[Read Genesis 11:1-9]
True Unity Only in Jesus
“There the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”
This was the next great judgment on mankind. First, God banished man and woman from paradise and from the tree of life. Man had spurned the tree of life in favor of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet the Savior was promised who would one day allow His heal to be bruised to crush the devil’s head.
The growing world was then full of evil – the thoughts and intentions of man’s heart were only evil continually – and God judged the whole world by a flood. Yet salvation was promised on the ark that Noah built – a promise that was proclaimed to the whole world.
That former world was judged and destroyed. Eight in all were saved, believing in God’s promise of salvation on the ark. Noah and his family entered that ark, eight in all.
After that judgment, God made a covenant with Noah that He would not again flood the whole world. The sign of that promise was the rainbow. God would see it after the rain and would remember His promise [Genesis 9:9-17]. Yet, there was still a great and final judgment to come in the end – on the Last Day – not by water but by fire.
God blessed Noah and his sons with a renewal of the blessing given to man at creation – “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” [Genesis 9:1].
Disperse. Grow. Multiply. And go out. Multiply in number and cover the earth. They multiplied, but very soon the generations after them said, “We will not disperse.” “We won’t fill the earth.” “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Mankind once again had rebelled – by rejecting God’s blessing, refusing to fill the earth – and by casting off God’s in order to trust in his own name.
Man rejected God’s name in order to make a name for himself. We trust in a name. “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” But man in that day said, “let us make a name for ourselves.”
A tower reaching toward heaven. A name for themselves. This was man’s religion – man trusting in his own way – making a name for himself, no longer calling upon the name of God – man making himself ‘savior’.
The sin-fallen human heart is intent on breaking the first and second commandments. Your heart doesn’t want God as god, but yourself as god. Your heart doesn’t want to use God’s name rightly to call upon it in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving – but wants a name of its own.
For this manmade religion of man putting his trust in humanity, man was judged with this great judgment – man’s language was confused. Man had been of one language up to this time. God cast upon us the judgment of disunity – causing us to be divided into different tongues and languages – and thereby causing us to become disjointed peoples and nations – dispersed and divided.
We still live under this judgment today. Our current situation of many languages, many divided peoples, many nations at odds with each other – man unable to cooperate with himself – peoples and cultures that have grown so different that they cannot easily coexist – the many wars that have resulted – this is the judgment of Babel that we are still under today.
Perhaps worse than the effects of this judgment are man’s attempts at overcoming this judgment. What is humanity’s great goal? What is the goal both of every humanitarian leader and of every rising emperor? To unite. To make man strong in unity so that we are no longer weak in our dispersion.
The humanitarian leader continues the sin of Babel by trusting in humanity – believing that man can still have a good name for himself – instead of repenting and trusting in the name of God our Savior.
The dictators and every great emperor in man’s history has also had such “noble” goals – uniting the many conflicting nations under one head. For peace. For civility. To benefit the many. To unite a continent. This is always the beginning, but the end is always worse bloodshed than before.
Today it’s peace-keeping, liberation, and globalization. Man continues to try to be his own savior. But the end is only worse than the beginning. True unity of nations and peoples and languages is not found in man’s success but in man’s repentance.
How and where is true unity ever to be found? How and where is war and bloodshed and hatred ever to cease? Man’s sin was the problem – therefore, only God’s forgiveness is the answer.
True unity is only found by the forgiveness of our sins through the one man, Jesus Christ. The place of this true unity is not any nation or institution of this world – not the United Nations – not the United States – but only the kingdom of Jesus Christ which is not of this world. “My kingdom is not of this world” [John 18:36].
In the garden, man was judged. In the flood, man was judged. At Babel, man was judged. But on the cross at Calvary, one Righteous Man was judged for all the rest. Jesus, the one sinless man, died for all sin. His death accomplished God’s forgiveness of the nations. In Jesus, men and women are forgiven and therefore find peace and true unity. This is true individually, and it’s true together.
Listen to how the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of Jesus, is described in God’s Word – “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice (one voice!), ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” [Revelation 7:9-10]
From every nation, from all tribes, peoples, and languages. How? Because “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. Forgiven in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus on the cross.
Man’s solutions cannot forgive sins and therefore cannot free us from God’s judgment. God has forgiven our sins. This forgiveness is found in the name of Jesus. True unity is found in Jesus and in His Kingdom. Not in this world. Not by human endeavor.
What does the Day of Pentecost have to do with all this? At the tower of Babel, man’s language was confused. On the Day of Pentecost, we witness the reversal of that judgment at Babel.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” [Acts 2:1-8,11]
Where there once was division and confusion of language, now there is unity and understanding – not so we can hear man, but so we can hear of the mighty works of God – God’s mighty work of salvation in Jesus.
It is only by the Holy Spirit that we hear and believe. You are given the Holy Spirit – then on Pentecost, now in your Baptism. By the Holy Spirit, now you are able to call upon that one name under heaven by which we must be saved – the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. [Acts 4:12]
Salvation is found in calling upon the name of the Lord. And by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, His children who do so have now multiplied and filled the earth. By that same Holy Spirit, we have the Holy Scriptures – God’s written Word, now heard in many languages – so that many do hear, and “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” [Acts 2:21].