Updated: Apr 29
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? —we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Acts 2: 2-12
The Acts of the Apostles, the long title, is a lovely book that describes the early church as it grew under the tutelage and care of the disciples. In the above passage, this gathering of Jews has come together in their holy city of Jerusalem from all nations for Pentecost. Remember, the beloved ancestral nation of Israel in all its unity under King David and his son King Solomon had fallen under the hands of first Assyria and then Babylonia; God’s chosen people had turned away from their living God and lost a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. This dispersal of the nation of Israel was known as the Jewish diaspora. The greek word “diaspora” means to scatter or sow seed broadly. Think about this in the context of Jesus' parable of the sower. In his short earthly life, Jesus had come to sow and gather in a new harvest of believers.
Following the wind, the tongues of fire, and the filling of the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches the Good News, the new Gospel to this Jewish audience. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2: 41. These “finished”, messianic Jews have now accepted grace over legalism. They have found their promised savior, their Yeshua in Jesus. They have now the Holy Spirit indwelling in the temple of their hearts. These Jews are the seeds of the Word and beginning of the Holy Spirit's harvest. They are the first fruits of the new church. The curtain separating the people from God in the holy temple of Jerusalem has been torn in two.
Before his crucifixion, as he struggled to prepare his dear friends for his necessary, ordained, and imminent death, Jesus told them:
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” … “ All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid…” John 14: 15-27
Do you remember how Christ was the Word that was spoken into being as the Trinity created the kingdom of God and released the Holy Spirit to cover the unformed earth like a cloud, like the wind, the very breath of God?
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1: 1-2
Finally, after all this time, the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting…the Ruach of the Holy Trinity…
Does the Holy Spirit indwells in you? What does that feel like?
How important is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to you?
Do you know anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit indwelling?
Why do they not?
Do you think it's possible for someone to completely reject the Holy Spirit in their life?
What do you think they think about when they lie down to sleep? How about when they are afraid? How about when they escape a frightening situation?
Remember our discussion about the creation of time in the beginning? How is time important for us in regards to this series of reflection and discussion?
The Old Testament
There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”...God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”...
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey...” Exodus 3: 2-8
We have already studied parts of the story of Moses and how he was called and chosen by the Lord. Children in Christian homes always are taught about the baby Moses in the basket and his adoption into Pharaoh’s family. But Moses fled that life of privilege after he murdered an Egyptian slave driver and began a new life in the wilderness. The passage above has been discussed already in the lesson on the Transfiguration, but let's listen to it again as it reveals more about God's beloved Ruach.
Remember, this fire, this visible Presence, is the Holy Spirit who will be so critical as the people flee Egypt, wander in the desert, and finally come forth as a nation into God’s promised “land of milk and honey.” This awesome and awful Holy Presence, this visible cloud and fire, providing light and guidance, assured God’s chosen people of His favor and steadfast devotion:
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13: 21-22
With great difficulty, Moses does as God desires and leads his people out of slavery and into the desert. The book of Leviticus is so detailed in its setting forth what God demanded of his chosen people. Please bear with me as I summarize just one section of God’s requirements in his forming of his beloved nation of Israel. Following the giving of the Ten Commandments, his Holy Law to Moses, God set forth seven holy days, appointed times, that his chosen children were to yearly celebrate in memory and honor of Him. Seven, the number of completion from in the beginning. The Feast of Passover was and still is to commemorate their deliverance from slavery. Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, was to follow 50 days later with the first fruits of the wheat harvest. “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field." Exodus 23: 16.
These Old Testament divine laws are so very confusing and mysterious without the New Testament revelation of spiritual light and truth. “The angel of the Lord,” in the burning bush, a profound mystery to the Jew, is given spiritual light and insight by the New Testament prophet, John the Baptist, as is the mystery of God’s Presence with its cloud and fire:
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12
What does this mean? The Jewish Passover, ordained by God, to mark deliverance from slavery in Egypt became our Last Supper, marking all of creation’s deliverance from slavery to sin. The blood of Jesus Christ became the blood of the lamb that would finally satisfy the requirement of death because of that sin.
Pentecost, 50 days later,celebrating the first fruits of the earth’s wheat harvest, brought the Holy Spirit on tongues of fire into the hearts of humanity. These God-fearing Jews became Christ’s first fruits; their hearts circumcised by fire. The Word of God, the Holy Spirit, now, finally able to dwell within them. Reborn by the Holy Spirit and his refining fire, out of the beloved chosen nation of Israel, the new Church was birthed and became God's new delight. Abraham’s blessing is set into motion. Nations will be gathered and blessed according to whether they prove to be chaff or grain. And we, those that follow, will be refined as silver in the fire of affliction as well; we will become the Bride of Christ.
“Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob,
you who are called by the name of Israel… For I knew how stubborn you were;
your neck muscles were iron,
your forehead was bronze. …
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction,”…
This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48: 1-17
“...Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,...” Isaiah 43: 1-3
What has the world given you? Has it been enough?
What heartaches have you endured?
Have you been broken by life?
What of value have you ever been promised? Did you get what you were promised?
What’s the difference in being broken and being refined? Can you define refinement?
Which have you been? Have you been both broken and refined?
Will you ever be so pure as to never need any more refinement?
Have you known anyone that you would call refined in the furnace of affliction? How did they change with their affliction and their refinement? What did he or she have to endure in order to shine so brightly?
The 29:11 Story
There is a lovely sequence of beads that follows the horrible story of Jesus’ crucifixion. This part of God’s Story is creation’s very salvation, its Yeshua. Find a beautiful crystal angel bead next to a black as death bead for the empty tomb, and 50 days later, a fire orange bead bringing the Holy Spirit pearl into the hearts of humanity.
Remember, there are three pearls on every 29:11 Story that represent the mysterious Holy Spirit. The first comes quickly in God’s Story as the Holy Spirit, God’s Ruach, hovers apart from the Father and the Son over the waters of the new creation like a dove. The second Holy Spirit bead appears here, nestled between the fire orange of Pentecost and Paul. Our promised Comforter, our Counselor, able now to finally indwell with the Holy Family‘s beloved creation. The third and last Holy Spirit bead, another white luminous pearl, will be found be in the story of the Second Coming, at the end of every 29:11 Story. Here the Holy Spirit finally comes home as he returns to the Father and the Son but not alone. He brings us, the luminous white Bride of Christ.
Now trace the story of Moses. What bead does it begin with? What bead does Moses’ story end with? Who led the people of the Lord out of the desert into the promised land?
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God,...” Isaiah 43: 1-3
This passage was critically important to me as William went through his first year of chemotherapy and numerous surgeries. It became my mantra. I was full of almighty zeal and confidence in William’s healing that year. We had found the cancer very early. We were all assured by the success of his treatment that he would survive albeit with a compromised gait.
But none of us were prepared for the rediagnosis. I still believed in God, but I felt betrayed. I was so angry and hurt. Then, one morning God spoke so clearly to me, and I flung up at him, “I am dry as a bone, I am burned to a crisp.” His response, “Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?”
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego...“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
...He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual ...So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace...Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement...He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, ... They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Daniel 3: 13-27
What surprised you today?
What new connections in the Bible did you make today?
What questions do you want to explore further about today's study?
I do not give to you as the world gives. What did Jesus promise his beloved disciples, his dearest friends?
Read these verses on refinement: Psalm 12: 6, Malachi 3, Revelation 3: 14-22.
Now read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Why have I included this in this lesson? What are some “first fruits” in your family’s life? What made them a first fruit? What made them valuable?
Can you remember who will be the first fruits for Christ in the Book of Revelations? Can you draw a comparison between them and the first fruits of the Acts passage? What does this say about God’s promises?
Reread Revelation 14: 1-5
Can you compare the story of the Old Testament’s Tower of Babel to this passage in Acts 2?
Read Genesis 11: 1-9. Can you find the bead that represents the Tower of Babel on the 29:11 Story? What color is it? Why?
Do you remember what God promised Noah when he gave him the sign of the rainbow? Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Please read the following verses for when Christ returns to destroy Satan and sin:
Revelation 1: 14
Revelation 4: 5
Revelation 8 - 9
Revelation 14: 9-12
Revelation 15: 1-2
Revelation 16: 8-9
Revelation 20: 7-15
Now read Matthew 13:24-30