Feast of Weeks: Find Confidence in Christ’s Great Harvest – Joel Busby

Have you ever felt discouraged and weary, worn down by the constant news cycle and the seeming pointlessness of daily life? Me too. Humans since the garden have often lacked confidence when facing the future. Knowing this, the Lord provided his Old Testament saints with the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15–22), an old covenant celebration designed to remind Israel of the sure and certain harvest their kind God prepared for them.

Even in 2023, amid the chaos of the late modern world, in spite of what the endless drip of news ledes may tempt us to believe, God’s people still can live with confidence. Ancient Israel’s agricultural custom, with its description buried deep in Old Testament law, signals everything we need to know: A harvest will fill the barn. The feast announces this for our joy.

Features of the Feast

Chapter 23 is an essential section of Leviticus. It outlines “the appointed feasts” (v. 2). These festivals served as a framework for Israel’s life as God’s people. On a weekly and annual basis, Israel would move their minds, souls, and bodies to rhythms of God’s grace and provision. These rhythms would shape them, again and again, in the confidence that comes from knowing the Lord.

A harvest will fill the barn. The feast announces this for our joy.

The Feast of Weeks is one example, one rhythm that held out joy for God’s people. It has four important features.

1. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

The Feast of Weeks required able-bodied Israelites to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. Their offerings were to be hand-delivered (Deut. 16:10).

The worshiper would gather with others from places far and wide. Lest provincial concerns lead to distraction and discouragement, the Israelite would see and remember that God’s abundant provision knows no geographic bounds. The north and south, the east and west, small villages and larger towns are all locations of God’s faithful work for his people. As the Old Testament narrative marches on, we pick up hints that God’s promises would spill beyond Israel—the prophets foretold all nations would one day flow to the temple mount to join the party (Isa. 2:2).

2. Offerings

The Israelites were to bring grain and animals with wine as acts of worship. The varied offerings mixed themes of devotion, gratitude, forgiveness, and spiritual reconciliation (Lev. 23:16–20).

Worshipers would remember the Lord is the Giver; all we possess belongs to him and comes from him. He is the true sustainer of our lives. Our labors of tilling, planting, weeding, tending, and harvesting aren’t the real source of our blessing. God made this clear for the worshiper in rich and deep ways. God dealt with each person’s sin and shortcomings forthrightly, offering each person the forgiveness and freedom necessary to live in the light of joy instead of the darkness of guilt and shame.

3. Rest

The feast day was simultaneously a day to keep Sabbath (v. 21). Because the pilgrim dwelled in Jerusalem for the duration of the feast, there was no scramble back to the fields for personal self-making. Instead, the worshipers would trust that the Lord upholds the world even while they rested and worshiped.

The ancient Israelites may not have felt the intense pressure we do to check emails on our days off or to overload the weeks after vacation to catch up, but in their own ways, our forefathers in faith were tempted to trust in self-provision. It was unnecessary then and now. The Feast of Weeks reminded them the Lord reigns.

4. Generosity

As they loaded their carts for the journey, worshipers would be reminded the edges of their fields were for others (v. 22). God’s gracious gifts were to be shared with those whose circumstances were different. The biblical logic is that a generous God has a generous people.

The Feast of Weeks was about joyful confidence in God, a confidence that couldn’t be shaken or set aside by circumstances, by sin and shame, or by personal striving.

We have a greater reason to be confident.

How Jesus Fulfills the Feast

The Lord Jesus speaks of himself as a grain of wheat (John 12:24). He sends workers into his plentiful harvest. He makes atonement as a perfect offering for sin and shame. He gives peace with God, and he, in his very person, assures us our God will most certainly give us all things (Rom. 8:32). Our crucified, risen, ascended, and returning Lord Jesus is always working in the world by the power of his Spirit, gathering a harvest of worshipers from every tongue and tribe and nation.

The Feast of Weeks was about joyful confidence in God that couldn’t be shaken by circumstances, sin and shame, or personal striving.

The outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost—the celebration of the Feast of Weeks during the apostles’ time—sprouts up in the soil of the biblical narrative as a fulfillment of the prophets’ promise that all nations will come to Jerusalem. The Spirit fills the cup of Old Testament imagery to the brim as Isaiah’s dream is fulfilled. The Spirit preaches the gospel to worshipers from every corner of the Jewish diaspora, giving them the ability to hear and proclaim the good news to all people.

‘Harvest Will Fill the Barn’

“When we work well, a Sabbath mood / Rests on our day, and finds it good,” writes Wendell Berry. Here’s the full context:

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

Our labors to sow and plant, water and reap in the ordinary things of daily life are caught up in something bigger than the despair and violence we see on the news and in social media posts. Our Lord is always working. A great harvest is coming in. The barn will be filled full. Praise God! A Christian can live with confidence.

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