Wed, Jun 11, 2014
Sunday marked Pentecost, the Feast celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the one-year lectionary, the readings include Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21 (see below), and John 14:23-31. This week’s devotion focuses on the text from Acts.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, 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; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Acts 2:1-21 ESV).
In the Old Testament lesson for Pentecost Sunday, we hear once again about the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages on the earth. A sign of man’s sinfulness in always striving for a way to save himself, rather than trust in God, we live in the reality which the punishment at the Tower of Babel caused.
As missionaries serving the many countries and languages of the Eurasia region, this reality hits home. From Turkish to Russian, from German to French, from Kazakh to Hungarian, Slovak to Czech, the many languages of our region are a constant reminder of the confusion of languages and the sin that caused it. It is a sin which we still commit today as we strive in many different ways to earn God’s favor or find our own ways to heaven. Trying harder, following certain rules, or making up new ones altogether and leaving behind the Lord of Life and His gifts, are just a few of the ways in which we build our own Towers of Babel.
But as we were busy building our towers, God was busy building His. When the time was right, He sent His son, Jesus, to earth to live as one of us and become the Way. He kept all the Law that was necessary on our behalf, then took all of our sins and imperfections upon Himself, and climbed the “tower” — the cross of Calvary. His perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection make it unnecessary for us to build any towers at all, and even forgive us for trying to build them in the first place.
And then God in His graciousness gives gift after gift. He sends the Holy Spirit to the disciples to undo the confusion caused by the Tower of Babel by giving the gift of tongues — speaking the Gospel in the languages of each people! As missionaries, we also know this gift as we study and take classes to learn the languages of the people we serve. German and Hungarian, Czech and Slovak, Kazakh and Russian, we learn so that, though the language is different, the same message can be proclaimed: Jesus Christ died for YOU!
Let us pray: Holy Spirit, Giver of Gifts, thank You for giving the disciples the gift of being able to proclaim the Gospel to many peoples in many languages, grant that all Christians may be ready to proclaim the Gospel in whatever languages they know. Work through the proclamation to bring those who hear to faith; we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
- You can read last week’s devotion here.