Posted by: Heather | May 31, 2012

In Their Own Language

upper room

Acts 2:6-8  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  7  And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?   8  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

The Feast of Weeks (also called Shavuot (Sha-voo-WOAT) in Hebrew, or Pentecost in Greek) was just celebrated by the Jews, and in many Christian churches across the globe this week.   It occurs 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits in the spring, and is a date of great significance to both groups.

Although this passage in Acts is often thought to be the birthday of the church, the Feast of Weeks has a long, rich history which can be traced all the way back to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.  The first Pentecost is recorded in Exodus Chapter 19.  After the exodus of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, which occurred at Passover, they crossed the Red Sea.  Fifty days later, we see the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai, waiting for the instruction the LORD would give them.  After well over 400 years in bondage, the recently freed people had no idea what it took to run a nation.  They watched in awe as God descended upon the mountain in fire, and smoke billowed from the top as though it was being consumed.  It is here that God would give Moses the Torah…His instructions on how they should live and run their new nation.  Moses came down from the mountain with stone tablets, in which the finger of God had written what we now know as the 10 commandments.  The Feast of Pentecost is a commemoration of Israel’s physical deliverance from their captors.

Fast forward many years to the book of Acts chapter 2.  Pentecost is one of the 3 major harvest festivals in the feast cycle, and required all Jewish males to be present in Jerusalem.  Jews had come from all over to celebrate the feast.  It was exactly 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus.  This was an annual event, but this year something would take place that those present would not soon forget.  God would once again visibly descend as the Holy Spirit in the form of fire, and set upon the 120 that were waiting in the upper room.  This time, his instructions would not be written in stone, but in the hearts of men.  As fire sat upon the disciples as described in Acts 2:4, they began to supernaturally speak in languages that were unknown to them.  So, Pentecost is a celebration not only of physical deliverance, but spiritual deliverance as well.

This scripture passage in Acts is very well known among many religious groups because of the miraculous account of 120 people speaking in languages unknown to them, but understood by those in their hearing.  Often, the focus of this passage is on the speaking.  But in my opinion, another miracle occurred that is just as great in comparison…the fact that those in attendance were hearing what was spoken in their own languages.  We have no way of knowing for sure, but it seems credible that there could have been more than 120 languages represented there that day.  But somehow, they all heard exactly what they needed to hear, exactly how they needed to understand it.

Just before this great event, Jesus told the disciples “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  The power He speaks of is not given simply for the purpose of their speaking in other tongues, or to perform miracles.  This verse tells us the purpose for the power…to be witnesses of Jesus.   When they spoke in other languages, it was the tool God used to spread the gospel of Jesus to all of the Jews in attendance.

There is much theological debate about the practice of speaking in tongues, but that is not the subject of this blog.  There is no doubt that the practice is biblically based.  I just wish to show the ‘flip side of the coin’ when I speak about the hearing aspect.

Sacrifices were commonplace during the tabernacle and temple periods.  Fire, by its very nature, burns unnecessary things away and purifies.  It was an important part of their daily physical and spiritual lives.  The picture of ‘tongues of fire’ was not by chance.   It was a vibrant display of what was actually happening…120 ‘sacrifices’…LIVING sacrifices, were being consumed  by the fire upon them.  At that point, they could no longer speak their own words…only the words God wanted them to speak, and in the language He wanted them to speak.   When the words left their lips, they landed in the ears of those listening, and they accurately understood what was being said.

If you’ve been around many different religious groups, it’s an interesting phenomenon that they all seem to have their own ‘language’…things that are unique only to that group or denomination.   When we began attending our current church about 4 years ago, I approached the pastor to find out who ‘Karen and Sharon’ were.  These are the names of two ladies I heard in the announcements that were holding an event on a Sunday night.  I found my ears had betrayed me when I was told it was ‘Caring and Sharing’, a monthly fellowship event held in our church after a Sunday evening service.  (True story!)

The problem with our individual ‘languages’ is that they tend to be barriers rather than bridges.  We want to bring other people into our ways of thinking, but rarely want to find out where someone else is, and meet them where they are.  The miracle of allowing the fire of the Holy Spirit to set upon you is that as He helps to purify you, your words become His Words.  You can speak the same message to a room full of people, but each will hear exactly what God wants them to hear, and in the ‘language’ they need to hear it.

My son, daughter, and I are part of a gospel singing group.  We sung at a Memorial Day event for a large church a few days ago.  Although my roots are deeply Pentecostal, as is our style of music, we were asked to attend this event at a Moravian church.  It was under a large picnic shelter on the grounds, with around 200 in attendance.  We ministered, and although much of our music was new to them, the response was wonderful.  However, we knew when we were ‘speaking their language’.  We would begin a song they knew, their eyes lit up, and they were totally engaged.

After we had ministered for awhile, the people started getting up to leave en masse.  We continued to sing while the cleanup was being done.  Someone approached us and assured us it was not because they were upset about our singing…in fact, they said the response was great, and we were invited back.  She jokingly said, “You’ll be hard pressed to get a Moravian to stay anywhere over an hour”.  I returned her joke with, “Well, sometimes Pentecostals just don’t know when to quit!”  We shared a laugh, but she looked kindly in my eyes and said, “It just goes to show you that we really need each other, doesn’t it?”   I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I agreed it was true…yes, we do need each other.  During that time of ministry, the LORD had allowed our language barriers to be bridged.

The awesome thing about the Holy Spirit is that when we allow His words to become ours, He knows exactly what to say so that we may minister to one another.    We can simply be the channel through which His words flow.  When a channel transports water, it doesn’t get to choose which way it points.  It points the direction its maker chooses.  When we point the direction God leads us and allow the Holy Spirit to come upon us, the right words will fall upon the ears of the receiver and they will accurately hear what He has to say in their own language.

© Copyright Notice: Permission is hereby granted to make copies as long as Promised Land Ministries is properly cited and credited as the author.  http://www.promisedland-ministries.com

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Responses

  1. That was truly an awesome message, Ms. Heather! You may be aware of our impending trip to Jamacia. This, your most recent blog, put into words what is on my heart; and I now know exactly what to pray for: that we may be witnesses with the God-given ability to bridge cultural gaps when we minister. You have accomplished so much and doubtlessly touched many lives (and hearts) through your writing! May God continue to bless you with His annointing!

    • Thank you Corteney! You have ministered to me with your sweet words. I did know you were going to Jamaica. I pray that it will be a fruitful trip, both for you and those you are serving!


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