Have you ever wondered why the first outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit dealt with language? I mean Jesus had just spent 3 years in earthly ministry teaching about the Kingdom and healing the sick. And what did Jesus do?
Matthew 4:23 tells us that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
Jesus healed! Jesus taught about God’s Kingdom. God incarnate on the earth taught and healed. So why wasn’t the first new covenant manifestation of God’s spirit something similar? Why not falling on the 5 porticos of sick people at the Pool of Bethesda where the lame man waited to go into the water and be healed. Scripture says it was over flowing with rooms and rooms of sick people waiting for their turn to be healed. Blind. Lame. Paralyed. 5 porches full of them. Jesus only healed the one and then went along his way. I imagine there were still plenty needing to be healed.
Yet the first public New Covenant manifestation of the Holy Spirit wasn’t healing or teaching. It was unifying with language. Interesting. Let’s explore what I believe is an insightful reason.
The first New Covenant Believers were gathered in Jerusalem. 120 in an upper room waiting for the promised gift. Jesus told them “Do no leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised….” (Acts 1:4) So the Apostles gathered together along with the women and Mary and Jesus’ brothers in constant prayer (Acts 1:14). They chose an Apostle Matthias through prayer and casting lots to replace Judas who had died spilling his guts in a field he bought with the money given to him for betraying Jesus. And they gathered together in one place and waited for the gift to arrived.”
It reminds me of my son waiting for a package from Grandma to arrive. He knows it’s coming. A gift from Grandma but he doesn’t know what it is. What is looks like. What is will do or when it will arrive. Suspense!! No doubt the Believers were anxious in their waiting. It was a little like 120 new believers gathered around waiting for an Amazon package to arrive from their Father.
“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. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 emphasis added)
In the next verses we see the outpouring. The first outward manifestation of God’s Spirit on humanity.
“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.” (Acts 2:5)
Acts tells us that the people were amazed that these Galileans could speak yet people from many nations could understand them in their native tongue. Marthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappodocia. People from places I can not pronouce! People from all over the known world were gathered for trade in Jerusalem so when they stumbled upon this outpouring of God’s spirit they were “bewildered” because despite the many languages normally heard in the city, they only heard one. Their own.
In the Greek this word “bewildered” means “to be amazed, to marvel, to admire, to wonder.” I can imagine the moment clearly and it certianly would be most marvelous. Suddenly the choas of the marketplace filled with multiple languages was silenced for everyone listening and only one language was left to be heard by the listener. Peter filled with the Holy Spirt declaring the good news of the Gospel, as a Galilean, but supernaturally being broadcast in everyone’s native tongue.
The stillness of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine it?
It reminds of another story in the Old Testament that would have been the exact opposite. The Tower Of Babel. The place humanity had it’s many languages formed.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9 ephasis added)
9 little verses sandwiched in-between an Old Testament narrative full of personal stories. I always marveled at this little story. It feels so out of place in the midst of personal stories of Adam, Eve, Noah or Abraham. It seems to be randomly thrown in. 9 little verses about a random city somwehere in an ancient land. Seemingly unimportant and purposeless. However, I think Moses included it because it plays a very important role in the Lord’s overall plan for our human redemption.
A grand plan the Lord has been weaving together since the tradgic tree episode way back when. Something Ezekial prophecies about in chapter 36 when he says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decress and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
See, before the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit mankind could not be trusted. God established a covenant with his people. It was a pinky swear of sort. I pinky swear to obey you. Obviously no one taught the Israelites the severity of a pinky swear because they broke that covenant multiple times bowing down to false gods and living godless lifestyles.
The Lord Jehovah repeatedly forgave. Repeatedly gave more chances. His mercy and compassion remained.
When the Tower of Babel happened, God used the seperation of language as a way to prevent humanity from being able to do the impossible. God said, “If they can all speak one language then nothing they plan to do will be inpmossible for them. So I’m going down and confusing their language so they will not understand each other.” (Genesis 11:6-7)
Notice the Lord’s reasoning. If they can understand each other then nothing will be impossible for them. And I know that without the heart of flesh I plan to give them, they can not handle having this much power. I need to prevent them from being able to do the impossible. So I’m going to confuse their languages.
Now… are you beginning to understand why the first act of the Holy Spirit was re-uniting languages? The Lord was saying that now we can be trusted. Now we have a heart of flesh. With this mighty wind pouring in and my spirit residing inside you, you can know be trusted with the ability to do the impossible.
I believe it’s like God was saying, “See, I’m going to give you this amzing gift. I am going to undo Babel. Before I had to place restrictions on you. I could not trust you. But now, my spirit lives in you. I have taken your heart of flesh to replaced it with a heart of stone. And I have put my spirit in you so you can follow my decrees without a pinky swear. It’s just something that is going to flow out of you naturally now. And I have to re-united languages supernaturally because now I can trust you. And now I can allow nothing to be impossible for you.”
So Believer, what are you staring at that has seemed impossible? The Lord has given his Holy Spirit, supernaturally re-uniting languages, giving us the Mind of Christ, giving us everything we need for life and godliness and trusting us with the ability to do the impossible. So step out in faith as Abraham did with Issac. Pack the mule. Take up your flint and firewood and get started towards the mountian.