Pastoral Perspectives

Come, Holy Spirit

In the last few days, I noticed that some people changed their display pictures on social media under different banners. Some chose “I support Israel”, while others chose “I support Palestine” and some other versions with the same message. It is interesting to note that many of them are neither from Israel nor Palestine.

Many years ago in Palestine, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, he gave standing orders to his disciples who were expecting him to establish some kind of earthly reign not to speculate about the Father’s timetable. Instead, they were specifically told to wait for a transforming divine visitation in the immediate future. Jesus said, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Imagine standing there and trying to understand the message – “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” What does that mean? Days earlier, all their hopes were dashed when Jesus was crucified on the cross. But then he rose again and returned to them, only to leave them again with these instructions. They must have been scared because their leader is now gone. Will the authorities come after them? What will happen to them? And what does the message even mean? They waited for days.

On the 10th day, as Jews from many parts of the world gathered to celebrate the festival of the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended dramatically upon them as Jesus had promised. The presence of the Holy Spirit on this particular occasion serves to symbolize the completion of God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ. There were about a dozen nations or ethnic groups represented when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Those who were gathered there were Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabian…” (Acts 2:9-11) Thus, the first global church was born.

We immediately find the people gathered there being able to understand each other in their own native language. They spoke many languages but the spirit of God caused them to understand each other. And because they were able to understand each other, they were led to unity. This was not the effort of any government or organization from the world. This was not the result of man-made project. At Pentecost, all racism that stemmed from the Tower of Babel was reversed.

The people of old were united as they spoke one language and understood each other. They went out to build a city for themselves, a city whose tower would reach the heavens so that they would make a great name for themselves. They had a unified purpose – to make their name great. They used their understanding and unity to rebel against God! God responded to their project by scrambling their speech and scattering them.

At Pentecost, we find a gathering of people who do not understand each other’s language and not united in every sense of the word. God provided the missing element – the Holy Spirit who empowered them to understand and be united to submit to God’s will and make his name great. As the people praised God in their unity, their differences were laid aside. Spirit-filled praise of God helped them to see, remember and relate to one another as created beings in the image of God. Babel- the place of confused noise is now finally restored; not by eliminating the languages and divisions but through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

The people left Jerusalem to be agents of peace to Judea, Samaria and to the end of the world. They did not stay in the comforts of their own kind, language, country nor supported one group over the other. They all returned to advance God’s kingdom. In Acts 17, the Jews described the group, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also”. They continued to turn the world upside down by sharing the Good News and gospel spread far and wide. Today, we are recipients of the Good News because a diverse group of people then were filled with the Spirit to understand and unite for the sake of the Gospel.

Rev 7:9 shows us “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”. There will be Israelites, Palestinians, Arabs, Indians and Chinese – people from every nation standing before his throne. As we look forward to that glorious day, may we live out that vision with people from different races and nationalities around us. May the Holy Spirit grant us understanding and unity so that so that we will live and behave as citizens of heaven who turned the world upside down for the sake of the Gospel, lifting Christ’s banner of hope and reconciliation.

Come Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost
He came in mighty fullness then
His witness through believers won the lost
And multitudes were born again
The early Christians scattered o’er the world
They preached the gospel fearlessly
Tho’ some were martyred and to lions hurled
They marched along in victory

Come Holy Spirit dark is the hour
We need Your filling
Your love and Your mighty pow’r
Move now among us stir us we pray
Come Holy Spirit revive the Church today

Then in an age when darkness gripped the earth
The just shall live by faith was learned
The Holy Spirit gave the Church new birth
As reformation fires burned
In later years the great revivals came
When saints would seek the Lord and pray
O once again we need that holy flame
To meet the challenge of today

John W. Peterson © 1971 John W. Peterson Music Company