Acts 2:6, 11 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
The miracle of Pentecost was two-sided. Not only were the believers given words they had not learned, the crowd was given the ability to hear what they were saying and understand it. When you consider that there were around 120 people all talking at once, as well as the number of different localities mentioned from verse nine on, the hearing was also a miracle! What is not clear is whether each hearer heard all of them speaking his language, or whether they were able to pick out one or two people who were doing so. Anyone who has been in a polyglot situation has experienced recognizing when someone was speaking a particular language they knew, even if they couldn’t distinguish exactly what was being said. That seems likely here. I speak English and Japanese and have studied German so I can pick up those languages in a crowd, and I have a fair guess at some others, so I have no problems with that idea. It seems important to remember that what was being said was praise to God for what He had done. God’s miracles aren’t just for the sake of being miraculous, they are to point and draw people to Him in faith. It would have been meaningless if the believers had been talking about the weather or the stock market. They were experiencing the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to them: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) When we operate in God’s power, we will do His will for His glory.
Naturally, this applies to me. I first encountered the idea of Pentecost being a “miracle of hearing” during the brief time I had with my father after bringing my wife and children to Japan for the first time, before my parents left for the furlough from which my father returned as cremated ashes. I had been exposed to teaching about the Charismatic Movement but hadn’t yet personally experienced it, and I think I was discussing it with my father. He pointed out something his father (also a pastor) had written in the margin of a commentary on Acts, to the effect that “wouldn’t this be a miracle of hearing?” My father also wondered if his own remarkable ability in Japanese wasn’t a variation on the Gift of Tongues, since it came to him after a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. I can’t deny that it might have been! I have also heard someone who certainly didn’t speak Japanese using that language in ministry – in America! My wife also has experienced praying in Tagalog with a group of Filipinas, when she certainly doesn’t speak that language. I have learned that it’s very foolish to try to put God’s gifts into any sort of box. I have also learned that they are to be used, at His direction of course, and not hidden away like the servant who only received one talent. (Matthew 25)
Father, like so many other things, I realize I only have partial knowledge and understanding here. Help me keep growing, keep learning, so that I may be increasingly useful to You. May I be a good steward of all that You have placed in me and at my disposal, so that Your purposes for every bit of it may be fulfilled, on Your schedule and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!