The “Feasts” Series #6
"FEAST OF WEEKS!"
(Also called the “Feast of Pentecost”)
TEXT: Lev. 23:15-22
INTRO: Romance, intrigue, the courtship ... remember this time in your life? You couldn't wait to see her, talking on the phone was almost a mystical experience, you thought about her all day! How the time flew when you were together and how it dragged through the day as you waited for the time you could be together again!
When you finally did get together you came prepared; flowers, your best coordinated outfit, you opened and closed doors for her, you were on your best behavior and you brought your best into the date ... "YOU BROUGHT YOUR BEST" … out of love for her!!!
ILLUS: You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 323.
Love is a powerful motivator ... it brings the best out of people and creates the atmosphere where one WANTS to give their best in every way!
HENCE ... the celebration of PENTECOST! It was a celebration of giving, bringing to God the very best of the grain for the whole harvest season ... a celebration where the people praised God for His giving to them by their giving back to Him their very best ... reflecting a real love relationship! God got the “firstfruits” … not leftovers, or what they could spare, God got the best and the first of the produce!
ILLUS: A certain businessman, who just recently got married, has to go away on an extended business trip and he chooses 3 friends for a very special responsibility.
So before he leaves, the businessman gathers his 3 friends to have a meeting and he says to them, "I'm going away on a long trip and I'm not sure how long I'll be gone. And I'm going to send each one of you $10,000 a month while I'm gone. Now you may keep $9,000 of the money and spend it as you please. But I want each of you to give $1,000 a month to my wife for the meeting of her needs."
As promised, while the man is away, he sends each of his friends $10,000 a month. After few months he is able to contact his new wife and he asks her if she has received the monthly support that he had arranged with his 3 friends.
And her reply was this: "Well, the first one sends $1,000 a month, just as you instructed him." "And for some reason the second one is sending me $2,000 a month. "But the 3rd man, he sent me $800 the first month, $300 the second month, and after that, I have received nothing ever since."
As understandable, the husband if upset. Here he is providing the money to these men to take care of his bride and all they had to do was give her 10% so that her needs would be met and they could keep the rest with no questions asked.
When the man finally arrives back in his home country, he finds his 3 friends to reward them for the deeds. To the one who was faithful in giving the 10% to his bride, he decided he would continue to give him $10,000 a month. To the one friend who was not faithful in giving the 10% to his wife, the man who stole from him, he gave him nothing anymore. But to the one friend who demonstrated that he cared about the man's bride like she was his own, to him the businessman gave him a double portion of $20,000 a month.
You see church; Jesus has gone away for a season of time. He has said to each of us, "I want you to take care of my bride, the church, while I'm away by giving her 10% of what you make. And then I want you to feel free to spend the other 90%, as you desire. – Source Unknown
PROP. SENT: Our relationship with God should be characterized by joyous giving; this was the meaning in the celebration of Pentecost. Giving also shows that what we have has come from the gracious hand of God and that He is the rightful owner of all that we have, so we give back out of love.
I. BEST GRAIN Lev. 23:15-16
A. Faithful! Lev. 23:15-16a
1. For 7 weeks (49 days ... including the first day it was actually 50 days, hence the term “Pentecost” – the term actually meant “fiftieth,” they brought in the abundance of God's provisions and the efforts of their work from the fields.
a. This 7 weeks was a very busy one of reaping what had been sown, and what God had blessed!
b. Each day in the fields they witnessed the results of God's faithfulness to them and the fruit of their hard work!
c. Though a time of heavy work ... it was a labor of joy!
2. After 7 weeks of reaping God's faithfulness ... a special celebration for one day (“Pentecost”) was planned to give opportunity for them to give back to God the finest (firstfruits”) grain as a witness of their faithfulness and thankfulness to God! This “Pentecost” celebration was also called: “the day of the firstfruits” (Num. 28:26)
a. All healthy relationships involve 2 way giving!
b. It would be spiritually and practically unhealthy for us to expect from God without giving in return! (Yet, how many Christians do this today?)
ILLUS: Paul and I were dairy farmers in the Northern New England town of Lancaster, NH in 1976. Our small farm was in the Connecticut River Valley. We were in financial difficulty because we had borrowed money to start our business. We had recently given our hearts to the Lord and were attending an Assemblies of God Church pastored by Norice and Bert Gallop. Dave and Marlene Tidwell worked at the Church and began coming to our farm to share God's Word with us. One evening Dave asked if were tithing. We didn't know what tithing was, so he explained from Malachi 3 about bringing the tithes into the storehouse and not robbing God. We felt the Lord speak to our hearts to tithe on what we needed just to keep our farm from going under. The grain store refused to sell us more grain until we paid $2,000. We decided we needed $4,000 to keep our farm and felt led to pay a tithe in advance on that amount. When we got our bimonthly milk check for $700, we took out $400 in cash and placed it in an envelope. The following Sunday we put the money into the offering at Lancaster Assembly of God. The next day, an elderly couple who lived up the street from us, came to our door. They said as they were praying that morning the Lord told them to give us some money. They hugged us and left. The check was for $2,000, enough to pay our grain bill. We went into the field and sat down in the middle of our herd, held hands and began to praise the Lord. From that moment our prayer life together began. This couple's obedience was the beginning of a series of miracles. The same herd of cattle, eating sub-standard hay, doubled their milk production within two months, so our milk checks more than doubled. When the Lord called us into ministry in 1978, we sold our equipment and cattle to pay the bills. Who would give money to a poor dairy farmer? Only those who were walking in the Spirit and listening to God. -- Paul & Lana Duda have been Assembly of God missionaries since 1990. They assisted Dave and Marlene Tidwell pioneering First Assembly of God in Bangor, Maine; then pioneered Elim Assembly of God in Bath, Maine. They served in the Northern New England District office for 5 years. -- Pentecostal Evangel - June 11, 2000 issue pg. 26 "The Day The Lord Visited The Farm"
3. God's desire was for a real relationship with man ... thus a 2 way street.
B. Finest! Lev. 23:16b
1. God never gives less than His best to us ... and as in all loving relationships, He expects our best in return!
2. It was NOT the leftovers God asked for ... but the FIRSTFRUITS! The finest of the grain! To people truly in love, this is NEVER an issue!
a. The first pickings of grain were the best ... they were superior seed!
b. This grain made the best bread, if pressed produced the finest oil.
3. When you're in love the object of that love is the FIRST in your heart, mind and spirit!
ILLUS: A young girl sat at the counter of an ice cream store. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" she asked. "Fifty cents," the waitress said with hardly a glance at the child. The girl opened her fist and looked at her coins. She asked, "How much is a dish of just plain ice cream?" Annoyed, the waitress snapped, "Thirty-five cents!" The girl counted out 35 cents and handed it to the waitress. "I'll take the plain ice cream."
The waitress took the money without a word and brought the ice cream. After the small customer had eaten and left, the waitress, cleaning up, suddenly flushed with shame. There, placed neatly beside the dish were two nickels and five pennies - her tip. – Source Unknown
4. Very few courtships go well when one party brings 10 day old flowers that are wilted and rotting ... or when one serves leftovers for a romantic candlelight dinner to save on expenses!
a. When you're in love you want to give the best, in fact it is a JOY TO GIVE THE BEST!
b. This is true with our relationship to God as well!
5. The giving of ones best produces a healthy kind of pride ... like when you've done your best for someone and you see their joy as they realize you’ve given your best!
II. BREAD & GIFTS Lev. 23:17-21
A. Flour! Lev. 23:17a
1. Here the image of Pentecost takes on a significant meaning about us!
a. The image of the bread here is reflecting the worshipper ... unlike the UN-leavened bread at Passover which symbolizes the sinless Christ; here the Pentecost bread was leavened, symbolizing us as flawed people.
b. Passover's bread was God's sacrifice ... Pentecost's bread was their sacrifice ... thus a symbol of their own self!
2. Notice that the finest grain required grinding to produce the full flavor and texture of the finest bread!
a. How true this is with us, often the pressures grind us down, but this is also part of God's design to bring the best out of us!
ILLUS: "I was eight years old when my father took me with him to Washington," said a man who was later prominent in national life. "It was during the darkest hours of the Civil War.
"We were walking on the street when a tall, thin man with very long legs, loose clothes and a frowning, wrinkled face, came striding toward us. His eyes were fixed on the pavement. His lips were moving. I remember thinking how cross he looked and what long strides he took, making his coattails flop about his legs.
"But I was more interested in watching a ragged little urchin between us, standing on the curb, his big eyes fixed on a pile of oranges in a vendor's cart. The vendor's back was turned while he made change for a customer.
"The tall man passed the boy at the same time we did. He stopped suddenly, plunged a hand into his pocket, bought a big orange, gave it to the boy, and went on.
"The boy was grinning and had already set his teeth in the orange, much to my envy, when my father asked him whether he knew who gave it to him. He shook his head, his teeth going deeper into the orange.
"'That was President Lincoln, lad,'my father said, 'Hurry and thank him.' "The boy ran, caught the flopping coat, and as the stern face turned sharply, he called, 'Thank you, Mr. President Lincoln!'
"Suddenly the face was transformed as I have never seen a face since then. A beautiful smile covered it, making it what has ever since seemed to me one of the handsomest faces I have ever seen. A voice which thrills me yet said: 'You're welcome, boy. You wanted to steal it while the man wasn't looking, didn't you? But you wouldn't because it wasn't honest. That's the right way. I wish some men I know were like you.'" – Source Unknown
b. Christians are like tea, their real flavor comes out in hot water!
3. It was time consuming, but well worth it!
B. Fire! Lev. 23:17b
1. The bread was nothing but a gooey paste without the fire! In the fire the individual grains were combined into a hot, steaming loaf of nourishment!
2. We often pass through the fire right after the grinding process ... but many times this is all part of the process of the finest loaf of bread in town!
3. Like the grinding, we resist the fire, but we need this to bring out our real flavor!
a. The 3 Hebrew children went into the fire ... and came out as living bread, brought life to the kingdom, recognition of the one true God!
b. Rather than destroy the dough, the oven transforms it into a palatable delight that nourishes those who partake of it!
ILLUS: Two wealthy Christians, a lawyer and a merchant, joined a party that was going around the world. Before they started, their minister earnestly asked them to observe and remember any unusual and interesting things that they might see in the missionary countries through which the party was to travel. The men promised-carelessly, perhaps-to do so.
One day in Korea, they saw in a field by the side of the road a boy pulling a crude plow, while an old man held the handles and directed it. The lawyer was amused, and took a snapshot of the scene.
"That's a curious picture! I suppose they are very poor," he said to the missionary who was interpreter and guide to the party.
"Yes," was the quiet reply. "That is the family of Chi Noui. When the church was being built they were eager to give something to it, but they had no money so they sold their only ox and gave the money to the church. This spring they are pulling the plow themselves."
The lawyer and the businessman by his side were silent for some moments. Then the businessman said, "That must have been a real sacrifice."
"They did not call it that," said the missionary. "They thought it was fortunate they had an ox to sell." – Source Unknown
C. Fermented! Lev. 23:17c-21
1. Here's where the image really comes alive as US!
a. Yeast was usually thought of as a pollution, therefore the many warnings in Scripture to "BEWARE THE YEAST OF THE PHARISEES" and "A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENETH THE WHOLE LUMP."
ILLUS: The empire of the Franks had an unusual commitment to Christ, sometimes whole armies were baptized as Christians because of their leader's conversion to Christianity. However, they were at war, and because of this so much was at stake that they didn't want to be too much of a Christian army. So, a solution was found, when baptizing the Franks ... as stated, sometimes a whole army at once, the warriors would go down into the water with only their right hands held high above the waters so that it was the only part of their body not baptized. This way, they could soothe their conscience in war by brutally killing the enemy because their hand had not been baptized! While we don't do this today with swords, some people hold high their pocketbooks so they don't get baptized so they don't have commit their finances to the Lord! -- Unknown
b. Unlike Passover where the bread was unleavened to signify both the speed in which they left Egypt and later as the sinless sacrifice of Christ the living bread of God, here the bread was leaventh ... BUT ACCEPTABLE!
2. The point: We are now imperfect ... but God will accept us as is, if offered as a willing sacrifice unto God! Here the bread was the sacrifice of the worshipper, not the symbol of God's sacrifice!
a. Rom. 12:1 "offer yourselves as living sacrifices unto God..."
b. The bread would remind them of their both bringing their best and their worst to God to be accepted when giving sacrificially!
3. *NOTE: They also were to bring firstling lambs without defect to go with their sacrifice -- HERE we find Christ, the Iamb of God without blemish ... these sacrifices together became a sweet smelling savor in the nostrils of God. Lev. 23:l8b
a. God would be pleased with BOTH sacrifices ... this released God's joy over His people!
b. God made a sacrifice and so did man ... thus demonstrating the 2 way flow of a genuine loving relationship!
ILLUS: The Los Angeles Times (12/15/96) reported that David Suna and John Tu sold 80 percent of their company, Kingston Technology Corp., the world's largest manufacturer of computer memory products, for $1.5 billion dollars.
The two men decided to share their windfall with their employees. The average bonus payment their workers received was just over $75,000. Sun summarized their decision: "To share our success with everybody is the most joy we can have." -- Scot Snyder, Los Angeles, California. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 3.
III. BALANCED GENEROSITY Lev. 23:22
A. Fairness! Lev. 23:22a
1. In their giving to God their finest they were not to ignore the needs of people either!
a. And so as they reaped their fields they were to leave the borders and the fallen grain for those less fortunate.
b. This joyous giving would thus become a ministry to others as well ... BUT notice the balance in this: Those who were poor were required to do the reaping from these fields, thus work was a part of the process of their receiving ... and their giving!
c. This "work" ethic gave dignity to the welfare system by allowing the recipient to feel the satisfaction of effort and reward ... and the joy of being able to also participate in giving something they earned.
2. Example: Remember Ruth the Moabitess ... when a widow she was very poor and so she reaped from Boaz's field ... her integrity and hard work won Boaz's heart!
a. Both rich and poor retained their dignity through this system ... so that neither looked down upon the other!
b. It allowed compassion in the picture and true thankfulness.
3. Everyone could receive ... and everyone could give.
ILLUS: Years ago it was the custom for the people to bring their gifts to the front of the church. A well-known preacher was making an appeal to the people to give for a good cause. Many came to present their offerings of love. Among them was a little crippled girl who hobbled along at the end of the line. Pulling a ring from her finger, she placed it on the table and made her way back up the aisle.
After the service an usher was sent to bring her to the preacher's study. The preacher said, "My dear, I saw what you did. It was beautiful. But the response of the people has been so generous that we have enough to take care of the need. We don't feel right about keeping your treasured ring, so we have decided to give it back to you."
To his surprise the little girl vigorously shook her head in refusal. "You don't understand," she said. "I didn't give my ring to you, I gave it to God!" Lovely. "Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7).
a. The tithe helped bring fairness into the system by having everyone give the same percentage ... not the same amount!
b. Thus the sacrifice was equal no matter rich or poor, and all could participate in receiving and giving.
B. Focus Lev. 23:22b
1. Notice the breadth of God's love ... everyone could be in the picture, the POOR and even the ALIEN among them!
2. The incentive for this is found in the last line: "I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD!"
3. This powerful statement of relationship gives the basis for all our giving; our Giving God is our incentive for our own giving!
ILLUS: Oseola McCarty, 87, did one thing all her life: laundry. Now she's famous for it -- or at least for what she did with her profits.
For decades, Miss McCarty earned 50 cents per load doing laundry for the well-to-do families of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, preferring a washboard over an electric washing machine. Every week, she put a little bit in a savings account. When she finally retired, she asked her banker how much money she had socked away.
"$250,000," was his reply. She was in shock. "I had more than I could use in the bank," she explained. "I can't carry anything away from here with me, so I thought it was best to give it to some child to get an education."
This shy, never-married laundry woman gave $150,000 to nearby University of Southern Mississippi to help African-American young people attend college. "It's more blessed to give than to receive," she tells reporters. "I've tried it." -- Christian Reader. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.
a. Thus Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks was a time of joyful giving and celebration of abundance... of increase, this was also certainly true of Pentecost in the book of Acts ... God gave His disciples the abundant power of the Holy Spirit and a great increase in the Church resulted!
b. The entire focus of Pentecost was relationship giving... a 2 way street, don't miss out on God's joy by making it a one way street!
CONCLUSION: Giving is a joyful experience, whether we give our resources or ourselves! God's very nature is that of a giver ... of life, of provisions, of Himself! He desires a loving relationship with us that allows us to also give; of our life, our provisions, of ourselves! Don't just "count your many blessings" ... contribute them also!