Rabbi Schneider - Pentecost. Practicing the Presence
Virtually, all of us are familiar with the term Pentecost, the Hebrew holiday that we see brought to the surface in the Brit Chadashah in Acts 2, where the disciples are gathered together because the day of Pentecost had come. We're all familiar with the holiday called Pentecost. But how many of us are familiar with the title of that holy day from the Hebrew Bible, which is Shavuot? Today we're going to look deep inside the Word of God to try to understand both the roots of Pentecost as well as its present-day application for our lives.
So Father, God, here we are, we need you today, Daddy. We know that words alone are not enough. Father, we need you to move us by the living Word through your Spirit. In Yeshua's name. We ask you, Father God, in Your mercy to circumcise our hearts today with a blade of fire through the truth. In Jesus' name. Yeshua, we ask you to impregnate us with the Holy Spirit and circumcise our heart to love you. Amen.
So let's go back to the Hebrew Bible. We're going to the book of Exodus now. I'm looking at chapter 34. In verse 22, the Lord tells Israel to celebrate a holy day known here as the Feast of Weeks, which takes place 50 days or seven weeks after Passover. In its original historical context, it was the celebration of the wheat harvest. And so Israel every year, as a practice, would take the first of their harvest in the spring and in the fall, and then they would present the first fruit of that harvest to the Lord. And in doing so, they were acknowledging that it was God that was blessing them. What a great way to live, to recognize that every good thing that's happening in our life is a gift from God. But how many of us rather than doing that, we instead just take things for granted? We just assume that things are the way they are without really realizing that we're blessed. We're living with the things that we're living with, with a roof over our head, with protection, with the love of family, oftentimes we're experiencing this, it's all coming down from God's Spirit.
So the first point I want to make is that the Feast of Weeks, which is the original term for Pentecost, I'm going to show you the connection in a few moments, was actually a celebration, a time of Thanksgiving when they were honoring Yahweh the God of Israel in thanksgiving for their wheat harvest. Now, once again, this feast took place 50 days after Passover. Seven weeks and a day. That's why it's known in the Hebrew Bible as the Feast of Weeks, also known as Shavuot. Shavuot is the Hebrew word meaning weeks. Now, think about this. Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks takes place seven weeks and a day after Passover. Now we come to the Brit Chadashah (the New Testament), and we read in Acts 2 the day of Pentecost had come.
My question is, what does the term "Pentecost" mean? Well, many of us know Pentecost is actually the Greek word meaning fifty. 50. Why is it called Pentecost? Because it took place 50 days after Passover, seven weeks and a day. And so it's the same exact holy day. When the early disciples were gathered together in the upper room in Acts 2, they were actually celebrating the Feast of Weeks that we read about in the Torah. And they weren't necessarily expecting that anything out of the ordinary was going to happen. They had been doing the same thing every year for 1,500 years already. Since the time the Torah was given, they had been celebrating the Feast of Weeks, which the church calls Pentecost, again, this is the same exact day, they've been already celebrating, by the time we get to Acts 2, for 1,500 years.
Now, what were they doing as they celebrated? They were doing two things. Number one, they were thanking God in celebration, once again, of the agricultural harvest. But there's another layer now of what they were celebrating. Because over the years, according to oral tradition, it was on this holy day of Shavuot or Pentecost that the God of Israel, that the God of our forefathers, Yahweh, revealed Himself on top of Mount Sinai and spoke as thunder so that approximately 3 million Jews who were alive at the time heard his voice and saw his glory. Once again, by the time we get to Acts 2, there was already an oral tradition amongst the Jewish people, that it was on this day of Shavuot that God had revealed Himself to His people. A mass revelation. There's never been another mass revelation like this in the history of the world where 3 million people heard the voice of Yahweh, the God from heaven, at the same time.
Now, I know that I'm speaking a lot of words here. And the danger with that is that my words can just kind of roll off our backs like water off a duck's back. So let's take a step back for a second. I want you to consider what I just said. Three million Israelites were standing at the base of Mount Sinai when their God, the God of Israel revealed Himself in glory. And the 3 million that were there heard His voice and trembled. Now, according to the culture of the day, many people will tell us that the Bible is just mythology. That it isn't to be taken literally. That the events described in the scriptures never really happened. But let me ask you this question. How is it possible that for 3,500 years now, Jewish people have remained a separate people, and for 3,500 years from the time that the Torah was first given, when Moses went on top of Mount Sinai, Lord speaking once again on Shavuot, on Pentecost, how is it possible that the Jewish people have been celebrating Passover now for 3,500 consecutive years?
Now, the reason I'm bringing up Passover is because Passover really begins the exodus story. We all know the Passover story. I'm not going to go into that today. But we know the Lord delivered His children out of Egypt through the blood of the Passover lamb, and He did it to bring them to Mount Sinai to worship Him, where He would give them this revelation. So once again, Passover leads to them being gathered to Mount Sinai, where 3 million people experience a mass revelation of the glory of God in such a way that it's never happened before or since. Now, what do I mean by mass revelation. We know that when Yeshua rose from the dead, Paul tells us at one point, in the Brit Chadashah, that He appeared to 500 people after he had risen from the dead at the same time. And then Paul goes on to list the other ones that the Lord had revealed Himself to. But it wasn't 3 million people that saw the resurrected Christ. It was a very limited number of people compared to how many people saw the glory of God at Sinai.
So, once again back to my point, how do we explain that Jewish people have remained a separate people? Even though today we're seeing them becoming more secularized, and we know there is more intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentile people than ever before, and we know that many Jewish people the majority are secular, and yet still the Jewish people are still culturally a separate people. In the Orthodox community, which is gaining momentum throughout the world, they are separate people. They live in separate communities. They are very strictly separated from the rest of the nations. How is it possible that the Jewish people have remained a distinct and separate people for 3,500 years? Unless they really saw something. Unless something really happened. Unless the memory of it is so strong that it has kept them together all these years. How else can you explain it?
It's the same way that we say, how can you explain the growth of the Christian faith unless Jesus really rose from the dead? There is no other explanation. Those first apostles, they literally saw the resurrected Christ. And because the encounter they had with the resurrected King Jesus was so spectacular and went so deep, they were able to turn the world, the scripture says, upside down. There was such an empowerment that took place when they met the risen Jesus that Christianity was born, becoming the largest religion in the world. If something didn't happen, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christianity would have never grown the way that it has. These men and women of God were willing to lay down their life for what they saw. Paul said, "If Jesus hasn't been raised from the dead," he said, "Christians are the biggest fools on the planet, not only for believing a lie, but for telling people that God did something that He didn't in fact do".
In other words, Paul said, "If Yeshua hasn't risen from the dead, then not only are we believing a false hope, but worse than that," Paul said, "we're sinning against God by telling the world that Jesus did rise from the dead". So Paul said, our whole faith is based on the resurrection of Jesus. It is. And Paul encounters the risen Jesus on his way to Damascus, and it completely turned his life upside down. Similarly, the Jewish people were birthed as a nation at Mount Sinai when the Lord revealed Himself to them in mass revelation, pouring out His glory on 3 million people at the same time that witnessed it. That's why Jewish people today have remained true to celebrate Pentecost every year now for 3,500 years, and they've remained such a distinct and separate people on the planet.
I know when I go to Israel, there's a little tunnel, a study area right outside the Western Wall, where Orthodox Jews go in there to daven or to pray before the Lord. And most of those in this area are ultra-Orthodox Jews. I mean, they live, eat, breathe their religion. Now, Paul said concerning them, he said, "I bear them witness concerning their zeal for God". But it's not in accordance with knowledge, but their zeal is real. Their zeal is real. Jesus is the only way. No one comes to the Father but through Him. But Jewish people still carry a residue of the anointing that they received at Mount Sinai 3,500 years ago. And because God revealed Himself to them at Pentecost, which we would call in Hebrew Shavuot, 3,500 years ago, they carry the anointing of the fear of the Lord. And when I go into that study area off the Western Wall in Israel, I love to absorb that anointing that is in that place.
So as we look today now at the celebration of Shavuot or Pentecost, I want you to understand two things. Number one, your faith in Jesus goes back 3,500 years to where this holiday began at. Secondly, I want you to understand that it was fulfilled in Acts 2, when the Lord didn't speak to His people as He did on Mount Sinai from a faraway place where they heard his voice from the heavens. The Israelites at the base of the mountain, they heard His voice from the heavens and they were put into terror. But in Acts 2, the Lord went beyond speaking from the heavens to come inside and inhabit the human soul. And if you love Jesus, He lives in you. This is the mystery of the gospel. Christ in you, the hope of glory.
So when I think about the celebration of Pentecost, what I am predominantly celebrating is the nearness of God. Even beyond near God is here. And when I say He's here, I'm not saying that He's just a few feet away. I'm saying that He's so here that He lives inside me and He lives inside you. He's closer to you than your next heartbeat. He's closer to you than your own breath. And that, beloved one, is the challenge in front of us. Mark my words. The challenge for you and the challenge for me is to stop looking for God out there and to recognize that He is in here. Both the Torah and the Brit Chadashah tell us the same thing. God is not so far away that we have to go up to the heavens to find Him. Neither is He so far away that we've got to find him in the bottom of the ocean. But Paul said, He's near, He's here, He's in your heart.
And so, because we were born into this world in the flesh, because we were born into this world in the sense realm... what do I mean by the sense realm? We relate to everything by the senses. We relate to the world outside of us by what we see, what we hear, what we smell. We relate to the world through our senses. So we're used to relating to reality in a way that is outside ourselves. What we need to do now that we are born into a new reality is to come out of relating to something that's outside of ourselves. We need to stop looking outside, and we need to, again, turn our focus inside where Christ is seated in our soul.
We need, beloved one, to learn how to live our life from the inside out. We need to live from within. And if we're going to be able to get in touch with this mystery that the Bible speaks of, if we're going to get in touch with the reality that God's Spirit literally is inside us, what we're going to have to do is pull ourselves back from looking on the outside and turn our focus again to the inside where Christ is. To do this requires discipline. It means we have to take time in our life each day to turn off the cell phone, turn off the internet, turn off the television, turn off the radio, to just spend time, beloved one, sitting before the Lord. I also do it listening to sanctified worship music, where beautiful songs are being sung to God. Not strong, you know, high voltage beats, but soft, soothing worship music singing songs to God out of the Scriptures.
And as I sit in that environment, just sitting still before the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to slowly sanctify my soul, to settle me, to bring me within myself where He is, what I have found over all these years of doing that is that the Lord has gotten a root in my soul so that I'm better able to live by his power and to be led by the Spirit's leading in my life. We need to practice the presence of God. We can celebrate Pentecost historically, we can look for the spectacular, look for signs and wonders. And I love seeing the spectacular myself. But Beloved, God's not in the earthquake predominantly. He's in the still small voice of His Spirit that lives within us. And so Pentecost is an inward journey. And it takes dying to ourself. And it takes a dying of being connected to the world, so much so that we can't discern the reality of the indwelling ruach HaKodesh, which is the Hebrew word to say "the breath of God" or "the Holy Spirit".
So I want to encourage you today, everyone that is listening to the sound of my voice, we need to take God's Word seriously. We have received the greatest gift that we could ever receive. We've received the gift, if we're born again, if we know Him, of His very Spirit. But if we don't learn how to live by His Spirit, to get in touch with the Spirit, it's like getting into our car not knowing where the keys are, and therefore unable to drive our car when all along the keys were in the glove box, and all we had to do is open that glove box, take that key and turn the ignition switch. Many of us are looking to experience God, we want to live in His power, we want to be led by His Spirit, but we don't know how. The mystery, beloved, is that Jesus lives inside your inner man. But it's going to take some discipline on your part to begin to get in touch with Him.
I want to encourage you, as I close this special broadcast on Pentecost, to spend time every morning, even if it's only 15 minutes. I'm not suggesting it should only be 15 minutes, but even if you start out with just 15 minutes, spend your day beginning that day with God. Sit before Him. Be still. Don't even talk to your spouse first. Don't talk to your kids first. Give the Lord the first 15 minutes of your morning and just say, "Lord, help me to get in touch with the living reality of your Spirit in me". I bless you today in the name of Yeshua HaMashiach. I speak over you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you might enter into a greater experience of the love of God. May He strengthen you by faith and your inner man to know His reality that dwells within you.