Have you ever celebrated Pentecost in your home? This coming Sunday is Pentecost, which God gave to us as a special day of rejoicing (Deut. 16:11). Observing Pentecost with your family or friends can be a wonderful celebration. Although Pentecost is not a complicated celebration, it is one of great joy.
Pentecost was one of the seven feasts that God instructed the ancient Israelites to observe (and one of the three which required mandatory attendance in Jerusalem). Pentecost is a time to rejoice in God’s goodness to us. At Pentecost, we celebrate three gifts:
1. The gift of the Scriptures. Pentecost is held fifty days after Passover. (Pentecost means “fifty.”) Fifty days after the first Passover in Egypt, the Israelites were at Mount Sinai. With loud sounds and with fire, God gave the Law and the Ten Commandments on Pentecost as part of the first covenant. God told the people to present to the LORD two loaves of bread as part of the Pentecost offerings. This bread, unlike the Passover bread, was “baked with yeast” (Lev. 23:17).
The first thing we celebrate are the Scriptures that God has given to us. These words that are not just idle words—they are life to us (Deut. 32:4). Like bread, they are nourishing to our spirits; like honey, they are sweet to our souls; like a lamp, they guide us.
2. The gift of the Holy Spirit. Fifty days after Jesus gave Himself as the Passover Lamb of God, the disciples were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. With loud sounds and with fire, God gave the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as part of the new covenant. So the second thing we celebrate is the Holy Spirit, who gives us boldness, comfort, power, and instruction.
3. The gift of the spring harvest, and the promise of the fall harvest. Pentecost in ancient Israel occurred at the time of the wheat harvest in the spring. When the Jews gave their “firstfruits” as offerings to God during this festival, they were thanking God for the spring harvest as well as for the coming fall harvest. Pentecost is a “firstfruits” celebration for us, too, meaning that we are offering to God our first and best–not our leftovers–both as an expression of gratitude for what He has given and also as a statement of confidence that He will provide again.
The Jewish people traditionally read the book of Ruth on Pentecost because most of the story of Boaz and Ruth occurred during the spring harvest in Bethlehem (which means “house of bread”). God gave Boaz and Ruth good things in their lives, such as a son, a grandson, and a great grandson, King David–this was a “spring harvest.” These blessings were also promises of abundant good things still to come: the Messiah came through their family line!
We learn in Acts 2 that on the day of Pentecost, after the disciples received the Holy Spirit, three thousand people became followers of Christ. This was an “harvest” of souls–an abundant spring harvest! It gives us confidence that God will also bring the “fall harvest” that He has promised.
An interesting Jewish tradition on Pentecost is to read from Ezekiel 1, a passage which refers to a great windstorm and to fire. Perhaps these images were in the disciples’ thoughts as they then encountered for themselves the sound of a mighty wind and the sight of fire. In the excellent book God’s Appointed Times, Barney Kasdan makes these comments:
Imagine thousands of Jewish worshipers leaving the Temple after the morning service (at the third hour, Acts 2:15) having just read the passage from Ezekiel 1. Suddenly some of the same manifestations of the Holy Spirit started to appear before their eyes! No wonder they were amazed and perplexed by the windstorm and fire. It certainly got their attention! They must have wondered if God was revealing his Shekinah glory for the first time in early 600 years! The glory of God was present at the giving of the Law; the same glory was manifested at the giving of the holy spirit. The prophet later wrote: “I will put my Spirit in you and cause you to walk in my statutes…” (Ezekiel 36:27). *
It is fascinating, too, to see in Romans 8:23 that the Holy Spirit is referred to as “firstfruits,” that is, He is God’s good gift to us, and He is also a promise of the abundance of good gifts still to come.
So how can we celebrate all of this on Sunday? Here are some simple ideas, which you can either simplify or embellish.
1. Decorate (optional): Use flowers, greenery, or other decorations to represent spring. Perhaps using your best dishes will make the time more festive. If you have something that symbolizes harvest (such as wheat, barley, or fruit), that would be great, too.
2. Celebrate the Scriptures: Serve bread, and talk about how the Scriptures nourish us. Read Deuteronomy 8:3. Serve honey (or jam for children under 2), and talk about how the Scriptures are sweet to us. Read Psalm 119:103. Light candles or use flashlights as you discuss how the Scriptures are like light for us. Read Psalm 119:105. You may also want to read Psalm 19:7-11.
3. Celebrate the Spirit: Express thankfulness for God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. You might read Acts 2:1-4 and Romans 8:5-16. Other verses about the Holy Spirit that you may want to read are John 14:16-17, 26.
4. Celebrate the harvests: You may want to serve barley soup as a reminder of the spring harvest. (You can easily add barley to vegetable soup or to beef-and-vegetable soup.) Thank God for what He has provided for you and your family recently (the spring harvest), and thank Him that He is going to provide in the future (the fall harvest). Read Acts 2:38-41, noticing the spring harvest of souls. Perhaps you will want to pray for more laborers to work in the harvest fields (Matthew 9:38) and for God to bring an abundant fall harvest of people who will love Him.
*Barney Kasdah. God’s Appointed Times: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays. Clarksville, Maryland: Lederer Books. 1993. pages 55-56.