In the Old Testament when Moses gets help from 70 other men to carry out his duty as leader of Israel we’re told that God’s spirit was shared—not just with Moses anymore—but also placed on the newly appointed leaders. As a result, they immediately began prophecying. This caused quite a stir. In the New Testament when God’s spirit fell on the early Christian church at Pentecost, they immediately began to speak in different languages. This too caused quite a stir.
In the church nowadays I’ve often heard some Christians draw heavy connections between the power of God’s spirit and the gift of tongues. I think that this connection is a bit lop-sided, a bit unbalanced.
What is important to note is that whenever God’s spirit engulfed a particular group of followers a spiritual gift was immediately manifested—and that this outworking was the most suitable gifting to be in play for the building up of God’s people (2 Cor 12.7).
In Moses era, the Torah had just been given. They were newly introduced to God’s covenant with them and were in the intial stages of mind renewal as they saw themselves as the salt of the earth, a priesthood devoted to the Lord. Holiness was now demanded from them—yet their grumbling and griping was driving Moses and God crazy. The suddent outburst of prophetic messages was just what their mind, and heart, and vigor needed. The gift of prophecy brought great gravity to their newfound identity and responsibility.
In Peter’s day, the Savior and Messiah had just conquered death and ascended into the heavens. They awaited a promised helper. All eyes were on them. The helper came—and speak they did! To every person in all the audience, the message of Jesus was proclaimed—miraculously—in their native tongue, though the speaker himself did not know. It was just what they needed, for the Word to get out, for the Word to be proclaimed.
So I think it’s unfair to associate the gift of languages with God’s spirit too closely—or rather, on the verge of exclusively. I think we miss out on seeing the precision and approriateness of God’s wind as he blows it just how he needs it, according to the climate of a particular situation.
Let’s not funnel the Wind. Let it blow, how it wishes.
Isn’t it interesting that Paul stole Moses’ closing thoughts on the matter:
“I wish that all of Yahweh’s people were prophets!” (Num 11.26)
“I wish that all of you spoke in different languages, but even more that you prophesied!” (1 Cor 14.5)