Monday, June 05, 2006

"The Setting Up and the Sending Out" Part One

“The Setting Up and the Sending Out” (A Pentecost Sermon)
A “Missional” reading and study of the Scripture

Part One

Text Acts 1:8; 2:1-11
Act 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Act 2:1-11 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.

They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
(In other words - uneducated men!) "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God."

Today we celebrate Pentecost. It’s a special day in the “Church year”. It’s important that we know what it is, and celebrate it.

It just so happened, that I filled the pulpit last year on Pentecost Sunday, and I spoke a little more in depth of its history and how what we celebrate today has its roots in Old Testament history. So, I won’t go into quite as much detail today, but if you missed it last year, or have, as we say, “Slept since then” and you’ve forgotten, let me know and I’ll get you a copy of that study*.

The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth” because in the Old Testament, this feast was held fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits. Firstfruits was fulfilled by what we know as Easter. In the Christian Church, we celebrate Pentecost as the “Birthday of the Church.”

Forty days after Christ’s resurrection, He ascended into Heaven; then, 10 days after that, (making 50 days in all) the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 believers who were praying together and the Church was born.

However, like I said, Pentecost is a celebration, or a feast that dates back to the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt.

We all know the story of the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. We’ve heard the Bible stories, seen the TV programs and the movies like “The Ten Commandments”; we know somewhat about the plagues, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, the Passover, and the crossing of the Red Sea but what we may not know is how all of this ties together.

Fifty days after the children of Israel leave Egypt, they come to the “Mountain of God” - Mount Sinai.

Listen again to the OT scripture reading:

Exodus 19:3-6 Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:
'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself.
'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you (Moses) shall speak to the sons of Israel."

The key to that passage is “you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

All throughout Jesus ministry, He labored under one great disadvantage - that is when He spoke of “The Kingdom of God”, He meant one thing, and those who heard Him, heard something entirely different.

The Jews were always vividly conscious of being God’s chosen people - how many times had they heard it? They were taught of Abraham’s call, of the covenant, of God’s sustaining hand in their history - that “they” were the chosen people! They took that to mean that they were destined for special privilege and for world-wide dominion. But of course, their history proved that humanly-speaking, that could never be.

Palestine was a little country of not more than 120 miles long by about 40 miles wide. It did have days of independence, under the rule of David and Solomon, but for the most part; its entire history had been one of subjection to various outside forces. There were the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and now the Romans. So naturally, the Jews began to look forward to a day when God would break directly into human history and establish that “kingdom” that they felt they so richly deserved. In other words - they looked at “The Kingdom of God” in strictly political terms.

What did Jesus mean by “The Kingdom of God?” We find that very clearly in the Lord’s Prayer. In it, God’s kingdom is called forth - “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…” And how is it to be done? “On earth as it is in heaven.”

This is characteristic of Hebrew style, as we often see in the Psalms, to say things in two parallel forms - the second explains or amplifies the first. And that is what this line in this prayer does. We see that the kingdom that Jesus is referring to is a society upon earth where God’s will, would be as perfectly done, as it is always and forever being done, in heaven. Why? Because that “kingdom” would be built on love and not on political or military power.

In order to achieve this, man (which, as we know means “mankind) needed the Holy Spirit.


Next - just what it means to be a "kingdom of priests"...

*Note - If you'd like a copy of that "study" I spoke of, just e-mail me and ask for it. It is a very simple explaination (as I am a very simple person) of the feasts of the OT and how they relate to the NT. It had a chart and everything! :-)



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