Archive for the ‘Genesis 11:1-9’ Category

Prophecy Fulfilled at Pentecost

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

“We all need a little good news once in a while,” so goes the old saying.  But if we pay attention to our Bible, and especially to this morning’s scripture readings we would say rather, “We always need good news—all of the time.”  The good news of course is the gospel, and we need to hear the Gospel all of the time because we sin daily.  Our second lesson this morning is the fulfillment of our Gospel reading where Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. [John 14:25,26]  This is the “Gospel Promise” that Jesus left the Church just before His ascension.  It is His promise he gives to you today.  It is “good news” for you, if you will only believe.

The first time God shared the gospel with us was immediately after the very first sin.  When Adam and Eve were encouraged by the devil to do the only thing God said they could not do, eat from the tree of knowledge.  When they did this, they committed the first sin.  In one bite they exchanged God’s truth and love for a lie (You will be like God.  You will become wise).  Instead of finding wisdom they found misery; instead of becoming like God they became separated from Him.  But God in His love would not let mankind suffer in this state; in His love God demonstrated His mercy by immediately proclaiming the Gospel.  Speaking directly to the devil, but for the benefit of mankind, God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [Gen. 3]  In these words, God promised that the savior of mankind would come as a descendant of Adam and Eve, and it was in the work of this Savior that God would restore mankind into a right relationship with Him. 

 Now, many years after this, God examined the earth and He found that evil had completely overtaken the face of the earth and according to His judgment all that was evil must be removed from the face of the earth through the means of a flood; but God was able to find one family that still wanted to walk with Him by faith; Noah and his family alone placed their faith in God’s gospel of hope; a gospel that proclaimed the coming of a Savior who would make it possible for all people to once again relate to God in love.  Once saved from the flood, Noah’s sons and their families were told to go out into the new world and spread throughout the land and repopulate it with people who like them wanted to relate to God in this spirit of repentance and hope in the coming Savior.  But, as is always the case, they soon ignored God’s command and they gathered as one people in one place.  They went no farther than Mesopotamia, an area today we would call Iraq. 

 The descendants of Ham, a son of Noah who became a powerful people and they began to oppress the other descendants of Noah.  They wanted to make a name for themselves; they wanted to rule over all others in the place of God.  They built a tower; a tower that seemed to reach up to the very heavens screaming at God, “Look at us!  Look at what we have done without you!”  Now the other descendants of Noah wanted to fit in; they did not want to be different, so they went along with this strange building project, and when they joined in, they chose the way of man over the ways of God.  Once again, mankind traded God’s truth and mercy for a lie.  They wanted to live as if God did not matter, as if He didn’t notice their sin!  But God did take notice: “And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” [Gen. 11:6] 

Their sin was like that of Adam and Eve; they wanted to be independent of God.  And like Adam and Eve, they too would be banished from their land and forced to do what God had commanded through Noah, to inhabit the earth. “Come, let us go down and there and confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.” [vs. 7-8]  Here God was saying essentially, “In their prideful condition they no longer desire to know me, they no longer realize that they need me.  I must dissolve their pride, and remind them of their need for my love and mercy.  They must again look to the coming of the promised Savior.”

In our New Testament reading (Acts 2), we see how God ensured that His message of grace, the good-news that was first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden, would be proclaimed to all people on the face of the earth.  It was the day of Pentecost, or the Jewish Harvest festival; a one day event where Jews from all over the earth were invited back to Jerusalem, to give a Thank Offering to God for His goodness in providing an abundant harvest.  There were people from all over the known world in and around the temple area; each with their own national language, yet all were Jews who fluently spoke and read Hebrew.  And then there were the apostles and disciples of Jesus, about 150 of them, including women and children.  They were gathered somewhere in a large building near the temple; something similar to our fellowship hall.  It was about 9:00 a.m., and they were seated on the floor listening to one of the Apostles (probably Peter); most likely they were trying to figure out what Jesus great commission meant to them; for these were the last words He spoke to them just before He ascended into heaven.  The disciples must have been asking the apostles questions like, “What did Jesus mean when He said he was with us even until the end of time?  He has left us to be with the Father, so how is He with us?”

Peter would not have time to formulate an answer, because out of no where, a very loud noise, like tornado approached their building, and filled the room.  It was the sound of wind, without the wind.  ILLUST: I am a witness to a tornado, and it sounds just like a very loud train is bearing down on you.  IT IS FRIGHTENING!  Now that God had their attention, He was about to remind them, in a miraculous way that Jesus ALWAYS keeps His Word!  The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit was about to be fulfilled!  Somewhere in the center of the room appeared a large flame; I would imagine that it was similar to the burning bush that Moses saw on Mt. Sinai.  That alone must have frightened the group, but then it did something very new, God’s Holy Spirit became very personal; it divided into many parts, and the parts spread out and began to hover over each person’s head.  Now, fear was replaced with awe, as each one stood on their feet and being led by the Holy Spirit, they began to make their way outside of the building, and into the street.

They were probably in a public square somewhere near the temple because a huge crowd had gathered outside of their building, most likely because of the great sound of the wind that passed from the street into their meeting room.  Now as each disciple, being led by the Spirit of God proceeded outside, they began praising God in a new language that was foreign to them; it was a language that exactly matched the languages of the foreign Jews who gathered at the temple for Pentecost.  Each one heard something like a hymn of praise, in their own native language.  The majority of the people stood in awe.  Someone in the crowd must have known that the disciples were those who had been with Jesus; that they were simple people from Galilee that “should not” have been able to speak these languages so fluently, because the comment was made, “Aren’t all of these people who are speaking Galileans?  So, how is it that we hear, each of us in his own language?  ”  [Vs. 7, 8]

 What a wonderful demonstration of God’s miraculous power!  This was the first recorded miracle God performed after Jesus ascension into heaven, but it certainly would not be the last, in fact, the book of Acts is loaded with miracle after miracle.  God used these miracles starting with this gift of tongues to propel the church throughout the world in such a way as to ensure its growth, very much like how God used the confusion of languages to compel men and woman to spread throughout the earth.  Now God was ensuring that each and every person would hear the praise of God in their own “heart” language.  Through the gift of tongues God demonstrated that His mighty Spirit was leading His church at a time when such a witness was needed.   

Back to our story, Peter now takes his place among the disciples, and he hears some from the crowd proclaim that the disciples praising God are probably drunk!  With this word, the devil once again attempted to take the focus of attention off of the Creator and place it instead on the creature.  But God would not be silent; He could not!  At this very moment Peter’s gift of the Holy Spirit was activated—the gift of prophecy!  Filled with the Spirit, Peter recalled Jesus’ own Words: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” [John 14:25,26]  Praise God, the Helper had come in a mighty way.  And now led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ real presence went out to his people from the mouth of Peter.  Peter continued God’s plan from the beginning, he preached the Gospel.

Dear friends, Peter’s sermon makes it clear that God’s Spirit will be poured out on the last days.  When are the last days?  They are now!  The last days are every day after Jesus suffered, died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sent in his place the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who causes our hearts to respond to God’s call of repentance: “Turn away from your sin and turn towards Jesus Christ.  Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and you will be saved.”  Yes, the last days are today.  Today, Jesus calls out to us through the Holy Spirit, to turn away from a life that has us our desires as the most important thing, and turn towards Him. And by His Holy Spirit, our hearts are moved to confess our sinfulness to Him and then turn towards Jesus as our only source of help.  Only faith in Jesus Christ, the living Word of God can transform you, renew you, and bring meaning to your life.  In vs. 17 He promises this very thing to you: “And in the last days it shall be, declares the Lord, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.” [vs. 17]

 Dear saints, you are those sons and daughters that will prophesy and see visions.  Young people, God’s Word specifically mentions you.  There are none too young or too old to receive God’s Spirit, because that Spirit was first given to you at your Baptism.  Do you believe it?  Then live this truth and allow God’s Spirit to keep hold of it and  cherish it.  Call out to Him and He sill save you!  “To call upon the Lord’s name” means to call out to him for the forgiveness of sins and it means to believe that you have been forgiven.  To call upon His name is to call upon God’s mercy as proclaimed in His gospel; it is a gift that you neither earned nor deserved, yet it is yours!  It is the same gospel that God first proclaimed to Adam and Eve, and the one you first received at your Baptism.  And when we are changed by this gospel, the result will be that we will prophesy.  We will share the good news, the saving and blessed will of God to people everywhere.  With God as the center of your world, your vision is his vision—He uses your talents and abilities in a way that is sure to astound you.  Think of it—He will use you to impact the world, the people around you, in a way that will both glorify Him and lead others to know Him also.   

Dear friends, Jesus said to Peter and the other apostles just before his death, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. [John 14:27]  Through the work of the Holy Spirit and His means of grace, Jesus actually gives and leaves His peace to each of you this morning and for eternity.  It is this very peace that all people since the first sin of Adam and Eve have been hoping to receive; trusting in God by faith that the Messiah would come.  He has come and he suffered, died, rose, and ascended for you!  HE IS RISEN!  And all God’s people say, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”  AMEN!