By Melissa McLaughlin
Is there anything that keeps you awake at night? One thing that will awaken me from a dead sleep and keep me wide awake is… wind. When the wind howls and swirls at high intensity, our windows rattle and our house rocks. At times like this, I remember my smallness in the face of God’s power on display in creation. I find myself calling out for Jesus to shield and protect me and my family.
When I think of Pentecost, I imagine the force of God’s Spirit as both fearsome and wonderful. The book of Acts provides a Biblical description of this event.
Acts 2:1-3 – When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
As we read here, the sound was “like a violent wind from heaven.” It must have been an awesome reverberation echoing in the soul.
The second imposing occurrence that day was something visible. What seemed to be “tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” Flames of fire ON the people. A formidable sight, indeed.
In both cases, wind and fire are forces of nature that are beyond the control of humankind. Yes, we can start a fire and harness the wind in a windmill, but both can rage in ways that far exceed our restraint or direction.
In addition, wind and fire ring out with images of God’s presence and hand at work from the Old Testament.
In Exodus 3:1-6, Moses’ first encounter with the Living God was described as a burning bush. It must have been a soul-shaking scene, for Moses was afraid and hid his face from the sight. In Exodus 14, God asked Moses to raise his staff. The Lord sent a strong east wind to part the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross on dry land to escape the Egyptians who had enslaved them.
In each story, God’s presence and power is revealed through fire and wind.
Adding to these concepts, in Zechariah 13:9, we read of purifying fire as we grow in the holiness of God. Then we see wind representing the breath or Spirit of God in John 3, when Jesus describes the Holy Spirit like wind that goes where it will.
Fire and wind are compelling scriptural symbols of God’s breath, Spirit and purifying holiness.
As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers on Pentecost, bringing the power, presence and holy purification of God. Just as God breathed the breath of life into Adam’s earthly body in Genesis, so He breathed His Spirit into His spiritual children on Pentecost. First imparting mortal life, then imparting eternal life.
Incredible as these experiences were, remarkably there was more to come!
Acts 2:4 – All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Though God had separated people through various languages at the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the Holy Spirit united believers through the gift of speaking in tongues (other languages), so that the gospel could be heard by people from every nation. Though we think of language as something we possess ourselves, clearly God controls even the utterance of our mouths!
The remainder of Acts 2 describes how God enabled the disciples to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, pierce the hearts of the listeners, baptize 3,000 new believers, demonstrate signs and wonders and commit to new ways of living as a community of Jesus-followers.
Adding to the miraculous nature of Pentecost, like so many occasions in scripture, Pentecost ties the Old and New Testaments together. In the Old Testament, Pentecost (meaning 50) is 50 days after Passover, when the Israelites celebrated the Feast of Weeks, the end of the grain harvest. (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9)
In the New Testament, Pentecost began the harvest of souls for Christ’s church, which continues to this very day.
As we celebrate Pentecost, the birth of the Christian church, may we pause and ponder the many rich and profound layers of God’s truth that are woven into this special day.
Wind of God – Breath, Spirit, Life, Movement of God
Fire of God – God’s Presence, Power, Purifying, Holiness
Speaking in tongues – Unifying the people, Harvest
May the Holy Spirit breathe fresh power and life into your spirit today, that you may be on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ and draw ever closer to the purifying Presence of God!
Genesis 2:7 – Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Zechariah 13:9 – This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’
Hebrews 12:28-29 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Luke 11:9-13 – And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
John 16:7-14 – Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.