Thursday, December 1, 2011

Package From Altar: Pentecost is God's oath to be with us forever!

Next Tuesday evening (June 6) will mark the beginning of Shavuot, or the Feast of weeks, which marks the completion of seven weeks between Passover (Pesach) and Shavuot. On this day, or rather the next two full days (June 7,8), one of the passages of scriptures read is from Exodus 19:1-20, which is the account of when the Israelites arrived at the desert in front of Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago and God descended on the mountain in a dense cloud and gave them the Torah. 

The Jewish community worldwide celebrate this day as a day when God swore eternal devotion to them and they pledged loyalty to Him. Shavuot also means 'oaths' for God made an eternal covenant with the Israelites on this day.

On the first night of Shavuot, which is usually a two day feast, it is customary to stay up all night learning the Torah. I could not help but notice some interesting parallels and nuggets in the Exodus reading. In verse 5 and six  of chapter 19, He declares: ' Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. 

Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' The word Hebrew word for priests here is 'kohen', which literally means 'one officiating, and also applies to acting priest (layman) - chief, prince, principal officer.
The word used for kingdom is 'mamlakah' which means dominion, or rule and the word holy here is 'qadosh' sometimes transliterated to 'kadosh' which applies to a sanctuary, or sacred. In verse 9 God tells Moses that He is going to come to him in a dense cloud so that the people would hear Him speaking with Moses and would always put their trust in Moses after that happened.

Fast forward to the day of Pentecost. Imagine the Jewish disciples having spent the night reading the word and remembering God's promise as they read Exodus 19. Imagine them remembering Jesus' promise of the gift of the counsellor, the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to become witnesses and would remind them of what He had taught them! Look at the following similarities:

1. God came done on the mountain and was visible to the Israelites in a powerful way; God came down by His Spirit and was visible by the tounges of fire.

2. God made a covenant with the Israelites that he would make them 'kadosh': The Holy Spirit sealed the covenant by making our bodies His 'sanctuary'.

3. God promised to make them a kingdom and priests: Revelations 5:10 tells of how the blood of Jesus purchased men from 'every tribe and tongue' and made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve God and they would reign on the earth (dominion). When the Holy Spirit was poured out, they became bold and received power to become witnesses.

I am often amazed that we ignore the Jewish holidays, yet by the blood of the Lamb, we have been bought into this eternal promise that was once exclusively for the Israelites. God does not change his mind when He makes covenants. Much as we would chose to ignore this holiday, it would help us to at least look at God's word and commandments and ask the Holy Spirit to quicken us to the power of His word. 

Many of us move in an apparent lack of spiritual power and authority not realizing that the Holy Spirit acts in accordance to God's word.  And so on that day, as the believers were reminding themselves of the word and ten commandments, they set the stage for the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel.

The Holy Spirit is not restricted by holidays or dates, but it seems to me more than a coincidence that God would use His 'convocations' (calling together of large assembly or meeting) to fulfill prophecies He had made about His son. What I learn from this is more than ever, we need to read the word diligently and put it to practice because it is the key towards dwelling in the presence of God and God dwelling in us! In Acts 10:44 it says: 'While Peter was still speaking these WORDS, the Holy Spirit came on all who HEARD the MESSAGE'. Notice here in verse 45/46 it tells of how the circumsised (Jewish) believers were 'astonished' as 'they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God'.

It seems interesting this second reference to the manifestation of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (The first being Acts 2) shows clearly that one speaks in tongues that are understood and they clearly are words that praise God! We need to learn something here about the Holy Spirit!

As the Jewish people celebrate God's devotion and covenant to them, let us remember that we too share in this 'oath' through the work of the Son on the cross, seven weeks before at the Feast of the Passover. In Hebrews 7:28 Paul says 'For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath (or Shavuout), which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.' 

This 'shavuot was made in Psalm 110:4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."  Peter also quotes this Psalm in Acts 2:34 and 35. This Psalm talks of Jesus and His eternal position as the High Priest and our mediator.

One of the greatest benefits of this understanding of the work of the Word and the Spirit is referred to by Peter in the Psalm that David wrote pointing to Jesus (Psalm 16:8-11).  In verse 28 of the book of acts, Peter says as he quotes this Psalm: 'You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence'. As we seek His presence and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with it, the immediate reward is an overwhelming joy. On that day of Shavuot, the disciples and believers were praising God, not in obscure tongues, but in languages those hearing them could understand. 

We often ask for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and because of what we see others manifesting we get put off. I would like to be bold enough to ask that we use the day of Pentecost as a standard. Screaming and writhing and convulsing seems a bit far off from what happened that day. While these may be manifestations of God doing something in a person, they are not the standard we should use. 

We also need to get over this uttering of syllables that no one can interpret or understand and graduate to prophesying so that the body of believers is edified by the 'tongues' we speak. God's promise in Joel was for us to dream dreams and see visions (and bear fruit). Witness what happened that day as over 3,000 were convicted by the presence of God and repented! May God give us all a true Pentecost (Shavuout) this coming week!

Be blessed! Be filled! Be on fire!

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