The Gift That Sets Us Apart

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

“You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the LORD. Along with the bread you shall present seven one year old male lambs without defect, and a bull of the herd and two rams; they are to be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD. You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering and two male lambs one year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings. The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the LORD; they are to be holy to the LORD for the priest. On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.                                                           Leviticus 23:15-21 (NASB)

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”    Acts 2:1-4 (NASB)

Today we are taking a break from our Kingdom of God series to examine the last of the Spring feasts, the Feast of Pentecost. It is my prayer that this message will give you a new perspective in preparing your heart for next weeks Day of Pentecost. This feast originally had two names, one agricultural and one historical. It was originally called the feast of Harvest because it celebrated the completion of the grain harvest or the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, the Greek name for 50 or 50th, because it took place seven weeks or fifty days after the Passover, the time when the grain harvest began. The Feast was originally established by God as a day of giving to the Lord when three offerings were presented by the priests.

In later Judaism this feast became associated with the giving of the law and the making of the covenant at Mount Sinai. In Christian history it is associated with the coming of the Holy Spirit, falling on believers as they gathered in Jerusalem. It is likely that the writer of Acts, the good doctor Luke, understood the parallel of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the beginning of the Christian community and the beginning of the Israelite community at Sinai. Today we will examine this day, the day an ancient people gave, and believers receive The Gift That Sets Us Apart.

God established the day of Pentecost through Moses – a day of presenting offerings to the Lord. These offerings are holy to the Lord and when presented by the priest, they become The Gift That Sets Us Apart. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, God gives the promised Holy Spirit as they are gathered together to celebrate this annual Sabbath.

The day of Pentecost has been established by God as a day of giving to the Lord. These gifts are to be devoted to God alone, set apart and presented as a pleasing sacrifice, on an annual day of rest. As followers of Jesus Christ, we understand the day of Pentecost as the day God gave the Holy Spirit, The Gift That Sets Us Apart, a day to be celebrate throughout time.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the importance of The Gift That Sets Us Apart?”

The importance of The Gift That Sets Us Apart is how we relate to God, and we find strength in God.

1). The importance of The Gift That Sets Us Apart is the means by which God’s people draw close to Him.

In the past people drew close to God through offerings; today we are the offering through the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost originally had an agricultural meaning, celebrating the completion of the spring harvest of grain, fifty days after Passover when the first fruits of the spring harvest were celebrated. The celebration at Passover was grain but now at Pentecost it is celebrated with bread made of grain from the spring harvest. Besides the grain and drink offering that are made on Pentecost there are three other offerings to be made as well. Before we examine those offerings, I want to point out a connection to our study on the Kingdom of God series.

In the grain offering are two loaves of bread baked from fine flour with leaven which are presented as first fruits. We have been reading and learning much about leaven and how Jesus used leaven in His parables. Letting Scripture be our guide to interpret and understand the Scriptures better we can get a picture that fits what Jesus was teaching in His parables on the Kingdom of Heaven. There are two loaves presented, one representing Jews while the second represents Gentiles and the bringing together of these two groups. Jesus taught that He had other sheep He would bring into His sheepfold, meaning Gentile would be added to the promises of God.

We know that leaven represents sin and in the case of the two loaves of bread it indicates the church will not be pure or free from sin until Jesus returns. This fits exactly what we have been learning from the parable of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. The church will be a mixed church and will not be pure until the return of Christ. There is an important lesson here, if we allow Scripture to do the talking and leading, we will never lack for understanding or be led astray by false teaching. Now let’s take a look at the other offerings made on the day of Pentecost.

The first of these offerings mentioned is the burnt offering, it is the most common type of offering made in Israel and it differs from other forms of offerings. The burnt offering is devoted wholly to God alone, it is not to be consumed by humans. The animals offered were to be from the flock, herd or birds and always male without defect. The place for this offering was an altar, not a temple. Burnt offerings were rarely, if ever, made inside. This offering represents entire surrender to God and only those Israelites who retained their standing in the covenant could make this offering. Strangers or Gentile were allowed to make this offering but only under certain circumstances.

The second offering mentioned is the sin offering. This offering is meant to declare forgiveness of sin and cleansing from the pollution of sin. On Pentecost this was a special emphasis, making certain the sanctuary was cleansed from any type of pollution but especially the pollution from sin. The fat from this offering is sacrificed as a soothing aroma before the Lord.

The final offering mentioned is the peace offering. This is also an animal, male without blemish with the blood and the fat reserved for God. The rest of the sacrifice is divided among the priests and the worshipper. The right thigh given to the priest who officiates the sacrifice, the breast given to the other priest present and the rest given to the worshipper. This offering serves to keep the Israelites firmly in fellowship with God and His divine grace; to be mindful of God and His mercies; it is a reminder of God’s nearness and mercies when circumstances seek to obscure this awareness. These three offerings are the means by which the Israelites drew close to God and remained close to God. Consider now the function of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

The Holy Spirit teaches, guides, commands, restrains, intercedes and speaks to the believer. He is an active part of the life of every believer. His characteristics include truth, holiness, life and wisdom. These are the very things the Spirit seeks to grow to maturity in all believers spurring us on to Christlikeness. The burnt offering is given as a sign of complete devotion or surrender to God. The Holy Spirit helps believers live a life dedicated completely to God – Romans 8:14. Likewise, the sin offering is given for the forgiveness of sin and cleansing from the pollution of sin. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin leading to repentance and thus the forgiveness and cleansing from sin – John 16:8-11.

The final offering is the peace offering to keep the Israelites mindful of the presence of God and His mercies, regardless of their circumstances. One of the fruits of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22 is peace. Peace comes in many different forms and in the case of the believer peace is the peace of Christ, not the peace of the world. But the Spirit is also our Comforter – John 14:16 – thus helping to bring peace; He is also the One who testifies that we are children of God and thus, again, bringing peace – Romans 8:16. I could go on, but I think it is clear, the Holy Spirit in now the means by which believers draw close to God.

The importance of The Gift That Sets Us Apart is how we relate to God, and we find strength in God.

2). The importance of The Gift That Sets Us Apart is the means by which God empowers His people.

In the past the Spirit of God would “fall upon” people for specific tasks; today His Holy Spirit dwells within believers to empower us daily.

I mentioned in the introduction of this message that it was likely that Luke understood the parallel of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the beginning of the Christian community and the beginning of the Israelite community at Sinai. I want to examine those parallels between the covenant at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by three supernatural signs, 1) the SOUND of a violent wind, today we might better understand this when compared to the sound of a jet engine at takeoff; 2) the APPEARANCE of tongues of flame; 3) the ability to SPEAK in tongues or languages not native to them. Three signs that target three senses. These are clearly supernatural signs – not wind but SOUNDED like; not fire but LOOKED like fire; TALKING in a language that was not natural but “other.”

When we look at Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus chapter 19 it is a scene that would surely frighten anyone. It is in verses 16-19 we find the clues we are seeking,

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.” 

Did you catch the parallels? In verse 16 there is thunder and lightning, a thick cloud of smoke and a loud trumpet; in verse 18the Lord descended in fire, there is the smoke of a furnace, the whole mountain quacked violently; and in verse 19 the trumpet grew louder, and God answered Moses in thunder. So, here we go, the people can SEE lightning; they can HEAR thunder and God SPOKE to Moses in thunder. Three supernatural signs and three senses that God is present and coming down to the mountain.

Moses is on the mountaintop receiving the Ten Commandments and the Law, the basis of the covenant God will make with Israel. The people grow restless and sin against God thus breaking the covenant. Moses intercedes for Israel and the covenant is renewed and the rest of Exodus concerns the tabernacle and the priestly garments and duties. The Ten Commandments and the Law are meant to empower the people, not through a list of dos and don’ts but as a weapon to use against sin. The Law is there to point out the sin of the people and their need for the mercy and grace of God. As we learned earlier, the sacrificial system was the means for the people to stay close to God and remain in His divine grace and to remind them of the nearness of God and His mercies.

Letting the Scriptures be our guide we can interpret the signs that accompanied the Holy Spirit as, 1) the sound of the wind being the power of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus in Luke 24:49; 2) the fire representing purity like the live coals in Isaiah 6:6-7 at the call of the prophet; 3) the speech representing the universal nature of the Christian church – Gentiles are no longer excluded though this comes later in Acts but is seen as early as John 12:20 when the Greek travelers come seeking Jesus.

The importance of The Gift That Sets Us Apart is how we relate to God, and we find strength in God.

Pentecost is an ancient Feast celebrated throughout the history of the Israelite community. It was originally established as a day to celebrate the completion of the grain harvest, started during the Passover, seven weeks or 50 days before. On this day, the priests would present three offerings to the Lord, holy and devoted to God alone.

In later Judaism it became associated with the giving of the law and the covenant at Mount Sinai. In Christian history it is the day we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit and the establishing of the Christian community. This day is celebrated in Israel as the day the Israelite community was established and as believer’s we celebrate the Holy Spirit, The Gift That Sets Us Apart.

The celebration of Pentecost is clearly a foreshadowing of the blending of Jews and Gentiles to form the Christian church. Sadly, the Christian church places far too little emphasis and value on the Old Testament, much to our demise. We would do well to spend time reading and meditating on the Old Testament, after all these are the Scriptures Jesus and the disciples refer to and taught every day! I do not expect anyone to blindly believe what I present in these messages. My hope and prayer is you will be encouraged and spurred on to do your own reading and research, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth.

So, my challenge for you this week, as you are reading your Bible this week, whether in a devotional reading or a Bible study, take the time to use the cross references, especially when an Old Testament passage is quoted in your New Testament reading. Read the surrounding verses to gain context and make note of any and all similarities you might find with the New Testament passage. Remember, Paul reminds Timothy that all Scripture is God breathed and for us today that includes the Old Testament, not just the New!

As you gain knowledge and understanding of the Old Testament and what God was doing through Israel your reading and understanding will take on a new, refreshing context. Things that once seemed dim will become clearer and make much more sense. Jesus truly did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, just as He said in Matthew 5:17, He came to show us how-to live-in fulfillment of the commandments and then He gave us the means to accomplish the task while we are here on earth. The Holy Spirit. Remember that we are but jars of clay and we need the help of the Spirit daily! So, ask for a fresh filling of the Spirit each morning before your feet hit the floor! On the day of Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit, The Gift That Sets Us Apart!!

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen and Amen.

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