I talked to my parents yesterday. They live in Ohio and are being deluged with huge amounts of rain from the hurricane that is hitting the coast. It’s hard for us here in Colorado to imagine, but think of five or six days of constant rain. Not just misting or fog but a good steady downpour. And with all that rain, everything is wet, soaked to the core. Unless the firewood pile has been covered with a tarp, even the pieces that are several layers in are soaked. I remember rains like this and when the ground becomes totally saturated, the water has no choice but to lay in temporary ponds in every pasture, on the streets and in everyones’ yards. A rain like this not only completely changes the landscape but also the everyday activities of everyone in its shadow.
As I was reading Acts 2 this week, I was struck by a word that Luke repeats several times. Here are the three times I saw it. Can you spot it?
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people…” -Acts 2:17a
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy. -Acts 2:18
And then again here, talking about Jesus:
Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Acts 2:33
Did you see it?
The repeated word is “poured”. It seems like Luke goes out of his way to include these first two quotes that Peter uses from the book of Joel and then he makes a point to use the same word when he refers to the promised Spirit which Jesus has poured out.
When I noticed this, I knew I needed to pay attention because when God says something more than once, I know better than to just skim over it.
When I looked into it, it turns out that the word that is used in all three places is the same: ekcheo. And it means “a torrential downpour on a parched earth.” Hmm. I know something about torrential downpours. So what God is saying here is that when He gave His Holy Spirit, to be the permanent presence of God within us, He gave it to us in a flood. A torrential downpour.
Now, I can understand how it looked like a torrential downpour back in the first century church, what with all of the smoke, fire, wind and people speaking in all kinds of languages. But was God still that lavish when He gave His Holy Spirit to me? Sometimes I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I feel more like I’m drinking from a barely dripping faucet rather than a firehose.
But why is this? If God’s gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us is a torrential downpour, how can I put myself in a place to experience that?
I’m realizing that there are three things I need to remember about this downpour. First, I need to allow the presence of the Spirit in my life – His priorities and His leading – to change everything about me. His presence needs to change my landscape, or how I see my world. I can’t enter situations asking “what am I going to get out of this?” but rather “what does the Holy Spirit want to give to this situation through me?” This has radically changed how I view going to church. It’s no longer about who I will see or what I will hear. But instead about who the Spirit will lead me to, so that I can see them, hear them and be a vessel for that Living Water that only comes from Jesus.
The second thing I need to remember is that the presence of the Holy Spirit in permanent. It doesn’t come and go, visiting those that are super-spiritual more frequently than the rest of us. It means that His presence needs to change the way I go about EVERYTHING. Instead of going into a situation with my agenda, I need to invite God’s Spirit to show me His priorities and give me the courage to act as His representative.
The third thing I need to remember is that I am a “parched earth”. The more constantly mindful I am of my need for His Spirit, the more likely I am to recognize that rain when it starts pattering on my roof. I need to realize that without His direction and empowering of all that I do, it’s all just a big waste of time. He is the only one who can give what my sometimes dry and weary soul needs and definitely the only one who can be the Living Water that others so desperately need.
So this week, I’m going to be about recognizing this “torrential downpour” of the Holy Spirit that was poured out in me when I came to follow Jesus. That His presence is a flood, not a drip. And that all I need to do is allow His Presence to change my landscape and my activities as I make way for that “river of life”.