Friday, July 21, 2017

Acts, part 2, Acrostic Clues


Let’s check the acrostic verses for clues as to what we want to focus on in Acts. (If you don't know what acrostic or alphabetic verses in the Bible are, read this.)
Psalm 119: 175:
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
   and may your laws sustain me.
Let me live. Literally the Hebrew says “Let my soul live.” That kind of gives us a longer range plan, doesn’t it? The Hebrew word for “live” is the root for “resurrection.”
Lamentations 4:22:
 22 Your punishment will end, Daughter Zion;
   he will not prolong your exile.
But he will punish your sin, Daughter Edom,
   and expose your wickedness.
Punishment will end. The Hebrew word here is “tamam” meaning “completed.”
Psalm 25:21:
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
   because my hope, LORD, is in you.
Integrity is the word used here to translate the Hebrew tav word “tom” which also means perfection, completion and moral purity. Taken together from these alphabetic verses we get the theme of living forever, all things being completed, finished.

Let’s read from Acts the part where the Holy Spirit descends upon them. Jesus had told his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). So they (about 120 people) were gathered together waiting. Acts 2:1-13:
 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Ha! That last part makes me laugh only because it seems ludicrous. After all, why would you think someone was drunk if he was speaking in several different foreign languages? Notice what happens first – a loud sound. This sound is indescribable. The only way Luke can explain it is to say the sound was like the blowing of a violent wind. And it filled the house. Try to imagine a very loud sound suddenly filling the room where you are right now.
Next come the tongues of fire. Are they really fire? I don’t know. Luke says they saw “what seemed to be” tongues of fire. This was something unique and inexplicable. These strange things separated and came to rest on each of them. They heard something, they saw something and then next they felt something. What was it? The Holy Spirit filled them and they began to speak in other languages. Real languages. The Greek word here is “glossa” which means language (an English related word is glossary). This was the time of Pentecost and there were God-fearing Jews from other nations there who heard them in their own native language! They were amazed! Confounded! Now, did you notice what the Christians were saying in all of these different foreign languages? Were they preaching about Jesus? Not yet. At first they were “declaring the wonders of God”. Then Peter stands front and center and speaks to the crowd. Read the rest of chapter 2 for yourself and see how Peter makes his argument. I’ll summarize it here: First Peter quotes the prophet Joel (2:28-32) about God pouring out the Spirit. They have just witnessed that. Second he reminds them of the great works, signs, wonders and miracles that Jesus undisputedly performed and he also describes His death and resurrection. Third, he quotes the Old Testament scriptures again (Psalm 16:8-11) where David foretold the Messiah’s kingship after resurrection. Fourth, he offers himself and the entire group as 120 witnesses to the fact that God raised Jesus to life. At that point the listeners were “cut to the heart” and asked what they should do. Did you read the account? Do you know how many believed and were saved that day? Three thousand!
I love when God uses numbers in wonderful ways. That day 3000 were saved. What day was it? It was Pentecost. The Feast of Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit was poured out onto the disciples! The very first Pentecost (about 1500 years before) was 7 weeks after the death of the Passover lambs. On that day Moses received the Law on the stone tablets and when he returned to camp 3000 men died because of their sin. 3000! It certainly looks to me like the book of Acts is showing us our tav key word’s meaning of “completion,” for surely at this point the Jewish Age is completed.
Remember how in the first tav book, Song of Songs, a king received his bride and their marriage was consummated? It was an allegory (parable, story) of the loving union of Christ and His Church. In Acts we witness the birth of that bride, the Church. In Song of Songs the bride had a “seal” (remember the symbolic meaning of tav is mark, sign or cross) on her arm. In Acts we see the Church being sealed (marked) by the Holy Spirit. We’ll see a third sealing, lots of seals in fact, when we get to the last tav book, Revelation.

There is much to learn from the book of Acts. I did a Bible study on it that took 13 months so I know that there is a lot of material here and I expect I’ll use much of it in future posts. I recommend studying this marvelous little book of early Christian history as delving into each and every verse is like opening a bottomless treasure chest.