The Lamp of God ~ Acts 2: 1-21
The day of Pentecost on the Jewish calendar was an annual feast called 'the Feast of Harvests' or 'Ingathering.' This Israel’s 'Thanksgiving' – a celebration to God for providing a good harvest.
Of course, it is no coincidence that at 9 o’clock in the morning (same time as when Jesus was crucified – Mark 15:25) on the harvest celebration of Pentecost (Shavuot), the Spirit of God came in power.
The Hebrew word for 'spirit' is ruah (wind, breath) – the same is used in the Greek (pneuma), where we get pneumatics (air-driven).
At creation, God breathed into man His own ruah, His breath, and man became a living spirit, a living ruah. From the beginning of Scripture, the breath (speech) of God is associated with His life-giving Spirit. It is related to the power of creation, the energy of divine operation. In the Greek New Testament, another word used to describe the work of the Spirit is dunamis, from which we get "dynamite," an explosive power! (R.C. Sproul).
Friends of ours in Iowa shared about experiencing a "derecho." That is a sudden windstorm (not a tornado) that brought 140 mph sustained winds. Lasting only a short period, it flattened everything, homes, fields, trees, and power lines. Witnesses described the sound as a sudden, violent, roar - as if a speeding train was coming into their house.
Luke describes a 'spiritual derecho' that fell upon the upper room in Acts 2. This was the perfect storm of God. It destroys sin, false idols, improper notions, and broken systems – yet – brought new life, understanding – harvest – power and joy.
Not only was this storm a rush of wind – but it was a fire—the 'all-consuming fire' of God (Hebrews 12:29). Tongues of fire appeared over everyone's head. The Spirit of God and His Holiness descended on the room. The now justified saints of Christ (with their mediator firmly seated on His heavenly throne) were baptized in fire – not consumed – but empowered/refined – because Jesus had covered them in His perfect blood. This was only possible because of the cross. "It is better that I (Jesus) go away – so I can send the derecho!"
This storm was a true theophany, a visible manifestation of the invisible God. We saw glimpses of this in the Old Testament (the burning bush, the pillar of fire in the wilderness, the flames of fire on Mount Sinai.) Flames were a visible symbol of the power, majesty, and holiness of God. They purify and refine (without the blood of Jesus – this fire kills us). If you want to understand one particle of holiness – think fire. If you want to understand justification/salvation – think fireproof. Think illuminated. Think refined.
In the Old Testament, there was only one place of God's presence for us to interact with (the temple - above the Ark the Covenant). There was only one light/lampstand/flame in the temple (the Menorah – the lamp of God). It was the only light in the inner court.
God told Moses to make this lampstand from one piece, hammering in its details.
There are seven branches representing the perfection of God (7 is the number of God). In the Old Testament (Isaiah 11:2), the Spirit of God was described as 'sevenfold':
Spirit of the LORD
Spirit of wisdom
Spirit of understanding
Spirit of counsel
Spirit of power
Spirit of knowledge
Spirit of the fear of the Lord
This description is alluded to by John in Revelation – as the Spirit that currently testifies and speaks to the church before the throne of God. Revelation 3:1 indicates that Jesus Christ "holds" the seven spirits of God. The Spirit of God, therefore, ALWAYS, points to and magnifies Jesus Christ. That is its mission.
Not only that – but the Jews associated the seven branches with the seven festivals commanded to them by God. The center candle was known as God's light representing… Pentecost! All of the light flows from this moment – the center. The branches each have almond blossoms at the end – that hold the tongues of fire – always to stay lit.
In this way - the golden lampstand, made in the shape of a tree, stood for God's life-giving power. It echoed the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). God gave Adam and Eve the tree of life to show that He was their source of life, wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, and Holy fear. Adam and Eve were in the presence of God's full Spirit!
But when they sinned through disobedience, they were cut off from the tree of life. Even still, God had a plan to reconcile His people and give them new life in his Son, Jesus Christ. That new life is like the almond buds blossoming in springtime. Pentecost is a rejoining of God’s Spirit with His people!
Like all the other temple furniture, the golden lampstand foreshadowed Jesus Christ, the future Messiah. It gave forth light. Jesus told the people:
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
It was, therefore, the Menorah that Jesus may have had in mind when He told the disciples: "You are the light of the world. (Going out into the world – no longer just in the Holy place) A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5: 14-16).
The light of the world had descended on the disciples. They became the living Menorah – fastened from one refined source – blossoming with tongues of fire. This light immediately draws the attention of the masses – and the nations.
Ironically – the Menorah was taken out of the temple during the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. It is often seen as a moment of defeat – but it's precisely the opposite – the light left the temple – and now rests over the heads of God's disciples and is carried away in the nations. This was the plan and prophesied by Isaiah – that Israel would be a light to all nations! The light was displayed via the better covenant – by the living lights of God.
Isaiah 49: 5-6, "And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says, 'It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.'"
Every time the Spirit of God fell on people in the Old Testament, it was accompanied with prophecy – that is – speaking God's word. You are hearing prophecy this morning – God is speaking through His word.
We must remember the theological and redemptive narrative happening – restoration and reclaiming is stressed. The disciples are praising God in the Spirit, and it is heard by representatives of every nation – visiting Jerusalem – in their own language. These are likely Jews who live in the diaspora all over the Mediterranean. "I will bring Jacob back!". They hear God's word and praise coming from the mouths of rural, hillbilly Galileans. This is a sign to some – that God and God alone are at work. To others – they look for excuses' they are drunk!' The same happens today when God moves.
Peter – now empowered by the Spirit takes this opportunity to remind the Jews of what is happening! Israel was the portion, chosen people of God. Now – there are many flames/tongues of fire coming to all God's people! This is the New Covenant promise prophesied by Ezekiel 36: 24-27, Ezekiel 37: 24-27, Jerimiah 31, and Joel! That God will pour out His Spirit on all His people and give them a new heart of flesh – able to see, praise, and understand (Spirits of God). The scriptures and even the Menorah have been telling this story!
Paul confirms this promise in 2 Corinthians 3: 1-18, "But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
The Old Covenant has come to an end “the last days” – and the new covenant promise has taken over. Jesus used the same apocalyptic imagery in the Olivet discourse, talking about the temple's coming destruction. It has served its purpose – but now the light of God is among His living sacrifices – the living stones – the children of God. The Menorah of God.
Therefore, where the light of God is – where His Spirit is – there is power and authority. This same Spirit is among us this morning – teaching – providing prophecy – healing – and revealing! How deeply we need the Spirit of God today. We need a Spiritual Derecho to tear our roof off. We need the Spirit of God to magnify Christ in our presence – to tear the veil away – to show us His glory! How dare we quench this reality! Dare we tell the Spirit in the hands of reigning Jesus – that you are not needed today? That you cannot heal anymore? That we don’t need your power!? May it never be.
No one questioned if the Holy Spirit had or had not fallen on the disciples that day. They knew exactly what was happening – the signs and clarity were undeniable. Is the same for us?
A.W. Tozer reminds us that, If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on, and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.
I hope we find ourselves like the New Treatment church today. I am done playing church or going through the motions. I need God. I need God's Spirit. I want our church to be reliant and filled with this Pentecost power. Let us pray – come down, Lord! Forgive us! Revive our weary bones – shake off the dust! Church, arise, and shine!