Why Count Pentecost?

 

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his study is the result of a question I have had for about seven or eight years on why (not how) to count Pentecost.  About two years ago I began counting Pentecost by marking off each of the days on a calendar daily, throughout the fifty-day period. At the same time I spent much time studying the Psalms and the Wisdom books of the Bible.

 


I feel it is especially relevant in view of all of the controversy over the counting of ballots in the 2000 Presidential election in Florida.  For apparently nothing creates more schism and leads to greater differences in opinion than counting, both in the Church and out. One would think that something so simple as counting could be done by even a child.  And therein lies the answer: only one who is willing to humble himself as a child should be doing the counting.  Perhaps, if those in Florida would give a set of criteria that was completely free of personal bias or agenda, to some middle school children and allow them to do the counting, we may come up with a more accurate recount.  We can learn much from Florida regarding the counting of Pentecost.  Here is my study.

The question of how to count Pentecost, as part of the whole calendar issue, has created numerous opinions and divisions among the Churches of God. It is not the purpose of this study to further add to the confusion that already exists.  All of the theories about how to count Pentecost have already been laid down, and little new can be added.  Therefore, the purpose of this paper is not to examine how to count Pentecost, but rather, why to count Pentecost, since precious little material seems to exist that covers this subject.

Why did God choose fifty days? Did He just pick a random number, or is there any significance to the number fifty? Why not count 60 or 70 or even 40? When we turn to the Word of God, we are given very few clues. Leviticus 25:10 does speak of the jubilee in the fiftieth year. And other scriptures such as I Kings 18:4 and II Kings 1:9, speak of groups of fifty prophets or soldiers. Yet efforts to tie in scriptures such as these have fallen short in providing an understanding of Pentecost.  Perhaps if we understood the wisdom behind this number all controversy over the count would disappear.

But where does one go for wisdom, when the Bible seems silent?  Romans 1:20 tells us the invisible things from the creation of the world can be understood by the things that are made.  In I Kings 4:30-31, Solomon was praised as the wisest of all men. Verses 33 and 34 continue to describe his knowledge:

 

         And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.  And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.

 

Solomon received his wisdom as a gift of God. Yet this verse and Ecclesiastes 2:4-9 shows he was a great student of God’s creation.  Job also declared that much can be learned from studying the things God has made (Job 12:7-8).  Perhaps an understanding of the number fifty can be found somewhere, some place within God’s creation.

In the book, How Life Begins, Christopher Vaughan ponders the wonders of the human body,

 

How are we formed from the raw material, the clay, of the world?  How are water, carbohydrates, pro­teins, and assorted minerals and metals able to come together to form such a complex structure…. If we start as a collection of cells, how does each cell know where to go as we grow? Why are we shaped as we are, and how is that shape reproduced?  If we start out as a microscopic ball of cells, why don’t we end up as a big ball of cells? Perhaps most amazing of all, these changes take place very quickly.  In the first fifty days of pregnancy, that tiny ball of cells will change to a little person, with a place for thousands of different types of cells, and every type of cell in its place . . . . By the fiftieth day the heart, liver, brain, bones, and blood are packaged in arms, legs, head, and trunk. . . .  These first fifty days hold the most incredible physical transformation of our lives, a metamorphosis from blob to babe.[1]

 

Do we understand that? It takes fifty days to transform a multiplying and dividing group of cells into a tiny human. By the fiftieth day all of the major systems are laid down and begin to work together. At that point, the developing human is no longer called an embryo, but a fetus. This potential human has truly reached a milestone.

Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3 that we must be born again if we are to see the kingdom of God.  Revelation 12:2-5 speaks of a woman travailing with child.  Isaiah 7:16 speaks of a child too young to know to refuse evil and receive that which is good. In Isaiah 66:9 God promises He will bring forth to the birth. There are numerous other verses that equate both our earthly and our future experiences to a birth. But perhaps the most awesome is found in Psalm 139:14-16,

 

I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

 

The Hebrew word for “substance” in verse 15 is ‘otsem (Strong’s #6108), and it can best be translated “skeleton” or “frame.”  “Substance” in verse 16, is Strong’s #1564, golem, and it means “embryo.” This is saying that God has all of our parts of our embryo recorded in His book. He knows our frame down to the most minute details, even before we are born.

The Human Genome Project is a massive effort to number and catalog the entire genetic sequence of the human chromosome. The purpose of this project is to map the precise location of each gene and describe its purpose in the inheritance of human traits or diseases. It has quite accurately been called the “book of life.”[2] Incredibly (and quite presumpt­uously), as the final details of this “book of life” are being published, there has been a massive effort to obtain copyrights and patents.[3]  No one may buy or sell the rights to a gene and its potential benefits, without the permission of the copyright holder.  But the Book of Life has been written long ago, and the true copyright holder is God. So are we not justified in looking to human birth to understand the future spiritual birth that must someday take place if we are to enter God’s kingdom?  That is exactly where Jesus Christ told Nicodemus to look.

In addition to the birth metaphor, God also uses a temple to describe His body of believers (I Corinthians 3:16).  Both body and temple can be measured or numbered.  Ephesians 4:13 shows that we are to strive for the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  Revela–tion 13:17-18 assigns a number to the beast (which cannot be under­stood without wisdom). Ezekiel 43:10 shows a temple being measured.  And in Revelation 11:1-2, John is told to measure both the temple and its worshippers.

David was called a man after God’s own heart.  God had given him an understanding of the temple, which he had carefully written down and later passed on to his son, Solomon (I Chronicles 28:19).  David asked God in Psalm 39:4,  “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.”  David asked God to help him measure (Hebrew, #4060, middah) his days.  This word is related to the same word that Ezekiel used to describe measuring the temple in Ezekiel 43:10.

Moses also received a pattern from God.  He was instructed to build the Tabernacle according to the exact specifications of that pattern (Exodus 25:9-40).  Moses was called the meekest man on the earth (Numbers 12:3). He was so humble, he didn’t worry about his position. When two men were found prophesying in the camp of Israel, he said he wished all men were prophets like them, and that God would pour out His spirit upon all Israel (Numbers 11:28-29). What was the source of this great humility? Like David, Moses asked God to teach us to number our days that we might apply our hearts to wisdom (Psalm 90:12).  What is it about numbering or measuring days that brings wisdom?

Christopher Vaughan sees wisdom as an essential ingredient in the early weeks of our human existence,

 

The choreography of the develop­ing embryo during these seven weeks displays a repertoire of the themes that are not only vital for development but remain important throughout our lives.  And scien­tists have found that, as in any good drama, this critical period of becoming contains movement, expression, change, wisdom, and even death.[4]

 

If wisdom is required to bring forth a human life, it is also needed to build a temple. Solomon was wiser than all men on the earth (I Kings 4:31).  He received the pattern for the temple from his father, David.  When he was young, he was a very humble man.  He saw himself as a child in need of a discerning heart to rule over God’s people (I Kings 3:7-12). Because of this great humility God gave him both wisdom and riches.

Jacob numbered his days and found them to be few and evil, as he reported to Pharaoh (Genesis 47:9).  He noted that his life did not stack up in comparison with that of his fathers. Numbering of days seems to go hand in hand with humility.  And humility seems to be a prerequisite for receiving wisdom.  And wisdom seems to be a requirement for understanding the temple pattern (See Proverbs 9:1; Exodus 31:2-3; and I Cor­inthians 3:10) and the qualifications needed in order to build. And, understanding the temple pattern is essential if one is going to create a sound structure, which is worthy to be a habitation of God’s Spirit. As David showed, numbering our days teaches us how short our time span is on the earth.  It helps us to understand our own frailty and forces us to rely on God. It also helps us to evaluate our lives and the labor we put forth.  It shows us that we need to make each day count, and account for each day.

In the building of a temple there are two important dates to remember, the day the foundation is laid, and the day the temple is completed. The Bible makes a note of both dates regarding Solomon’s temple in I Kings 6:37-38.  In other words, temple building is a two-step process (Romans 15:20; I Corinth­ians 3:10). In Ezekiel 40:2, Ezekiel is looking at the “frame” of a city.  This was not a complete structure. Yet, already the temple is being measured.  It shows that measure­ments must be taken throughout the construc­tion process.  This is true in any building project.  Inspectors are called in, as each important stage of the building is completed in order to check the work.  Before any further work can continue, the previous work must pass inspection.  Could it be that the firstfruits (the 144,000; see Revelation 7:4 and 21:17) and Pentecost represent the foundation of the temple, which awaits the rest of the building project?

I Kings 6:7 tells us that each stone of the temple was completely cut and prepared away from the temple site, so there was no sound of any tool heard when the temple was being built.  This would require that each and every stone carver would have a blueprint — a pattern of the temple.  He would know the exact specifications he would be required to meet.  His stone would have to perfectly fit with each of the stones adjacent to it. And each stone would have to be numbered in order to record its placement, before it was even transported from the cutting site to the temple area.  Peter calls each of us lively stones that are built into a spiritual house (I Peter 2:5).  And like Solomon and the master stonecutters, we also must take heed how we build (I Chronicles 28:10, 20; I Corinthians 3:10). More importantly, we must humbly submit to the Master Builder, so He may shape us as He sees fit. We must also recognize that just as one member does not comprise the whole body, so also, one stone does not make a foundation. By ourselves, we are incomplete. (Compare Leviticus 23:15). Our beauty and function is completely dependent on all of the other stones, and especially the chief corner stone.

As Ezekiel 40:2-3 shows, the measuring process will already be taking place, when only the frame exists. It was important that all the workmen were made to understand the pattern or blueprint.  Without this under­standing, work would not progress very far.  Witness what occurred at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:5-9).  Without unity of purpose, work will soon come to a standstill. Ezekiel was instructed to show all Israel the pattern of the temple that they may become ashamed (Ezekiel 43:10-11). Yet Paul admonished Timothy to endeavor to be approved as a workman who needs not to be ashamed (II Timothy 2:15). So of what should Israel be ashamed? I Corinthians 3:10 admonishes us to take heed how we build. It would be n embarrassment for one to have his work transported to the temple site and find that his stone did not fit with the rest of the building. Therefore, it is wise to constantly examine one’s work against the master pattern.

God also submitted the work of His crea­tion to this kind of examination and measure­ment.  After each step of His creation process, He checked His work and declared that “it was good.” These words are used six times in Genesis 1:4-25.  And at the end of the sixth day, before He began His rest of the seventh day, God declared all that He had made to be “very good.”  It was only after He had evaluated his work for that day that he counted that day as finished. See Genesis 1:5-31. So we must also NOT declare the day complete, until we have carefully examined our work to look for faults and errors in measurement. And if one does find errors in measurement, he will need to start over. Job went through a horrible trial and saw his life unravel before his eyes.  He wanted to go back and remove the day of his conception from the number of his days (Job 3:3-6).  Why? Because he saw he needed to start over.

Solomon writes that every wise woman builds her house (Proverbs 14:1). Any pregnant woman knows about counting days. It takes 266 days from conception to “build”[5] or form a baby.  If you ask any expectant mother, she can usually give you the gestational date of her child in days or weeks.  And while she awaits the birth, she is also carefully measuring everything that goes into her body. She knows that what goes into her system is critical to building healthy bones and body.  In other words, she is very careful to build wisely, because poor building practices can have irreversible consequences.

Exodus 12:1-2 clearly place the beginning of the count toward Pentecost upon Moses and Aaron, and upon the priesthood.  Only the priest can determine the beginning of the count, which started with the wave­sheaf, and each person is to follow the lead of the priest. But Leviticus 23:15-16 (as verse one of the same chapter shows) is a command to all of Israel — each individual — to number seven Sabbaths, to count to themselves fifty days. By marking off each and every day up until Pentecost, one will come to the realization that he or she is frail and in need of God. He will be measuring himself daily against the only measure that truly matters, that of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13). He will see himself as only a part of the body of Christ.

With everyone counting together, there will be a unity of purpose which would other­wise be impossible to achieve.  Ephes­ians 4:16 describes this unity: “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”  The words “fitly joined” are translated from the Greek, Strongs 4883, sunarmologeo. It is also used in Ephesians 2:20-21 which speaks of a building that is growing together (sunarmologeo) into a holy temple. This is a body completely free of schism or disease because all of its parts function perfectly together. This is the same unity that was achieved at that first Pentecost after Christ was resurrected. This kind of unity can only occur as a miracle of God, and it is absolutely essential before we will ever see any outpour­ing of the Holy Spirit. This is why each and every one of us must count Pentecost.

— written by Kathy Puliafico                     W

 

In 2001, wavesheaf day, the start of the Pentecost count, begins on April 15.  See, “Joshua 5 and the Wavesheaf Day,” by Paul Yoos in Newsletter #50, available as a free reprint from Giving & Sharing, or online at www.giveshare.org/HolyDay/joshua5.html.

 



[1] US: Time Books, 1996, p. 77.

[2] “Book of Life,”http://www.salonmag.com/health/ feature/2000/06/27/gene_future/

[3] “Copyrighting the Book of Life,” by Jeff Howe, Feed Magazine’s Special DNA Issue, 4/12/00.

[4] How Life Begins, US: Time Books, 1996, p.78

[5] In Gen 2:22, it is written that God “made” a woman.  This word is not bara’, to create; or ‘asah, to make; or yatsar, to shape as a potter (as Adam, Gen 2:7); but banah, to build as a building.  While the man was formed or shaped, the woman was built.