LANGUAGE: UNIFYING OR DEVIDING Genesis 11:1-9 Acts 2:1-21
Our world is full of language. To determine the power of language we need to look at the outcome of the words. Today, we seem to have a symphony of noise that is off-key and often hurtful. Our first text from Genesis 11:1-9. The context is the flood that covered the earth, and in this ark contained the animals which would restart the animal kingdom and the people that would be the continuation of the human race. The ark came to a place where it stopped, the water dried up, and after a time, God Himself opened the door. The animals scattered over the earth, following God’s plan. The people however, stayed together in a clump. They wandered out onto the plain of Shinar and found a place on which to build a city. They were so impressed with their own creativity that the first thing they built were kilns to manufacture bricks. The first thing they built was a wall.
I have a question, folks: why a wall? They are the only people left and the animals have scattered. I have my own answer: they were walling God out. They wanted to stay together and they didn’t want to scatter. After the wall they built their homes and planted gardens. And continued to fire bricks. The sign of their rebellion showed up when they decided to build a tower in center of the city. They said to themselves: “let’s go up to heaven and tell God to leave us alone. We are not going to scatter. We know better.” Being together, impressed with our own power seems to create the desire to be our own God. We can point to what is happening in our world, in the chaos: the desire to do whatever we want with no consequences. We begin to think that nothing is impossible for us.
God looked at all this and was saddened because of the arrogance of the people before the flood was manifesting after the flood. And God’s answer was to confuse their languages to cause them to scatter.
Our second text is Acts 2: 1-21 paints a different picture of people: the people of the new church that was about to explode across the world. They were in one place and the Greek language indicates that they were “together together” which means: one place, one mind, one spirit. They were together not to resist God but to listen for his direction. And this was at the risk of their own lives, following the death and resurrection of Jesus.
They were all together in the Upper Room, and the Spirit “rushed in like the blowing of a violent wind came from Heaven, and filled the whole house where they were sitting”. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and a crowd gathered because of the noise. And then they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”. In this act, God was bringing the scattered into one.
People heard what God was doing in their own language and they were amazed. Because they were hearing it from Galileans - people came from all over the Mediterranean for the Festival of Pentecost. And so the uneducated Galileans were speaking in these many languages = and this was shocking to the people gathered there. In these moments, God was taking the scattered languages, and acknowledging all the languages, but speaking them out of one Spirit. Not out of human wisdom. The question came from the crowd, “What does this mean?”
And Peter stands to give an answer: He speaks from Joel 2 about God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh, male and female.
Do we see God’s activity in our world today? Both texts point out God’s plan in each situation. And Both texts talk about God’s plan in action. Will we as a people respond to God like the people in Genesis, in rebellion? Or will we try to listen to God as in the Acts text? Like the people in the Upper Room?
Can we really do anything we want to do and yet have no consequences? No - that leads to chaos, confusion and destruction.
God calls us to listen to His Voice, and follow His lead through the chaos. He calls us to what looks impossible and commits Himself to see it through.