Saturday, March 4, 2017

first person, plural

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today:
Genesis 10:1-11:9
I have always been fascinated by the story of the Tower of Babel. To many, it seems a strange story; one that modern man likes to mock for being too simple on one hand, too fantastic on the other. "A tower that reaches to the heavens!?! The whole world had one language!?!" Surely, you must be joking! So this story, along with Noah's Ark and Jonah and the great big fish, gets placed in the "fantastical" realm. But not so fast!
After looking at ancient history and the history of language--it no longer seems so fantastic. First of all, the great tower was not a castle, nor a temple, nor a skyscraper. It was very likely the world’s first ziggurat. Not surprisingly, remnants of several ziggurats, made of the same materials and in the same manner of the Biblical account, stand to this day--mainly in modern day Iran and Iraq, the general areas where the Bible says.
Secondly, when one studies the history and development of language, they may not be so different as we might think. Consider this, over one half of the world's population (3 Billion +) speak a language that is a descendant of the Indo-European Language. That means anyone speaking English or Hindi or Norwegian or Gaelic or French or Spanish or Albanian or Russian or German or Portuguese or Italian or Persian of Kurdish or any of a number of other languages all speaking from a common mother tongue. Suddenly it doesn't seem so far-fetched.
But what exactly is going on in this story that applies to us? That is likewise a challenge.
First, the people plan the "Original Stairway to heaven." They say, "Here’s a cool new way to build. Let’s get together and make a city that has a huge tower. Let’s stick together." Next, God shows up and he says "not so fast!" He proceeds to confuse the language and scatters the people. There goes this construction project. What is the point?
It seems to me that what we have here is a Reverse Pentecost. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit empowers the people to speak in languages that they didn't know- bringing people together to hear the Gospel Here, God comes and divides the people by confounding their one language into many.
What is the big deal? What is the sin? Why did God intervene?
That answer is found in the tower they attempt to build and in the very words they speak. The ziggurat was a unique building- not a pyramid, a burial chamber, not a temple nor a fortress. This kind of structure was constructed right next to a temple and was literally an attempt to create a link between heaven and earth. Kind of like an elevator or wheel chair ramp for the gods.
It was an attempt to reach God on our own, to use God for our purposes, to bring God down to our own level. Basically it was God Abuse. Thinking that God can be used or manipulated.
Secondly the words of the builders give us a glimpse of their motives, and they are less than pure. They want to make a name for themselves. Just count the number of times that the first person, plural pronoun is used (AKA "we" or "us"). The Tower of Babel was a project of man, by man, for man’s glory. Its all about we. Its the story of human history.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, we have been fooling ourselves that we can ourselves be god and have no need for the true & living God. The function of this tower was reach out to God. But that is humanly impossible. Every attempt ends in failure. Our best efforts and plans are not good enough.
But there is good news! God Himself has reached out to us- and the mediator is Jesus Christ. He said to His disciples in John 1:21 “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jesus Christ bridged the gap we cannot cross ourselves- He's the only "Stairway to Heaven."

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