Pentecost and the Tower of Babel

Almost every day my two year old demands that we build “big tower”. This construction process inevitably involves Daddy doing the large majority of the labor while my two year old diligently supervises and advises which block should be placed next on the Lego tower. My two year old has already manifested the natural human love of big towers. I have not done my research here but it appears that almost every established civilization has built some type of big tower. Big towers exhibit power, majesty, beauty, and authority. They are normally the prominent symbol of the city or country in which they reside. As we approach the feast of Pentecost, let’s take a look at two big towers found in scripture.

The Apostles were all together once again for the Jewish feast of Pentecost. This feast was a Jewish feast that commemorated God’s giving of the covenant on Mt Sinai. Just as Moses received the Law beginning in Exodus 19, the Apostles will here receive “the new law in the Spirit” (Rom 8:2). This new law, however, will not be just a set of instructions or commands like the old one; it will give them the power to follow the commands of the Lord. The promise given in Ezekiel 36 tells us that God will give us power to follow his statutes in the new covenant (just read Ez 36). As the Holy Spirit descends like “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3), the seal of the new covenant is placed upon the Apostles along with the power to do what the Lord commanded which, as we saw last week in the Ascension, is to build the Kingdom of God. As mentioned above, all good kingdoms need a big tower.

The Lord also promises in Ezekiel 36 that he will “gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ez 36:24). The coming of the Spirit is connected to the gathering of peoples and bringing them to a new land. The gathering of peoples is seen immediately when the Apostles begin to speak in other tongues (Acts 2:4). Luke tells us that there were many people in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven” who gathered and heard the Apostles speaking in their own language (Acts 2:5-11).  The coming of the Spirit immediately empowers the Apostles to begin their ministry as the “multitude came together” (Acts 2:6) at the sound of their preaching.

All of this focus on language and the gathering of the nations in Acts 2 recalls Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel. In Gn 11, they were one people with one language who were building a big tower to reach the heavens. The Lord God saw this and became concerned that the people were attempting to reach heaven by their own hands in order to “make a name” (Gn 11:4) for themselves. In order to thwart them, God confused their languages and scattered them across the earth (Gn 11:1-9). At Pentecost, the Lord reverses the Tower of Babel. He sends the Holy Spirit so that all may hear the gospel in his own language and may be gathered to build a new big tower, the Church. The Church is the new tower that allows men to reach the heavens, but not built upon their own name as in Gn 11. The new tower, is built in the name of Jesus by the Apostles who have been given power and authority to be the architects of this new tower to reach the heavens.

The Church is the new big tower built in the name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit that allows us to reach our new promised land in heaven. We do not want to simply look upon the big tower as it is being built like my two year old… we want to be apart of its construction so that we may have permission to ascend! Let us dedicate ourselves to “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42) as the first Christians did immediately after Pentecost. We must dedicate ourselves to the teaching of Jesus’ chosen architects, the bishops, who alone have the authority to build the new big tower that reaches the heavens: the Church.

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