Dec 20: The Spirit Comes…Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21
The prophet Joel spoke during a time when Jerusalem’s impending doom lay around the corner. He spoke as if he could see the clouds of a great storm moving over a valley. Like a weather forecaster he not only spoke as if the destruction from the Babylonian army were around the corner, he used ancient Near Eastern analogies for the army. Describing them as a plague of locusts, he preached that these “war bugs” would swarm the city and destroy everyone in their path. His use of this Near Eastern image of a locust/army reflected his view of this overwhelming event. Jerusalem would be overrun with an army that would destroy everything in its past.
In Chapter two the prophet offered a promise. Judah would return home and renew their relationship with God. This would be a “pouring out of the Spirit” on the people, a sign of restoration. Throughout the prophets the analogy of pouring out fire or wrath was a sign of God’s judgment. The pouring out of water or the Spirit represented restoration and renewal. In a community that had suffered punishment, exile, and destruction—they needed something to hope for. For God and Joel, that hope would be the Spirit.
Joel promised not just the coming of God, but the presence of the Spirit. The Spirit reawakens those who are hurting from the past destruction, suffering, and loss of the temple. The Spirit comforted those in exile and promised hope, newness, and a bright future. Men and women would not be overcome with nightmares, fear, anger, and loss. They would be overwhelmed with the Spirit which offered dreams, vision, and the courage to call upon God’s name. Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled in the return from exile, as well as the establishment of the church at Jerusalem. The Spirit has come today, and now calls us to go, give, and serve.
In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit also came upon a people seeking hope and a new relationship with God. Jesus had promised to eat a second meal with the Apostles when the kingdom came (Luke 22) and as he dined with them in Acts 1, they wondered if the Empire of Jesus was present (Acts 1:6). Jesus’ response was that they would have the promised Spirit and fulfill the mission of Jesus throughout the world. In Acts 2 this promise came when the Spirit overpowered small community and gave them power to speak other languages.
The Dead Sea Scrolls community (a group of Jewish monks who lived out in the wilderness near the Dead Sea, known as Qumram) wrote extensively that on the day of Pentecost (50 days after the Passover meal) their leader would read the Torah in multiple languages. This was to be a sign that Jesus’ people could be the restored community and lead the nation back to its God. The Spirit would do this through languages, illustrating that the kingdom would be global.
However, some resisted this by assuming that the speakers were drunk. In a multicultural society on one would assume a linguist was drunk—unless they refused to learn another language. In this case the beginning of Acts reflected a resistance to the growth of the Empire of Jesus. This growth would require outsiders to be welcome and drawn into the community. This would be the key to the resistance, which tended to resist the spread of this Christian culture.
Today, the Spirit of Jesus seeks to guide us into the future. While we have saved to donate to new wells and peace in the home at our Advent Conspiracy collection, it is a time to remember that 2016 will begin soon. Where will God lead us as a nation, a country, a church, a community, or a family? What do we desire to do in 2016 for God? Will there need to be changes? Will we need to make amends? Will we need to shut down social media? The future is brimming with possibilities, but the future requires people who can dream, hope, and believe. The future also offers us a chance to dream and allow God to fulfill those dreams