We can prepare for this great feast by understanding its Jewish background. Nothing happens in the scripture by coincidence. It is all part of God’s great plan.
So why did the Holy Spirit come upon the first disciples on the feast of Pentecost ? This feast called shavout in Hebrew (meaning weeks) occurred 7 weeks (or fifty days hence Pentecost) after Passover (Pessah). Passover commemorated the Exodus when God freed the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. Pentecost commemorated the giving of the 10 commandments (the Torah) to Moses on Mt Sinai. Both are two of the three major Jewish feasts. Besides the historical, Pentecost also had an agricultural significance since it also commemorated the presentation of the firstfruits of the summer harvest to God in the temple in Jerusalem.
But what does this mean for us and how will it help us as we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost in a few weeks time?
1. BOTH FEASTS WERE CONNECTED WITH DAYS OF EXPECTATION
Pessah and Shavuot were connected by what was called the ‘counting of the omer’. An omer was a measure of dry grain which was cut and offered to God after Pessah. They were then to count 49 days and on the 50 day, on the feast of Shavout, the firstfruits of the harvest were offered in Jerusalem. The ‘in between’ days of counting connected the two feasts and were designed to build a sense of expectation between the two.
We know that Jesus died and rose during Pessah. He is the one who frees us from the slavery of sin by His death and resurrection. Yet He wants to do more. He wants to give us His Holy Spirit. This He first did on the day of Pentecost. And like the Jews did and still do, we are to ‘build’ up to Pentecost with a sense of expectation.
This is what is behind the novena (nine days) that the Church encourages to do between the Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus Himself built this expectation in His disciples
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
How to Prepare
Pray the daily ‘Come Holy Spirit’ Scriptures found on our website.
2. THE WORD OF GOD IS NOW WRITTEN IN OUR HEARTS
As already mentioned, the historical significance of shavuot commemorated the giving of the Torah to the people of God. Shavout also means ‘an oath’ in the sense that God swore his faithful love to His chosen people, in effect taking them in marriage. On that day, Israel enters a covenant relationship with God, worshipping Him alone and promising loyalty and obedience to Him.
Yet the history of Israel shows us how hard it was for the people to remain faithful to the law God gave them which was written on stone tablets. So God promised that a different day would come:
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
This is what God did in Pentecost by sending His very Spirit into our hearts. We are now drawn internally by a desire to love and obey God. This interior law is written in our hearts, also called ‘the law of the Spirit’ (Rom 8:2). The more we yield to the Holy Spirit, the more He will transform our desires because ‘Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (Rom. 8:5).
How to Prepare
Ask God for the gift of deeper repentance and forgiveness for those times we have given in to the sinful nature. Make a good confession and ask the Lord to keep you free from sin and indifference and to fill you with His desires.
3. THE DAY THE FIRE OF GOD FELL
If you had to read the Exodus account which relates the story of Moses going up Mount Sinai to receive the 10 commandments, you will immediately see that God manifested His awesome presence in Fire. On Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the first disciples experienced this empowering presence of God in a most powerful and tangible way. ‘Tongues of fire’ came upon them and they proclaimed the love of Jesus without fear.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Peter was later to explain what happened in this way:
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
But was this a one time event? Not at all. Millions of people all over the world are experiencing a new Pentecost in their personal lives, in their communities and prayer groups. The effect is amazing. A new love for Jesus, a greater power over sin, a burning desire to witness to Jesus and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in signs and wonders. God wants to give us His Ruah HaKodesh (His Holy Spirit), His very own life. No wonder St Paul proclaimed ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 5:5)
How to Prepare
Take the following verses into prayer as ask God to build up your faith. It would be best if you looked up the verses in your own Bible and for you to read them in their context.
God gives the Spirit without limit.
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.