Devotionals

Pentecost Sunday

Most of us know the New Testament story of the day of Pentecost. This is the day described in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit dramatically burst onto the scene, with the sound of a mighty wind, and tongues of fire on the heads of Jesus’ followers. The Holy Spirit bestows on them the supernatural ability to speak another language. Jesus’ followers then took the party into the streets where Peter gave an amazing sermon that spoke straight to the hearts of thousands of people who immediately joined the following. From that day forward, the original followers of Jesus and the new converts came together, regularly listening to the apostles’ teachings, fellowshipping with one another in their homes, and sharing their possessions with anyone in need. We know this as the birth of the modern church.

But this is not the beginning of Pentecost. Acts 2 even begins with: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.”  So where did Pentecost come from?

Pentecost was originally celebrated in Jewish culture as the Feast of Weeks. “Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you” (Deuteronomy 16:9-10 NIV). This was one of three annual festivals where Jewish men were to pilgrim to the central sanctuary and offer sacrifices. This command (along with other instructions on how to live, relate to each other, and serve and honor God) was given to the Israelites through Moses shortly after they left Egypt as they confirmed their part in God’s covenant with them. Since the period used to determine when the Feast of Weeks began was fifty days, it was known as “Pentecost,” the Greek word for fifty.

So, why do I bring this up? If you read Deuteronomy 16 a little further, in verse 11 God tells the Israelites, His chosen people, to celebrate Pentecost “at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name.” Think about that for a moment. When Jesus walked the earth, Jewish men and women had been traveling to Jerusalem for centuries to celebrate the Feast of Weeks at the temple. That was the last place they knew of where God chose as a dwelling for His name. This is why so many people from so many different areas were gathered in Jerusalem at that time. It is also why Jesus’ followers were together under the same roof. In the absence of Jesus’ physical presence, they defaulted to what they had always known to do: gather on this day near the temple. But what they did not realize was that, on that day, God had chosen a new place as a dwelling for His name. Luke 23:44-46 tells that at the moment of Jesus’ death, the temple veil was torn in two, signifying that the presence of God would no longer be confined to a room in a temple. On the following Pentecost, the Holy Spirit shows up in the wind. And just to make sure there is no question, He marks each of those followers with fire, the very symbol He used to show His presence to their ancestors through the wilderness centuries before. God made it clear on that day that He had chosen the hearts of his followers as the dwelling place for His name. Pentecost reminds us that we are not required to be in a certain place to experience the presence of God. He is here, dwelling in our hearts right where we are.

As we go into this weekend of Pentecost, take a few moments to reflect on what it means to you to be the dwelling place of God’s name, and remember that He chose you!

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