Shavout – Pentecost 2013

Pentecost

Shavout (a.k.a. Pentecost), Biblically referred to as the Feast of Weeks (Exo 34:22; Num 28:26; Deu 16:1-16; 2 Chr 8:13) is the Feast of the First Fruits of the wheat harvest. This is seven weeks from Pesach, the Passover (Deu 16:9). This year Shavuot falls on 14-16 May 2013 (6-7 Sivan). Most churches in Singapore celebrates Pentecost Sunday on 19 May 2013.

The church celebrates Pentecost in memory of Acts 2 which marks the day in which the Holy Spirit was poured out to the believers who were waiting in the upper room, empowering them in the fulfilling the Great Commandment given by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the fulfulment of the prophecy of Joel:

‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
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 bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
– Acts 2:17-21 quoting Joel 2:28-32 (NASB)

The Jews, on the day of Shavuot, also commemorates that giving of the Ten Commandments by God to Moses for the nation of Israel. Although it is not specifically recorded in the Bible that this pivotal event happened on Shavuot, the strict oral tradition of the Jews, especially for such a significant historical event, can be reasonably considered as accurate. The giving of the Law represents that of the Word. God gave the Ten Commandments and the Law (Exo 19-20) on Shavuot.

In the Old Testament, the Word was given on Shavuot. In the New Testament, the Spirit was given on this same day. We as the church now has both the Word and the Spirit because of these two events.

This year during passover, I was impressed that 2013’s Pentecost is important as God will open up the heavens and pour out his anointing for the new season of growth for his church in greater measure.

Last Sunday, as I led worship in church remembering Shavuot, we indeed experienced a fresh outpouring and the presence of God weighed heavy in our midst. Thus I will like to humbly encourage you to also take time to come before God to ask Him to pour His Spirit afresh on you again for the next season! Grab hold of this window of open heavens and receive the fresh empowering!

The Spiritual Gifts

This might be a little controversial to some but the discussion at the Biblical Studies class last Tuesday taught by Rev Dr John Tay triggered some interesting thoughts. I am only sharing parts of the discussion that I think are key points as this is quite an extensive topic.  The key passage is 1 Cor 13:8-12.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Cor 13:8-12

Some have believed that the Canon of the Scripture is the moment in time “when the perfect comes”. In Greek, “perfect” (τὸ τέλειον) is in neuter. The Word (ὁ λόγος) and Christ (ὁ χριστός) are masculine. It is not possible that the “perfect” refers to the Word of God or Christ when this passage is read in Greek. A possible clue as to what perfect means is from the term “face to face”. The phrase is only applicable in the context of 2 persons and therefore the interpretation of perfect as the Canon of the Scripture is eliminated. The only option left is to come “face to face” with Jesus Christ and this refers to the Second Coming of Christ. Since we are still waiting for the glorious return of Christ, this implies that the gifts mentioned in this verse should still be active in the community of believers as we are in the “partial” and not yet in the “perfect”.

There are 3 gifts mentioned in this passage, prophecy, tongues and knowledge. Nobody in this generation will dismiss knowledge as this whole modern society is driven by information and knowledge – perhaps an over-saturation. Weekly sermons, Bible studies, and other teachings that come forth from the church are ways in which knowledge is imparted to believers which I believe most churches have never cease doing. Yet prophecy and tongues are 2 gifts that have received much less attention and emphasis. It does not seem possible that one out of the three are actively present but the other two have ceased or become inactive. I will leave this as a thought so that those interested can search the Bible for deeper understanding in this.

Here is an account of my own personal experience that totally blew my mind away. This happened when I was in West Timor, Soe. You can read my testimony in how I ended up in Soe in another post. On a Sat evening I was in the car and my host was driving me to the prayer meeting where I was to preach and minister like every other evenings. Prayer meetings happen in many places every evening in Soe. Little did I know that I was going to the home of the highest ranked government official in Soe. I delivered the message and strangely I felt deeply convicted to break out in tongues over the microphone. It is not my practice to break out in tongues when I am preaching as I am fully aware that I need to speak in intelligible language, at least to my translator who then can translate it to Bahasa Indonesia, so as to edify the body of Christ. As I was speaking in tongues, I realized my translator was also speaking in Bahasa Indonesia at the same time. The Lord gave me understanding of the tongues and with my less-than-amateur Bahasa Indonesia, it sounded as though my translator was translating my tongues into Bahasa Indonesia through his microphone. I did not feel led to give the interpretation of my tongues using my own words as I was fully aware that an interpretation is needed. I do not always understand the tongues that I speak and it is definitely for a reason why such clear understanding was given to me then. I asked my translator to read Ezekiel 47 which was what the tongues were about. When my translator was reading the passage, I saw the bewildered and amazed faces of my translator and all those who were present. I was not fully certain of what happened at that point in time but only suspected. I closed the meeting in prayer in English with translated Bahasa Indonesia as I usually do.

After the meeting, I asked the translator if he was interpreting my tongues to Bahasa Indonesia. He affirmed it and shared that this had never happened to him before! It was the first time experience for him and that he supernaturally knew that he understood my blabbering tongues. The reading of Ezekiel 47 was a confirmation for him that he was indeed interpreting my tongues and it was a testimony to the listeners too. All present witnessed the demonstration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work, yes, even the official who was participating in the meeting from a hidden room.

“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.” –  1 Corinthians 14:5

I have never witnessed the gift of interpretation of tongues in the corporate setting before this! I was speechless when I realized the magnitude of what God demonstrated in that evening. This translator continued to translate my tongues in other meetings. To God be the glory!