What are we to make of the image of fire in Luke's account of the coming of the Holy Spirit? Wind and fire appear together frequently in the Jewish tradition to signify an appearance of God. In Exodus 19:14-19 Moses and the people experience thunder and lightening, a thick cloud, a trumpet blast, billowing smoke and fire. The whole mountain trembled. Of course, we have the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day to lead the Hebrew people in the desert. In Psalm 50:3, God "comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages." Speaking of the last judgment, Isaiah (66:15) proclaims, "See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." (See also Isaiah 4:4, 2 Samuel 22:16 and Jeremiah 30:23.) In these images the fire is the purifying fire of judgment. But that does not appear to be the case for Luke in the Pentecost account. It is not a time of judgment on the disciples.
Luke speaks of "tongues of fire" in Acts 2:3 and "other tongues" in 2:4. These other tongues are enabled by the Holy Spirit. There is Jewish tradition for God speaking visibly, speaking from fire also. Recall Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). We also have Deuteronomy 4:36, "From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire". (See also Habakkuk 2:1.) People could "see" God's voice. In Acts chapter 2 then, Luke really means some visible appearance of the voice of God manifesting to others through the disciples speaking in other tongues.
For reflection: Have I seen the voice of God? Have I experienced the fire of Holy Spirit?
Let us pray. "Summon your power, O God; show us your strength, O God, as you have done before. . . . Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power in in the skies. You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!" (Psalm 68:28-35).
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.