A few years ago (before I was married & had kids), the Corn family decided to go on a ski trip during the Christmas holidays. We had planned to drive to Colorado from my mom’s house near Ft Worth, TX. The weather in west Texas didn’t look good, but we decided to brave it anyway. Ski trips are a pretty high priority among the Corn’s. Anyway, as we drove through west Texas, ice began forming on the roads and we started seeing more and more cars that had spun out and were in the ditches. When we reached Quanah, TX they closed the road ahead of us. The road home was also closed so we were stuck in Quanah. Not only that, but there were so many other people stranded, that there were no hotel rooms left in the whole city. It was Christmas and we were stuck in a town where there was no room at the inn. A gas station attendant suggested that we check with the First Baptist Church of Quanah. WE followed his directions (just a couple of blocks) and discovered that they were receiving people. Many other travelers were there. The church people hosted us well. They had a few tables full of homemade food and Christmas goodies and offered to let us sleep in their gym using blankets which many of their members had brought from home. The other refugees were from all over the place, but most were on their way to some family get together. Some had their pets with them. In the end, the Christmas story came to life for us that year. There was no room at the inn so we slept with the animals.
Now, what’s all that got to do with Pentecost? I think my experience that year might have been similar to what the disciples felt the day we know and celebrate as Pentecost. Here’s what I mean: Pentecost had always been a celebration of the time that God had given the Law to Moses. He spoke to Israel that day. 50 days after the crossing of the Red Sea. According to Exodus 19:16, God descended on the mountain with fire/lightning and with “voices” (the Hebrew word translated “thunder” is more accurately translated “voices”) Each year, the Israelites celebrated Pentecost, remembered God’s intervention, and rededicated themselves to the study and practice of His word.
Now, let’s jump forward to the New Testament. The disciples were celebrating Pentecost and would have read the Exodus passages recalling the original events of Pentecost. It was 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. The Holy Spirit descends upon them like fire and they begin to speak in tongues. Sounds a lot like the lightning and voices in Exodus to me. Make no mistake that these Godly men, saw the similarities too. Like me as I snuggled into that blanket in that gym with the animals, I’m sure they felt like they were experiencing something amazing – something that meant more than the surface experience. There was something going on much deeper. Check out this little table:
|First Pentecost (Exodus 19)||Pentecost after Christ (Acts 2)|
|Commandments Given||Holy Spirit Given|
|50 days from Red Sea Crossing||50 Days from Jesus' Resurrection|
|Israel was re-established||Church was established|
|Law of Yahweh written in stone||Law of Yahweh written on hearts|
|3000 Slain||3000 Saved|
|Celebrated firstfruits of Harvest||Disciples were first fruits of harvest of eternal life|
|Letter of the Law||Spirit of the Law|
The Christian church celebrates Pentecost each year as the birth of the church and the time when the Holy Spirit was given. But I wonder if we are missing out on the rich history of it all? Like the Jews, maybe we should also use this time to thank God for His word. We even have more to be grateful for since it’s been written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Maybe we could celebrate and appreciate the Scriptures by studying more intently or with a focused time of applying them to our lives? If the original holiday was centered around God’s word, why isn’t our celebration of it?
The Israelites celebrated Pentecost by remembering God’s intervention with His Word, and rededicated themselves to the study and practice of it. We would be wise to do likewise with the addition of celebrating the birth of the church and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Somehow we got turned around – today, most churches only celebrate these “additional” blessings. I’m just trying to say that the original gift (His Word) is still worth celebrating too.