International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 14, 2016
Purpose: To recognize our interdependence on others and our responsibility to them
Bible Lesson: Leviticus 23:15-22
Background Scripture: Numbers 28:26-31; Acts 2:1-36
Key Verse: You will count off fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you must present a new grain offering to the Lord. (Leviticus 23:16)
Leviticus 23:15-22 (CEB)
(15) You must count off seven weeks starting with the day after the Sabbath, the day you bring the bundle for the uplifted offering; these must be complete. (16) You will count off fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you must present a new grain offering to the Lord. (17) From wherever you live, you will bring two loaves of bread as an uplifted offering. These must be made of two-tenths of an ephah of choice flour, baked with leaven, as early produce to the Lord. (18) Along with the bread you must present seven flawless one-year-old lambs, one bull from the herd, and two rams. These will be an entirely burned offering to the Lord, along with their grain offerings and drink offerings, as a food gift of soothing smell to the Lord. (19) You must also offer one male goat as a purification offering and two one-year old lambs as a communal sacrifice of well-being. (20) The priest will lift up the two sheep, along with the bread of the early produce, as an uplifted offering before the Lord. These will be holy to the Lord and will belong to the priest. (21) On that very same day you must make a proclamation; it will be a holy occasion for you. You must not do any job-related work. This is a permanent rule wherever you live throughout your future generations. (22) When you harvest your land’s produce, you must not harvest all the way to the edge of your field; and don’t gather every remaining bit of your harvest. Leave these items for the poor and the immigrant; I am the Lord your God.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This is the second holy day or holiday in our series. Our lesson calls it the Feast of Weeks, it is also known as Pentecost, Festival of Firstfruits and Harvest Festival. It is called Shavuot by the Jews.
Much of the information about Shavuot that I am sharing comes from a book called “The Jewish Book of Why.” by Alfred J. Kolatch.
The Festival of Weeks or Shavuot was known as a pilgrimage festival during the time of the Temple and was celebrated in Jerusalem. Other holy days or feast days that were pilgrimage festivals were Passover and Sukkot or Feast of Booths.
In biblical times they would gather in the largest of the rural towns and make the pilgrimage together as they traveled to Jerusalem. The Festival of Weeks was always 7 weeks after the second day of Passover. Which in Greek would be 50 days or Pentecost.
This festival celebrates the wheat harvest in Palestine, while the Passover celebrates the barley harvest. At the Passover, unleavened bread is offered, at the Feast of Weeks only leavened bread is offered. Since leaven cannot be offered in the temple at the altar, this offering is offered outside the temple as a wave offering, that is, it is waved toward God and then given to the priest to enjoy.
When Shavuot is celebrated today in Jewish congregations it is often a time of confirmation for the younger people of the congregation. In addition, it is also used as part of a stewardship drive.
Although scripture does not associate Shavuot with the giving of the law on Mt Sinai, calculating the journey as recorded in scripture it has become associated with the proclamation because it took place about 50 days after the Jews left Egypt. In most Christian churches Pentecost is associated with the giving of the law, or the Proclamation of the Ten Commandments. The Passover represents salvation for the Jews, while Pentecost represents a second fruit for Christians in the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Jewish congregation often read the Book of Ruth during the celebration, and tradition has Ruth and Boaz’s heir David born and dying on this day.
God always wants us to remember and give thanks for all that has been done. He also wants us to celebrate in community because He knows that makes us stronger. In celebrating we are also to remember those that have less or nothing, and He encourages us to share. Trusting God and leaning on each other is an important part of our Christian faith. Traveling together and celebrating together helps us live a more peaceful life.
My father’s favorite hymn comes to mind, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”