Pentecost 2019: A Tower to Heaven - Gen 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21

Human beings are inveterate tower-makers, constantly racing one another to see who can build the tallest. It starts with blocks and Legos, and we haven’t yet seen where it ends. From the beginning, towers have represented man’s attempt to climb up to heaven and take a seat on heaven’s throne. Whether anyone ever literally thought a tower could reach into heaven or not, the motivations of fame, glory, power, wealth, and making a name for oneself have always been built in to man’s tower-making efforts. In Genesis 11, God knew that the Tower of Babel was not just a challenging architectural exercise, but an act of rebellion against the Lord: “we’re going to make a name for ourselves,” the people said, “and we’re going to do it by getting ourselves to heaven.”

God had not told man to climb up to heaven; He had told them to fill the earth. He wasn’t threatened by man’s accomplishments; He was determined that His plan for humanity would be achieved, and that our pride would be humbled, clearing the way for His grace. Proud rebels never make it to heaven; but God lifts the humble up into His presence. And so the Lord dispersed the nations over the face of all the earth by confusing their language, using words and communication as the fulcrum to pry people apart, so that unified man divided into different tribes and nations and peoples and tongues.

God broke humanity apart at Babel, so that He could restore us at Pentecost, not just as a repaired humanity, but as a renewed humanity made more glorious for having been scattered. We cannot build our way to God; only the Spirit brings God and man together. We cannot replace God and take the throne for ourselves by the power of the human spirit, but God can become one of us and place a human being on heaven’s throne, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And despite all our talk about the brotherhood and equality of man, the human spirit is incapable of bringing about sustained worldwide unity; that glory belongs to the Holy Spirit, who has taken a fractured humanity and united her through the proclamation of the gospel to every nation and tribe and language and people all over the face of the whole earth.

At Pentecost, we see all of humanity come together for a common purpose. God rushes down from heaven, and fills the disciples with the Holy Spirit not to confuse their language, but to give them supernatural ability to speak in other tongues so that the different people from different nations who used different languages could be united in hearing God’s message. God sent His Spirit down to unite the divided nations into one body of worshipers.

Peter explained the meaning of the Spirit’s language miracle by proclaiming that God was fulfilling His Word to the Prophet Joel by pouring out the Spirit in order to make a name for Himself. Remember the motivation of the Babel-builders? “Let us make a name for ourselves?” God sent a language curse to frustrate that goal, but sent a language blessing by His Spirit to make a name for Jesus, empowering preachers to proclaim that Jesus is Lord (2:36), and to announce the good news (2:21) “that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Listen to Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” God has built a strong tower connecting earth to heaven, and His name is Jesus Christ.

The application is this: stop building your own tower; run to this tower, and be saved! We build rebellious towers whenever we prioritize our nation, our culture, our people, our families, and ourselves over the strong tower that is the Lord Jesus. If making a great name for America is more important to you than the gospel of Jesus reaching all the nations, you’re working on a new tower of Babel. When you make decisions based on what’s best for you and your family rather than encouraging your sons and daughters to follow the Spirit’s vision of God’s great dream for the world, you are trying to make a name for yourself.

But because of God’s severe mercy to oppose the proud, such efforts will never succeed. God has come down by His Spirit to put an end to your confused efforts to reach heaven by the wrong tower, and to proclaim by Spirit-filled preachers in every language under heaven that Jesus is Lord, and that everyone who runs to this strong tower and calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved and lifted up in the Spirit to be seated with Jesus in the heavenly places.

Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 by CJ Bowen