Life in the Millennium

Shavuot, Feast of Weeks, & Pentecost

(This week, I want to give you a condensed historical/Biblical background of Pentecost which will serve as a set up for my next few posts throughout the coming week.  In those upcoming posts, I hope to connect a few dots that had previously been unconnected and paint a more complete picture regarding one of the most significant events in the life of the Christian Church.)

 

Leviticus 23:15-22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Numbers 28:26-31; Exodus 23:16

Shavuot.  The Feast of Weeks.  Pentecost.

First, the name of Shavuot means “weeks,” coming from the seven weeks that were to be counted after Passover.  Greek-speaking Jews would have called the feast Pentecoste, meaning “50 days,” which is where we get the English word “Pentecost.”  This was all based on God’s command that a special offering of fresh grain was to be made on the 50th day after Passover Sabbath.

On the feast day, special ceremonies (offering of the grain, sacrificing of the animals for forgiveness of sin and for peace, gifts to the priest, etc.) took place after the normal morning temple service and rituals which would have begun at sunrise and ended around mid-morning.

Shavuot was unique, because it was one of only three times per year that all God’s people were to pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, God’s “house.”  As God had met the Israelites on the “mountain of God” (Ex. 24:13), on Shavuot he met them on the Temple Mount, “the mountain of the Lord” (Isa. 2:3, 66:20). Temple attendance was required at Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Booths/Tabernacles) and during these feast days, those from around the world who were obedient to Yahweh went Jerusalem. 

This means that a great crowd of sojourners would gather in the Temple courts during the morning service at the Temple. While the offerings and sacrifices were being made, portions of the Old Testament were read aloud. According to Jewish tradition, it was Exodus 19-20 (The giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai) and Ezekiel 1-2 (Ezekiel’s vision of God appearing in fire and wind).

Why read these passages?  Well the Exodus passage seems clearer than the Ezekiel passage.  Some time before the birth of Jesus, the rabbis determined that Shavuot was the time when the Torah had been given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Now, the Bible does not specify the time, but there is some biblical basis indicating the rabbis were probably right. 

Shavuot is celebrated 50 days after Passover in the third month of Sivan. The exiles from Egypt reached Mount Sinai “in the third month” (Ex. 19:1). Since the feasts of Passover and Booths/Tabernacles were linked to the Exodus, it would stand to reason that the third festival that required pilgrimage would as well.  At the very least, the giving of the Law occurred in the third month which is when Shavuot was celebrated.  What makes me think the rabbis were onto something is a clear teaching in the Torah (and reiterated by Messiah Jesus).  God taught that “man does not live on bread alone” (Deut. 8:3).  It would make sense to me, during a grain harvest, to simultaneously celebrate the God who not only gave us bread but also His very Word.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the festival, try and think back to that first Shavuot celebrated by the disciples of Jesus after his death and resurrection.  Remember, Jesus had returned to heaven 40 days after his resurrection, a short 10 days before this feast.  Interestingly, he made a point to tell his disciples to obey the Torah by not leaving Jerusalem and in their obedience, he would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit that he promised.  The belief in the Spirit of God was not new for the disciples, or any Jew of that day.  The Old Testament spoke of the Ruach HaKodesh (literally the “Holy Wind”), which empowered God’s people (Isa. 63:10-12; Ps. 51:7-11).  As we know from the accounts of the New Testament, the disciples remained faithful as Jews, meeting continually in the courts of the Temple (Acts 2:46, 5:42).  Hearing Jesus affirm their need to stay for the Shavuot celebrations must have fostered great expectations for the upcoming festival.  Keep in mind, Jesus had made this a highly irregular feast season.  He had died on Passover, had been buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and had been raised on the Feast of Firstfruits (all of which have incredible implications if you take the time to study it).  It is no accident that those feast days were the times God selected for His great redemptive acts.  And on Shavuot, He revealed His presence in a whole new way.

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Protestant Patriots

I know I’m late to the game, because as I pulled in with my mitt and bat ready, the lights were off and no one was in the field.  But that’s not going to stop be from taking a few cuts at the plate and even hitting a few balls just to see how far they can go.

I posted last week about the Future of Protestantism discussion that happened at Biola.  After the conversation, all the pastors and bloggers that are much smarter than me and much better writers than I’ll ever be all gave their two cents.  They sent their hits sailing into the outfield and some even over the fence.  And so here I am, practicing in the dark, taking my swings by shouting by opinions into the vast expanse of the internet.

First of all, three cheers for all the gentlemen who participated in this conversation.  It was incredibly edifying and put shoes on a lot of the barefoot ideas and questions I had running around in my own head.

Second of all, my overwhelming sentiment from this whole discussion was, “I agree.”  While there were some minor disagreements, overall, I was in agreement with all three gentlemen and feel that they presented their sides well, though it came to light that they agreed more than they disagreed.

My last and most in-depth point is this: Those Protestants who truly desire to see the Reformation Spirit of God sweep again must truly be Protestant Patriots.  There is a quote attributed to Augustine, but even if he didn’t say it, the sentiment is true.  It states, “The Church is a whore. But she is also my Mother.”  Despite all her ills and her faults and her mistakes and errors, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.  I think the predominant feeling among young(er-ish) evangelicals is frustration with the Church.  They ask questions about all the divisions in the Protestant churches and namely the evangelical churches.  And for good reason!  Think about it.  How many conservative, Protestant, evangelical denominations are in the U.S.?  How many are Baptists?  How many are Presbyterian?  How many are “non-denominational”?  It seems to me that feeling is growing and causing quite a bit of unrest among young Protestants.  This is what Peter Leithart addressed in his opening comments.  The Bible talks about unity and we look around and we don’t see it.  We don’t see it among Protestants.  We don’t see it between Protestants and Roman Catholics.  We don’t see it between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.  So there are some legitimate feelings of angst and uneasiness among younger Protestants.

The problem is the two major solutions that these disheveled Protestants have concocted.

The first is what I have affectionally termed “evangelly-goo.”  It says something to the effect of, “All these doctrines and creeds and catechisms divide us.  Guys, all we need is Jesus.  Why can’t we just all come together and worship Him in love and unity and oneness?”  You’re right.   I am overstating it a bit.  This is unrealistic.  They probably don’t know how to pronounce “catechism.”  The assumption behind Mr. or Miss Evangelly-goo is that we aren’t already worshipping Jesus, but that we are worshipping something else.  This may be true for some, but I wouldn’t argue that this is true for the overwhelming majority.  And, ultimately, the real problem here they end up begging the question.  “How should we worship in oneness and unity?”  “Oh.  We’ll our faux-hawked, metrosexual band leader is going to lead the 12-piece-praise-band (4 of which play acoustic guitar) in a never ending chorus of ‘How Great Is Our God.’  We might do some Hillsong if we have time, but ‘How Great’ usually takes about 30 minutes. Sooo…”  You see?  In their mind, the only way we can have unity is if we all give up our theological differences and comprehensive ecclesiological/worship preferences for theirs.  This isn’t unity.  It’s conformity.  The Apostle Paul had to deal with something similar in Corinth.  And he, like the restless Protestants, called out people for their divisions.

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,”

To this we all should give a hearty, “Amen.”  And the loudest usually comes from the Evangelly-goos.  But the problem is that I left off the last part of the verse.  In true Pauline fashion, Paul saves his harshest condemnation for last.  Here it is again.

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

The problem in Corinth is similar to the Evangelly-goo problem Protestants are tempted into today.  The “Jesus Trump Card” didn’t work back then, and it won’t work now, because the reality is the Evangelly-goos are willing to require everyone repent and ignore their distinctives…except for them.

The second solution is abandonment.  We Protestants are seeing a number of the young and the restless swing over to the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox denomination believing all their unity problems have been solved.  But this is another point that stuck out in Dr. Leithart’s comments.  If the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxs are branches of the True Church, albeit very unhealthy and diseased branches, then our unity problems don’t stop with jumping off the Protestant ship and reneging on all of our Protestant confessions, which is the point Carl Trueman was making.

The fundamental problem with both of these solutions is that none of these Protestants are true patriots.  They confess that they are Protestants, but out of the same mouth comes cursing and all kinds of evil about Protestantism.  They…WE…have forgotten the Mother from whence we have come.  To use an analogy from Douglas Wilson:

“Say that mom has a drinking problem, and it is time for an intervention. Whom do you want leading and coordinating it? The son who calls every week and sends flowers and a card every mother’s day, or the son who has been a cynical smartmouth from high school on? The son who has observed the pieties is qualified to say something about the maternal sin, and is the most likely to do it right. The other son might actually be the source of the problem and ought not to be put in charge of fixing it.”

My proposed solution is an army of Protestant Patriots.  We need faithful Protestant sons and daughters who love their Mother, recognize they would be nothing without her, and wouldn’t abandon her if it meant death to take the eternal truths of the Reformation and apply them to the current ills of the Church (yes, the entire Church) and carry that mantle into the coming centuries and millennia using them as a rallying cry and a banner to unite all Christians.

This is (the future of) Christianity.

The Laughter is Too Loud

Holly White – In Memoriam

Rest In Peace

“The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live… Joy ought to be expansive… Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something small. The vault above us is not deaf because the universe is an idiot; the silence is not the heartless silence of an endless and aimless world. Rather the silence around us is a small and pitiful stillness like the prompt stillness in a sick-room… So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy