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.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Acts 2:1-16 ESV
Have you ever read something several times only to see something brand new you’d never noticed before? It’s awesome when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to a new perspective.
The other day as I read the account of Pentecost, a passage I’ve read several times, God brought to mind an Old Testament narrative I had never connected with Pentecost before. They may not even be connected, but I did find some parallels that intrigued me enough to share here.
So what’s the Old Testament event? The tower of Babel. I will explain more, but first read with me the account in Genesis:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there….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; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The 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. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel–because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)
In the account of the Tower of Babel, man united for the purpose of building a tower. They all spoke the same language and worked together on the tower in order to create a name for themselves. They wanted all the glory for themselves and wanted to remain united for unrighteous purposes. Obviously, God was not pleased with this arrogance and unrighteous unity, so He came down from heaven and confused their language. The people, unable to communicate, gave up and went their separate ways.
At the time of Pentecost, the disciples were all together in Jerusalem waiting as Jesus commanded them to do. While they were together, the Holy Spirit came down in power, and those present began speaking in other tongues. When curious devout men came to see what was going on, even though their native languages were not the same, each could understand the disciples. God then used this understanding to spread His message to all nations. Over 3000 souls came to know Jesus that day (Acts 2:41). And that was just the beginning.
So what connection did I see?
Well, when God came down to the tower of Babel, He dispersed the people by confusing their language. Yet when the Holy Spirit came down in the midst of the disciples and those who sought Him, He drew all the people unto Himself by unifying their language for the sake of the gospel. Men meeting together to glorify themselves and make themselves like God led to confusion and dispersion. Men meeting together in one place for the purpose of waiting for and seeking God resulted in one message of salvation heard by all. In the Old Testament, one language led to pride and to sin; in the New Testament, God used one language–the language of the Spirit–to unite and to save. The Holy Spirit helped unify what once was torn, because the Holy Spirit transcends every nation and every tongue.
Furthermore, before Jesus, people scattered because they could not understand each other. They went out in confusion. Yet after Jesus, people gathered because the Holy Spirit helped them to understand. They then went out with a new understanding and a new message: one Savior sent for all people, regardless of nation or tongue.
In general, Babel scattered, but Pentecost saved. Pentecost also demonstrated God’s ability to prevail over all, even the language barrier caused by the sin of pride.
So what does this mean for us? In what way can this knowledge draw us nearer to Christ? Well, it can actually draw others to Christ. God calls each of us to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Yet reaching every corner of a world replete with thousands of unique languages at first appears impossible. And it is impossible…without the Holy Spirit, that is.
God sends His Spirit to dwell in each of us who choose Him; His Spriit is what unites us. And the Holy Spirit has the power to speak to each of us in the way we will understand. Those men in Starbucks the other day whom I could not understand because they spoke Korean? The Holy Spirit can reach them. Those neighbors down the street who speak only Spanish? The Holy Spirit can reach them. That grocery store clerk who has never stepped foot in church and doesn’t know the Christian lingo? The Holy Spirit can reach her. If God can come down from heaven to scatter the unrighteous and then also come down and unite the nations, then He can certainly speak through each of us in a way that others will hear and understand.
Therefore I encourage you today to ask God to use you for His good purposes. Gather together with other believers for the purpose of going out with the message of Christ. Whether He gives you the right “language” to reach your unsaved loved ones or the right “language” to reach the stranger you meet in the store, God can and will use a willing heart. The disciples had gathered together to obey and to seek their Savior. And God used them to speak His truth to the masses and to begin spreading the Gospel over all the earth. So also will God use you–if you let Him.
Let God to use you today. Go into all the world knowing that the One who called you to go will equip you as well.