Day of Pentecost
By: David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman

As we arrive at the biblical holiday of Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, there is a valuable lesson it can teach us concerning patience in this long, difficult war Israel now finds itself in. The intense battle against Hamas in Gaza is now more than eight months old. We count the days since the conflict erupted and over 250 Israelis were taken hostage. We yearn for the war to be over and for Israel to emerge victorious. We especially pray for the safe return of all the hostages, and are immensely grateful that four Israelis were rescued from Hamas captivity in recent days. But we can grow impatient at the slow pace of the war and the way God has not answered our prayers as speedily as we may have wanted.

Shavuot at Mount Sinai

Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai. It marks the moment when the twelve tribes of Israel became one nation and accepted the obligations of God’s commandments. They also entered under the chuppah (canopy) of marriage to vow that they would forsake all other gods and worship the Lord God alone.

Shavuot is linked to the other spring holidays of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits by the counting of the omer. The Lord instructed Israel to mark off fifty days (seven weeks plus one day) from Passover until Shavuot by counting a measure of omer, or grain, each day until the fifty days were completed.

For Christians, Shavuot is also known as Pentecost, which means fifty and marks that amazing day in the First Century when the Church was born in fire. The second chapter of Acts tells us: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Jesus had told his followers to tarry there in Jerusalem until this divine empowerment came upon them (Luke 24:49). And indeed, the Spirit of God fell upon the 120 disciples right on time! The counting of the omer was complete, and the moment came for the Holy Spirit to descend and indwell those who believed in Jesus.

Now we know that God stands outside of time and the limitations of this world. Yet this often causes us to think He has no real idea or sense of time as we know it. However, the story of Pentecost lets us know He has a perfect sense of timing. Shavuot is a moed, an appointed time on God’s calendar, one of the three great pilgrimage feasts when Israelite men had to present themselves before the Lord in Jerusalem. It was like an appointment with a doctor or dentist, a fixed meeting time on the calendar. And God was always faithful to show up if they did. So, the followers of Jesus had kept the appointment by waiting in Jerusalem and coming together in prayer and unity, and the Lord honored their faithfulness.

This tells us that God knows how to count the days. He is always on time to complete His purposes and plans. And we just need to be patient with Him as He goes about things His way.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law… (Galatians 4:4); a similar passage can be found in Ephesians 1:10.

When God revealed Himself to Moses on Sinai, He described His nature and character as being “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…” (Exodus 34:5-6)

Here, we learn that God is longsuffering. He does not just fly off the handle at our sins. Elsewhere, we are told He is “slow to anger.” (Joel 2:13; Nahum 1:2) We all need to thank God this is so, as each one of us would have been goners long ago if God were so quick to judge.

Often, the Bible speaks of God waiting for sin to ripen to His just judgment. The Lord told Abraham that the children of Israel would suffer in bondage in Egypt until the iniquity of the Amorites was complete (Genesis 15:16). Some scholars connect this to their eventual practice of child sacrifice to the god Molech. Daniel 8:23 speaks of a similar time “when the transgressors have reached their fullness…”

On the other hand, God often is waiting patiently for a people or nation to repent and become part of the family of the redeemed. Paul alludes to this in Romans 11, concerning both a fullness of redeemed Jews (verse 12) and a fullness of redeemed Gentiles (verse 25). Thank God that He waited long enough for you and me to get saved.

You might ask how long do we have to be patient with God. James said: “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord…” (James 5:7)

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