Babel: Undone at Pentecost

Events100Compare these two biblical events, the latter of which took place thousands of years after the former.

  • Some time after the flood, a building project began in the Plain of Shinar. People “said to each other, ‘Come, let us make oven-fired bricks.’ They used brick for stone and asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth’” (Gen. 11:3-4). God saw their pride, and, protecting the people from the ruinous results of their own arrogance, put a stop to the building project. Within the Godhead these words were spoken: “Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech” (v. 7). So God kept the people from understanding one another, and they were scattered around the world.
  • Soon after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, on the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ followers were in one place. The Holy Spirit arrived and gave them supernatural power. Jesus’ disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech” (Acts 2:4). Jews from many different nations were in Jerusalem, and each was amazed to hear Jesus’ followers speaking in his own language.

The Jews in Jerusalem said, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language?” (vv. 7-8). Just as God had performed a miracle at the site where the Tower of Babel was being built thousands of years earlier, He was performing a miracle in Jerusalem at that moment. Consider this short list of contrasts; it represents just a few of many that could be cited.

  • At Babel God confused people’s languages, making it impossible for them to understand one another, but in Jerusalem at Pentecost He caused people from many different nations to hear the truth about His Son in their own tongues.
  • At Babel the people were trying to build a tower up to heaven, and God prevented them from doing so—but in Jerusalem at Pentecost God took the initiative to come down in the Person of the Holy Spirit to help people understand the right and proper way to approach Him.
  • At Babel God kept people from understanding their own messages to one another; at Pentecost God enabled people to hear and understand His message about His Son.
  • At Babel God kept a bad situation from getting worse; at Pentecost God delivered to people the message of the ultimate, perfect solution to the worst problem humanity ever had faced—sin and its consequence of eternal death.
  • What God did at Babel divided and scattered people; what He did at Pentecost served to unite people in His own eternal family.
  • Babel ushered in confusion and frustration because of human pride; Pentecost marked the coming of spiritual understanding, enlightenment, and peace with God for all who repent with humble hearts.
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