Most Christians don’t realize that they keep a Jewish High Holy Day! The day known as Pentecost was originally one of the Holy Days given to the Israelites while in the wilderness. It was known as the Feast of Weeks because it occurred about seven weeks after the people of Israel offered to God the first fruits of the spring barley harvest (Deuteronomy 16:9-10).
The word “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek words “pente” and “koste”, which literally mean to “count fifty” as in counting fifty days from that offering of first fruits to the day known as Pentecost (see Leviticus 23:16 where the instructions are to “count fifty days”). Pentecost marked the end of the spring harvest, so the day was essentially a harvest festival.
So why do many Christians honor Pentecost if it’s at its core an Old Testament harvest festival?
God seems to use the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 as divine appointments for his plan. He used the ancient festival of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread as the appointed time for the death and resurrection of his Son. Some people (I being one) believe he used the Festival of Tabernacles as the divinely appointed time for the birth of that Son. And Pentecost was the day that God chose to send the Holy Spirit to his people.
This is a day that many Christians recognize for the obviously important theology of the day and its importance in the history of the church. But what is often missed is the important instruction for this day and actually for all the other days that God designates as holy.
Notice the language here. “Celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord …rejoice before the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 16:10-11 NIV) Over and over again, when speaking of the feast days, the people were told to celebrate. It was a time to rejoice!
Too often the thought of appearing before God to worship is infused with perceptions of solemnity and even drudgery. There is a place for solemnity in worship, but it’s more common to see worship depicted in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament, as praising, rejoicing, and even a celebration.
“Feast”, after all, implies good food, great fellowship, and joyous memories. “Festival” surely implies celebration. In Spanish the word is “fiesta”, as in “let’s party!”
These divine appointments give us a lot to party about. With Pentecost God finally sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in us. The power and mind of God is freely given to God’s children who ask. So when God calls for a fiesta, let’s all party!