Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Leviticus 23:9-21 covers God’s instructions concerning making the wavesheaf offering, the counting of the seven weeks, and the observance of the Feast of Weeks, called Pentecost in the New Testament. ...
John Ritenbaugh affirms that Deuteronomy is the only book commanded to be read at regular intervals. Deuteronomy covers the final 70 days of Moses' tumultuous life. The rulers of Israel were to write a copy of the Law and read it on a daily basis. As members of the Israel of God, kings and priests in waiting, we need to read it continually, learning to rule others by learning to rule ourselves. The book of Deuteronomy is the heart and pulse of the Old Testament, with its words throughout the New Testament (quoted 86 times), excoriating idolatry, providing a foundation of Christian doctrine, exposing human nature, and providing an outline preparing us to enter God's Kingdom. The spiritual concepts in Deuteronomy serve as a template for the ruler's instruction book. Unlike Leviticus, Deuteronomy is not a cold, codified law, but a heart-felt appeal from Almighty God for His children to remain faithful to Him. As God Almighty skillfully engineered a massive number of our forebears, He will similarly engineer the end-time exodus for the Israel of God. Likewise we have a responsibility to remain faithful, instructing our children in God's instruction, insuring the success of God's family operation. We are to fear, love, and serve God, walking in and keeping His Commandments with all our might.
John Ritenbaugh observes that although each of God's festivals depicts increasingly larger numbers of people being drawn to God, the counter pulls emanating from sinful carnal human nature war against the prompts of God's Holy Spirit, producing continual conflict. Choosing between these two opposite poles is something we have to contend with daily. If we choose the spiritual pole, moving toward unity with God, we will become unified with others who similarly strive for these same spiritual goals. Without this spiritual contact, we subject ourselves to the second law of thermodynamics: entropy, chaos, and disorganization, but with God's Holy Spirit, we do not have to succumb. According to Lamentations 2, God scattered Judah for their sins. Likewise, God scattered the Worldwide Church of God (possibly using Satan as His agent) mercifully administering painful chastening for our own safety and protection, putting us in venues where we actively have to love and forbear one another. Pride condemned Satan to a fate of using or manipulating rather than serving. This presumptuous self-centered trait belonging to Hillel (later Satan or adversary) creates disunity and ultimate destruction. Unfortunately, several leaders of church groups have adopted these presumptuous competitive traits, arrogantly and disdainfully looking down on other groups within the greater Church of God, completely antithetical to the behavior of John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus Christ. We must follow the example of Abel, humbly doing things on God's terms, rather than the example of Cain, presumptuously doing things on his own terms. Likewise, when we have nothing acceptable to offer to God (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 22:25, Joshua 5), we cannot presumptuously make an offering.
Correctly counting to Pentecost in years in which Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath is more than a matter of consistency. John Ritenbaugh explains that a far greater, more spiritual—and unfortunately, often overlooked—factor in the wavesheaf offering concerns a subject God considers highly important: holiness.
This year, 2008, is another one in which Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, making the count to Pentecost more complex. John Ritenbaugh, however, argues that the count need not be done differently in these particular years. All we need to do is to apply God's command consistently.
In recent years, the count to Pentecost has become contentious, particularly in a year like 2005, in which the Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread falls on the last holy day. John Ritenbaugh explains that, if we are consistent in our counting and honest with the instructions of Scripture, the solution is clear.
John Ritenbaugh, clearing up the needless confusion about the proper day to begin counting to Pentecost, examines the basic passages on it. Because Pentecost does not have a specific date, God commands us to count from the day after the weekly Sabbath falling within the Days of Unleavened Bread. When Passover occurs on a weekly Sabbath, the only weekly Sabbath occurring within Unleavened Bread is the last holy day. The wavesheaf offering occurs the next day - from which we begin the count. As the First of the Firstfruits, Jesus was waved Sunday morning after being resurrected Sabbath evening. The red-herring argument, focusing on Joshua 5:10-11, carelessly assuming that the wavesheaf was offered (with polluted, Canaanite grain), ignores the strict requirements of Exodus 23:14-16. No offerings of any kind could be made until specific conditions, outlined in Deuteronomy 12:1-13, were met, which did not happen until Joshua 18:1 (seven years after Joshua 5).
John Ritenbaugh, examining the set of doctrines which constitute "The Faith" identified in II Corinthians 13:5, warns that the greater church of God is not immune to the deterioration of doctrine cautioned by Paul. The doctrine of eternal security and the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, embraced by Evangelical Protestantism as well as our former affiliation, ominously threaten the spiritual welfare of all the splinter groups formerly affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God. When we depart from doctrine, convoluted reasoning and hair splitting must substitute for the simplicity in Christ. Minor deviations from doctrine bring about irreparable disastrous consequences. If we live by sight rather than by faith, we will automatically succumb to our fears (of denying our fleshly gratification or losing the esteem of our family and peers). The antidote to these twin-debilitating fears is the fear of God- a fear that must be learned and cultivated.
John Ritenbaugh insists that if we use clear, unambiguous scriptures to clarify ambiguous scriptures, and if we don't try to establish a doctrine on the interpretation of one word, we can avoid the doctrinal blindness caused by presumptive, vain, carnal reasoning. Difficulties some have had about the time of Passover, the Wave sheaf offering, and the time of Pentecost resulted from reversing the process, making assumptions unwarranted by clear scriptural evidence. If we follow the clear instructions about offerings (given to Joshua) in Deuteronomy 12, it becomes abundantly clear that Joshua absolutely would not have made a wave-sheaf offering in Joshua 5. There is also no scriptural basis for assuming that the Wave sheaf offering must occur within the Days of Unleavened Bread.We dare not add to or subtract from God's clear instructions.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon conditions for acceptable sacrifices and offerings, differentiating the holy and authentic from the defiled, unclean and strange. God will only accept as sacrifices those things He has given to His called out ones in their covenantal relationship with Him (including the clean and unclean designations in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14). Because God has explicitly prohibited a foreigner's grain for the wavesheaf offering (Leviticus 22:24-25), for one to infer a wavesheaf offering from Joshua 5 would be to infer an abomination. The wavesheaf offering, depicting Christ as the first of the firstfruits, to be undefiled and free from corruption, had to come from the produce God had given them from their own labor on their own land.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that only God, not man, can determine whether something or someone is holy or authentic as opposed to profane and strange. God will accept only what He has set apart or designated as holy or authentic, such as the sacred fire in Numbers 16 (symbolizing God's cleansing and purifying power) as well as the fuel and the incense. The 250 men offering strange or profane fire in their censers represented a blatant refusal to accept God and His standard of righteousness. The bronze covered altar made with the censers recovered from the charred remains of the rebels constitutes a stark reminder of the folly at rebelling against holy things, replacing God's standards with human standards.
John Ritenbaugh warns that seemingly insignificant things to man are quite big things to God. Some well-meaning individuals, blinded by their pride, vanity, and clever sophistry, consider certain areas of the Bible to have little or no importance. They (1) fail to grasp the spiritual intent of the scriptures and (2) fail to separate the holy from the profane. Like Nadab and Abihu (offering strange or common fire) and Cain (offering an unworthy sacrifice) people who ignore the clear biblical instructions for the wavesheaf offering with its unambiguous prohibitions (Leviticus 22:24-25 and Deuteronomy 12:10) risk the displeasure and judgment of Almighty God.
John Ritenbaugh links inextricably the time frame for the covenant with Abraham (the Selfsame Day), the events of the Passover, the Exodus, the Night to be Much Observed, and the events of Christ's Passover meal with his disciples leading to his crucifixion. Clear connections relating to the bread and wine symbols, the ratification of the covenant, and the sacrifices are convincingly drawn. The mistaken inference made by some about a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5 ignores the prohibition against a foreigner's grain (Leviticus 22:25), a blemished offering (Leviticus 23:12) and against animal sacrifices until peace could be established (Deuteronomy 12:11). The wavesheaf offering (Leviticus 23:15) is reckoned from the weekly sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread and not immediately before when an annual sabbath follows immediately.
Focusing upon a deceitful proclivity of human nature to find a loose brick to nullify a doctrine, John Ritenbaugh rebuts red herring arguments that the events of Joshua 5 provide an exception to the rule or pattern established in Leviticus 23:11. The entire contents of Leviticus 23 provides a chronological listing of the sabbaths (weekly and annual), and nothing in the subsequent chapters of the Bible alters or changes the times or dates these sabbaths are to be observed. Along with the obvious observation that nothing in the entire 5th chapter of Joshua remotely mentions anything about a wave sheaf offering, if the children of Israel, newly occupying the land, had used a foreigner's grain, it would have been a flagrant violation of Leviticus 22:25. The conditions for a wave sheaf offering were not right until Joshua 22, seven years after the Joshua 5 incident. The other "loose brick" in Luke 6:1 " the second sabbath after the first" is established on a spurious scripture.
Pentecost in 2001 is a little different than in other years. The Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread falls on the last day. How should we count to Pentecost on odd years like this? John Ritenbaugh explains the reasons for counting the same way as in all other years.
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