A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Pentecost. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pentecost. Show all posts

May 30, 2020

Understanding Pentecost: The Jewish and Christian Perspectives

     This weekend is Pentecost [meaning "fifty"], the Christian holiday which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish Feast of Weeks [or Shavuot -- which is translated as "weeks" in Hebrew]. For the religion of Judaism, this feast emphasizes the time lapse between Passover and Shavuot, two of the three "solemn feasts" which every Jewish male was required to attend in Jerusalem [the other being the Feast of Tabernacles].
     Passover, in addition to its historical phase commemorating the end of Egyptian slavery, also was a spring festival linked to the beginning of the spring harvest season. The grain harvest lasted seven weeks, beginning with the harvesting of the barley on the second day of Passover and ending with the harvesting of the wheat about a month later, at Shavuot.
     The Feast of Weeks also involved a ritual in which there was the bringing of the wave offering of bread [as a show of peace and service to God], which was to be baked from the new crop of wheat. Leviticus 23:15-17 gives us the details of this ritual ... You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord. This was the way one expressed his or her gratitude to God for the new crop.
     It is important to us, as Christians, to understand that the Lord's Feasts were instituted not only as holy convocations, or gatherings, to the ancient Israelites, but they have continued significance to us as the children of God, whose faith is rooted in the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
     As I have pointed out to you in the past, the four Spring feasts are a mirror of Christ's reality here on earth. Jesus was crucified as the “Passover Lamb” and rose from the grave at the Feast of Firstfruits. Following His resurrection, Jesus spent the next 40 days teaching His disciples before ascending to heaven (Acts 1). Fifty days after His resurrection, and ascension, where He sat at the right hand of God, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit [which God had promised] to indwell the disciples and empower them for ministry. The promised Holy Spirit arrived on the Day of Pentecost, which is another name for the Feast of Weeks.
     Yes, this day has extraordinary meaning to the Body of Christ. The holiday of Pentecost commemorates the day God made good on His promise to send us a Counselor/Helper in the absence of our Lord and Savior. 
     Jesus, Himself, prophesied that this would happen ...  And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49); When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me (John 15;26). Paul confirms this in Ephesians 1:13 -14: having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance. 
     But this promise of the Holy Spirit was well-known throughout Jewish history, too. Their prophets had brought the message of the Promise down through the centuries. The Holy Spirit had been present in their midst whenever God sent Him for specific purposes. Haggai 2:5 exemplifies this concept: As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear! The prophet Ezekiel preached this message from YHWH: Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. And then there is the End Times prophecy from Joel 2:28-29: It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 
     As you can see, throughout the Old and New Testaments, which in reality are one continuous covenant with His own, there has been a promise that God would give us the Holy Spirit. And He has given us Holy days upon which we are to reflect and glorify His sovereignty.  The importance of that promise and those holy days are meant for both Jew and Christian; our faiths are intertwined, along with the promises from the Father and the Son. We are all called to repent and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This weekend I will meditate on what the Holy Spirit has done in my life, and I will pray and express my gratitude for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for the revelation of the importance of this Feast. And I will cry out for a new anointing in the Spirit as I renew my dedication to witness of the power and authority of Jesus Christ on the earth. To God be the Glory!

Thank you to the websites MyJewishLearning.com and GotQuestions.org for supplementing my own research in the Word of God. May these resources which point to our Lord always be available.
 Isaiah 59:21     As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from now and forever.”

May 27, 2020

In Preparation for Pentecost: How Full Is Your Lamp?

     This upcoming weekend we will be celebrating the Lord's holy feast day known as Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks. It is among the three "solemn feasts" that all Jewish males were required to attend in Jerusalem. Deuteronomy 16:16 makes this clear: "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed."
     This Feast, along with the other holy feast days ordained by God, has significance for both Jews and Christians. They all foreshadow the coming Messiah and His ministry. The holy day is also known as the "Day of the Firstfruits" and the "Feast of Harvest" in the Jewish religious traditions, as it was in celebration of the first fruits of the wheat harvest. And in Leviticus 23:16, the Lord gave this commandment, "You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain [from the harvest] to the Lord". 
     But it has unique meaning for Christians as well. Exactly 50 days after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, Jesus sent the promised Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17) to indwell the disciples with power to begin their ministry. That empowerment by the Holy Spirit happened precisely on the Feast of Weeks, or Day of Pentecost (which means "fifty"). I will share more of the history and significance of what the Lord has to say about Pentecost in the next post. But today I want to revisit a revelation I received about this holy feast day a couple of years ago. I think it has even more profound significance for us today.
     We are all familiar with the power of the Word contained in Acts 2:1-4, When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This is a depiction of the Glory of the Lord falling on the devout followers of Jesus! But I have to ask you a very serious question now ... does that same power of the Holy Spirit permeate the places that you worship? Does your church experience being overtaken by the Holy Spirit each time you gather? Does the presence of God manifest in your church as the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites in Exodus 13, or the tongues of fire that engulfed the disciples in Acts 2? I'm pretty sure not many can answer "yes". Which brings me to the question I have posed in this blog title .... How full is your lamp?
     In 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4, Paul is warning Believers that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." He goes on to say that we are to be the "light-bearers", so to speak, of the knowledge of the glory of God; "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us". We know that the power of God came to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and that same power dwells in us, as evidenced by 1 Corinthians 3:16, Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? So, we are, in effect, carriers or "vessels" of God's power and glory!
     If we believe Scripture that we have the treasure of the Holy Spirit in us, with all of God's glory and power, why does the Body of Christ not resemble the "vessels" that met together at that first Pentecost in Acts 2? Why does the modern Church dismiss the glory that they contained? Why do we dismiss the signs and wonders and the power of the Holy Spirit that was evidence of God's glory in them? In response to these questions, I'd like to share the wisdom I received from an article in Charisma Magazine a few years ago...
     Consider that the state of our churches is similar to the experience of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In this well-known parable, half of the Virgins have their lamps full of oil (which is representative of the Holy Spirit in the Bible). The wise Virgins had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil (Holy Spirit), whereas the foolish Virgins had apparently procrastinated. Engaging frequently with the dispenser of the oil [the Holy Spirit], the wise had an adequate supply of oil to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper when the Bridegroom finally arrived. They were prepared! But the foolish Virgins think they can just borrow some of the oil from their wiser counterparts.  But that's not how the Holy Spirit works!
     The premise of the article was as follows: "Churches are filled with people the Bible would call foolish—those who are not spiritually vibrant, personally disciplined, and deeply intimate with Jesus [and Holy Spirit]. Their lamps are empty... If a church is ablaze with the spirit of prayer and alive as the Holy Spirit blows and burns through everyone there, those who are asleep and without any oil will definitely not feel comfortable. There is no way they can integrate in such a place without feeling the pressure to fill their lamps." Why are we so willing to share our oil; or to dilute the glory of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit in order to make those people feel comfortable? Why is the Church of today so willing "to integrate nicely with others who are equally resistant to the deeper things of the Spirit? They are [all] spiritually interested, but not spiritually invested. They have not paid the price and have not bought their own oil".
     Here's what is so important for us to understand ... the oil (Holy Spirit) cannot be borrowed. And it cannot be passed from one person to another.  Each person must determine just how much of the Holy Spirit he or she wants.
     This principle reminds me of those 120 who were present together in the Upper Room, devoted to prayer, as they waited for the promised Holy Spirit. And do you recall that after He was resurrected, Jesus appeared first to Peter, then to the 12 Apostles, and then to more than 500 of His followers? Acts 1:3 says, "He presented Himself alive to them after His suffering [on the Cross] by many proofs [signs and wonders], appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God".
     The Bible tells us in Acts 1:2, that just before He ascended into Heaven, He left instructions for ALL of those followers and apostles [which means "sent ones"; not restricted to the Twelve]. He told them all to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit; that which had been promised by the Father [in Joel 2].  So there were at least 512 people who had seen the resurrected Christ and been told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. Why were there only 120 who received Him? Did the others get tired of waiting? Did they think they had lots of time and weren't diligent about being prepared? Or did they think that the gift of the Holy Spirit wasn't for them or worth their while? Do you see the similarities with the Foolish Virgins? With the modern Church?
     If we think that we're on solid ground, or good enough, with being Saved and having the Holy Spirit indwell us, and thus being content with a moderate level of the Holy Spirit in us... aren't our lamps only half full? Don't we want the full measure of Him, which means we are willing to pay the price to seek Him on our own? Do we really want to be like those 200 or more people who missed out on the Upper Room experience because they weren't willing to pay the price to wait for the Father's gift of the Holy Spirit? As the article proclaims, "Those who had their lamps full, those who responded to the command of Jesus to wait and pray, were ready when the wind and the fire came!"
     So, as we prepare to celebrate the holy Feast of Weeks [Pentecost] this weekend, let us be sober and intentional in seeking to fill our lamps and vessels to the brim with the fullness of the Holy Spirit! Let us be like the wise Virgins who "took flasks of oil with their lamps." Does this suggest they went with full lamps and extra provision of the Holy Spirit? [I believe that fasting for Pentecost could certainly "store up" the power of Heaven for future spiritual needs.]
     At the very least, I wish to encourage each of you with these thoughts ... Let us not quench the desire of the Holy Spirit to manifest among us in the supernatural power of Heaven. Let us not restrict His Presence because some are uncomfortable, or lazy, or fearful. Let us not limit His Presence to the lowest common denominator. The glory of God is to make His Presence known; to pour out His Spirit on all mankind. What He did in the Upper Room at Pentecost is His desire for you and me. As Peter declares at Pentecost, "The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself". We are those who were "far off"; generations and a couple of thousand years away from the impartation of the Holy Spirit and His power  -- but we can experience the same thing this Pentecost, if we desire it. Spend these next few days repenting and asking for that supernatural promise to be fulfilled in your life. It's time to fill our lamps!

Acts 2:43    A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.