And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
I would like you to stand with me now at Mt. Horeb. It has been fifty days now that Israel left Egypt. They have learned to trust Hashem for their deliverance from oppression, for their food, for their water, for their military might, and also to make a way for them though the wilderness and even through the sea if necessary. Now they are getting ready to meet the mighty one who did all this for them.
For two days the children of Israel have been getting ready. They have obeyed everything Hashem asked them to do. They washed their clothes, immersed themselves regularly, and refrained from intimacy with their spouses. The camp is becoming completely ritually sanctified. The spirits are high, the anticipation is great, and everybody is wondering what will happen next. Hashem did tell them to,
Be ready for the third day. For on the third day Adonai will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death (Exodus 19:11–12).
All of a sudden it happens. Hashem reveals himself. How does he reveal himself? With words. He starts speaking and everybody listens. Not only do the people hear the words but they see them, each one in his own language in flames of fire amidst the sound of the loud trumpet, of the wind, and of the quaking earth. The Torah tells us that the people could not bear it so they ask Moses to hear for them.
When all the people saw the flashes of lightning and the mountain smoking and heard the thunder and the sound of the trumpet, they were afraid and trembled. They stood far off and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die" (Exodus 20:18–21).
Let us time travel now 1,400 years later to another sixth of Sivan. This time we are in Jerusalem.
Because of the persecution against the followers of Yeshua, the Nazarene rabbi, Jerusalem is a dangerous place for the disciples. They are only staying in Jerusalem because ten days before, when the Master ascended in front of them, he commanded them
Not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ (Acts 1:4–5).
For several days the disciples of the Master witnessed the throngs of people coming for the festival of Shavuot/Pentecost. Caravans of people and goods already came from all around Israel and from countries. The city was buzzing with activity but the disciples were quiet in their houses. They had spent the whole previous night studying and reading the Torah, especially the texts about the giving of the Torah at Mt. Horeb on that day 1,400 years before.
Suddenly, a wind blew inside their house. It was blowing in the house but not outside. It got even more exciting when flames of fire appeared on their heads. People from all around heard the commotion so they came to see what was happening. Peter then took the lead and told them not to worry, that it was only the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Acts 2:17–21).
And what more, as they started speaking, the disciples realized that they could share what they had to say in all the languages of the many people present.
The day went on in festivities and joy as is usual on this festival day and in the evening the disciples retired and shared notes about the events of the day. It is then that, as they thought about the tongues of fire, the wind, the earthquake, the speaking in many languages, that they realized that they experienced a repeat of what happened at Mt. Horeb 1,400 years before. As they realized their new boldness and abilities to share their message, they also realized that the promise of the Father had come.
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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