Acts 2:5-13 - Pentecost: Bringing Unity to the Confusion
Genesis 11:1-9 and Acts 2:5-13
On the day of Pentecost God did a mighty work that reversed the mighty work He had done ages before at Babel.
After the great flood, the human race began to grow again. God had preserved Noah and his family. Noah had three sons, Ham, Shem, and Japheth, each of whom had a wife. From them the human race began to increase once again.
Everyone spoke the same language. They all lived together in one place. They stuck together. This was against the command of God as we read it in Genesis 1:28 where God had said to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” God had repeated this command after the flood to Noah in Genesis 9:1. There we read:
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.
Man disobeyed God. God wanted man to trust Him – to spread out over the earth and to have confidence that He would take care of them. Instead, the people sought strength among themselves. They built a city with a large tower in the centre of it. They wanted to stick together, to find their strength in human unity rather than in faith in God and obedience. They wanted to build a name for themselves. The tower was a monument to their disobedience, their self-determination, their arrogance, their conceit – to themselves.
God saw what they were doing and that there was no limit to their rebellion against Him. He decided to divide them by confusing their language. Imagine: a foreman would tell a worker to get a bucket of mortar; the workman would bring back a plank of wood instead. The people no longer understood each other. In this way God scattered them. The people gathered together into different language groups and moved on out away from each other. The place was called Babel, which is a Hebrew word for “confusion.” Interestingly, it sounds similar to the English word “babble.” Hence we have different languages. That we have English, Croatian, and Chinese is because of what happened at Babel.
But God did not give up on man. If you look at the rest of Genesis 11, you will see that it gives the family line of Shem to Abraham. From Abraham came the Jewish people, and from the Jewish people came Jesus, the Saviour for the world. Jesus Christ poured the Holy Spirit out upon his disciples on Pentecost. They spoke about the mighty works of God in all the languages of the earth.
On the day of Pentecost Jews from the four points of the compass (from what we today call Iran and Iraq, Turkey, Northern Africa, and Europe) were in Jerusalem. The babble of languages of the known world was represented. The Holy Spirit whom Christ poured out made the disciples proclaim in all the languages the mighty deeds God had done through Christ.
God was reversing Babel. At Babel, God divided rebels and scattered them. On Pentecost, God began the work of bringing the nations of the earth together again. In the time of the Old Testament God restricted his saving work to the line of Shem and especially the Jews. He did this to bring forth Jesus the Saviour through whom God would once again open wide his arms to the world.
Today the mighty deeds of God are proclaimed in almost all the languages of the earth; in English as well. Christ has taken us up too in his Pentecostal work. The mighty works of God are spoken of in the English tongue. In Christ God has defeated our arrogance, our self-exaltation. Instead, He makes us praise Him and his wonderful works in our native tongue.
Revelation 7 tells us that the day is coming when all redeemed mankind will stand together before the throne of God. We will be part of a great multitude that will defy numbering, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues. Together, in all the languages of the earth, we will sing: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb.” For we do not glory in our human abilities and power. We glory in the Lamb of God and his Spirit.