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Posts Tagged ‘Ezekiel 36’

This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday on the church calendar.  It’s the day when we celebrate the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts 2.  Our pastor did a great job of pointing us to the background in the OT for this Sunday, reminding us that Pentecost didn’t start in Acts 2 but goes back to Exodus 19.  It is there where God falls in power at Mt Sinai, and this day is commemorated with a festival (Leviticus 23:15-22).  Since hearing the sermon a couple days ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about the OT background for the celebration of Pentecost.

The falling of the Spirit in Acts is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32; it’s clear why Peter choose that text.  But we can’t forget that Joel 2 was one of a group of eschatological texts, some of which predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would be given “in those days” (or some phrasing like that).  So, when Peter says “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit” he is claiming that Joel 2 is fulfilled, but not only that passage.  The expectation of the Spirit that was talked about elsewhere is no longer an expectation but a reality.

But as I was thinking about Acts 2 and the fulfillment of prophecy, I kept asking the question: why Pentecost?  Is there something significant about this particular day that God chose to send His Spirit on the church?  Is it simply it’s proximity to the Passover?  Is it merely because it was slightly over a week after Jesus’ ascension?  It seems to me that any day could have potentially worked, so why Pentecost?

Going back to Exodus 19, God falls in power at Mt Sinai and commences to give the law of the covenant to Moses and Israel.  This is the day that comes to be celebrated as Pentecost.  In Acts 2 God falls in power again, but I can’t help but think there’s still a law connection here that is not explicit.  I haven’t finished fleshing out all my thoughts on this, so I welcome any feedback that can help us think through this biblically.

In some OT prophetic texts, there are promises of a day when God will write His law on the hearts of His people.  Jeremiah 31 :31-34 is one of these, and is important for the writer of Hebrews.  There’s another passage, in Ezekiel 36, that explicitly connects the giving of the Spirit and the internalization of the law, using similar language to the Jeremiah 31 passage.  Ezekiel 36:26-27:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

So there was the expectation of the day when God will give His Spirit, not in a generalized sense but in an internal way, and enable His people to follow His commands.  He has given a new covenant and a new law, the “law of the Spirit who gives life” (Rom 8:2), the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2), the “law of liberty” (James 1:25, 2:12).  I think the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 connects these strands.  Let me attempt to lay it out plainly:

  • God falls in power on Mt Sinai and goes on to give the Law for His people to keep (Exodus 19f).  This day comes to be celebrated as Pentecost.
  • The prophets tell of a day when God will give His Spirit, who will internalize the law and enable them to keep His commands.
  • The Spirit, the very presence of God, falls on Pentecost in Acts 2 in a way reminiscent of Exodus 19.

My point is that the Acts 2 Pentecost is the day when God falls in power again by power out His Spirit.  His Spirit, dwelling within the believer, empowers the believer to live rightly (see Romans 8:1-8).  Now, I realize that this gets into a whole host of issues- the role of the Law in the believer’s life, etc.  I’m not as concerned at this moment about how all that works out (nor do I necessarily have it all figure out).  My main point here is to make the connection between the first Pentecost, where God comes in power and gives His Law, and the Pentecost in Acts 2, where God gives His promised Holy Spirit, who writes the law on the hearts of God’s people.

So, Pentecost is more than just a day when God gave His Spirit and miraculous signs, such as tongues.  It is the day when God gives His Spirit to fulfill what He had promised all along.  The Spirit is the mark of the eschatological new covenant and the new covenant people, whom God gives new hearts and empowers to live for Him.

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