Friday, May 24, 2013

Residents of Babel

Today is the Day of Pentecost, and I want to connect it to Genesis 11, because we have heard (or maybe not) that Pentecost in Acts 2 is a reversal of Babel in Genesis 11.  Is it?  Let's hear some of Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? (Acts 2:1-8)

Now, let's see what Babel is about.  Here is some of Genesis 11:

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)

So, we have three things happening here.  The first is that the people of earth, the whole world, speak the same language.  They have a very strong community.  They not only speak the same physical language, but also the same spiritual language, and that language is WITHOUT GOD.  They are all on the same sheet of music, and it is a melody that God is not included in.  Furthermore, they don't NEED God.  They are fully in the original sin of Adam and Eve: not needing God.

The second thing is that they are building something without God.  Not only that, but this structure is coming from the ground up to heaven, and it is to REACH heaven, and possibly invade heaven.  Residents of Babel are prepared to take over heaven and wage war against heaven.  They will take the throne room of God.

The third thing, and the final nail on God's coffin, is these people are intending to make a NAME for themselves.  This is a full-scale rejection of God and everything he stands for.  They are now placing themselves as God.  All three of these things are a three-pronged attack and rejection of God.  The residents of Babel are a unified force that is going to overthrow heaven and place themselves on the throne as God.  Man will be the name above all names.

So, God disrupts everything, and with one fell swoop, breaks apart the unity of the community by confusing their language.  This leads to them not being able to build together, and they will never be able to establish a name for themselves.  Everyone becomes scattered.  So, is Pentecost an actual reversal of all that?  Yes and No.

Let's look at Romans 8, first:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ--if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)

Pentecost only reverses Babel for the Children of God, for the ones who have been adopted, for the elect.  Whereas the unified Babel community consisted of all human beings alive on the earth at the time.  The Holy Spirit at Pentecost only reverses Babel for those whom God has chosen.  Likewise, all three of the elements--community, creation, and a name--are reestablished for the believer, but there are some differences from the original Babel:

First, we are not unified in community against God, but we are now a community OF God.  We are the church, and it is a very unified community (despite what it appears to be from the standpoint of the world) that cannot be destroyed.  Every place Christianity is stamped out in the world, it springs up anew elsewhere.  Christianity is thriving underground.  This community, unlike Babel, centers around God.

Second, because we are made in the image of God, we create, whether it is a work of art or a business, we like to build.  The community of Babel were building to overthrow God; we now build to represent God.  Everything we build, as children of God, is to point to God, emulate God, promote God, praise Him and glorify Him.

Third, we are able to build a name, but this time it is not for ourselves but for God.  We have moved from the sin of self to the glorification of the holy name of God.  We represent him on earth, and our behavior is to reflect the purity and goodness of the creator, the holy one.  So, the three elements of Babel are reversed, but only for the elect, and we are no longer orbiting ourselves but God.

I want to tell a story from my life.  Think of your own story.  Before I was quickened, before I came to Christ, I was a science fiction writer.  I was doing three things.  I was creating fiction that was to glorify myself, to build a name for myself, and in order to succeed, I needed to be a part of the science fiction community, a community that did not exactly emulate God.  Let's say it was pretty godless and even anti-God.  I was a member of the community of Babel.  I was trying to overthrow God in my heart.

What did God do in response?  He gave me writer's block.  He confused my language and he scattered me.  After four unsuccessful novels, I wasn't able to type a word. This went on for a few years.  When he called me for ministry, I was able to write again, but this time it was sermons and they all revolved around HIM.  Now I'm preaching his NAME, and the community I am part of is a godly community, full of encouragement and stimulation (Hebrews 10:24-25) and all about glorifying the King of Kings.

Think of your own story.  Are you creating AGAINST or FOR God? Are you trying to elevate YOUR name or GOD'S?  What sort of primary community are you a part of?  Is it anti-God or pro-God?  Pray that Jesus will pour out his spirit upon you, so that you may glorify God in your time, and be a child of God, not a resident of Babel.