LEADER TIMES WEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR
May 31, 2014 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
Pentecost, or Shavuot from the Hebrew “weeks,” falls this year on Wednesday, June 4. Christians will celebrate Pentecost Sunday on June 8. This was an important celebration for the early Church. Following his third missionary journey the Apostle Paul desired to get back to Jerusalem in time to celebrate Pentecost with his fellow Jewish believers. It was the birthday of the Church, the time when God’s Holy Spirit (the Ruach Qodesh) fell on one hundred and twenty Jewish believers and equipped them to follow the order of their Messiah to take the Good News to the ends of the earth.
The implications of the biblical festival of Weeks are several, but I would like to share a few thoughts in this article on what Judaism and Christianity call the “Holy Spirit.” In Hebrew the term is “Ruach Qodesh,” or the Holy Wind, or the Spirit of Holiness. The same word in Hebrew is used for both “wind” and “spirit.” The first mention of the term in the Bible occurs in Genesis 1:2 where the Spirit of God is described as “hovering” over the abyss as a mother hen would hover over her eggs, ready to bring forth the life that has not yet emerged.
What exactly is the Holy Spirit? Simply answered the Holy Spirit is God. However, in the Bible the various activity of the one God is described with different terms. When God speaks or specifies the term used is “The Word.” God speaks in Creation, and the Apostle John tells us that the Word was with God and was God. When God energizes or equips for a specific task the term used is “the Spirit of God.” When God is spoken of as the Creator of the universe, the term most often used is the covenant name given by God to Moses at Sinai. It is most often translated “LORD,” using all capital letters. In Hebrew it is a practically unpronounceable term made up of four continents – YWYH. Jewish custom simply substitutes the word for “Lord” when it is read, and the biblical translators have followed suit. An example would be Psalm 24. “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof…”
Jesus had instructed his followers to wait in Jerusalem following his Ascension until the Holy Spirit came upon them to equip them to carry out the commission to take the Good News of his victory over sin and death to the world. The waiting time would have been about ten days.
The importance of this event is that it underlines a conviction of Jews and Christians throughout their history that God is present with them and aiding them specifically to carry out his directions for their life.
Paul was anxious to celebrate Passover because he knew through experience that he was involved in doing the impossible. He was building a church from people whose lives had been changed by the power of God, a feat he was totally unable to achieve, except the “Ruach Qodesh” was with him and hovering over lives which were ready to be changed by the Word of God.
The work of changing the world and of changing a single life is the work of God, not the work of his servants. This is why believers are anxious to get out the Good News, but at the same time are aware that the acceptance of that gift and the change that it will effect is the work of God, not them. Christians do not insist that the hearer must “submit” or die. That approach is for religionists who know nothing of the presence of God, and offer only tyranny and oppression.
Pentecost is a time to celebrate the presence of God in our lives, in our churches and in the tasks we have been assigned. Don’t miss the celebration.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs