There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. Exodus 3:2
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 2:3-4
Throughout scripture, God’s presence is marked by fire. Not exclusively, but often. Think of the burning bush (Ex. 2), the pillar of fire that travels with the Israelites (Ex. 13:21-22), Ezekiel’s visions (Ezek. 10:6-7), and Elijah’s sacrifice on top of Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:38). Yesterday, we talked about how the rush of wind filling the room in Acts 2 would have brought to mind God’s breath of creation, as well as other times God is present in the wind throughout the Old Testament. Similarly, the tongues of fire also would have brought to mind these previous demonstrations of God’s presence and power.
In this passage in Acts, God’s presence, marked by tongues of flame, is not a phenomenon that they witness from a distance. It rests on each of them. God’s presence, his Spirit, goes with them and empowers them. It is powerful and awe-inspiring but deeply intimate at the same time. The mystery of the Spirit is encapsulated in this. God is not to be put in a box, “not safe,” as C.S. Lewis puts it, unable to be contained, and yet our comforter and advocate at the same time- partnering with us and empowering us to do the work of God in our world as we have been called to do.
Where have you seen both sides of the Spirit in your life, both the power and glory and the gentle intimacy and care? Reflect on those God moments today and thank God for the ways he has shown up in your life. Ask him to open your eyes to the ways he is present and active today.
By Jessica Rust