The Feast of Pentecost originated from God’s revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai. This feast was one of three at which all men were to appear at the Temple in Jerusalem in the first century. It was a celebration of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai and the harvest.
The service began after the morning sacrifice at 9 a.m. The Temple readings for the day were from Exodus 19 through 20, the first two chapters of Ezekiel and the book of Ruth. Those passages involved the Ten Commandments, the fiery appearance of God and an account set at harvest time, respectively.
There are three significant parallels between the giving of the Torah in Exodus and the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost some 1,500 years later.
The first was God’s presence. On Mount Sinai, God’s presence was revealed by the sound of thunder, fire and smoke. The prophet Ezekiel witnessed God’s presence through a windstorm with flashing lightning and fire. In Acts, the Spirit of God was present in the sound of a violent wind and tongues of fire.
Second, in Exodus, we see that when the people worshiped the golden calf, 3,000 died. On Pentecost, when Peter preached, the people repented and 3,000 were saved.
The third parallel comes in the form of the law being written on stone tablets on Mount Sinai. Following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the law was written on the hearts of the people.
The other aspect of the celebration of Pentecost was the harvest. The first fruits of the wheat harvest were brought as an expression of thankfulness to the Lord for the harvest that was just beginning. The day of Pentecost in the first century brought the “first fruits” of the harvest of people in the Kingdom of God.
As believers in Jesus, we are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. As God’s presence is in us, may we be God’s presence to a lost and dying world.
The Rev. Paul Johnson is pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.