Author Joan Lipis says church leaders can enrich this weekend's celebration of Pentecost Sunday through deeper understanding of biblical feasts and celebrations.
Lipis, a Messianic believer based in Jerusalem, wrote Celebrate Jesus: A Christian Perspective of the Biblical Feasts after realizing that many churches had a very limited understanding of the biblical feasts, and their significance to and relevance in the lives of all believers. Lipis told Christianity Today during a recent interview, "God has an order. God has a calendar. It is not up to me or anyone else to tell you what to do or how to do it. But I am saying God has given us the when, the why, and the who. Since the feasts are all about Jesus, should we not begin to do things God's way and according to God's calendar?"
Her book explores new Christian perspectives on the weekly Sabbath; the monthly Rosh Chodesh (new moon); Passover; the feasts of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Weeks (Pentecost/Shavuot), Trumpets, and Tabernacles; and the Day of Atonement, Hanukkah, and Purim. Most of the feasts commemorate events in the history of Israel, but Lipis believes that Jesus is at the heart of all the biblical holidays and celebrations. Christianity Today interviewed her recently about the celebration of Pentecost, which this year actually began at sundown on Thursday, May 28.
What was the significance to early Christians of Pentecost overlapping with the Feast of Weeks?
Pentecost and Weeks is the same holiday. Pentecost is the Greek word. Shavuot, meaning "weeks," is the Hebrew term. The holidays do not overlap. They are one and the same. Peter's sermon as recorded in Acts 2:14-40 manifested his understanding of the significance of God's promised gift of the Holy Spirit given on this, the second pilgrim festival.
What did the Feast of Weeks mean to Jews at the time of Jesus?
Each of the three pilgrim festivals were highlights in the lives of the Jewish people. Men came from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5) to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the temple. We hear David's as well as Paul's desire to be in Jerusalem for the feasts (Psalm 42; Acts 18:21). David longs to be part of the multitude that climbed the road to Jerusalem singing songs of praise. Having traveled that road, I can well imagine how the voices of every tribe and language must have reverberated off the hills and valleys. How the sights and sounds of the pilgrims must have blessed the heart of God.
What is missing from the way Christian churches celebrate Pentecost?
There is a lack of understanding of the significance of the pilgrim festivals and their place in the life of the kingdom. God established the feasts as times to come before his face as a corporate body. They were times to set aside all "customary work" and make a pilgrimage — with all that entailed — to seek and worship him.
By bringing the first fruits of our harvest, we recognize and proclaim God's pre-eminence in our lives and our complete dependence on his provision and his protection. In today's church, a weekly or monthly financial giving has become traditional if not routine. Subsequently, we miss the additional spiritual and prophetic blessing of giving on God's ordained calendar, according to the times and seasons of harvest.
The concept of corporate celebration, for the single purpose of celebration, is sadly missing in many of our churches today. The pilgrim festivals provide special times of celebration, which complement the familiarity of our weekly services. In agricultural communities, harvest is a time of great celebration (Ruth 3:2-3). The harvest is the manifestation of God's faithfulness and provision in the past, and also his promises for the future.