Wouldn't it be exciting to get a vision from the Lord? Wouldn't it be an honor if he would reveal himself to you in a dream? Those are ways that he spoke to his Old Testament prophets. Wouldn't you like it if he would communicate in those ways to you? Then you would know him well! Then you would know his plans for the future! Then you could communicate that revelation to other people. You would know and other people would recognize that you are a mature Christian. Actually, that is what the Lord promises he will do for you today.
It's a promise he spoke long ago in the land of Judah through the prophet Joel. We don't know exactly when the book of Joel was written, but it was probably about 800 years before the birth of Jesus. He prophesied judgment: the Lord was about to send swarms of locusts, which would devour his people's crops, in addition to wildfire and drought, which would leave the people of Judah hungry and thirsty. Because they refused to repent of their sins, they would starve and despair. But Joel also promised that once the people did repent, they would be restored. The Lord would give them grain to eat and wine to drink. He would protect them from enemy armies. But not only would the Lord bless them physically. He promised that one day he would pour out his spiritual gift on his people, too.
Joel 2:28-29 - 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.
It's a promise that the Lord repeated through the apostle Peter. Compared to the prophet Joel, we know a lot about Peter. He and his fellow apostles had been with Jesus for three years before he ascended into heaven. They had listened to his teaching over those years, yet they didn't always understand Jesus' meaning. But ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to them, just as he had promised. It was Pentecost Sunday, and Jerusalem was filled with visitors from foreign lands, who were celebrating this Old Testament festival.
The apostles began speaking God's Word in languages that they had never learned, but that the visitors to Jerusalem clearly understood. The people in the crowd that came together were confused about what was happening, but Peter understood. He explained that this was the beginning of what the prophet Joel had promised, and he quoted the verses of our Old Testament lesson to them. The Holy Spirit had been poured out on them. That is why they understood Jesus' teachings now. And that is why they were able to proclaim his Word to the other people.
But, as the Lord had said through Joel, he wasn't just going to pour out his Spirit on his apostles. He was going to pour out his Spirit on all people. This is a promise he is fulfilling also in you. Did you hear the types of people on whom he pours out his Spirit: sons and daughters, old people and young people, even on slaves. God doesn't discriminate between male or female. He doesn't discriminate based on old you are. He doesn't judge you for your social status. No matter who you are, he wants to pour out his Holy Spirit on you.
Who is his Spirit? The Holy Spirit is not just an abstract or impersonal way to describe God's power, like when we talk about team spirit or the spirit of cooperation. In today's Gospel, the lesson we read from John chapter 16, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is a person who does things. Jesus said he is the one who shows us our sins and teaches us that we deserve God's judgment for doing wrong. He is the one who shows us our Savior and teaches us that Jesus suffered God's judgment in our place. We wouldn't understand any of this without the Holy Spirit coming to us. It's not just that we would be misinformed. We would refuse to believe the truth. We would reject what Jesus has done for us.
But God the Holy Spirit comes to us with his almighty power and changes our hearts, bringing us to repent of our unbelief and to understand Jesus in faith. He has come to us in the Word of the Lord, which he had written on the pages of the Bible. You might wish that God would speak to you in a dream. But isn't the Bible far better? He hasn't just spoken to you once or a few times. Rather, in the Bible he speaks to you every time you read from it and every time you hear it preached. And he reveals himself to you in far greater detail than he could over the course of a few conversations. He has also come in the sacraments of Baptism and Communion, which Jesus instituted for us to celebrate. You might wish that God would give you a vision of his plan for your life. But aren't the sacraments far better? He hasn't just shown you something about the future of life in this world. Rather, he has actually portrayed before your very eyes how he has forgiven us for our unbelief and given us the gift of faith. He has displayed his promise for your eternal future.
Do you know the story of Jesus' birth? He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, beginning a lowly life. He was praised by the angels and shepherds, because though he became man, he was still the holy God! Do you know the story of Jesus' death and resurrection? He suffered at the hands of his enemies and was nailed to a cross. There he suffered and died. He was laid in a tomb, but three days later he rose again from death! If you know these stories, then you know details about the Savior that the Lord's greatest Old Testament prophets longed to know. Of course, understanding means knowing more than the facts. Do you know why Jesus did everything he did? He set aside his glory and power so that he could live and die in your place. Then he took up his glory and power once again so that he could rise and prove that he is your Savior. If you understand these truths, then you understand what very few understood before Jesus' coming. You know who God is and what he has done for you, so that you can live a mature Christian life now and can enjoy eternal life forever.
Some days you may feel like you have it all figured out, because you
understand God's Word really well. Other days you may feel confused, like you
don't understand anything of what God says in the Bible. Appreciate this: God
has given you a clearer vision than he ever gave to any of his prophets. God
has revealed more to you than he ever revealed to anybody in any dream. And God
promises to keep you growing in your understanding to make you a mature
Christian. No matter how much or how little you understand right now, he will
bring you understanding of Jesus' teachings. Through his gospel, he is pouring
out his Spirit on you!