And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. Acts 2:2-3
On October 8, 1871, a cold front moved across the upper Midwest generating strong winds. These winds caught small brush fires set to help clear land. A firestorm ensued, which engulfed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and eleven other communities. The fire jumped the Peshtigo River, generated its own tornadic winds and resulted in an area twice the size of Rhode Island burned. A conservative estimate of fifteen hundred lives were lost. It seemed nothing could stand in the conflagration’s way. It was the most destructive fire in U.S. history.
Wind and fire are an unstoppable combination.
Some of Jesus’s final instructions to His disciples were to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the power from on high (Luke 24:49). Ten days later, when that power manifested, it came as wind and fire. The entire western world was impacted and thousands upon thousands were saved.
On Pentecost by using wind and fire to mark the arrival of the indwelling Holy Spirit, God not only teaches us that nothing can stop the spread of the Gospel, but He shows us again how redemption works. Wind and fire can be destructive and deadly, but harnessed and used for God’s purposes they become powerful and productive.
Today the Peshtigo Fire has largely been forgotten. Buildings have been rebuilt. Survivors have passed on. The loss isn’t felt as urgently.
Today we know the name Pentecost, but other things have been built on top of it. People who felt the power have long since passed on. We don’t feel the need for it as urgently.
Wind and fire. Power from on high. Unstoppable.