THE TOWER OF BABEL UNDONE
You can listen to the devotion here.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 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. 4 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, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Remember, the Tower of Babel is after the flood. They make a tower because they want to make a name for themselves (as sinful man always wants to do in his pride). They were supposed to go out into the world but they ignore God’s command and build a tower. The Lord says there would now be no limits to their rebellion against God.
Sinful mankind always likes to think that God can’t see or hear their sin - or that God doesn’t care about their sin. But God does see, He does hear, He does care. God came to them in judgment – confused their language and that confusion resulted in division.
Think of how much war and bloodshed there have been because of the divisions that began on this day! Like the story of the fall – rebellion against God leads to divisions among people. People are driven from paradise (the presence of God) and from one another. Sin always has a ripple effect creating division and confusion.
Our sin has the same ripple effects. We are all in need of reconciliation – we are by nature enemies of God, and we need to be made friends. We are in need of peace – with God and with man.
Sin always brings division. Think of how much strife is caused by sin within families, at your jobs, among nations, etc. All of the problems you have with others are caused by one thing – sin, whether it is their sin, your sin, or both parties are at fault.
At Pentecost, the Lord undoes the confusion and division caused by Babel and gives us that which brings clarity (right thinking) and unites us.
“At this sound [mighty rushing wind and of them preaching in tongues] the multitude came together” (Acts 2:6), this draws them in because the preaching of Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He gathers people from all nations into one Church.
What is it that unites us with one another? It is the preaching of Christ – His life, death, and resurrection for you. That is the only thing that can truly unite us and destroy the divisions among people.
So, at Pentecost we see the gift of speaking in tongues. It was given as a sign that the Gospel was for all sinners of every tribe and nation under heaven. And so, Babel is reversed on Pentecost. Instead of language dividing the people, at Pentecost the people are united as the Gospel is preached in their own language.
God’s judgment on man’s self-centered pride had manifested itself not only in the multiplication of human languages but also in the division and strife between peoples.
We see all of this being undone at Pentecost. The only thing that can cure this confusion and division is the gospel!
Only the Holy Spirit, working through the gracious Word of Christ, can unite and cut through the confusion bringing clarity and peace. The Holy Spirit teaches us to repent of our sins so that we would find our true name not in ourselves, making ourselves great, but in Christ.
There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
So, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit united his people into one language – the Gospel. The same Holy Spirit is still bringing clarity and peace to you.
How does this come about? The Holy Spirit gives clarity and peace through our Lord’s appointed means – not through some mystical experience of the Holy Spirit.
Through the Word, the Holy Spirit teaches and brings to our remembrance the words of Jesus (whole Bible!), which are the words of the Father who sent Him. These words bestow clarity – right thinking about Law and Gospel!
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23-24)
So too: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (14:27).
This peace is given through the Sacraments as well. The Gospel calls us into communion and fellowship of faith in which all sinners share in common the forgiveness of sins by grace alone.
Peace comes only through the forgiveness of sins – both with God and one another. The forgiveness of sins reestablishes our relationship with God and one another. Because we have peace with God we are free to live at peace with one another – free to serve our neighbor in love – we no longer have to be in conflict with them.
Peace only comes through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us Christ and Christ indeed is our peace. And the Holy Spirit keeps coming to us through Word and Sacrament to give us Christ.
We are in need of clarity and peace. Because of what Christ accomplished for us in His death and resurrection and because He ascended to the right hand of the Father, He sent us the Holy Spirit, just as He promised. And the Holy Spirit keeps giving us clarity and peace through Word and Sacrament.
Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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