Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Feast of Pentecost: A Devotional Commentary

Genesis 11:1-9 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Acts 2:1-13 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

John 14:23-31 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.

Sin, self-reliance, and self-righteousness bring confusion, division, and babbling. Any attempt to climb a ladder to heaven--whether it be the ladder of moralism, mysticism, or rationalism--will only show us how blind and dead we are. Inventing some god of your own imagination with your own likes and dislikes that you can visit from time to time by engaging in some man-made spiritual exercise will only bring the wrath of God upon you. If you find someone else to join you, eventually division will result as each of you ends up seeking after his own god because your god is really yourself and his god is really himself.

But the Holy Spirit brings unity. The Holy Spirit brings unity because the Holy Spirit speaks the same thing to everyone. Regardless of race or social status or occupation, the Holy Spirit will always speak Christ to you. The Holy Spirit does not speak of organ players or board members or paint. Divisions that result over these things are the result of demonic spirits, not the Holy Spirit. A spirit-filled church will conduct its business matters in order to support the speaking of Christ. A spirit-filled church is filled with sinners who are influenced by all manner of evil spirits and at times the Holy Spirit seems completely absent. But wherever Christ is preached and given to eat and to drink and people are baptized into the name of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit is there.

The unity among those who built the tower of Babel was based on a shared language. Their own abilities, strengths, and brotherhood in a common language convinced them that their own works could save them from any enemy.

The Holy Spirit speaks of the crucified God. He doesn't unite people around their ethnicity or language or favorite hobbies or common abilities or political persuasion. The crucified God unites those who are divided by all these things. The crucified God unites us by a common confession of our inability to do anything to save ourselves. The crucified God unites us in dependence upon the crucified God.

Church Inc. mocks those who insist on the crucified God as the only one who is able to save us. Surely, God saves us after we've done our best or perhaps works along side of us. But the idea that the crucified God does it all is scandalous. Surely our plans for church growth have tactics must contribute something. Church Inc. thinks that all who insist on the crucified God alone are drunk on new wine and we are. We are drunk on the blood of Jesus. Once we have tasted it why would we want to go back to the old wine of works righteousness? Why would we want to build towers to reach the god of our own imagination? There is no peace in the construction of towers. When you climb to the top, other people look smaller but you don't find God up there. You might think that if you keep building just a little bit higher you'll reach God, but you're only fooling yourself. But there is peace in partaking of the new wine. There is peace in realizing that we cannot ascend to God. There is peace in realizing that God has descended to us. O taste and see that the Lord is delicious!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is a fantastic exegesis!