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Meditation 10*

The Other Comforter

And I will ask the father,
and He will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you forever.
John 14:16

Among all the Christian celebrations there is none of which the average Christian understands so little, feels so little emotion and enjoys so little as Pentecost, the high feast of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is all so spiritual and offers so little to the imagination.

In contrast, at Christmas there is so much movement and so many things to talk about with your children: the manger, that Child, the shepherds and their lambs, the angel choir, the murder of the children by King Herod’s men, the temple visit, the flight to Egypt and so much more.

Similarly, on Easter you can imagine the weeping women on their way to the tomb, the lonely wandering Mary Magdalene, the descent of the angels, the rolling stone from the grave, the two men walking the road of Emmaus, that evening meeting and then Thomas with his finger in Jesus’ wounds.

All of the above is concrete and subject to everyone’s imagination. There’s stuff for conversation. These stories can be sketched or painted. There is movement and variety; there’s a wealth of human actors. Because everything is concrete to the eye, it all lives in the congregation’s consciousness.

But how different it all is with Pentecost. There’s little more there than an upper room with people in and outside. Then there are miraculous sounds and mysterious bright lights. What is said confuses people outside and sounds foreign to those inside. It all ends up with a sermon to God’s glory.

Naturally, such a dull scene cannot possibly inflame your imagination. It does not conjure up any surprising images in your imagination; your children cannot enter this kind of world; it does not offer any stuff for a brilliant sermon. Every picture, every drawing, every painting of Pentecost ever produced falls flat. 11   I cannot restrain myself here. This is simply not true. I am a distributor of the Mafa series of African Gospel Art that includes a very lively and colourful reproduction of the Pentecost scene that cannot by any stretch of the imagination be interpreted as “flat.” Either contact me, the Translator, or go to www.jesusmafa.com , a website based in Versailles, France.

I must quickly add that they had to fall flat, not because Pentecost has less value than do Christmas or Easter, but because it appeals to a level of imagination and conception too high for the average person and is too spiritual. Pentecost is the noblest of the three feasts, but only for those who have tasted the noblest. Only those who themselves have received the “first fruits of the Spirit” can truly celebrate this Feast of the Spirit!

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Jesus calls the Spirit that He will send from the Father “another Comforter” or “another Counselor” (John 14:16-17, 26). This implies that the Son considers Himself also a Comforter or Counselor, but one who came only for a short time and would then leave again. That’s why He would now send them another Comforter/Counselor who would be different from Himself in that this other one would not leave again but stay with them forever into eternity. Thus it should never be said that the Holy Spirit came only to compensate the disciples for the loss of their Jesus. Jesus neither meant nor said anything like that. To denigrate the Holy Spirit in such an unworthy way to the position of a temporary replacement for Jesus is to cut the Pentecost contribution to salvation off at its roots and to deprive God the Holy Spirit of His glory.

The Holy Spirit is also God, not a power, a light or a talent, but a divine Person, fully equal with the Son in majesty and glory, who does not enter our lives for a limited time. He is not restricted by time, but participates from before the beginning of time to the end that will never come, co-eternal and of the same substance with that of the Father and the Son. The Son came first to comfort the elect of the Father and after Him the Holy Spirit.

But is it possible to “comfort” those who jubilate without ever mourning, who do not confess their pain nor realize the misery that surrounds them? What does the insensitive and ignorant general public know or what even those who confess their misery? The public recognizes misery only when things don’t go their way, as when they struggle with worry or sickness, when their wealth is threatened or, worse, when they lose a family member. That’s why they may gush about the “Father in Heaven” when He has filled their cupboards, restored their health and supported them in bereavement.

For those who live life at a deeper dimension, it is misery when the load of a sinful life oppresses them, when their conscience is restless and when they are tormented by the question what will become of them in eternity. This attitude does not constitute love so much as fear and that fear makes them accept the kiss of the cross and confess that Son who redeemed from sin through His death and opened Heaven by opening His grave.

But that’s it for them. What more do they need? To worship a “biune” God as Father and Son is more than enough for most people, rather than to delve into the depth of that mysterious triune Eternal Being and worship Him.

Like a stump without roots, such a teaching is not true doctrine but mere muttering of unintelligible words. Genuine doctrine, that is, a conscious reflection of the Eternal God, becomes true only in spiritual practice in the depth of the soul. To learn to know that Eternal Being as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to praise Him and to fully delight in returning love to Him Who loved us first, that is the real thing that cannot be accessed or scathed by mockery, logic, doubt or mental reservation.

To reach this point, the pain and misery for which the Comforter will comfort us, must thus be understood at a deeper level than simply as pain over adversity or a conscience full of angst or fear of hell. No, the true misery, that “deep misery” that is the Holy Spirit’s target, lies in the depth of love. God is love. Therefore He cannot rest until love becomes the constitution of His Kingdom. Even the most vivid imagination cannot possibly conjure up the delights and blessings that await our experiences once those waters of eternal love roll over us.

God is love. His sovereign power that rules over the human race, is present in a hidden form in the weak copies of earthly arrangements like marriage, friendship and love between generations. Love is that Eternal Being. That is the reason fallen, sinful and egoistic creatures, even while in their state of perdition and encased by sin, are so emboldened by sin and flattered by things like public ovation, admiration, love and endearment.

He is love. And now notice the deeper channel. There is no real sense of sin so long as the sadness flowing out of that love does not rend our heart into shreds. There is no real or genuine pain in mere adversity as long as we do not sense the sadness that arises only from His love that should sadden us. At the same time, there is no faith, no piety, no godly life that, once it has experienced the love from that Holy Being, does not feel the awakening of the indescribable, irresistible and almost desperate impulse to be near to God and to hide under His wings.

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Do you understand anything of this kind of misery? No, I am not asking whether you understand it completely. But do you have any inkling at all, even the slightest, of that homesickness with its untraceable sources? This is a homesickness not for the location of all that glory, but for Him Who lives and is enthroned there and from Whom, as the deepest well of everything salvific, all the blessings of salvation flow.

Do you know anything about this? Not with your passionate imagination, your fanatic emotions, in over-exertion, or as something outside of yourself. No, but in that calm, quiet, deep-going awareness that translates with increasing clarity the waterless pits of your own heart. Along with that awareness come the distresses and needs of your inner feelings and pains which, while all the time teaching and reproving you, show you where you are shortchanging yourself and where your problem lies. That is to say, what is at base the deepest ground of this devouring misery that you never comprehend.

If you’re at this point, then, my brother or sister, laugh even while you’re weeping, for that is a sign or proof that “love has once again poured into your heart” (Romans 5:5). By nature you did not have it in you. To be in suffering and misery, and at the same time to be blind with respect to the real nature of it, is precisely the deadly wound that through the fall you also share. In order to again feel the pain of love, love has to be more pro-active and dynamic. There would be no redemption in the statement, “He loved us first,” if this other statement, “The love poured into our hearts” did not follow the first.

The Lord has been evoking the pain of love throughout the ages with a special fondness for His elect. These were His elect or, if you will, those that had already received grace and were affected by it. They were the oppressed, tossed about and driven by storms, the discomforted. They were miserable not because of but through which they received grace and therefore, by divine intervention, became beneficiaries of the innermost tender and holy compassion.

These recipients of grace once again felt they should be near that God. The awareness again awoke in them that they were naturally inclined towards God and were created for the Holy one of Israel. They were created not in order to waste animal sacrifices for Him, but as a friend cherishes his friend, so walk with Him that He can address their soul and that soul respond to Him.

They did not fathom the depth of this love, but they did drift along with its current, constantly farther away from the visible in order to seek Him, the Only. But He wasn’t there; the world always stood between them with all of its needs, its wealth and its hustle and bustle. They themselves stood in the way, their own ego, their godless faithlessness, their continued shameless whoring after other gods. They no longer had faith in their own love and no longer thirsted after Him. They no longer called upon Him, prayed to Him, they the hypocrites, the pious pretenders, the faithless ones! That is the life of suffering and pain. It has its thousands of victims. They are like a woman whose time has come, but who does not have the strength to deliver.

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You who love the pathways of superficiality, know where you’re at. For one who finds himself in such a situation, it is sweet to succeed, while the very thought of entering Heaven with a faithless heart and to look God in the eye is a horror. This kind of situation is simply impossible.

Such a one is privileged, highly privileged, so high that love has been poured into him. It is precisely that gracious gift of love that becomes his undoing, that drives him on and presses him, so that bearing this load exhausts him. The world is against him; His own heart provokes him; sin and the devil mock and tease him as they perform the dance of death around his crushed soul.

Oh, if only he had wings, he would fly upwards. Doing so would be within his power. He could even commit suicide, but that is forbidden. There is that same consuming fire, that grim vengeance that curses all suicide as scandal, abomination and offence against His holiness. Walled in all around; no exit or escape. The only remaining option is to lay down without comfort, prey to a power that he cannot restrain with only the prayer on the lips, “Oh, if only You returned and there were windows in the Heavens.” Ah, thirsting like a panting deer (Psalm 42).

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That thirsting is a thirst after the living, triune, most glorious God, a thirst after Father, Son and Holy Spirit! It is a thirst that cannot be quenched until everything that separates, prevents and beclouds drops away. It will not be stilled until there is no more world to distract you, no more time to drain away, no more sinful heart to lead astray and no more devil lurking in the dark to lure you away from the One. What that thirsting child seeks will not be found until all its half-heartedness has dissolved, threatening clouds have dissipated and fleshly thought overcome. When that happens, you desire to worship, that is, truly worship from the soul, and the gift you have just received is not overcome by other urgings the next moment. At that point even your personal limits cease to be limits for God and you have been absorbed into the congregation of the justified, into the congregation that has the Spirit and the Mediator as Head, into the congregation in which His body shines through, absorbed you into Himself in order to dwell in you and to fulfill all that can be fulfilled in you until filled with all the fullness of God.

All the above will not happen on earth. It won’t even happen fully with dying. It won’t happen before the day of His return, but on that day it will be Him in all His glory.

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That is why the Compassionate One does not just leave things as they are. He does not look at the discomfort and suffering of those without comfort with indifference. After all, He is your Saviour! “Merciful” is His Name! He has designed salvation so that you will never find the recipients of His grace, those that have experienced the pain of the love poured into their hearts, without a Comforter sent by Him!

In the days of the Patriarchs, the Comforter used to come in visions and appearances, in judgements and in divine discourses (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15-whole chapter; 16:7-12; 17:1-22; 18—whole chapter; 19:1-22; 20:6-7; 21:12-13, 17-19; 22:1-18; 26:2-5, 23-24; 28:12-15; 31:3; 32:22-30; 35:1, 9-15; 46:2-4). In Moses’ days the robe of this Comforter rustled in the billows of the Red Sea (Exodus 10:19; 13:18; `15:4). He came in the manna falling from Heaven (Exodus 16; Numbers 11:9), while Israel saw Him regularly in the column of smoke during the day and in the pillar or column of fire at night (Exodus 13:20-22). Thus that Comforter continued to come down to the people of God in the various representations of His works of holiness, in His hand of rescue, in dreams and ecstatic experiences, but above all in the word of prophecy. When the dispensation of shadows came to an end, then the Son came and every soul that thirsted after God, cleaved to Him and was comforted and blessed in the sight of His love.

But He did not stay. The cross came and their hearts were again moved, while the souls of the elect quavered like tree top when the wind moves through the forest at night. And then, then came the promise: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17). Thus came Pentecost Day, when God Himself descended into the hearts of believers, lived in the Church of Christ and entered the temple that He had chosen, saying, “This is the place of My rest.”

And then there was rest, rest from that endless toil without comfort. It was a foretaste of that eternal rest that remains for the people of God.


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