Parallel Symbolisms – Memorial Day
Posted by: Brittney Zellner
I admit that every year on Memorial Day I don’t give much thought to remembering and honoring the sacrifices that were made for me so that I might be free in a way that truly does the memory justice. Of course, I’ve almost always done my best to think good thoughts and say something nice about the fallen heroes but this year as I explained to my daughter what this day meant I was reminded of the symbolism of Shavuot and Pentecost also.
Pentecost was the fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection. It was the day that The Holy Spirit came upon those observing the biblical feast of Shavuot in a miraculous and life-changing way. Tongues of fire were seen on their heads, men spoke the languages of others that were unknown to them, and three thousand people were added to the number of believers in Jesus and His resurrection on that day. The day this happened in the views of all who were present was actually already a special memorial, unbeknownst to most Christians today. To first-century Israel and before, this was the holy day of Shavuot.
- Shavuot was one of the days of the year where Israelites if they could, would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bring their gifts and tithes to the God of Israel. This is and was thought by some rabbis to be in the memory of when the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai after their exodus from slavery in Egypt. There is no solid evidence that the Mt Sinai gathering was supposed to be remembered on Shavuot but traditionally this was part of the focus of that holy day at least starting with the first century.
- In addition, a strong emphasis is placed on the first five books of the holy bible, called the Torah in Hebrew, which means instructions, and also on the commandments.
- There were also sacrifices brought to the Temple during this festival and the beginning of the wheat harvest started on this day.
- Another very interesting thing done on this day presently, if not then, was a memorial for deceased loved ones called “Yizkor”, the Hebrew word for remembrance. Time was spent honoring deceased loved ones for choosing the path of life so that we descendants might have freedom in God today.
- Lastly, the book of Ruth is read in Synagogues and sometimes the entire Torah.
This is by no means a full description of the holy day practices and beliefs but for the purposes of this post, we will be focusing mainly on the “Yizkor” or the “remembrance” tradition.
I find it interesting that on both Memorial Day in the United States of America and Shavuot and Pentecost Day in Israel and everywhere, people are honoring others that have marked out the path of their freedom. It has been marked out in both their spiritual life living for Jesus and/or the God of creation and in their physical lives here in our beloved country of opportunity. It is because of this curious coincidence of memorials that I decided to write a post of all the symbolisms of these most honored days and some other symbolic associations as well.
I hope you find it interesting as you look over your past, our spiritual past as a body of believers, and the past of your country (if you live in the United States of America). And most importantly I hope it helps you to see the path that lies ahead of you and the path that lies ahead of all of us.
A soldier is symbolic of our thoughts and our actions that struggle to follow, without question, the things in our lives that we see as an authority.
An American soldier is specifically symbolic of our struggles and internal battles that will lead us to spiritual freedom but require many sacrifices of our success.
The sacrifices soldiers make with their own lives are symbolic of the immense changes in us that are caused by massive and difficult struggles.
→ Every test and trial comes with changes. For every action and thought that dies in service of our attempts at internal spiritual freedom, the enemy is defeated and pushed back further in our spiritual lives.
Remembrance is symbolic of taking a mental note of all the internal spiritual battles fought and won, of all the difficulties overcome, and of seeing the cyclical actions of God as he helps us to overcome all our obstacles at spiritual growth.
Remembrance is symbolic of God’s faithfulness.
Pentecost, which refers to the number 50, in Greek, is symbolic of a new change in you. It is symbolic of freedom. In the biblical instructions for life in ancient times, there was a fifty-year cycle that is called Jubilee. Jubilee was the day when all who were in servitude were allowed to go free and all who were in debt had their slates wiped clean. This is a wonderful symbolism for those in spiritual debt and in spiritual servitude but for someone with the wrong attitude it is symbolic of someone owed much and losing a lot.
The symbolism of tongues of fire on the heads of the apostles is that of a spiritual consuming obsession and passion with God’s will on God’s people that is obvious for everyone else to see.
The symbolism of miraculously speaking in other languages in order to bring others to the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah is an ability to communicate in a perfectly effective way to whoever needs freedom in their souls.
The symbolism of three thousand is about a “chaos that causes stability” event. It is especially interesting that on Mount Sinai after the people had created the golden calf to worship in place of God, three thousand of them were lost from God’s people to a plague as a punishment. On Pentecost, three thousand were added to God’s people.
- In the case of Mt. Sinai, symbolically, this number represents a situation that seemed out of control but was intended to smooth the situation or stabilize it. The death of the three thousand people changed the atmosphere from one of chaotic heresy to humble reverence.
- The situation at Pentecost, when three thousand came to the Messiah, is symbolic of the chaotic day when the Jews of all nations were gathered together, yet the apostles were without the ability to communicate about Jesus until that situation became even more out of control when the apostles began to speak in all the languages. This chaotic situation brought about stability in understanding and spreading of the message that was nearly drowned out by an inability to communicate.
The holidays of both Shavuot/Pentecost and Memorial Day are symbolic of remembering the hard work that led to the beginning of the enjoyment of your success and the fruits of your labor. It is those memories that make the success successful.
As you spend your Memorial Day going to the beach or having a barbeque with feelings of excitement, warmth, and freedom, try to remember those who have fought and died for you, those who have chosen a path of redemption to bring you into existence, and every struggle you have ever had where God has been faithful to bring you forward.
Remember that, “…He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” Phil 1:6