Sermon on Genesis 11:1-9
Title: Babbling Babelites? No Problem.
Theme: God confuses the languages of the earth to win over the whole earth by the work of his Holy Spirit.
Goal: to encourage Christians to live in the scope of the worldwide work of the Holy Spirit.
Need: Christians often fall quickly into the MEful PRIDEful side of what the Holy Spirit is doing.
1. The Babelites thought they could tower up to the level of deity.
2. The Babelites stood in the way of the worldwide plan of God.
3. The Babelites language is confused to send them.
4. The Holy Spirit sends us to gather in all those who need to know Christ.
Conclusion: the Holy Spirit is all about God and what his plan is in the world.
We only get one life. This isn’t a trial run or a practice heat. We get one life. We get one set of successive moments of life until we die. We get one chance before we are raised again to stand before Christ. The one who will judge the living and dead. We get one chance, and it is a good thing we are saved entirely by our faith through the grace of Jesus Christ. I don’t think I need to convince anyone that we are all saved sinners, but perhaps we don’t always think about how we are participants in something very disturbing called corporate sin.
Corporate, not as in ENRON or BIG BANK corporate sin. Corporate as in many people altogether creating a system that runs in a sinful direction or is based on sinful principles. In our country we are part of corporate sin. Late term abortion. Legal in Canada. Paid for by OHIP. By paying our taxes we contributed to the funding of a healthy 9 month old fetus’ life being taken. That’s part of what our tax money did this year. That would be corporate sin and we have all participated.
The community of believers that gather together for worship here are not immune to corporate sin as well. For one, I know we sometimes treat this building like it’s a Holy Spirit warehouse. A humongous warehouse. You can come here. You can grab the Holy Spirit here and use it for worship here. In this building you can be inspired to use the special gifts and talents that the Holy Spirit has given you. It’s from right here inside this building that we can look out at the other Christian churches around and scoff because our Holy Spirit warehouse is bigger and newer than anyone else’s.
Even if we feel empowered by the Holy Spirit, we often are corporately responsible for being a church that thrives on programs while sinfully ignoring what Christ said, not to the church but to every Christ. Go to every place and make disciples, teach them Jesus and to live his way. Is it possible that we have taken pride in settling down? Do you feel it to? Have we grown comfortable and set up our towering Holy Spirit warehouse? Have we ever banked on the success of our church to somehow bring us up to the level of godliness that we can confidently stride into heaven?
When we think that way we are falling into the same corporately sinful behaviour as the residents of Babel. The Babelites. The Babelites settle. They build up internally and completely disregard the worldwide plan of God. Like us they build up internally and sinful ignore the worldwide plan of God.
Even already here, God’s mind was on the whole world. How do we know that, its because God said so from the very beginning. To Adam and Eve he said, be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. The plan of God from the very beginning was to fill the earth with people that would praise his name and obey him.
The reason God destroyed everything with the flood was because that didn’t happen. IN Genesis 6:13 God tells Noah that he is going to destroy everyone with a flood because the earth is full. But not of righteous people. The earth is full of violence it says. So God clears the earth with the flood and as Noah and his family climb out of the ark, God says to them exactly what he told Adam and Eve. He starts his plan over again! FILL THE EARTH!! FILL THE EARTH!! GO!! FILL THE EARTH WITH PEOPLE THAT OBEY! That’s in Genesis 9:1
But the plan of God has once again run up against the incompetence of humanity. Verse 11Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
Settled: In that you can hear it. They stopped filling the earth. They settled. They retired there.
Keep going verse 3. We find out more about this corporate rebellion of the Babelites. 3They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.” Any masons people who work in masonry don’t feel bad. Its not a sin to use bricks and mortar. But its important in the story of the Babbling Babelites because they started using less sturdy manufactured materials for this building. In your face God. We can make our own building supplies.
And to sum up the rebellion in verse four they say:4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” God said fill the earth. But we are much more comfortable sticking together. We really value our fellowship. We are like minded. We all speak the same language. And we are good enough together that we might just be able to build a tower up to heaven and tell God a thing or two.
Sinful. Corporate. Pride.
That’s the big problem in the passage. This sinful pride. It happens to be a massive failure of the entire people of Babel.
But this story about the origin of all the different languages and people of the world has been told over and over again to remind us of something amazing about our God. What we hear about our God is so much more than he doesn’t like prideful people. What we ought to hear is that in all God’s goodness all parts of his gracious plan will happen. God makes plans and then he follows through on them.
In the case of the Babelites, God has some correction to do.
The Israelites must have laughed as this story. The you see the people who built towers like this one at Babel were the people that they considered there enemies. The Babylonians built these towers in Holy Places to show their might and strength. And here the Israelites find out that the biggest tower ever built by these ancient people God had to come down to look at. Verse 5-6 tell it like this: 5But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6The Lord said, “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. 7Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
God comes down and sees that if they continue working as a unified force in the way that they have been God is going to see the world turn into the same mess it was before the flood. By God’s grace he steps in. He’s again sees the distructive plans of mankind. He comes down with the heavenly perspective to make sure that it’s his plan that is being lived out in his world. The right plan. The world full of people who believe plan.
And what a great way to spread people around. You can’t accomplish anything if you can’t communicate well. Just try calling your computer help line and talking to person in a call center in Pakistan where its four in the morning and their mastery of the English language is sketchy at best. Nothing gets accomplished that way. No wonder they all scattered when the languages were confused. God was busy accomplishing his plan.
But that is not the end of the story. It continues on because as God scatters the people, his plan is for the whole world to have a fulfilling life of obedience to him. Follow me through here. The rest of the Bible tells us how God’s plan unfolds so that we can sit here and know that we as part of the scattered people of the world experience his love and grace.
The very next chapter begins the next phase in God’s plan of redemption. A guy named Abram is chosen by God as the avenue that God’s grace would come to the scattered world. God made a commitment with Abram that he would give him many descendants and make him into a great nation. Just one nation out of the many different languages around the world. But God told him through this one nation all nations would be blessed. It isn’t enough for Abraham to be blessed. It has to be bigger. God’s plan of redemption and love is for the rest of the wrodl.
And we see this plan come to its ultimate fulfillment in when Christ comes to the world. Through Christ there is no division among nations. Christ’s death has guaranteed that the Bible can be the Holy Book for a person from any race or nation.
And the spread of the gospel to every nation went rampant on the day of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples they proclaimed. They told the world about God’s salvation coming through Christ’s death. And as the preached the Holy Spirit destroyed the language barrier. Babbling Babelites had spread into all the corners of the world. Babbling Babelites? No problem because the Holy Spirit’s power makes the offensive gospel of Christ acceptable. The Holy Spirit who came on Pentecost pushes the gospel outward.
For too long we have been scared of our neighbours and our community. For too long, we have been unsure of the person that comes in and doesn’t seem to match our cultural identity. Could it be that all this time we have been building up our own tower of Babel based on cultural pride and spiritual uniformity? Our Holy Spirit really only reaches out to people just like us? Could it be that the Holy Spirit is ready to go to work in a new way again. Could it be that the person who needs to hear the message of Jesus Christ doesn’t look like you, doesn’t talk like you, doesn’t smell like you? Could it be that the you are going to be the one to play a role in the Holy Spirit’s bringing that person to faith?
That’s what God’s redemption plan is all about. He is going to make it happen through his Holy Spirit. God is calling us to be a part of that work. What does God want? God wants every single square inch of this planet to be filled with his people. The ones who have heard the message of Jesus Christ and have decided to do something radical. They have decided to overcome language, race, culture everything: Through the power of the Holy Spirit the Babbling of Babel is coming to an end.
8So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.