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Tuesday: One Language — 12 Comments

  1. The creation of man is prefaced with the words:

    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: Gen 1:26 first part KJV

    Unfortunately, we have turned that around to say, "Let us make God in our image!"
    Eve wanted a God of knowledge of good and evil - her image. The post-diluvian folk tried to create a reachable God who lived on a high platform. Others envisaged an appeasable God.

    The very important big idea behind the Christian view of God is that we do not have to reach up to God. He comes down to us. Christ's Ministry is the reality of that idea.

    The problem for us is that we all too often recreate the idea that God is reachable by something we do. We state that in several ways. Perfectionism in its many forms is really trying to say that we can reach God by being perfect. Intellectualism is driven by the idea that if we have the right knowledge we will be right with God. We all have our own little pet ideas about how we reach God. And in order to support this, we often create our own image of God.

    One of the key doctrines of a certain well-known church is stated thus:

    “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be”

    This is essentially a statement of a reachable God, rather than a God who reaches down to us.

    Paul gets the perspective right when he wrote so succinctly:

    But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:8 KJV

    This is not a picture of a reachable God. Rather, it show a God who not only reaches down to us but came down into the pit with us.

    We have just had the interior of the house repainted, and I am in the process of rehanging some of my photographs on the wall. I have to reach up to put the photographs in place. Now that I am old and feeble, reaching up is hard work for me. What I would really like is for someone to lay the wall flat on the ground while I position those photos and then put the wall back up again.

    That is what God does for us. He does the impossible so we do not have to reach him. He reaches us.

  2. The story of great golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar resemblanced Cain's sacrifice and Tower of Babel; whose motives are to 'make name for themselves'. I have experience glimpses of this ugly fact in Church leadership these days. I pray that we will do His will, to serve others and less of us in Church, home or wherever we may be.

  3. At the core of sin/evil is a heart-desire to elevate and 'enthrone' self as 'master of all' (Isaiah 14:13-14). Although inherently impossible to achieve, a 'delusional'* effort is made to displace God as Creator through attempting to instead become "like God" (Genesis 3:5) or equivalent to God and therefore make God redundant. From a biblical perspective, Babel and Babylon are metaphors for this dynamic.

    It is no coincidence that the Hebrew "babel" refers to a 'mixing' that results in loss of purity and unity which, in turn, instead produces confusion and confounding. Because of God's beneficent (ie, commitment to beneficial building up of all others) nature and character, living in accordance with the Way and ways of God inherently results in the building up of all. However, when one seeks to elevate self and therefore attempts to take another path other than the Way and ways of God, the inherent result is ultimately a fall instead (Isaiah 14:12-15). From a functional perspective, the Way of God alone is able to foster the order that harmonious and beneficial life is fundamentally based upon. By contrast, any and all other attempted alternative options are inherently characterised by chaos - reflected in confusion and ultimately dissolution (breaking down instead of building up).

    It is therefore also no coincidence that the second angel's message of Revelation 14:8 is a revelation of the actual nature and character of 'Babylon' as "fallen". Adopting the principles and practices exhibited by Babel/Babylon' - self-seeking - can never do anything but result in fall instead of elevation.

    Thus, while language confusion is perhaps the most 'talked about' aspect of the Tower of Babel story, language confusion is only the 'tip of the iceberg' that was reflective of the far deeper confusion at work that has unfortunately and sadly re-emerged once again so relatively quickly after the Flood.

    * Delusional is a term that refers to perceptions and beliefs that are out-of-harmony with actual reality - they are not reality-based.

  4. In Portland, Maine (my home state), about a third of the school district's total enrollment of 6,800 - around 2,300 students - come from homes where 67 different languages are spoken....from Acholi to Quiche (yes, that's a language of Guatemala!) to Zande. The district employs 12 full- and part-time interpreters. Why so many languages? Portland is a resettlement city for refugees and immigrants fleeing violence and oppression. These kids live with the reality of not quite being from here and not quite being from somewhere else either. These families bring gifts to the city: an amazing diversity of ethnic cuisines turning restaurant life into an international foodie's dream, and they also bring stories of courage and hope forged in their experiences of trauma.

    Why do we have multiple languages in the world today? I think it is a very similar reason to the one given for the Portland, ME schools. Babel is a story of violence and trauma. Who is violent? At first, you might answer "God". He destroys humanity with a flood and than He destroys civilization. Someone might say, "God punishes mankind for being too divided before the Flood (Gen. 6:11) and then too united after the Flood (Gen 11:4). Too destructive before the Flood and then too creative after the Flood."

    But, another way to see it is that humankind started two different types of social systems or governments at the beginning of human history, neither of which God approves of as they are both forms of violence: anarchy before the Flood (the strong bully the weak and each other) and totalitarianism after the Flood (the power of the state becomes limitless and able to "play God", uniting for vanity projects - Gen. 11:4,6). Nimrod, the mighty warrior and hunter, was probably the leader in the building of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 10:8-10). We see in these texts that Nimrod also founded Assyria and Nineveh, other cities that were known for wickedness.

    So to answer that question, I think these stories show us that we have multiple languages in the world today to escape violence of one extreme or another-unrestricted universal dog-eat-dog or unrestricted universal tyranny and dictatorship. Linguistic diversity binds people together in smaller and smaller community units, creating loyalties similar to family units.

    It is interesting to note that God's character never changes, but His actions certainly do, to fit the times...

    At Babel, God judged the people by sending "tongues", leading to confusion and disagreement and people being scattered apart.

    At Pentecost, God blessed the people by sending "tongues", leading to understanding and unity and people being gathered together.

    We know this gathering of God's people together is our future too. We see in Revelation 7:9 a vast crowd of people from every culture and nation and language united as one, to worship God in Christ who rescued us from sin and brought us together. We will fully understand each other someday. Wow, I can't wait for that! Through God's grace we can pray to begin expressing this unity right now with our church family.

    • Very interesting ideas about the problems with those societies. I'd never thought of it that way, but it makes a lot of sense.

  5. Esther, although language is an important factor that binds a nation, yet traditions, customs and religious beliefs are more important factors as a binding power.

    So the best union is faith in God as we see in Acts 2:42
    „And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread…“

    In heaven, one language will be spoken and we won‘t even have to go to school to lern it.

    • Dear Amina, Thank you for pointing us to the unity of God expressed in the early Christian church. What a beautiful example! I love how Scripture says,

      "And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need....with singleness of heart, praising God...." (Acts 2:44-47).

      In my post I mentioned 2 social systems that are not God's character: anarchy and tyranny. The early church demonstrates for us another system of social organization, we could call it Christian Democratic Socialism. "Socialism" may have a poor track record with mere mortals trying to implement it without divine authority, but with God leading then what becomes possible shows how God values us and how we are to value each other (Rom. 2:11). We see in this first body of believers an equitable distribution of wealth and material resources among all people, freely given from their hearts, and redistributed by the apostles "from each according to ability and to each according to need" (yup, that's an old socialist slogan). God's heart (as seen in the Trinity) is a servant's heart, everyone always giving, and therefore everyone always receiving. We see this again in Acts 4:32-5:11 (with Ananias and Sapphira showing us the contrasting worldview of selfishness and misleading advertising). I love how verse 34 says "neither was there any among them that lacked.....". Yes, Amina, I agree, "the best union is faith in God!"

      • Hi sister Esther. The Christian Democratic Socialism you made mention of (Acts 4:32-5:11) is not a coercive government enforced/dictated social structure.
        Acts 5:3,4 KJV "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
        While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it sold, was it not in thine own power(control)? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."
        Ananias's sin was not in keeping a portion of the sale, but lying about doing so.
        The 'Christian Democratic Socialism' of Acts 4:32-5:11 was totally voluntary. Freewill.

        • Yes, dear Peter, agreed….. that’s why I included the phrases “freely given from their hearts” and “with God leading”. Any time God is leading there is 100% freedom of choice. Thank you for writing out those texts in Acts 5 that further highlight this fact.

          What do you think about the body of Christ modeling this community life today, too? Does our Christian lifestyle stand out from the good work unbelieving humanitarians can offer; is it radical enough to reflect the humility and 100% selflessness of God’s Love?

  6. Previously we discussed God having us toil the soil for our good(without work death doeth come quicker). Cain rejected God because of it. Abel praised God because of it, though a different toil.

    This week we find God confounded language for the same reason, for man's own good(It was necessary for Him to give us something to remind us that He is our only God), in light of the fact that man again aspired to disbelieve God, with lack of faith in God that He would keep His promise to never destroy with flood over the whole earth again. Instead of turning from their evil way, asking for forgiveness, they became self-reliant, and did not return to the Lord. They did not believe He would have had mercy on them and fully pardoned them if they did return to Him. They did not seek the Lord while He may be found. Isaiah 55:6-7. Thus led them to the mind set of Satan, being their own god. Isaiah 14:13-14.
    Oh so many lessons for us.

    Lord be merciful unto me a sinner, and keep me from the evil one, leading me away from temptation. Fill every chamber of my heart with your light and love, so there is no room for darkness and hate.
    Thank-you Lord.

  7. Esther, thank you for your closing paragraph dated April 25. I encourage readers to also read Rev.7:10 John had the privilege of understanding the language of Heaven when he wrote the events he witnessed!

    This week's memory text could have been Ps. 127:1

  8. Several thoughts come to mind when trying to understand why the 'people' wanted to build a tower. Gen.11:4 gives a good reason: ’And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” What is that 'name' they attempted to make for themselves?

    This event took place in the southern region of Mesopotamia, the land of Shinar; the same land which Cain and his family went to dwell in after being cursed; it was east of Eden. It showes me that people came back to live in the same lands they lived in before the Flood.

    By the time of the decision to build the Tower of Babel, civilization seems to have made quite some progress. Leaders of the people ordered to make bricks and construct a tower that can reach ‘into heaven’. The picture even shows machinery which might have also been used when building the pyramids, and the architecture of the ‘tower’ appears to have come from someone who has done this before.

    Post-flood living had developed enough that leaders wanted to ‘make a name for themselves’. Nimrod comes to mind, the son of Cush, the grandson of Ham who settled his people in this region and contributed much to the development of the civilization of his people. I think it is more the ‘who and what ungodly religion and aspirations this leader(s) held that prompted the Creator to disburse their people throughout the earth.

    Just as an aside – the world is full of skyscrapers now. The lesson writer states: “This upward effort to reach heaven and usurp God’s will, indeed, characterizes the spirit of Babylon” - Rev.18:2-4; 7-11; 15-18.
    Could these 20th century towers also be considered attempts to replace God?


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