There are so many hymns about the Holy Spirit in our hymnals.
Come, Holy Spirit, come as a wisdom to children, as a rest to the weary.
The Spirit Song asks that the Son of God enfold you with His Spirit.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is peace.
The Comforter Has Come so spread tidings.
Spirit of the Living God fall fresh on me,
soul of Heaven, heart of God, wash over me.
There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place.
Holy Spirit, Light Divine, shine upon this heart of mine.
Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew.
None of these images are Biblical images of the Spirit of God. As I was searching hymnals for songs about the Spirit, I came across one of the Spirit hymns.
Spirit, Spirit of gentleness, blow through the wilderness, calling and free.
Spirit, Spirit of restlessness, stir me from placidness,
Wind, wind on the sea.
You moved on the waters. You swept through the desert.
You sang in the stable. You call from tomorrow.
The image of the Spirit is a little closer to the Biblical image, but still doesn’t capture the power of the Holy Spirit. I did find one that comes closest to capturing the Biblical vision of the Spirit.
Wind who makes all winds that blow – gusts that bend the saplings low,
Gales that heave the sea in waves, stirrings in the mind’s deep caves,
Aim your breath with steady power on your church this day, this hour.
Raise, renew the life we’ve lost, Spirit God of Pentecost.
Still, that hymn doesn’t capture the power of the Holy Spirit that came at Pentecost.
I want to start in the Old Testament to understand the Spirit of the Lord before moving on to Pentecost. The Old Testament book of Judges and 1st Samuel give 6 witnesses to how the Holy Spirit comes. In 6 different verses, in 6 different stories (Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19, Judges 15: 14, 1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 11:6 and 1 Samuel 16:13) , the Bible says these words about the Spirit: “The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him.” In the first 3 instances, the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on Samson to fight the Philistines protecting the Israelites. In 2 of the stories, King Saul is convicted by the Spirit and prophesies. In the final story, the Spirit comes powerfully upon David when he is anointed as king of Israel.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of the Lord comes powerfully to specific people. The Spirit comes with power stirring people to act, not gently and sweet to inspire and comfort. The Spirit comes powerfully to stir people to action.
The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon chosen people for a specific purpose. There is a specific story I’d like to share with you from Numbers 11. The Hebrew people had come up out of Egypt and were wandering around the wilderness during their 40 years. The people gathered together and started complaining. Sound familiar?
The people had been eating manna showered down from Heaven every night. All they had to do was gather it up in the morning. They had to do very little to prepare it to eat. There was enough for the day and there was more every morning. But, they complained. They wanted meat. They said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
Moses is frustrated with the people and asks God why he was chosen to lead these ungrateful people. He didn’t think he could do it alone any more. God answered Moses’ prayer by anointing 70 elders to prophesy.
The Spirit of the Lord often came upon chosen people to prophesy. It came upon all the prophets to prophesy. The Bible specifically says the Spirit came upon King Saul (1 Samuel 18:10, 19:20) and Nehemiah (9:30) to prophesy. The prophet Joel (2:28) and Zechariah (7:12) name how the Spirit came upon the prophets and pronounce the coming day when the Spirit will be poured out upon all people. Most often, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon people to prophesy, to warn the Jews when they are not acting like the children of God and what will come if they continue to act as they are.
Now, we come to the day of Pentecost. The story tells us that they were gathered together in one place. They being the followers of Jesus, including the Disciples and other followers. There were about 30 followers gathered. Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He told His followers to wait in Jerusalem until the promise of the Spirit was fulfilled.
So, they gathered together and waited. I imagine they were trying to figure out what to do next. They probably should have known from the Jewish Scriptures that the Holy Spirit came to specific people for the purpose of prophecy. However, Jesus had turned everything upside down and nothing was as they had expected. So, they gathered together and waited wondering what the Holy Spirit coming would mean.
As they waited, a violent wind blew through the house where they were gathered and filled the entire house. Fired came down and a blaze settled on each of them as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Each began to speak in other languages gifted by the Spirit.
They were so loud and caused such a disturbance that the Jews of Jerusalem that gathered for the festival from many nations gathered around to hear and see what was going on. The Jews were stunned and wondered what was going on. Everyone heard what the Disciples were saying in their own language and understood their message. They wondered how they could understand in their own language even though those speaking didn’t speak their language. They didn’t know what to make of what they were seeing and hearing.
Then, Peter stood up and prophesied to tell them what they were experiencing. Peter quotes from the prophet Joel who had received the Holy Spirit to prophesy. Peter said that according to the prophet Joel, when the last days came, God would pour out the Spirit on everyone. Sons and daughters, young and old, men and women would receive the Spirit and on the day of Pentecost they all received the Spirit.
It happened just as Peter said it would. Boys and girls, men and women, young and old from all nations speaking different languages all received the Spirit. The Spirit was no longer for specific people for prophesy. The Spirit was for all so that all who believed in the Lord would be saved. God had now included all people in the promise of salvation and the opportunity for grace.
I had an epiphany, a revelation, this week while I was reading this Scripture and working on this sermon. It came to me that we are in the end days, not in the sense that doom and gloom are taking over and Jesus will soon come to redeem us all. We are in the end times in that we are in the age of the Spirit which the prophet Joel proclaimed would come when God poured out the Spirit to all.
Reading Scriptures, we can learn from the writings of Paul that God is in Heaven where Jesus rules from His right hand. We are now in the age of the Spirit where God is with us and working in us and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that comforts us and inspires us. The Spirit dwells within our hearts and nurtures our spiritual growth. God is now working through the Spirit.
Now the Spirit is given to everyone in different ways but for the same purpose. In 1 Corinthians 12: 4 – 13, Paul tells us more about the purpose and gifts of the Spirit.
4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Paul tells us that the Spirit gifts each of us differently. Some wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in and interpreting tongues. All of these and others are gifts of the Spirit enacted by the Spirit as the Spirit chooses in each of us. Paul also tells us the purpose of these many gifts. In verse 7, he says: to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For the common good.
What we are to do with our gifts for the common good seems like it needs its own sermon. I will be preaching next week from Paul’s writing to the Corinthians about how we are to be with one another for the common good. So, this sermon will continue next week.