A Promise of Old
‘And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’ (Joel 2:28)
‘Always vote for the man who promises the least; that way, you’ll be disappointed the least.’ So goes a rather cynical (but perhaps fairly accurate!) comment about politics today. We are all accustomed to politicians (of whatever persuasion) making promises of what they will do if only we will vote for them; but we all know that, by and large, we will almost certainly end up disappointed. However, you can never say this about God. What he promises, he does – every time.
One of the promises that God made in the Old Testament concerned a new experience of the Holy Spirit for his people; and, unlike our politicians, he did not disappoint us. In Old Testament times, experience of the Spirit was the preserve of leaders or ‘special’ people – people like elders, judges, kings, priests, and prophets. Even then, he generally ‘came and went’ as his presence, power or wisdom was needed; he never ‘stayed around’ for too long! In fact, King David was probably one of the few to experience a more permanent presence of the Spirit (and hence his cry to God not to take his Spirit from him in Psalm 51).
However God promised that a day was coming when he would give his Spirit, not just to ‘special people’, but to all his people; and at Pentecost he kept that promise. The disciples were once again praying, after the return of Jesus to the Father, when they were suddenly overwhelmed – ‘baptized’ – with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised ten days before. One of the first things that Peter wanted the gathering crowd to know was that what they were seeing was what God had promised through the prophet Joel over eight hundred years earlier. And you can experience this too, he went on to tell them.
Still today, this promise of God holds true – all we need to do is ask! And whoever asks will have an experience of the Spirit, not that ‘comes and goes’, but which is lasting, transforming and empowering. This is the promise of the Father!
Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Acts 2:33)
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