Babel and Pentecost

Genesis 11:1 says, “Now the whole earth had one lip and the same words.” This “lip” refers to a common confession, a common religious belief. They built a city around their common culture and language, and they built a tower as a shrine with its head in the heavens for their common credo, “I believe in me.” They say, “let us make a name for ourselves,” as an attempt, like Adam’s, to become like God. Just as God came down to evaluate and judge Adam’s work in the garden, so He came down to see and judge this city and tower built in the name of Man.

When the Spirit came down at Pentecost, He reversed the confused lip of Babel. He allowed them to keep their cultural and linguistic diversity; He did not cause everyone to suddenly speak the same language, but He reoriented men from all nations to confess with one mouth, “Jesus is Lord.” It was a sign to the Gentiles that the Word of God was coming into each of their cultures and languages to glorify them and transform them, making them fit to carry the Word. It was also a sign and judgment against the Jews because this Word was not being spoken in Hebrew, but in all the diverse languages of the empire. In order to continue as the people of God, the Jews would have to confess not that Yahweh was the God of Israel only, but that Jesus is the Lord of the cosmos.

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