2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
It came like a rushing wind; like a fire-tipped mountain;
From above, like what tore the temple veil in two
We all felt it—knock-kneed, slack-jawed, and speechless
Speechless, that is, till we weren’t.
Then suddenly new words filled our mouths
like the bread of angels
It was Babel gone backwards, the curse in reverse.
Israel scattered was Israel gathered once more.
In one voice, in many tongues, we proclaimed one message.
The fire fell, and tears and words and joy and fear and awe commingled,
The prophets looked on from their side of the veil and said,
“This is what we saw. This is what we meant.”
When Icarus drew near the sun,
He fell with melted, fatal wings.
The day the fire fell, the Son drew near to us—
And we all rose on wings like eagles,
To fly, unbounded, to the ends of the earth.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” Acts 2:4, 6-8 ESV
Through the Bible: Acts 1-3
An amazing thing happens on the day of Pentecost, but we can’t truly appreciate it without going all the way back to Genesis 11 and reviewing the story of the Tower of Babel. Here’s the high points (low points?) of that story:
In Genesis 11:4, the people all speak the same language, and they want to avoid being scattered over all the earth. So they decide to build a tower. They say,, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”” But God had told them to multiply and fill the earth (See Gen 9:1). So God confuses their language “so that they could not understand one another’s speech” (Gen 11:7). And in confusion and fear, they abandoned the tower. They scattered over all the earth. And they started drawing lines on maps, invading one another’s countries, and pointing weapons at each other from behind their walls.
Now, fast forward to Acts 2. It begins with a people who have been scattered “all gathered together in one place” (2:1). As in Genesis, God came down (compare Gen 11:5 to Acts 2:3).
And, just as in Genesis 11, God does something supernatural with their language. Where the apostles had been speaking the same language, now they spoke different languages (Acts 2:4-6).
But here is where the stories diverge. Where Babel brought confusion, Pentecost brought clarity. At Pentecost, people who had been scattered all over the world heard the gospel proclaimed in their own language! And these people would go back to their countries after the feast was over and proclaim God’s name through all the earth.
Do you see it? Babel was the story of a people who wanted to stay in one place and make a name for themselves. God divided their language to prevent it.
Pentecost is the story of a people who had been told to go through the world to make God’s name great among the nations (Acts 1:8). God divided their language to enable it!
Pentecost is Babel unraveled! It is the curse reversed.