Bible Readings for Thursday, June 9th, 2011 – The Week of Pentecost
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.12. Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
13. The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.
14. From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth–
15. he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.
16. A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.
18. Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19. to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
20. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield.
21. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
22. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.1. On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
2. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.
3. Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:
4. You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
5. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine,
6. but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”
7. So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.
8. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.
9. Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” When Moses had told the words of the people to the LORD,1. When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
4. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
6. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
7. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
8. And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
9. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10. Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
11. Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
- The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind, from where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth – he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds. – Psalm 33:13-15
- Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” – Exodus 19:9
- All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. – Acts 2:4
…Filled With the Holy Spirit…
“When the day of Pentecost had come… a violent wind… filled the entire house…” (Acts 2:1-2)
In Acts we encounter the opening scenes of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit (πνεῦμα, pneuma), rushes into the house where the disciples are all gathered and fills them.
The Spirit as wind.
Wind as breath.
The Spirit as the Breath of God.
The breath of God is the symbolic catalyst for God’s creative will, God’s Word. Think of it: how do you form words? With your breath. This makes “breath” very important, indeed.
7. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
As we can already see, the symbolism of the Holy Spirit is directly correlated with moving air, more specifically with wind or breath: air in action.
The myth of our very origins begins with our receiving the Breath of Life from God. To our ancient ancestors, the very act of breathing was the sign of life.
Babies emerge seemingly lifeless until something seems to suddenly fill them and they gasp out their first cry.
Conversely, when the ancients encountered death, what seemed to leave the body of the dead? Their breath.
This is why in many ancient cultures, the word for soul usually closely corresponds with that culture’s word for “breath”. In Greek, the word for soul (ψυχή, psyche), also means breath. However, it was understood that there were two kinds of soul, the temporary human soul (or mind), and the immortal soul which is inspired (breathed) from God.
This is very important to grasp. There are essentially two natures of man, the mind and the eternal soul. Psyche is the cradle of our sense of self, our identity in the material world and subject to all the vices and superfluities of life. The other is the God-breathed immortal soul, which “was” before You and always “will be” after the You of now is long dead. The immortal soul is not tied into the You that is now, your identity of self.
I believe when we die, we will no longer be a “me” or “I”. All that is left is the divine “I AM”, and we shall know no greater sense of completeness that when we return to God.
Unfortunately, this concept of losing the Self when we die is very disturbing to some people. They have visions of cavorting in Heaven with Grandma for eternity. This whole concept of returning to our true eternal identity within God is actually threatening to them.
Of course it is.
That is the very nature of the mind of man, the Self: self-preservation. Of course you don’t like the idea of not being You.
However, every major compassionate religion on the planet agrees on one major point: self-preservation can be very “good” for You, but it is really bad for humanity… m’kay?
Getting The Mind Out of God’s Way
How can a drive for your own survival be a bad thing overall for our species? Isn’t that counter to the order of the natural world?
The key here is not to imply that carelessly dying is good, but rather the emphasis is on the concept of SELF-preservation.
God never once speaks of how important the Self is. God’s ultimate concern is with the whole, the “congregation”, the “nation”, “all peoples”. All of Jesus’ teachings are steps on the path to minimizing or even destroying the Self.
The Way of Christ is the way of the cross, where the Self is crucified for the sake of the many.
The psyche vs. the pneuma. The mind vs. the spirit. The ways of man vs. the will of God.
Pentecost: The Instructor and The Advocate.
Pentecost (πεντηκοστή, pentékosté) means “fiftieth day” and corresponds with the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which is a celebration commemorating when God gave his people the Torah (תּוֹרָה, “instruction”) on Mount Sinai.
Pentecost is the celebration commemorating the day God sent us our Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
26. “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you”.
Isn’t that beautiful? On the same day commemorating when God gave us our “Instructor”, the Law, we also celebrate the day when God sent our “Advocate”.
Why an “Advocate”?
Because for one to be “righteous” under the law means aspiring to an ever present concern for your own cleanliness, your own holiness, your own choices, and the impact of others upon you.
The Torah is a system of individualistic Self-concern, and ultimately impossible Self-perfection.
And that’s the beauty of the Torah: it is impossible to live up to.
No one can do it.
We all, in the end are held in contempt of the Law. We are all equally failures before God.
And that is the first blow to Self. The realization that we cannot attain perfection on our own. We can not be righteous before God of our own will or doing. We must have help.
And that’s where the Advocate comes in. In Greek, the name of the Holy Spirit, The Paraclete, literally means “lawyer”(παράκλητος, paraklétos), so who better to be on our side when being measured against the Law than God’s “Lawyer”?
You know that annoying voice inside when you’re about to do something bad or stupid? Well, meet the Paraclete, your own personal Advocate for all things loving and good in this world.
The Advocate is also associated with Jesus Christ:
1 John 2
1. My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.
“So, which is it?”, you ask, “Is the Advocate Jesus or The Paraclete?”
They are one and them same, and remember a Word is not possible without first having Breath.
Before Jesus could perform as The Word, he first had to get his first “breath”.
And what came down upon Jesus when he was baptized and began his ministry?
The Holy Spirit.
16. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.
This is still the first step on the Way of the Cross…
…getting your breath.
…receiving your allotment of the Holy Spirit.
…replacing your mind with the Spirit of God.
…replacing psyche with pneuma.
… and start to let God live within you.
20. and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.