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Life in the Word and Spirit – Week 22 / May 28th
“So now, brethren, I commend you to God
and to the word of His grace, which is able
to build you up and give you an inheritance
among all those who are sanctified.”
“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father
upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem
until you are endued with power from on
In just a short a few weeks we will celebrate Shavuot or Pentecost which is one of the three great pilgrim festivals of the Bible, the others being Passover and Tabernacles. The Feast of Pentecost is a harvest festival plus it was on this Feast that the Torah (five books of Moses) or Word of the living God was given to Israel at Sinai, that is, fifty days after leaving Egypt, and it was on this same day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting Disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4).
Pentecost is in every way a joyous celebration as it focuses on God’s “marriage” to Israel at Sinai for it is here at this holy mountain that the Lord God of Israel gives His people a Law that is rich in revelation and instruction and thereby galvanizes them into statehood. The journey of Israel in the wilderness to this climatic place and beyond is most interesting as, apart from the ritual pertaining to the priestly consecration, the focus falls upon; the pillar of cloud and of fire that hung over the camp in the wilderness; the ordination of the seventy elders; the provision of quail and the grace and power that brings forth the Temple of God or Wilderness Tabernacle.
The Pillar of Cloud and of Fire
The first of these, the pillar of cloud and of fire, reminds us of the heavenly call to be obedient. When the pillar was lifted, by day or by night, camp was struck and the Israelites went out to follow the cloud or fire and thereby they followed God Himself. Samuel reminds us that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1Samuel 15:22-23) and the book of Acts tells us that God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts5:32).
The Ordination of the Seventy Elders
The ordination of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-17) places the biblical emphasis upon delegation and ability. The “seventy” could not function until the power of God’s Spirit was upon them. The message is clear; to obey without the means to obey is obedience “still born”. For this reason Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were endued “with power from on high” (Luke24: 49)(Acts 1:8). Once again the message is clear; if we have the Word of God without the Power of God we shall dry up; if we have the Power of God without the Word of God we shall blow up. But, if we have the Word of God and the Power of God we shall grow up and serve the interests of God’s kingdom on earth! Without the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot go into the world and truly build Jesus’ Church.
The Quail episode recorded in Numbers11: 31-35 is also interesting because God’s supernatural provision leads to an outburst of His anger. Anger because the Israelites gorged themselves and thus behaved as if God would not be in their future. A reminder of Who we serve and that we are stewards of His blessings. Having forgotten this they died and were buried at a place called “Hattaavah” meaning, “graves of the craving.” When we abuse God’s provision and abundance we die spiritually and lose our way. Many a Christian has died at Hattaavah because they have been too busy receiving and getting than serving and doing! The Church of Jesus is not a grandstand and should not be filled with spectators but with participators. This too is the abiding message of the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter two. The Disciples of Jesus were filled with the Spirit so as to go into all the world and serve.
The Power of the Holy Spirit
Lastly, Zechariah, the restoration Prophet, reminds us that all of God’s work is pursued through God’ ability. “Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord.” This power of God’s Spirit builds a Temple that is completed with shouts of grace (Zechariah 4: 6-7). All this also reminds us that spiritual life is sustained by corporate life. That is, we should worship together and we fail God when we forsake our assembling together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Certainly the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first Christians in the upper room was a “together experience” (Acts1: 1). Only the Holy Spirit can give us real unity and order and so, when we claim to have His anointing but cannot live together with other believers in unity and love we contradict our claim. Pentecost birthed the Church and formed a people into a community of love no matter what their national, racial, status or gender differences were. When the Spirit came the confusion of tongues that began at Babel was reversed and the multitude heard them speaking as one in the tongues of men (Acts 2:5-12). The multitudes without Christ are ever waiting for the truth about God to be lived out before them and consequently they will respond, as they did on the Day of Pentecost, when the Church embraces and demonstrates this truth through the Word and Spirit of God.
Given all of the above it is clear that we have much to learn from the Festival of Pentecost.