Her Rejection Forced My Forgiveness / Spiritual Meditations

As we approach the end of 2020, many of us will formulate new year resolutions.  An overabundance of these will relate to our physical improvement.  Although our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, let’s also take a serious look at improving our inner Being as well. 

The following experience, as related by my friend Timothy W. Ehrlich in his book The Long Road to Eternity, shows us how important it is to God that we forgive others and the joy it will give us to do so.

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:2-3)

I flew back to New York practically not needing a plane: the vows we exchanged on the Peak went through my head again and again. I felt that we were truly married in the eyes of God, if not in the laws of man. I was so head over heels in love with Anna; she was so incredibly beautiful, so intelligent, and so talented. I was amazed that her talents as a banker were getting us both over to Hong Kong, to live in a huge apartment paid for by her bank. I began working extra hours as a bartender in addition to being the bouncer, so I could save up some extra money for the move.

Bartenders got a lot of quarters in tips in those days, and I saved the quarters I got from tips to use in the Schooner’s payphone (this being the era before cell phones when almost every business had a coin operated payphone). It cost $12 for an initial few minutes to call Hong Kong, and a dollar or two every minute after that. I accumulated enough quarters to speak with her every few days. 

One morning in August I called Anna at 10 a.m. my time, 10 p.m. her time; twelve dollars in quarters into the pay phone. There was no answer when I knew she should be home. The same thing happened the next morning when I called. Finally, the third day I reached her. Somehow, I knew what she was going to tell me, but it was still a shock to hear it: “I have decided I don’t want to be married to you.” I was stunned. I managed to ask why. She said, “I don’t want to be married to anybody right now, the opportunity here is too big and the job is too demanding, and I don’t want to be married.” I asked, “Is that it? Are we done? You are breaking up with me for good?” She said, “We can still be friends, I’m sorry if I hurt you but I need to do what is best for me.” She said she would be staying in Hong Kong for at least the next three years.

I literally felt like she had died. The breakup was as sudden and terrible as a fatal car crash, but even a little worse, in that she had chosen it. This was a rejection with no second chances; her declaration that she was staying in Hong Kong for the next three years meant that realistically I would probably never see her again. We had been together two years, but in two minutes I had gone from a head-over-heels in love guy about to get married, to a head-over-heels in love guy, whose love had been rejected and whose lover was 12,000 miles away and never coming back.

I said goodbye to Anna believing it was the last time I would ever speak with her and went upstairs to my room in the attic of the Schooner, to lay down on my bed. It was the lowest moment of my entire life. I was in the greatest emotional pain I have ever experienced. It was all at the same time a sudden and unexpected death of a two-year relationship, a rejection of my love, and a cancellation of my plans for a fantastic future life in Hong Kong. I was a mess; tons of negative emotions swept over me. The one constant emotion was pain; I felt like I was in a world of pain that I could not escape; everywhere I looked all I could see was more darkness and pain. I began to pray to ask God to help me with my pain.

Getting the Heart Right With God

In several instances when I was in emotional pain, God had pretty quickly answered my prayers,  but not this time. For an hour I lay on my bed praying for relief from the pain of my broken heart, but after an hour I felt no better. I was surprised; usually I can count on feeling better after an hour of prayer, but I was absolutely no better off.  I prayed, “God, I have been praying for an hour and I feel no better. I don’t understand why you haven’t answered me, never-the-less, I trust in you.” Instantly, I could hear these words from the Lord’s Prayer echo in my head; 

“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ for if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father in heaven forgive you for yours.” 

This was not God speaking but it was God calling to my attention the thing that was blocking out His Holy Spirit from giving me the help I needed. For years I had been neglecting forgiving others.

Hearing the words of the Lord’s prayer and Jesus’ explanation at the end of the prayer in the  context of my current situation, made me realize my hypocrisy; here I was asking God for help, yet I had not obeyed one of the central teachings of Jesus – a teaching that I repeated in the Lord’s prayer almost every day for last five years: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In that moment I suddenly realized that there were many people, at least a dozen I had not forgiven, and against whom I was currently holding a grudge or otherwise was still angry at. In my mind I began to see the face after face of the people I had not forgiven. So, I set about forgiving each one.

One at a time I pictured the face of every person I was holding a grudge against. I was either deeply hurt by that person, or still very angry at that them and had not forgiven them.

I started with Anna and there were many things I was angry with or hurt by or both. Picturing Anna I thought about all the reasons why I was still angry at her. I thought of everything I thought she had done to me that I thought was wrong, and then I gave my hurt and my anger up to God by actually saying the words in my head, “God I am really angry at Anna for…., so I am letting go of that anger and giving it to you. Please take this burden from me.” Then I would think of the next thing I was angry about or hurt by that she had done, and I repeated that formula until I had forgiven her for every single thing I was hurt, sad or angry about. Then I thanked God and moved to the next person.

It was not as easy to forgive Anna as I just made it sound. Before moving on from one hurt to the next, I first would pause and try to feel in my heart if I had truly forgiven her for whatever it was and if I had truly let go of it, or if I still felt anger or hurt when I thought of it. Most of the time on my first try the forgiveness I was saying in my mind didn’t make it down into my heart. Did you know you can forgive someone with sincere effort but not have your forgiveness of that person make the trip between your mind (where you have decided to forgive the person) and your heart where the pain is?

I was not going to settle for that; some of the things I was so hurt by or angry about that I would have to go back and repeat the whole process three or four times until I could truly feel in my heart that I had forgiven her and truly had let go of it.

After I had truly forgiven Anna completely, I repeated that same process for every person I could think of that I was still angry at or hurt by. God helped me bring them to mind. I would say, I forgive you John or Jane or whatever that person’s name was. Then I would see how I was feeling in my heart. If I could feel in my heart that I had truly forgiven the person I would smile and go on to the next person. If I did not feel full forgiveness for that person in my heart I would start at the beginning with that person and go frame by frame picturing in my mind the event or events I was angry about or hurt by and forgiving and giving it up to God until I could feel peace in my heart towards that person.

Anna was the hardest to forgive, after forgiving her the others were easier; but it still took a long time because there were so many people I had not forgiven. The next up was the guy who pushed a chair into me in Sunday school and broke one of my front teeth when I was 12. I forgave him. Next was the across-the-street neighbor from my childhood home who I detested for regularly punishing his two children, my friends Lori and Skipper, with his thick leather belt; I forgave him. There were a few people in the Marine Corps I thought of with anger, so I forgave each of them.  I was surprised at how many people I was carrying bad feelings in my heart towards.

It took about an hour but finally I had dredged up every bit of buried anger and resentment I was holding onto against every person I could think of until I had forgiven every person attached to each of those memories.

I lay there on the bed feeling drained but so much lighter, realizing how heavy unresolved anger and hurt are when you carry them around!   I said, “Wow, I did it! I forgave them all!” I set down a huge burden I had been carrying in some cases for over a dozen years. The pain of losing Anna was still there, but I had forgiven her entirely. Even though I was still heartbroken, I felt I had really accomplished something very good and memorable:

Finishing all that forgiveness, my heart was right with God, and I didn’t know it but that was what God was waiting for. I said to God in prayer, “Well Father, I have forgiven everyone, but I still feel such pain.” Immediately I heard the wind begin to blow above the roof. The noise of the blowing wind increased getting louder and louder until it was roaring.

The Holy Spirit Descends

I was lying on my bed on my back looking up at the ceiling. The ceiling in my attic room was the underside of the roof and looked pretty flimsy compared to the volume of wind so, I was deeply afraid that the roof was going to blow off.  Suddenly, in an instant the wind completely died, and the room became silent.  At that same moment, a golden, glowing, translucent, shimmering substance started coming down through the roof across the whole ceiling.

It came into the room kind of like a flat cloud descending slowly across the whole attic at once. As the edge of the golden substance was slowly coming down towards me, I could see the roof beams and nails through it. Feeling no fear, I was amazed as the edge of the beautiful golden, shimmering substance moving steadily downwards passed over me as it moved down to the floor; and then the whole attic was filled with it, ceiling to floor and wall to wall, but I could still see through it.

As the front edge passed over me, I was filled with complete joy and peace. I realized – this is the Holy Spirit! I could feel it passing through me and staying in me. Then I was shocked and amazed as I realized I wasn’t in pain. I thought, “Where is the pain?!!” Just seconds before I had been in the worst emotional pain of my life, I felt like the whole world was pain and darkness and my heart was broken. Now I realized there was still a little pain, but it had shrunken to what felt like the size of a golf ball. It was amazing that the pain now seemed tiny compared to the amazing joy!

As soon as I realized that my pain was all but gone, the golden shimmering substance started to rise back up from the floor. I did not want it to leave, but at the same speed it came down into the room it now went back up passing my bed, then above me and slowly rose right up through the ceiling and was gone. The wind immediately began to blow loudly again for a few seconds, then it faded way and there was silence again. I found myself grinning from ear to ear.

I lay there staring at the ceiling for quite a few minutes enjoying the wonderful feelings sweeping over me: relief from the pain of loss, lightness from all the forgiveness, and joy from what I had just experienced: hearing, seeing and being immersed in the Holy Spirit. 

I sat up at the foot of my bed grinning and looked out the little attic window facing towards the ferry dock. I remember thinking, “Now what should I do?” What do you do at a moment like that? I was kind of in shock, I felt overpowering happiness, I could not stop smiling; I was trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I had just experienced the Holy Spirit coming to me to wipe away my pain. People go into shock from being suddenly wounded or injured so I suppose it is not surprising to go into shock from being suddenly healed.

I got up still in shock, went outside and walked over the ferry dock next-door to try and find someone to talk to. I was so happy and hoped to find a Christian person to share what just happened to me with but there was no one. Never-the-less, for three whole days afterwards I could not stop smiling.

I have had many wonderful spiritual and secular experiences in my life, but this was the best; that moment has given me strength for the rest of my life. It was years later before learning enough to realize that God had given me my own personal Pentecost: I heard the loud wind then something that kind of looked like tongues of flame descended, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Though emotionally destroyed when Anna broke up with me, I now know what a good thing it was. It took years to fully realize what an unhealthy place I was in at that time both spiritually and emotionally. Before she broke up with me, I was unbalanced spiritually in that I loved Anna more than I loved God. I know now that it is a form of idolatry to love a person more that you love God, but at the time it was great fun to feel that much love for someone – it was intoxicating.

When you love a person more than you love God it creates an emotional problem as well. A human being is not God; therefore, neither is any person (other than Jesus) worthy of worship. If you love a person more than you love God what you are doing is loving the creation more than the creator, and that is suspending reason and logic to such a degree as to make you emotionally unbalanced. I was so attached to Anna emotionally that when she distanced herself from me, my emotional attachment pulled and dragged me over and I fell flat on my face.

God’s number one commandment by volume in the Bible is not as you might think it would be: to love God, or to obey God. The most commonly given commandment is – the first of the ten commandments:

“I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me.(Exodus 20:2-3)

So, God used Anna breaking up with me, the worst pain I ever experienced, to help me rebalance myself spiritually and emotionally, and at the same time giving me the best spiritual experience of my life. That day I put God in the place in my heart where He should have been, and He has remained first in my heart ever since. To this day I thank God every day for giving me my own Pentecost experience, hearing and seeing and feeling the Holy Spirit.


The culmination of Tim and Anna’s relationship will be revealed in a future post.

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Sign on urban wall

Eye Opening Events Between the Testaments/Spiritual Meditations

One of the most beautiful biblical stories is not found in the Old Testament or the New Testament, but in the space between the two.

There are those who would call this approximately 400 years, the years of silence. There are no prophetic statements made in this period. Nothing is written as the oracles of God as revealed through the prophets. The “word of the Lord” does not appear again until the Gospels when the angel of the Lord appears unto the priest and informs him that his wife will have a child named John.

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to give him the name John.  Luke 1:11

So what happened during these four hundred years? Was there silence? Were there activities? Life always goes on but was there anything significant in these years?

 I would like to tell you a story. If you went to high school or college, you may have already heard this story but it has been my experience in studying history that it is very easy to become so swallowed up by the dates, the names, and the places, that history can become as tedious as reading a phone book. For that reason, I promise not to list any dates. I will offer you few names and when I do, the information I will share with you regarding them will be skimpy by design. I do not want you to become so side-tracked with individual people, philosophies, places, and dates, that you lose the over- all picture.

Back to my goal: It is my intent and hope that this little read will allow you to hear the music. To hear the glorious music of the movement of history as it existed between the Old Testament’s ending with the promise of the anointed One to come at an appointed time [Habakkuk 2:1-4], and the New Testament’s claim that the One arrived “in the fullness of time” [Gal 4:4].

As you begin to hear the music, I hope you will bow afresh to the birth of Christ. Then I would encourage you to go back and check out the people, events, and dates. Catch the big picture and then fill in as much detail as you will. The detail can be found in numerous history books of your choosing for this period of time.

Little Israel at the Close of the Old Testament

At the close of the Old Testament, the Hebrew people were limited because the rest of the world did not understand their language. They were small in area. And they were small in numbers, made even smaller by the number of people that were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. When finally released, many of these people, who had never lived in the land surrounding Jerusalem, simply chose to live in any place where they had business contacts and could support their families. As a result, Jewish communities developed both on the north and south sides of the Mediterranean Sea, but mostly on its far East coast.

The land of Israel was located in a rather insignificant portion of the world. There was some traffic passing through on the North/South interchange but little on the East/West. Likewise, sailors of the Mediterranean had little need to go east to the dead end side of the Mediterranean. Thus, the land of the Israelis was relatively small and insignificant on the big picture scale.

One thing they did have was an unusual claim. Beginning with Abraham, and then later with Isaac and Jacob, and the prophets, they made the claim that the Holy One, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Invisible One in the visible universe, had spoken to them.

Now these people were not naive. After several generations of these ‘encounters’ they set up a way to ‘Test the Spirit’. Even though they had a trustworthy history of hearing “thus said the Lord” and it was so, they were more than aware of manipulations and other possible shenanigans. Thus, the three way test was this:

Whenever someone said “Thus said the Lord” they would pick up stones and be prepared to kill the one who would make such a statement. Then the would-be prophet would have to give a sign and the sign would have to come true. If it did not, the prophet was stoned to death. If the sign did come true, then the obligation was theirs to heed the advice or warning.

The prophets foretold that the Holy One would send someone. This someone would reveal the connection between the visible world and the invisible. His coming, they were told, would be at the appointed time. {Habakkak 2:1-4] The prophets then turn silent.

The Astonishing Spread of Greek Culture

If you were to look at a map of the Mediterranean Sea area at this time, you would see all of its coastal areas with the little area of Israel on the far east coast. But the lights of history shone on the area we know as Greece.

Perhaps, dear reader, you are Greek and would totally embrace the words of the bride’s father in the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” who said, “When the rest of the world was still swinging on trees, we were writing philosophy.” There have been many great cultures of the world before and after the Greeks, but at this period in time, the father of the bride was fairly accurate.  Think of any Greek sir name you have ever heard of. With the exception of Aristotle Onassis, just about every one of them surfaced at this interlude between the testaments.

School of Athens painting

Raphael’s’ painting of the School of Athens,  portrays my thought. All of these ‘heavy thinkers’ come from this period. Raphael not only paints them, but he organizes them as well.  In the center of the painting we find the two ‘Big Boys’ in Plato and Aristotle. Their thinking can be roughly equated and separated into ‘right-wing’ and ‘left- wings’ or ‘right-brain’ and ‘left-brain’ activities.

Aristotle and Plato painting

Plato in red, with his hand up, was interested in the invisible things in life. His interest was in unity, or what the classical philosophers called “universals.” He wanted to know what holds everything together and his thinking was upward and outward. He was interested in transcendence. You beauty lovers, who may not be very interested in how it works, but are mesmerized by its beauty, would be considered followers of Plato.

Aristotle on the other hand, with his hand pointing down, was interested in what was visible, what he could see, and hold, and take apart. He was more interested in what is known as ‘immanence.’ Those of you who are interested in science and it’s many branches would be considered followers of Aristotle.

Not to belabor the point, but others sitting at the feet of Plato and Aristotle are: Zeno, Epicurus, Averocs, Pythagers, Aleibides, Xenophon, Aeschines, Parmenides, Socrates, Heraclitus, Diagenes, Euclid, Zoroaster, Plolemy.  You may not be familiar with all of them but you have probably heard of at least some of them.

These men changed the way people thought. By all of their questioning, they underscored the ‘individual’ rather than just one person in the ‘herd.’ As an individual, one had privileges, duties, and responsibilities. These people of Greece wanted to produce good citizens. A citizens ‘civita—civilized one’ was not to be ruled by a despot but would be able to rule themselves. Although it was many years later, Emmanuel Kant said there were four big philosophical questions:

  1.  What may I know? [epistemology]
  2.  What must I do? [ethics]
  3.  What may I hope? [eschatology]
  4.  What is man? [anthropology]

These Greek philosophers incorporated all of that.

You may be asking yourself at this time, “so what. What does this have to do with the significant events between the scriptures?” Please bear with me. The story goes on.

North of Greece, there was a ruler by the name of Phillip of Macedon. He was a warrior. He wanted to go to battle, to fight, to control. He also recognized that the people we call Greeks were not typical of humanity. They seemed more advanced than everyone else. They were more civilized, more cultured, more aware.

I have already acknowledged that there were other great cultures in the world so let me share two things that those other cultures did not possess. They did not have the number zero. You may be saying to yourself, “so what? What is the big deal with having a zero?” The Greek aquisition of the zero from the Egyptians became the basis of our economic system and our currency. Every time you handle money, move a decimal point, etc. you are indebted to the Egyptians for that magnificent zero.

Another thing other peoples did not have but borrowed from the Babylonians was counting by 12.  You are probably asking the same question:“So what?” Are you wearing a analog watch? There is a reason those numbers go from 1 to 12. You can thank the Babylonians for figuring out that system.

Anyhow, Phillip of Macedon was so impressed with the Greeks that he insisted that his son be taught by them in order to learn their ways and thinking processes.  He sent his son, Alexander, to the Academy to study with Aristotle. After absorbing a great deal from Aristotle and his new found Greek culture, and after Phillip dies, Alexander, decided it was time for him to do his own conquering.

His goal was not to destroy the world around him, but to conquer and expose these tribes or peoples of the world [nations is too strong a term] to the Greek culture.  In his path, he left the Greek language for people to learn. He left Greek food and culture. He built libraries where the people were exposed to the books of all of the philosophers previously mentioned. He constructed theaters where the questions of the philosophers were asked. Because he was opening up the minds of the people to cultures different than their own, it becomes a time when synagogues flourish and expanded westward as far as Spain and along the north African coast.

Having libraries, theaters, and synagogues may not seem like a big deal to you who have TV sets in your home or ipads, iphones, etc. but these were all channels of communication. It allowed people who were preoccupied, as we are, with providing food and shelter for their families, to learn about other people. It gave them a place  to listen and to know what others were thinking and doing. It encouraged them to think for themselves and to ask those haunting questions about what is real and what isn’t. What is important and what isn’t? Why am I here? What am I supposed to believe? In a world where everyone dies, what my I hope?

At the age of 33, Alexander the Great dies. The entire Mediterranean area is marked with his footprints and the Greek language, Greek books, Greek theaters, and synagogues are everywhere.

The Roman Takeover

With the death of Alexander, a different people began to expand. Unlike the expansion of Alexander with the desire to conquer and to spread the virtues of Greek culture, these people expanded with the idea of control, power, and money. Beginning in the area we call Rome, a series of smaller expansions turned into larger and larger expansions. They wanted to ‘annex’ all of their neighbors. Motivations often became mixed. They quickly discovered that if they could build A, and someone else could build B, together they could be A&B. Likewise, if this new ‘merger’ could build A&B, and another people  could build C, then the combined group could build A, B and C.

map of roman empire

It was the same for the opportunity to purchase from a larger area and to sell to a larger area. They would import grains that they needed and sell wines that they produced. Over the years they learned where to get what was needed. They did not have their Home Depots, Lowe’s and Wal-Marts, but they knew exactly where to get their tin and marble, silk worms and cloth, fruits and vegetables. With this knowledge and power, they became more knowledgeable and more powerful—and richer. The cast of their shadow expanded everywhere that Alexander had controlled and a great deal more.

The Romans were in it for the long term and their expansion needed to be managed. Although the Greek language continued around the Great Sea, these people spoke Latin and it was an essential ingredient in the management of the government, commerce, and military control.  Many construction projects, including a huge network of roads leading to Rome, were built with Latn as the working language.  Thus, three languages existed throughout the land: Native tongues, Greek, and Latin.

As part of the management, and building on the Greek’s concept of citizenship, with privileges, rights, and obligations, the Romans built a system of law. The Roman citizens were accountable to and protected by the law. This is where it becomes interesting. Not everyone in the Roman Empire was a Roman citizen. The people of the City of Rome were,  but the rest of empire was a different story.

It is not my intent to romanticize the Roman expansion with all of its warfare.  It was often a bloody war with deaths throughout the lands. But it was not always that way.  So valuable was the “Roman Citizen” title that much of the land was conquered, not by force but with a bribe. Sometimes soldiers would simply surround the town and make a deal with the movers and shakers (the influential) of the city. “Don’t fight with us, just join us. If you do, we will make you Roman citizens.” There was generally about a 10% limit on the number of people allowed to do this in any city.

Especially for the merchants, the Roman citizenship classification was a “Golden Ticket” in the world of commerce. It meant that one could travel throughout the empire and still be protected by Roman law. Thus the merchant was free to sell his wares anywhere. He could even sell someone else’s wares as a sales representative. This was a time when merchants from different lands could be found throughout the empire and their buying and selling made commerce work.

It was also the time when signage came into being. Before people traveled a great deal, the shops of the village did not need a sign that said “Butcher”, “Baker” or “Candle-Stick-Maker”. One simply knew where to buy their shoes, get a hair-cut, or purchase cloth. With all of the strangers in town, signage was needed.

In Alexandria, a city named for Alexander, it was decided to build the biggest and the best library in the world. They wanted a copy of every book written. This was especially interesting and important to the Jewish communities. The synagogues around the Mediterranean did not speak Hebrew. That was lost to them. They spoke Greek. They requested of the library in Alexandria that the Old Testament scrolls  be translated into Greek. The library then contacted the Jews in Jerusalem and made their request known. The Jewish authorities appointed six Hebrew scholars from each of the 12 tribes. They did all of the translation work and this highly significant Old Testament translation is known as the Septuagint and you may see it written simply as LXX for the 70 translators who did the work. This Old Testament was then shared with the synagogues around the great sea.

Are you getting a glimpse of how the world had changed? Looking at the same map, with its libraries, theaters, and synagogues spread around the sea, note again the land of the Hebrews. It is still in the same location, but now it is more than a dead end of the Mediteranean cul-de-sac. Rather, it is in the middle of the significant commercial trade routes between north and south. Given the nature of the mountain, one has to travel through a narrow pass known as Megiddo. The New Testament speaks of Armageddon and notes that whoever controls this pass controls the world. As sand travels through an hour glass at its narrowest point, so too the land travelers must go through here.

We have arrived at that point in time when the entire area is tied together with language, with roads, with commerce, with communication centers with the theaters, libraries, and synagogues. It order for it to function so that trade is not interrupted, where money and supplies continue to flow freely, where prosperity can continue to be a hope and dream, there has to be peace in the land. There is always war and rumors of war, but turf battles interrupt business. All of these diverse cultures, though united in language, and dependent on commerce and law, were free and encouraged to maintain their own culture as long as they kept the peace.

Encouraging peace, and successfully keeping the peace, was a Roman accomplishment that became known as the PAX ROMANA.

It is Time for the Extraordinary

Let us now turn our attention to the New Testament. It is not my intent to offer NT lessons, but merely to connect a few of the dots. Let us begin with the birth of Christ.

  • When the entire area of in this part of the world was with one tongue [Greek]
  • When the ground work had been laid where people knew they were individuals, with rights and obligations,
  • When the major questions of the world were being asked,
  • When theaters and libraries flourished,.
  • When synagogues were numerous and the old testament scrolls were being translated into Greek,
  • When merchants and scholars possessed Roman Citizenship that allowed them to travel anywhere in the empire and still be protected by law,
  • When peace was plentiful, and the rule of the land,
  • When this little land of Israel became the gateway connecting North and South,

Then and only then did God send an angel to a young girl named Mary and say to her:

The time has come. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35.

Pentecost Ignites the Good News

God the Giver

Let us now take a quick look at Pentecost. Christians look at Pentecost as the time when God gave his Holy Spirit and a time when those gathered were speaking in tongues. To the Jewish community, which represented the people who were attending this regular service of worship, Pentecost was a time to celebrate God’s “giving”. People receive, but it is the Lord who “gives”. How does the Lord give? The Lord gives in three specific ways

  1. The Lord gives through His harvest. Human kind may plant and water and work, but it is the Lord who gives of the harvest. It is all the Lord’s creation. I have come to the persuasion that if one properly understands the term “creation” one understands the rest. If one fails to properly understand “creation” then one does not understand the rest of the scriptures.
  2. The Lord gives through His law. It is the gift of the law that leads to prosperity. It is the law that forms the type of person we are. It is the law that points to the direction we need to go.
  3. The Lord gives “as in the book of Ruth”.

Without going into it, the book of Ruth is a great story. It never tells the reader what to do, what to say, nor what to believe. It shows you what the Lord does and how He does it. The workings of the Lord are such an “easy yoke”, such a mature and smooth wine, so kind and gracious, that His workings become revealed after events and generally not before or during. Whenever you smack your forehead and say in amazement, “look how that all came together!” you will understand.

The Old Testament used the term “HESED” throughout the Scriptures to indicate the “Loving Kindness of the Lord”

These are the three characteristics of the Lord that are being worshipped when the worshippers are gathered together in Acts 2. They are worshipping the Lord—the GIVER.

Tongues of Fire

Now, consider the people who are at this service.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment because each one heard them speaking in his own language. [Remember, they all knew Greek so there was no need for them to hear in their native tongue]. Utterly amazed they asked, “Are not all these men, who are speaking, Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; resident of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Tonus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the part of Libra near Cyrene, visitors from Rome [both Jews and Jewish converts], Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! Acts 2:5

Jewish merchants from around the Sea are in the major trading center of Jerusalem when they hear the story of the resurrected Christ from Peter and when the Holy Spirit is another gift, given by the Giver, who they have come to celebrate and worship.

These merchants were all passing through on business but eventually they journey home. When they get to wherever their homes are, their wife and children meet him at the door and say, “Daddy, what did you bring me? How was your trip? What did you learn?” When the time is right, perhaps after dinner, he shares with them his story and his experiences at the Jewish Pentecost Service. The wife will eventually ask, “What will our Rabbi say to all of this?”

I image the Rabbi asking him to remain quiet awhile until the Rabbi himself can examine the scriptures. Rabbis seek counsel from other Rabbis and a Rabbi in Cappadocia can readily contact [via Roman snail mail] any Rabbi throughout the empire. So he does. And when he does, he soon learns that the story he heard from the merchant in his synagogue is the same story other Rabbi’s are hearing from the merchants in their own. Pretty soon, the Jewish community is spreading the gospel of Christ throughout the Roman Empire.

And the questions! Oh, the questions!!! All of the rabbi’s have them and they need to ask for help. The news quickly spreads that the rabbinic scholar in Jerusalem, originally from Tarsus, has gone from trying to kill the Christ followers to becoming one. He even changed his name from the Hebrew Saul to the Greek Paul. So, they write to him. When he writes back, his letters become circulated from synagogue to synagogue. He even travels to a number of these places, since as a Roman Citizen, he is free to travel the Roman Empire and to be protected by Roman law.

Conclusion

It is my hope that this little story has helped you connect some of the dots. During these 400 years of silence, it may not seem that anything significant happened, but as you can now tell, one of the ways the Lord works is “as in the book of Ruth” where the truth sneaks up on you.

Regarding your celebration of Christmas, my prayer continues to be that you will be able to bow afresh to the Christ child and all of the events that had to happen before he came. If He had arrived a few hundred years earlier, no one would have known about it. It would have been an isolated event amongst a far away people. If it had happened a few hundred years later, everyone was embroiled in war.

In happened, as foretold, in the fullness of time.

In your personal life, you too will discover periods of silence. You too have had and will have your years of silence. When you do, smile. He who gives the harvest, and gives the law, and “as in the book of Ruth” gives silently, graciously, easily, and smoothly. It is done with such purity that the movement of the spirit is generally seen in hind-sight. Remember, Robinson Caruso only had to see one footprint in the sand before he knew, he was not alone.

Written by my friend Dr. Frank Leeds III