Jun 8, 2014

“The Spirit, and spirits” 6-8-14

Acts 2:1-4, 14, 32-38,
Judges 8:30 – 9:25
June 8, 2014 (Pentecost)

The two passages we have read this morning are very much different and yet there are similarities in the stories.
Our second lesson describes the power grab of Abimelech and his rule over part of Israel which began with his murders of his 70 or 69 half-brothers.  There are a few details of this story that are not obvious at first reading. 
First, Abimelech was a son of the great judge Gideon.  But the city his mother came from was at the time mostly populated by Canaanites.  Thus he was most probably half Israelite and half Canaanite.  If that is true, what we see here is an attempt of some of the remaining Canaanites to assert their power over Apostate Israel through Abimelech.  Notice I said Apostate Israel because we did read that after Gideon died Israel began to worship the false gods, the Baals, of the Canaanites.
Abimelech was not appointed to rule over Israel by God.  His rule was prompted by his own desire.  And to assure his success he killed his 70 half-brothers whom he identified as his most likely rivals.
His one surviving brother Jotham delivered a parable to Abimelech and the people of Shechem who had conspired with him in which he called for and predicted God’s wrath against them for their conspiracy and murders of his brothers.  He delivered this parable from the mountain overlooking Shechem so he could be heard and then escape before his pursuers could climb up after him.
As he predicted, the alliance between Abimelech and the elders of Shechem did crumble and they soon became opposed to each other.  But in his description of this the author in 9: 23 wrote:  “But God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem; and the lords of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech.”  In other words, God punished Abimelech and the Sheckemites for their violence by sending into them or among them an evil spirit that would inspire them to distrust and harm each other.  This evil spirit would punish them for their violence by causing them to be more violent and ultimately to destroy each other. 
I hope you notice that this verse and passage contrasts strongly with our first lesson from Acts. 
This event also took place after a murder.  It occurred about 52 days or so after Jesus was put to death by the Romans at the demands of the corrupt Jewish High Priests and Pharisees.
On that day, the Holy Spirit came on the Apostles who went out and proclaimed to all the people in Jerusalem that Jesus was the Messiah.  This proclamation was made in several languages by the Power of the Holy Spirit. 
But in connection with the Good news of Jesus being the Messiah and the Son of God, there was bad news.  Some in their audience had been those who had conspired to kill Jesus.  Some were guilty of his murder.  Having read the second lesson from Judges, we might have expected God to have sent to Jerusalem evil spirits to escalate their violence and bring about their destruction.  And that would happen eventually in about 40 years. 
But first he sent the Holy Spirit to inspire some of them to repent of their horrendous sin and receive the forgiveness of God.  And that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He inspires us to become aware of our sins and he inspires us to be sorry for them, to Repent of them, and to accept Christ’s forgiveness.
The two types of spirits are still present in our world. We see people inspired by evil spirits to fight each other and to escalate their hatreds and treacheries until they destroy themselves. 
And we still see people inspired by the Holy Spirit throwing themselves on the mercy of God and asking for His forgiveness of their sins.
This morning we see the method by which God is able to forgive our sins.  His son died to pay for them, so God could be just and recompense evil for evil, and so he could at the same time extend his love and forgiveness to those whom he loved and those whom he would love.
We believe in Jesus and his atonement for us because the Holy Spirit is still operating in our world, and now in us.  Since we have allowed the Spirit to give us faith, we now need to allow that same spirit to motivate us to take the good news of Jesus’ death and forgiveness to others, because there are still many under the influence of evil spirits.  Our Spirit, the Holy Spirit is stronger.  Go in His power with his message and continue the work of the Apostles.

Pastor David L. Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906