Based on: Joel 2:28-29
What do you do when you have good news to tell? What if you are going to get married? What if you are going to be a new mother or a new grandmother? Don’t you go and tell people, as many people as you can find and soon as you can find them?
The same is true with God. He has good news to tell and on Pentecost he announces that good news. That’s what Pentecost is about. On Pentecost God shares the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ and pours out his Holy Spirit on all people.
The prophet Joel talked about this in the Old Testament when he said, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
God certainly does pour out the Holy Spirit on us. It doesn’t matter whether we are young or old, male or female, God sends us the Holy Spirit. We will talk more about that soon, but what does Joel mean by the prophecies and the visions and dreams?
How did God speak to the people in the Old Testament? The people of the Old Testament didn’t have God’s word all written out for them as we do today. God came to certain individuals and gave them dreams and visions and the things to say on God’s behalf. God’s message to mankind had not been completely revealed, and so God continued to use miraculous means to communicate his will.
When God wanted Abraham to move to Canaan, he told him directly. When the Israelites were at Mount Sinai God spoke to Moses and Moses told the people what God had commanded and how to build the tabernacle. When God wanted the people to know that the temple in Jerusalem was going to be destroyed but that the captives in Babylon would come back at 70 years later, he told Jeremiah and Jeremiah told the people. Throughout the Old Testament when people wanted to know God’s will they would go to prophets or priests and say, “inquire of the Lord for me.”
Throughout the Old Testament the Prophets had visions and dreams . Jacob had a vision of the stairway to Heaven. Isaiah had a vision of God in this throne. Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones. The list goes on. When the prophet Joel writes these verses he is speaking in terms that the Old Testament believers would understand. He is telling them that, “No longer will you have to wait for a prophet to have a vision to know what God has to say to you. You have to wait for God’s plan of salvation to be revealed, but God’s Holy Spirit will be poured out on all people and they will all be able to know God’s plan of salvation.”
We see the beginning of this prophecy that at Pentecost, when God pours out his Holy Spirit in a visible way on the apostles. As God pours out his Holy Spirit, he enables the disciples to the share the gospel message with people from all over the world in their own language.
Certainly after Pentecost God spoke to his people using visions and dreams. Peter had a vision and Paul had a dream and there were a few to whom God spoke directly, but those helped advance the Gospel message during this time it was being written. The way we see God work most often in the New Testament is through the spoken and written word.
It was the clear and simple gospel message that converted hearts, that clear message that God demands punishment for sin and that Jesus Christ was punished in your place. Through this gospel message the Holy Spirit is poured out on all people. This message from God is for young and old and for men and women.
We have God’s complete revelation to mankind. Right here in the Bible is everything that God wants to tell us. We don’t have to wait for someone to have a vision or dream in order to learn a little bit more about God’s will for us. We don’t have to wait for a prophet to come with the latest word from God. No, it is all right here. And it is for everyone. If you want to know what God has to say, read your Bible and come to church.
Could God continue to use dreams and visions today? Yes. But God has already told us in Scripture that right there in the Bible is everything we need to know for our salvation. If someone has a dream or a vision it will agree with what God has already told us. If not we can be sure it is not from God.
When we look back at Pentecost and we read about the tongues of flame and the sound of the wind and the ability the apostles had to speak in different languages, perhaps we long for God to pour out the Holy Spirit on us. We want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a way to be filled with the Holy Spirit and we have already mentioned it briefly.
The Holy Spirit works through the means of grace. The Bible tells us that there are certain tools that the Holy Spirit uses to come to you and to fill you with his presence. First of all is that gospel message. As we read God’s word we’re reading about how God rescued us from hell. As we hear and read his word we are hearing about our forgiveness. The same is true in Baptism and the Lord’s supper. In those things God comes to us and tells us that we are forgiven. Through that message the Holy Spirit comes to us and works in a us.
But to our human way of thinking that seems so mundane. “God, I want the tongues of fire, I want to be able to a speak other languages without having to study.” We want something more than just reading our Bibles or coming to church.
Look closely at how the Holy Spirit worked in the New Testament and how the message was spread. Even on Pentecost, what was the reason for the apostles being able to speak other languages? So they could share the Gospel. What about all those other things that happened on Pentecost, the tongues of fire in the sound of the wind? They did not convert a single soul. Certainly, they got the attention of the crowds, but it was through Peter’s gospel message to the Holy Spirit worked faith in the hearts of those who heard. Remember how Philip shared the gospel message with that man on his way back to Ethiopia, and Paul walked for miles and miles from town to town simply to tell people about the gospel message and later wrote letters to those towns.
Now as people who have heard God’s word and know about our salvation, as God has revealed to us in Scripture, we can now proclaim that message to others. That after all is the basic definition of a prophet, one who proclaims the message God has given you to speak.
That’s how the Holy Spirit comes to us. He comes and fills our hearts as people share the gospel message as they read the gospel message and as they receive the assurance of their forgiveness and baptism and in the Lord’s supper. We ask Jesus to forgive us for the times we look for the Holy Spirit to come to us in other ways. And Jesus does forgive us. That’s what the gospel message is about.
As Christians we want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We want the Holy Spirit to come to us. He is close. He comes to us in church and personal devotion and as one person shares Jesus with another.