Last Sunday was celebrated Pentecost, according to the Christian calendar. In Jewish tradition, Pentecost celebrated the giving of the law or Torah at Mt. Sinai, 50 days after leaving Egypt (hence “penta” = 5). My pastor shared this interesting insight: when Jews celebrate Pentecost, they wrap the Torah scroll in while cloth, like a bride. God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai was like a marriage contract! What a beautiful foreshadowing of the Bride, the church, which is betrothed to God’s son Jesus!
When we glimpse the events surrounding the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, we see a greater revelation of that future wedding day. Following their exile, Israel was scattered across the ancient near east. Jews now spoke the languages of the world and were citizens of other kingdoms. On this Pentecost, as was the custom, Jews from every nation flocked to Jerusalem (Acts 2:5), and at this strategically-appointed time, the promised gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out. What is the demonstration of this gift? Many tongues, or languages. All who have been praying in the upper room and all who are gathered by the strange loud sound of wind are hearing words spoken in all of their languages simultaneously.
How is this possible!? Humanly speaking, it is not. We speak in the language or languages we know and are understood by people who know those languages. Yet, God, the giver of languages, can play with these natural laws to bring all things into alignment with his purposes. That special Pentecost day, God’s gift of the Spirit unites his divided bride and propels her into a new season of preparedness through unity and power!
Could this be evidence of Babel reversed? Let’s look back at Genesis. God’s first command to man, the endowment of power and purpose is in this blessing “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28). God’s intended his people to enjoy lots of good sex and have lots of beautiful babies who grew up and explored the far reaches of his earth. Did they do that!? They started to, but then that ugly pride adopted from the serpent propelled our ancient forefathers to reach for personal glory saying, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (11:4).
Disobedience. Not only was mankind failing to follow this command, it would’ve been fatal to do so, for as God said to himself, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (11:6). Nothing would’ve been impossible for us and our selfish power and thirst for personal glory would have propelled us further and further from the Maker’s plan. So he intervened in history very directly.
Growing up, I was taught that this intervention was a punishment, probably because we use the negatively-connoted word “confused” to describe multiplication of languages. But could we possibly see Babel as a blessing to propel our ancestors to actually fulfill God’s command of scattering and multiplying throughout the earth? Could it have actually been God’s GIFT to us? One friend suggested to me that cultures may have spawned from the languages given to them. Maybe God’s gift of languages also became God’s gift of the beautiful spectrum of diverse cultures we have today!
So starting with God’s intervention at Babel and for thousands of years thereafter, people continued to scatter throughout the earth with their new languages, probably forming many more languages and dialects from those God had given. On that special first Pentecost A.D., God gave a new gift, the Spirit of God which knew and spoke ALL languages. In this outpouring, the divisive result of the language-giving was reversed and all could once again communicate. The first message spoken in this Spirit-empowered mysterious multi-translation was a message about the man who became God to reunite all flesh to their creator. And on that day 3,000 people of many nations became followers of the new Jesus Way.
Do you think God is preparing a bride? For the last 2,000 years this message has been spreading across the earth, thanks to that first supernaturally-translated-sermon and many successive miracles and faithful teachings of saints and martyrs across the globe. My life has been changed because of the resurrection of Jesus. My life has also been changed by the outpouring of the Spirit which is bringing the body of the bride together for the day of her wedding. Babel was reversed on Pentecost.
May the bride prepare herself, for the wedding is quickly approaching.