By Jack Cairns
As part of our Pentecost Sunday Service, we did something we have never done before; we did a wave offering. We didn’t do the wave as you see at sporting events, no we collectively waved loaves of bread before the altar.
I had instructed the congregation to bring two loaves of wheat bread with them to church for Pentecost Sunday. I told them they would find out why when they came. For those who may not have heard the announcement we purchased small loaves to pass out. Many came with the loaves and we distributed all that we had purchased and asked them to make sure they were sitting near their spouse or family. Some had whole loaves and some bought packages of sliced wheat bread from their supermarkets. I had two loaves of wheat bread for my wife and I.
Why would a Christian church do such a thing as a wave offering? Well, we find the instruction to offer a wave offering before the Altar of the Lord of two leavened loaves of wheat bread given during Pentecost to the congregation in Lev. 23:15-17 15 “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. “ The High Priest would lead the congregation in the wave offering but over time its full meaning and purpose is said to have been lost. But, not all is lost. Here is what remains today.
- It is a “firstfruits” offering. The first harvest for the Israelites is the barley harvest around the time of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits (Bikkurim) the 7th day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread that Jesus rose from the grave. The wave offering was of sheaves of raw barley (unprocessed and unleavened). Paul would refer to Jesus as the “firstfruits of the resurrection”. Pentecost was the second firstfruits festival but now of wheat. The third harvest festival would be held during the Feast of Tabernacles.
- The offering wouldn’t be a sheaf of wheat, but two leavened and baked loaves of refined wheat bread. The measure of the loaves were of two-tenths of an ephah. An ephah was made up of 10 omers so the loaves were each two-tenths. Consider it a double tithe. Each family or individual was to bring the double tithe or “double portion”. What did this represent? Consider the fact that the portion (inheritance) given to the firstborn, was the “double portion”. Consider the request by Elisha of Elijah: “And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” Elisha didn’t ask for twice as much but requested the firstborn’s portion of his spiritual father. Consider then that the loaves represented a harvest of the firstborn sons of a spiritual inheritance.
- The loaves were two in number and leavened. Consider that at the first Pentecost the Word and the Spirit were given to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Sinners now refined by this same word and spirit, firstfruits of the redeemed. Consider the offer of a relationship to both Jews and Gentiles with Yahwah. Consider the calling upon Israel: NIV Exodus 19:6 “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites” coupled with the prayer of Jesus: “NIV Matthew 9:38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Further add this admonition by Jesus: NIV Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The waving of the loaves on Pentecost represented not just firstborn among Jews and Gentiles but both being called to be spirit filled witnesses.
The Wave Offering Ceremony
Having established these truths during a short teaching we moved to the waving of the loaves as a congregation as prescribed by scripture. With two loaves for each household and each solitary worshipper and myself as the minister (acting High Priest) we acknowledged these truths revealed in the bringing and waving the loaves:
- God provides. “Give us this day…”
- We offer thanksgiving and praise for His provision
- We gladly offer a portion (tithe) back to God
At this moment we waved the loaves in the pattern of the High Priest,
twice we waved them back and forth
then twice we waved them up and down
Here I paused and asked the congregation what symbol we had just reproduced, many now with tears responded “a cross!”. Again consider Paul’s confession concerning Jesus as “our firstfruits”. Did the High Priest know what he was prophetically signifying during the waving of the loaves? No I don’t believe so but we see a “sod” or “mystery” revealed.
As powerful as this was as a reflective and revelatory moment it wasn’t the end. At this point in the ceremony the High Priest would take a tenth of each loaf and throw it onto the altar to be consumed as a sacrifice unto the Lord. I asked the congregation to bring to the altar 1/10 of their loaves and lay it upon the communion table. Thus that brought the tithe to the Lord. I asked them if they were having fun bringing the tithe for they were now talking and laughing as the pile of bread on the table mounted up with just the tithe. I asked them to consider how much it was when we all give our tithe joyfully to the Lord.
I also asked them to now look at the 9/10 and consider how much God leaves us. And the good news is now that we have brought the tithe and offered it as a sacrifice unto the Lord, we get to eat what remains. I said “Lets break bread together” and don’t forget your neighbor”. There was plenty for everyone and plenty left over.