to enjoy the understanding of our daily countdown, and then totally forget it when the actual day really comes. As a modern bride awaits her wedding day, she counts the days. Each day is filled with some activity that points her towards the big day which is her primary focus.

The same should be true for every believer today (as firstfruits and future ‘bride of Christ’), for the final goal of the spring festival is the Wedding on Shavu'ot (Pentecost). As each day passes, we should focus towards that goal, preparing ourselves during the forty-nine day journey that culminates in our acceptance of the New Covenant (with laws/instructions), and the receiving of our engagement present which is the Holy Spirit. Our countdown is both an annual review of past events, and a rehearsal to the big day which is yet to come in God’s kingdom.

More on these verses from our final Reader…

Reader 9 – Countdown to Being the “Firstfruits” in God’s Kingdom

Romans 8:18-25

James 1:16-18

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Revelation 14:1-5, 14

Revelation 19:7-9

Thank you readers. That concludes our Song Service.

Hymn 11: p.134 –Israel, The Beautiful

Hymn 12: p. 2.13 – Faith is The Victory

Closing prayer.

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