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What the Bible says about Calculating
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 23:11

The question is, which Sabbath do we need to isolate to arrive at the correct date for Pentecost? The Sabbath we choose to begin the count is significant, or else we could arbitrarily decide to count from any Sabbath. Confusion would be the result. Even though the Old Testament instruction seems ambiguous on this point, it is reasonable to conclude that, since the counting instructions given in Leviticus 23:11, 15 and Deuteronomy 16:9 are given in relation to the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, the Sabbaths of Unleavened Bread are significant. Because Unleavened Bread is seven days long, one and only one weekly Sabbath, with its varying date, will always fall within it. If we were to deny this link between Unleavened Bread and when the count to Pentecost begins, God's counting instructions become unusable. Everyone could do what is "right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25), and confusion and division would result.

Although the wavesheaf is normally offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread, the connecting link between the wavesheaf and Unleavened Bread is the Sabbath. The Sabbath day is the sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:12-17), not just in identifying who they are, but in this case, it also serves as the focal point in counting to Pentecost. Because we must first identify the Sabbath to begin the count, it is the Sabbath that must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread, not necessarily wavesheaf Sunday. In the odd years when Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, the only weekly Sabbath day within Unleavened Bread is also the holy day at its end. Nevertheless, this Sabbath, a double Sabbath, is of greater importance for beginning the count, not the wavesheaf offered the next day. The weekly Sabbath provides a consistent and correct pattern for beginning the count to Pentecost.

Another reason that we should count from the weekly Sabbath is the appearance of the definite Hebrew article ha that normally precedes "Sabbath." In the entire Old Testament, this designation, hashabbath, indicates the weekly Sabbath about 95% of the time. In Leviticus 23, a form of "Sabbath" appears in Hebrew twelve times and "Sabbaths" twice. The article ha appears before "Sabbath" three times, and each time it refers to the weekly Sabbath. Two of these occurrences concern the Sabbath in question (verses 11, 15). Once it appears before "Sabbaths" (verse 15), also referring to weekly Sabbaths.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001

Leviticus 23:15-16

This late spring holy day must be counted. God instructs us to count 50 days from the day that the wavesheaf was offered. This explains why this day is commonly called Pentecost, which means "count fifty." The Sabbath (verse 15), the day after which we start to count, is not an annual holy day, but the weekly Sabbath that falls during Unleavened Bread. We know this because Pentecost must be counted every year. If this Sabbath were an annual Sabbath, Pentecost would always fall on a fixed date. It always falls on the same day of the week—the first day, Sunday—because one begins to count on a Sunday.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost

Leviticus 23:15-16

Pentecost is unique among the holy days because it is the only annual feast determined by counting. All the other festivals God commands us to keep on certain dates on the Hebrew calendar, but we must count for Pentecost. Whether we count fifty days or seven weeks or seven Sabbaths from the day of the wavesheaf offering, we must still go through the exercise of measuring the time to keep the feast properly. Why?

God does nothing without a purpose, and His purposes always include giving His people additional instruction for their ultimately eternal benefit. Counting to Pentecost is no exception. Even a cursory examination will expose several fascinating avenues of study.

First, God commands us to count. Counting is a means of calculating sequential items, events, and measurements. The Bible equates counting to numbering and measuring, and it becomes a metaphor for judging and evaluating. When we understand what the period from the wavesheaf offering to Pentecost represents, the extended meanings come into play.

Passover symbolizes our redemption from this world and the forgiveness of our sins. Unleavened Bread typifies our lifelong task of coming out of sin and putting on the new man in sincerity and truth. We begin to count on wavesheaf day, which occurs during this period, and the fifty days extend to Pentecost, a festival that prefigures the harvest of God's firstfruits. The fifty days, then, represent the period of a Christian's conversion, the time between his calling and his resurrection to eternal life.

Thus, God wants us to count, number, or measure the time of our conversion. This should bring several well-known verses to mind. For instance, Paul considers us wise if we are "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). He cautions the Romans, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). In both instances, he is advising Christians to measure and make use of our time carefully.

A few Old Testament verses may be even more on point. David writes in Psalm 39:4, "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am." If we understand just how short our time is, we also realize how weak and insignificant we are next to God and eternity. It forces us to rely upon Him and strive to improve. This is the kind of attitude that God desires in us and will enhance our growth in character.

Moses, too, makes use of this imagery in Psalm 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Properly evaluating our lifetimes builds wisdom in us, and wisdom—the godly use of knowledge and understanding—will make our behavior pleasing to God. Wisdom will help us to prioritize our time properly so we can devote ourselves to what is truly important.

Second, God has us count fifty days. What is significant about the number fifty? Fifty is the round number of years human beings live in a normal adult life (compare Numbers 1:3; Psalm 90:10). Fifty years, then, represents the period during which we live, grow, overcome, bear fruit, and prove our devotion to God through trials, tests, blessings, curses, and life's other varied experiences. Fifty years corresponds to the span of our conversion.

Biblically, the number fifty has its closest association with two things: the Tabernacle/Temple (in some of its measurements) and the Jubilee. The apostles describe God's church as a temple, and Christians are individual "living stones" within it (I Corinthians 3:9, 16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:5). The fifty days thus symbolize the time it takes to complete the work of building a habitation for God.

Every fiftieth year in ancient Israel, the Jubilee was decreed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:8-9), which, among other things, represents unity, being at one, with God. The Jubilee was a year of liberty, when all debts were cancelled and inheritances reverted to their original families (verse 10), foreshadowing "the restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). It was also a year of rest (Leviticus 25:11), when no crops were sown or reaped, a foretaste of God's rest (Hebrews 4:4-10). Under this type, the fiftieth day of the count, Pentecost, represents the harvest of Christians into God's Kingdom by the resurrection.

Overall, then, we count to Pentecost for two major reasons:

1. God commands it, and
2. It teaches us to realize and use carefully the ever-shrinking time we have to come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

In His wisdom, God has us annually take stock of our procession through time so that we will devote ourselves to making the most of it. In doing so, we can gauge our progress toward God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering

John 15:4-5

Jesus Christ is our Mediator (I Timothy 2:5), the connection, the bridge, between God and us. Spiritual enablement flows from God through Him to us. God's power and God's faithfulness are the issues that are of supreme importance to us in these critical times. Are we constantly cognizant of the fact that our salvation lies in His hands? He has the power to save.

Notice how David expressed this in a psalm written during a time of serious trouble for him: "For look, they lie in wait for my life; the mighty gather against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD" (Psalm 59:3). David feared the threat of murder in a situation in which he was innocent. Verses 9-10 carry his thoughts further: "I will wait for You, O You his Strength; for God is my defense. My God of mercy shall come to meet me; God shall let me see my desire on my enemies." Here, David's confidence rises because he believes in God's awareness and strength - which is strong enough to put down nations, let alone a small band of enemies. He also recalls God's mercy toward those who serve Him.

Verses 16-17 show that his thoughts extend one step further: "But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, the God of my mercy." These final two verses summarize why he trusts God, and conclude in a strong affirmation of David's faith. He trusts God because of the combination of God's strengths, His power, combined with His mercy and His will to use them in behalf of those who trust Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)

Hebrews 11:19

What did Abraham do? The word "accounting" (KJV) or "concluding" (NKJV) tells us a great deal. In Greek, it is an accounting term. An accountant adds up figures. He puts them all in a ledger. He writes down all of the receipts in one column and all the expenditures in another. He adds each column to get their totals. Then, he has an accounting of his or his company's financial health. The numbers are evidence of his own or the company's state.

Abraham did this too, only instead of adding numbers, he added up evidence. His evidence came from the words that God told him: "You shall have a son." It took 25 years, but he did indeed have a son.

A number of years later, God said to him, "Abraham, I want you to go out and sacrifice your son." Abraham could have said, "Uh oh, there's evidence that I didn't count on." But, instead, Abraham left for Mount Moriah early the next morning. What evidence did he have to motivate him to do in faith what God commanded him to do? The Word of God. God had earlier told Abraham that the promise would come through his son, Isaac—not through Ishmael, not through any future son that he might have, but through Isaac, the promised son.

What did Abraham do with this evidence? He knew that there could be only two possible outcomes. If God required Abraham to put Isaac to death, then He would resurrect him, or if God was not going to require Abraham to kill Isaac, then God would give him a substitute sacrifice. Either way, Isaac would live. Abraham added up the evidence, and it produced the motivation to do what he had to do in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Three)


 




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