Pentecost — the Spirit of the Lord
Pentecost is a special anniversary that speaks to people who are empowered by the spirit of the Lord.
Over 3500 years ago, the Lord spoke the ten commandments to millions of the assembled Israelites from the top of the mountain in the midst of the lightning and thunder. The people were impressed by this awesome display of the power of the spirit of the Lord. Without hesitation they pledged their allegiance to the Lord, the I AM. They promised to be faithful and live in covenant with the Lord, as their Father.
He had delivered the tribes from slavery and the polytheistic Egyptian religious traditions that were useless. His first command was for the people to know and worship the Lord, the one true God. Then he gave them commandments that formed the basis for a constitutional form of governance for the nation. Unfortunately, the loyalty of the people wavered in spite of all the miracles they had witnessed. They lacked the spirit of the Lord to help them follow through on their promises. Within weeks they had created an idol to represent the Lord,. Aaron had sculpted a ‘golden calf’ to aid in their worship. They had fallen back in times of fear and doubt into their old religious practice, and habits of mind and action.
Without the Spirit of the Lord
Centuries later, Jeremiah, rehearsed the old refrain that Israel had once again forgotten the Lord and had become enslaved. They had lost their freedom, by rejecting the spirit of the Lord and his covenant. In adopting pagan ideas, they were once more slaves to wicked desires. And the Lord God warned the people that their evil behaviour would bring its own bitter consequences. The mental slavery of sin would bring destruction to their society, and eventually lead to physical enslavement under the hand of foreign rulers.
Paul wrote to the Romans about this same tendency to lose freedom, when the spirit of the Lord is not the guiding influence in society. Those who no longer acknowledge the Lord begin to embrace what God detests.These people become slaves to their degenerate minds that prompt them to do vile things. They get caught up in the spirit of murder, malice, and greed, while rejecting the attributes of the spirit of the Lord — mercy, affection, and godly wisdom.
Pentecost and the Spirit of the Lord
Paul’s letter to the Galatians reiterates this simple truth: God is not mocked; we reap what we sow. If we sow to the flesh — our sinful nature — we will reap ruin and destruction. God is not a respecter of persons, so the experience of Israel was a lesson for all people for all time. There are grave consequences for rejecting the spirit of the Lord. However, those people who embrace the Lord God and his values will reap a good harvest – eternal life.
Paul elaborated on this theme in writing to the Romans. The Jews of the time thought it was enough to be circumcised as a sign that they were the true ancestors of Abraham. But they, like their ancestors, had forgotten the Lord’s instructions. They were guilty of breaking the covenant and the law they claimed to value. Paul made it clear that the Gentiles who kept the royal law, the Lord’s commandments, were circumcised ‘in heart.” Instead of following their fleshly nature they were following the spirit of the Lord, and this was giving them a change of heart — a circumcised heart. It was this law of ‘liberty’ as James called it, that would guide the spiritually minded and keep them from falling into sin and spiritual death.
Just as the giving of the law to Israel was a matter of the spirit of the Lord teaching the people, so was the beginning of the church in the book of Acts. It was the spirit of the Lord coming as a wind and flame that empowered the disciples to speak in many languages. This miracle was a witness to all Jews who had gathered from many parts of the Roman Empire and beyond. The spirit of the Lord had enabled them to hear the good news of God’s Kingdom preached in their own language. This was a foretaste of the coming of the Messiah, and the time when the spirit of the Lord would be poured out on all people. For at that time all who call upon the Lord shall be saved. But who is the Lord whose spirit helps us obey the commandments?
Where the Spirit of the Lord Reigns
Jesus claimed to be the Lord God of Israel, the I AM. This claim meant that he was both the source of the law, and the source of the spirit that would enable people to obey the law. He told his disciples that they would demonstrate their love for the Lord by obeying his commands, the commands he had received from the Father. Jesus said that many ‘believed’ him when he preached, but more was required. To his disciples he explained that the Comforter, the spirit of the Lord, would only come to those disciples who obeyed the commandments.
Peter claimed to speak for the Lord, the Messiah who had been murdered. Testifying before the High Priest, Peter and the apostles answered, “Jesus is the One whom God raised to be on his right side. God made Jesus our Leader and Saviour. God did this so that the people of Israel could change their hearts and lives and have their sins forgiven. We saw all these things happen. The Holy Spirit also proves that these things are true. God has given the Spirit to all who obey him. When the Jewish leaders heard this, they became very angry and wanted to kill them.” This is why Peter infuriated the Jewish leaders who were trying to subvert his ministry. They were not willing to believe that Jesus was the Lord.
Everyone who sins, who disobeys the Lord’s commands, who casts aside their covenant relationship and no longer walks with the Lord, is in bondage. They are enslaved by their own desires, and as slaves they cannot inherit the blessings that the sons and daughters of God will inherit. As Christians we will continually need to avoid the traps of the world that could hold us captive. But we can maintain our freedom if we remember Paul’s admonition and act on his advice. For it is the Lord who is Spirit, who provides us the teaching and way of life that brings freedom, for where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Pentecost — Feast of Weeks