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God’s Word for You

Acts 2:1-2 Pentecost

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Pentecost is the Greek name for the Hebrew festival called the Feast of Weeks (Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:10). It was the day when the firstfruits of the wheat crop were harvested and presented as an offering (Exodus 34:22), and it also commemorated the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1, cp. Exodus 12:2-6). The word Pentecost (Πεντηκοστῆς) means “fifty,” since this festival was celebrated “fifty days… the day after the seventh Sabbath” following the Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). The earliest use of the Greek term I have found is in the Apocryphal books, written in the centuries before the New Testament: “Our festival of Pentecost, which is the sacred Festival of Weeks” (Tobit 2:1), and “After the festival of Pentecost they hurried against Gorgias, the governor of Idumea” (2 Maccabees 12:32).

At this Pentecost celebration, “they were all together.” This must refer to all of the apostles, but not necessarily all of the other Christians who were living in and around Jerusalem, the “one hundred and twenty” we heard about earlier (Acts 1:15). This is because the Spirit came upon them while they were gathered in a “house” (oikon, οἶκον, 1:2) and not some larger space such as the temple. Luke does not present every detail, but it seems that the apostles moved out into the street (a street in Jerusalem, probably not far from the temple) shortly after the event began. This is the only way I can think of to account for the size of the crowd and the number of converts given later on (Acts 2:41) and retain the ordinary meaning of oikos for “house.”

2 Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like a rushing wind, violent and filling the whole house where they were sitting.

The Holy Spirit’s arrival is manifested in three ways. First, the sound of the rushing wind. Second, the tongues of flames. Third, the ability given to speak in other languages. For the moment, we will only meditate on the first of these, the sound like a rushing wind. There was not necessarily any physical wind at all, but this supernatural sound, perceived like the real thing, filled the house. The sound was like that of a violent storm.

What purpose did it serve? Surely it was the same purpose as the storm from which God spoke to Job (Job 38:1), or the cloud which led the Israelites from Egypt and from which God spoke to Moses (Exodus 33:9; Psalm 99:7). It captured the attention. “In my wrath,” God said, “I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury” (Ezekiel 13:13). Also, “The valleys and seas were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of breath from his nostrils” (2 Samuel 22:16). This instance at Pentecost shows us that God wanted their full attention.

Nobody in this house kept doing what they had been doing. Conversations would have suddenly ended. A dispute over some trivial matter would have been halted. Someone dozing in the corner would have been awakened. The one thing we can say for certain about this sound is that it would have got everyone’s attention. But returning to Ezekiel, in the Vision of the Vally of Dry Bones, the Lord says this: “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (Ezekiel 37:9). The coming of the breath/wind of God (the words for “wind” and “breath” are the same word in Hebrew just as in Greek) is not only for judgment on the sinner, but for new life to be given to the faithful. It is the same as the use of the law and the gospel. Here at Pentecost, both law and gospel were about to be preached.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.



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