6 June 2019Genesis 11:1-9
And the Lord said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.' (v. 6)
Psalm: Psalm 140:1-7
Today takes us back into the Old Testament, to the early chapters of Genesis with their stories and sagas, which come before the concerted history starts with Abram. Here is the story of the Tower of Babel.
Plainly, this is part of the Fall, the story of human rejection of God’s rule and the resulting hardships: expulsion from the paradise of Eden; the ending of a world where everyone understood one another. The Tower is a stark symbol of humanity’s hubris, grasping at the Heavens. The Lord scatters the sinful people by confusing their one language into many, an act of Divine judgement almost as devastating as the flood, and of more lasting effect.
Like much in creation stories, Babel seeks to explain why a negative feature of human experience exists, here the multiplicity of different languages, just as the pain of childbirth, the enmity between snakes and people and the irksome need for hard work are addressed (to take a few examples).
We can trace the work of God to reverse this burden even in later parts of the Old Testament as the vision of all nations coming together emerges. However, it is the Pentecost experience which is the telling return of universal understanding as part of the new creation in and though Christ. All those various linguistic groups hearing the disciples and understanding is the undoing of Babel.
Singing the Faith 388 hymns the Holy Spirit as founder and sustainer of the Church, by definition its inspiration.
Psalm 140:1-7, an individual lament, is a moving prayer for deliverance from evil, something we ask every time we say the Lord’s Prayer.
- How might Babel and Pentecost inform your thinking on a London tube train as you hear multiple languages being spoken?
- Is the existence of many different languages really a curse?