Sunday School Lesson

February 14

Lesson 11

Feast of Weeks

Devotional Reading: Romans 7:14-25

Background Scripture: Numbers 28:26-31; Leviticus 23:15-22; Acts 2:1-36

Leviticus 23:15-22

15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:

16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.

17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.

18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord.

19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.

21 And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

Key Verse

Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. —Leviticus 23:16

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Describe the Feast of Weeks and list its key elements.

2. Explain the significance of making provision for the poor in the midst of participating in worship traditions.

3. Suggest one way to better provide for the poor by using the principle in Leviticus 23:22.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Family Gatherings

B. Lesson Background

I. Day Determination (Leviticus 23:15, 16a)

A. Seven Sabbaths (v. 15)

B. Fifty Days (v. 16a)

II. Sacrifice Directives (Leviticus 23:16b-20)

A. Wave Offerings (vv. 16b, 17)

B. Burnt Offerings (v. 18)

C. Sin Offerings (v. 19a)

D. Peace Offerings (v. 19b)

Blessing the Blessers

E. Priest Actions (v. 20)

III. Other Rules (Leviticus 23:21, 22)

A. No Work (v. 21)

B. No Stinginess (v. 22)

What Does the Lord Desire?

Conclusion

A. Pentecost and the Church

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction

A. Family Gatherings

The family reunion for my father’s side was always held the first Sunday of September. It was interesting to watch the interactions, especially among the different age groups. The older members of the family could immediately enter into conversations that usually turned to reminiscing. The children would gradually assess each other and then develop their games. The patriarch or matriarch of the family would be introduced to the new members of the clan. The sumptuous meals came from baskets and boxes, full of foods prepared at home.

At the end of the day, the good-byes were said, and comments such as, “See you next year!” were exchanged. Whether the drive home was short or long, it had been a good day.

Cultural changes of the last few decades have ended these customs for many people. Reunion-type events seem rarer, for family members are likely to live anywhere on the globe. Some children enter adulthood having never seen or known certain cousins or other relatives.

Today’s lesson demonstrates how God provided an occasion for His people to meet together as a family of Israelites for the giving of thanks, fellowship, forgiveness, and spiritual dedication. This study is about the Feast of Weeks, which is an unusual term for a one-day celebration. Some of its features made it the preferred event for those who lived at great distances from Jerusalem.

B. Lesson Background

The first Passover in Egypt (last week’s lesson) demonstrated to the Israelites that God was on their side. This made it easier to leave all that was familiar when it was time to make the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12). The Israelites did not know what the future held, but they had confidence—at least temporarily—in the one who held the future.

The GPS (God’s Positioning System) used by Moses led the Israelites in an unusual direction—not by the way of the Mediterranean seacoast to the land of Canaan, but into the wilderness of the Red Sea area (Exodus 13:17, 18). The Lord used a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide, protect, and assure the people that they were going where He wanted them to be (13:21, 22).

The Israelites experienced at the Red Sea yet another mighty deliverance after Pharaoh changed his mind about the departure of his labor force. He sent hundreds of chariots to bring them back (Exodus 14:5-9), but God had different plans. The dividing of sea waters so as to have a wall of water on each side is an impossibility for humans, but not for God (14:21, 22). The God who created the universe can easily divide a small sea on this tiny planet!

As the journey continued, God met the needs of His people. These needs included provisions of water (Exodus 15:22-27; 17:1-7), food (chap. 16), and a victory over the Amalekites (17:8-16). The interim destination was Sinai, and this new nation arrived in the third month (19:1).

The Israelites knew that the Lord was God, but what did He expect from them? God was ready to tell them, and that was the purpose of their stay at Mount Sinai, which lasted almost a year (Numbers 10:11, 12). When God gave the people manna on the way to Sinai, they learned that God expected them to rest on the seventh day (Exodus 16:23-30), and that expectation was reinforced as part of the Ten Commandments (chap. 20).

This was followed by His giving judgments or laws (chaps. 21-23) that collectively are called “the book of the covenant” (24:7). It contained upwards of 70 rules that the people needed immediately for the governing of social relationships. It could be called their bill of rights, but perhaps bill of responsibilities for producing a just society is better.

How to Say It

Canaan Kay-nun.

ephah ee-fah.

Mediterranean Med-uh-tuh-ray-nee-un.

Pentecost Pent-ih-kost.

Pharaoh Fair-o or Fay-roe.

Pharisees Fair-ih-seez.

Sadducees Sad-you-seez.

Sinai Sigh-nye or Sigh-nay-eye.

 

These laws introduced for the first time the fact that the Israelites were to have three feasts during the year (Exodus 23:14-17). Last week’s study was about the first one, the Feast of the Passover. Exodus 12:1-20 adds that this one-day observance was to be followed by seven days during which the only bread that could be eaten was to be unleavened. These seven days constituted the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the two feasts were functionally considered the same event since they were right next to each other on the calendar.

Today’s lesson is about the second of the three annual feasts: the Feast of Weeks. This feast is different from the first (lesson 10) and the third (lesson 13) in that it is not associated with a historical event. There is a tradition that the Feast of Weeks commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Sinai, but the first mention of that idea is postbiblical.

The Feast of Weeks received its name because it was to be celebrated seven weeks after Passover. Therefore the Feast of Weeks was to take place in late May or early June. It is not given a name in today’s text, but it has several names attached to it elsewhere: Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22a), Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16a), and sometimes the day of the firstfruits (Numbers 28:26). In the New Testament it is called Pentecost (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8), a Greek word that means “fiftieth.”

I. Day Determination

                                                             (Leviticus 23:15, 16a)

A. Seven Sabbaths (v. 15)

15. And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete.

This verse refers back to the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the bringing of the sheaf of the wave offering in Leviticus 23:10, which was seven weeks before. The counting is to begin after the sabbath. The problem is this: Which Sabbath?

The word Sabbath, which means “ceasing,” may refer to any day on which labor is prohibited. The Feast of Unleavened Bread has two such days, the first and last days of the feast (Leviticus 23:7, 8). In addition, the regular Sabbath of the week is to be observed. Unless a special Sabbath falls on a regular Sabbath, there can be as many as three Sabbaths in a seven-day period.

When the New Testament era dawns, the Pharisees and the Sadducees have different interpretations about the matter of calculating when the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) is to occur. The Pharisees prefer the view that the counting is to begin on the sixteenth day of the first month, the day after the first special Sabbath. The Sadducees, however, control the agenda in the temple at the time, and they interpret the word Sabbath to refer to the regular weekly Sabbath.

This is very significant, for it means that Pentecost always falls on the first day of the week—50 days after the regular Sabbath in the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is the day the church was birthed, the first day of the week (Acts 2).

What Do You Think?

How can we be more conscientious regarding the things the Lord expects us to count and the things He does not?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

1 Chronicles 21:1-7

Matthew 18:21, 22

Luke 14:31-33

Other

B. Fifty Days (v. 16a)

16a. Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days.

This half of verse 16 demonstrates a definite connection between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks. God’s instructions show that an event within one feast is used to determine the timing of the feast that is to follow.

It is important to note that two of the regular harvests are connected with these feasts (v. 16b, next, will show us why). Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur in early spring at the beginning of barley harvest (last week’s lesson). The Feast of Weeks, for its part, is associated with wheat harvest in late May or early June (Exodus 34:22). The time period from one harvest to the other is on the order of fifty days.

II. Sacrifice Directives

                                                            (Leviticus 23:16b-20)

A. Wave Offerings (vv. 16b, 17)

16b. And ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.

The King James Version designates the offering in view as a new meat offering. In this older sense, the word meat means “meal,” or the food that one eats, broadly speaking. This helps us understand how the reference to meat here connects with the loaves and flour of the next verse. See also Leviticus 2:14: “Thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears.”

17. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.

The offering is to be in the form of two loaves of bread, the amount of flour used in these being two tenth deals. A deal is also known as an “ephah” (Leviticus 5:11; 6:20; etc.); its dry measure is about 3/5 of a bushel. Therefore, 2/10 of a deal computes to about 1/8 of a bushel (18.6 cups) of flour to be used.

Most biblical scholars conclude that the two loaves are representative gifts for the nation; they are ultimately given to the priest (Leviticus 23:20, below). Another view follows a tradition that Hebrew farmers use a stalk of grain to bind the first shocks of ripe grain. These special bundles are then taken to the priests and presented unto the Lord.

Leviticus 2:11 is very specific that leaven (yeast) is forbidden “in any offering of the Lord made by fire.” Since leaven is mandated in the two wave loaves, this indicates that these are not to be burned; they are intended for the priest. It is interesting that leaven is forbidden for the eight days of Passover and Unleavened Bread, but is required in the loaves of firstfruits for the Feast of Weeks.

The careful student will notice that a firstfruits offering is connected with the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Leviticus 2:14. Now there is one associated with the Feast of Weeks. How can there be two firstfruit offerings, 50 days apart? The answer is that the first one is an offering at the start of barley harvest in March/April, and the second one is for the day when the firstfruits of the wheat harvest are given as loaves (see comments on v. 16a, above).

What Do You Think?

How can Christians offer “firstfruits” to the Lord?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In finances

In time

In talents

Other

B. Burnt Offerings (v. 18)

18. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord.

A total of 10 animals are to be a burnt offering unto the Lord. These are to be accompanied by meat [meal] and drink offerings as described in Numbers 15:4-9. Burnt offerings carry the idea of consecration or dedication.

What Do You Think?

How do we distinguish between blemished and unblemished offerings today?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding how the offering was earned (Deuteronomy 23:18)

Regarding the attitude of the giver (Matthew 5:23, 24; 2 Corinthians 9:7)

Regarding the motive of the giver (Matthew 6:1-4; Acts 5:1-11)

Regarding the size of the offering (Mark 12:41-44; 1 Corinthians 16:2)

Other

C. Sin Offerings (v. 19a)

19a. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering.

Atonement is the dominant factor in a sin offering. Such an offering presupposes that the covenant relationship has been broken and needs to be renewed. A sin offering is primarily offered on holidays or when an action is deemed to have broken the relationship with God (Leviticus 4:1-5:13).

What Do You Think?

Is it a good idea to “get creative” in commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice as a sin offering? Why, or why not?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Considering differences in learning styles

Considering the danger of unchanging routine

Considering the danger of cultural compromise

Other

D. Peace Offerings (v. 19b)

19b. And two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

The two lambs noted here are to be given to the priests (see v. 20, next). For an ordinary peace offering, the priests keep for their own consumption the breast and right shoulder of animals sacrificed (Leviticus 7:31-36). The rest is eaten by the one offering the sacrifice and others (7:15, 16).

The Feast of Weeks is the only time when peace offerings are prescribed for public offerings. Numbers 10:10 notes that trumpets are to be blown over such public offerings, and peace offerings are mentioned.

Blessing the Blessers

I love hearing how church families choose to bless their ministers with various expressions of gratitude! Such expressions include gifts of golf lessons, poems, baked goods, video tributes, new shoes, home remodeling, brunch, plaques, cake, pizza celebrations—the list goes on.

I know of one church that sent its worship minister on a cruise with his wife in gratitude for his 25 years of service. My parents’ home church in central Missouri is blessing its minister with a trip to Israel. While this may seem extreme to some, this man has worked a full-time job and been active with the youth and charitable groups in his small community while serving this congregation’s needs.

Many ministers find themselves “on call” most of the time. Their congregants’ awareness of this may be evident in the creative blessings they offer back. It’s interesting that the Lord’s directions for the Feast of Weeks include some offerings that were to be burnt to please Him, while others were for His servants, the priests. That was commanded by God. We should not need a command today to bless in return those who have been a blessing to us as they serve the church.—V. E.

E. Priest Actions (v. 20)

20. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.

We imagine that it is an easy matter to wave the bread of the firstfruits. The priest need only lift them upward and swing them back and forth to symbolize their being given to the Lord. It becomes a custom that one of the two loaves (Leviticus 23:17, above) is given to the high priest and the other to the priest who officiates at the service.

The waving of the two lambs is more problematic! It is sometimes suggested that the priest lifts and waves each animal while it is still alive; after they are sacrificed, the breast, thigh, and at least one loaf is waved—toward the east and back, and then up and down. Another suggestion is that live animals are led back and forth in front of the tabernacle.

III. Other Rules

                                                                (Leviticus 23:21, 22)

A. No Work (v. 21)

21. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

The description of how the Feast of Weeks is to be observed bears much similarity to the other feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23. The characteristic of being an holy convocation is noted for the other observances in Leviticus 23:3, 7, 8, 24, 27, 35, 36. The prohibition against work is also seen in Leviticus 23:3, 7, 8, 25, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36. The enduring nature of these statutes is noted in Leviticus 23:14, 31, 41.

The rule against work may be designed to provide protection for servants so that they may participate in the day. See also Numbers 28:26.

B. No Stinginess (v. 22)

22. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

At first glance, this verse may seem out of place. Its stipulations were given earlier (Leviticus 19:9, 10), so why is it repeated in conjunction with the Feast of Weeks? The answer may be that since this is a harvest celebration, it is appropriate to mention one of the laws of the harvest: God is concerned for the welfare of those in need. The harvesters are to reap so that there will be something left for them.

It is noteworthy that the verse before us does not say that harvested grain is simply to be given unto the poor, and to the stranger. Rather, those in need are to go to the fields and do the work of harvesting themselves. An outstanding example of this practice is found in the book of Ruth, specifically chapter 2.

What Does the Lord Desire?

“It’s a scam . . . he probably makes more money than I do.” “Don’t give her money! She’ll just use it to buy drugs!” “They should get jobs.” I hear the warnings in my head as I drive past the people with sad eyes and cardboard signs. What should I do? I don’t know who is genuinely needy and who is deceitful. I don’t know what they will do with a gift I may choose to give them.

I have served on a benevolence committee, and I have given attention to the various ways that limited resources are shared. Some churches open their doors on a certain day of the week (or month), and whoever shows up with needs that day gets help. Some require that those requesting help be known to someone in their church family in order to receive help. Others give without restriction until the benevolence well runs dry. Some churches operate food pantries, provide clothes closets, or focus on specific needs, such as utility or medical bills.

Our passage does not speak of those in need having to go through an application process. What about discernment regarding who should be helped? That question is not addressed here. In fact, there is no human interaction prescribed at all; there is simply a leaving behind of some of the blessings of the land to allow those blessings to be accessible to the needy. How does this relate to passages such as 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and 1 Timothy 5:3-16?—V. E.

What Do You Think?

Under what circumstance, if any, should the church expect those in need to work for “the harvest” that is made available to them? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding food

Regarding clothing

Regarding housing

Other

The Lord is in the process of providing for His people by giving them a land that flows with milk and honey, a land where they can flourish (Deuteronomy 31:20). The Lord also is providing ways for His people to remember the source of their blessings: they are to have feasts that enable them to join with others in celebrations in the giving of thanks. Passover, Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and Tabernacles—they are reminders of the blessings of harvest and/or famous events in the nation’s history. God is good, all the time!

Conclusion

A. Pentecost and the Church

The Day of Pentecost—the later designation for the Feast of Weeks—is the birthday of the church (Acts 2). The Bible does not say why God chose this occasion for the church to begin. But the way that it was celebrated made it the perfect tool to fulfill God’s plan to spread the gospel from Jerusalem into Judea, Samaria, and “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Pentecost drew many Jews from distant parts of the Roman Empire (compare Acts 2:5-11). The rainy season was over, and the weather was warm and delightful for travel. Some who made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Jerusalem for Passover perhaps remained “on vacation” through Pentecost.

Visual for Lesson 11. Point to this visual as you ask, “When, if ever, is it a good idea to give money rather than food, etc., to someone in need?

In any case, it is fascinating that the death and resurrection of Jesus occurred during the time of Passover and Unleavened Bread and that seven weeks later the church began on Pentecost. The people who were in Jerusalem at these times had the privilege of being among the first to be introduced to the gospel, which they could take with them on their return home. About 3,000 people were convinced, and they responded to Peter’s instructions to repent and to be baptized for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, 41). As they returned to all parts of the Roman Empire and elsewhere, they became the vanguard for the spreading message of redemption.

B. Prayer

Father, may the attitude of gratitude that was to characterize the Feast of Weeks become our own on a daily basis! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

C. Thought to Remember

God still expects our expressions of gratitude
to include provisions for the poor.


February 21

Lesson 12

Day of Atonement

Devotional Reading: Hebrews 3:1-6

Background Scripture: Numbers 29:7-11; Leviticus 16:1-34; 23:26-32; Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:24; 10:4-18

Leviticus 16:11-19

11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:

13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:

14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:

16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.

18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.

19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

Key Verse

He shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. —Leviticus 16:16.

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. List the procedures that God ordained for Israel’s annual Day of Atonement.

2. Explain the concept of atonement, noting the allusions to Leviticus 16:14, 15 in New Testament texts such as Hebrews 9:7; 10:4.

3. Write a prayer of praise for the atonement for sins available only through Jesus.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Forgiveness

B. Lesson Background

I. Atonement for Priests (Leviticus 16:11-14)

A. Bull as Sin Offering (v. 11)

B. Incense for a Cloud (vv. 12, 13)

C. Blood for Sprinkling (v. 14)

II. Atonement for People, Places (Leviticus 16:15-17)

A. Goat as Sin Offering (v. 15a)

B. Blood for Sprinkling (v. 15b)

C. Places (v. 16)

D. Duty (v. 17)

No Exemption

III. Atonement for the Altar (Leviticus 16:18, 19)

A. Blood Applied to the Horns (v. 18)

B. Blood Sprinkled Seven Times (v. 19)

We, the Unclean

Conclusion

A. The Final Day of Atonement

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2015-2016 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless