Tuesday, May 21, 2013


         New England has four distinct seasons; the fall, winter, spring and summer each with its own character and appeal. This unmistakable change of seasons is what endears many to this region of the United States. Especially after a harsh winter, spring season is so refreshing. During spring season we see life all around us; trees blossoming, people working in their gardens planting all kinds of seeds. The gloom and drabness gives way to hope and brightness. Life all of a sudden becomes more colorful and promising.  Don’t we all long for spring and cherish it as long as it lasts?
As much as we long for spring, the Israelites in ancient Palestine used to long for the spring season with such anticipation as if their whole life depended on it. Unlike the agriculture by irrigation that they were used to when they were slaves in Egypt in the Promised Land they were to depend on the rain. Deut 11:10-14, “The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.” This scripture suggests that God wanted them to look only to him for rain to plant seeds and also harvest their crops. He also promised to them that if they listened and obeyed his commandments Vs 14, “He will give the rain for their land in season, the early and latter rain or the autumn and spring rain.” But we know the rest of the story; time and again Israelites rebelled against the one who had brought them from slavery and turned to other gods which provoked God to send them into captivity.  The Prophet Joel prophesied that God was going to send once again not only the physical rain to the Israelites but the Holy Spirit’s Spring Rain on all people. We will read Joel 2:22-29.
Just as there are seasons spring, summer, autumn, and winter in nature, there are seasons in the human life. One author says, “Roughly spring season lasts from 0-20 years, the summer lasts 20-65, which is normally the retirement age”.  Then there is the fall and winter season.
Among the four seasons summer is the longest. In early summer, young adults are busy raising their children concentrating on the present. Our lives are in full bloom and going full speed. But the finger of time moves on. The nest becomes empty, after our young have ventured out on their own and have started raising their own families. Late summer finds us focusing more of our energies toward retirement planning. But in addition, many find themselves in a very stressful situation dealing with family issues.
I guess many of us are in the season of summer, some are perhaps touching the fall and winter, I certainly feel like I am in the middle of my summer season. It is a season where we go through a phase of uncertainty. We look back at our most productive years of life and wonder where those years are gone. We long to return to that stage but we know we can’t get back what has gone from us. We look at our current challenges, difficulties, relationship problems, financial struggles; we worry and fret over not only our present but also the impending future.
In the text we have read we see Israelites going through a middle of summer experience. All the great things they had experienced and great miracles they had witnessed from God have been stopped. They were going through a kind of barrenness. Their green pasture lands were turning drab and dry. Fig trees stopped blossoming and the vines stopped producing grapes. The remaining crops were being eaten up by locust.  Above all they were being oppressed and reproached by the northern kingdom.
Under such circumstances God sends a messenger of hope saying, Vs 21-22, “Fear not, Earth! Be glad and celebrate! God has done great things. Fear not, wild animals! The fields and meadows are greening up. The trees are bearing fruit again: a bumper crop of fig trees and vines!” God was going to turn the waste land into fruit bearing land.
How can this message be applied for our lives today?  Like the Israelites we too can go through both a physical and spiritual summer like experiences in our lives. What would they look like? We can easily identify a physical summer experience if only we look at our check books and see the dwindling account, sky rocketing bills, ever mounting debt, discouraging health conditions etc. Recognizing spiritual summers is very hard; as they are very subtle yet real.
Here are a few signs that would help us identify our spiritual summer: unanswered prayers; unresolved conflicts; Church splits; not feeling the presence of God; lack of joy in worship reading God’s word and fellowship; undue guilt; feelings of condemnation; and lack of bearing fruit. If you are going through either physical or spiritual summer types of experience do not be afraid there is hope for you; God has promised rain, the Holy Spirit’s spring rain.
The rainy season in ancient Israel commenced with the “early rain” of October and November. The arrival of rain softened the ground for plowing and marked the beginning of cultivation. The “latter” rains of April and May brought an end to the rainy season and indicated the beginning of the harvest.”[1] It is a time for celebration. Every farmer in Israel eagerly looked for both the “early and latter rains.” God had promised to give them both Vs 23, “Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.”
This scripture tells us that God was totally concerned about the physical needs of his people. As he did it in the past he was going to send both the rains so that Israel could cultivate and harvest the fruit and be refreshed by it. But He did not stop by merely satisfying their physical needs but also their soul needs. God extended his promise to all people beyond Israel. He promised to send the Holy Spirit spring rain on all people.
Vs 28, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: your sons will prophesy, also your daughters. Your old men will dream, your young men will see visions. I’ll even pour out my Spirit on the servants, men and women both.” When did this promise get fulfilled?
The Jewish religious calendar centered in a number of annual feasts. However, the three most important were those in which all males were required to appear before the Lord. Deut 16:16, “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which he chooses, at the feast of the unleavened bread or Passover, the feast of the booths and the feast of weeks. Pentecost was known as the “Feast of Weeks”
On the day of Pentecost; fifty days after the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ; the city of Jerusalem was all geared up to receive Jews from all over the then living world.  They were gathered to celebrate the beginning of the harvest or “the day of the first fruits” (Numbers 28:26). On that day something spectacular had happened.
A group of  120 disciples including Mary the mother of Jesus who had been meeting in the upper house earnestly seeking and praying for the promised gift of Jesus. The scripture says; “Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (ethnic languages) as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4) Many who gathered around were amazed to hear these 120 Galilean disciples speaking in languages that were not their mother tongue and said to one another what does this mean? While others were mocking and saying, “They are full of new wine”
The Apostle Peter who cowardly denied Christ three times after the down pour of the Holy Spirit’s spring rain became as bold as a lion and reminded the crowd about the prophecy of Joel. As a result 3000 people got saved that day. Billy Graham in his book “the Holy Spirit” notes, “In a real sense, the Day of Pentecost in the NT on which the Holy Spirit came was “a day of first fruits” the beginning of God’s harvest in this world, to be completed when Christ comes again. Pentecost in the NT marked the commencement of the present age of the Holy Spirit”[2]
The Pentecost day was the fulfillment of God’s promise long ago. But the Holy Spirit’s spring rain is not only limited to that day it is available to all subsequent generations since that day including ours today. All believers are under His guidance even as the disciples of Jesus were under Him. From heaven Jesus still exercises lordship over us, but physically not being with us, He gives His directions by means of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus directed the disciples to wait until they received the promised Holy Spirit, He is still instructing the believers to wait and earnestly seek the Holy Spirit’s spring rain. You may ask why do I need this spring rain.  Whether you are a new believer or a season saint, both your physical and spiritual life depends on the Holy Spirit’s spring rain. Are you experiencing summer in your life? Do you want your barrenness to turn into fruitfulness? you need to earnestly ask the heavenly father to drench you with the Holy Spirit’s spring Rain. Amen.

[1] Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life, page 154
[2] Billy Graham, “The Holy Spirit” page 24