The Tower of Babel, Pentecost, & The Red Thread (Part 4) ~ Jesus in the Old Testament

The Tower of Babel, Pentecost, & The Red Thread ~ Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

The Tower of Babel, Pentecost, & The Red Thread ~ Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

 

When God came down to stop the people from building the Tower of Babel, He wasn’t being a fun-sucker. (Genesis 11:1-9)

He was protecting them from the danger of exalting their own name.

(In my series What Was So Wrong With The Tower of Babel? we looked at those dangers. If you don’t know what was so wrong with the Tower of Babel, and why we should even care, check it out.)

Now we’re going to look at how God, in the midst of all the drama, masterfully wove into these events several Red Thread Clues.[†]

Quick Review of The Tower of Babel:

After the flood, God had given Noah and his sons the command to spread out and fill the earth. (Genesis 9:1)

Many basically responded, “We choose ‘No to that.” (Genesis 11:1-9)

Instead, they settled in Shinar and began to build a tower to their own “great name and praise.”

Therefore, God came down and confused their language so that no one could understand each other.

Having lost the power to communicate, they lost the ability to build the tower to their own greatness — and they got the message that God — and His name — was greater.

God then scattered them out across the earth as He’d originally told them to do.

Now, let’s fast forward from Genesis to the book of Acts to see some Red Thread Clues.

Red Thread Clues: Babel & Pentecost

(If you’d like to open up to the scene in Acts in a new tab, click here: Acts 1:1-11 & Acts 2.)

Pentecost was originally solely a Jewish holiday, also known as Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. Think of it as kind of a Thanksgiving Day celebration.

In Leviticus 23:9-22, God commanded the Jews to count fifty days from the Feast of First Fruits, hence the origin of the name Pentecost.

Eventually Pentecost also commemorated the day God gave the Law at Mt. Sinai in the days of Moses.

At the time of Christ, Jewish law required the men to come to Jerusalem from wherever they lived for Pentecost.

Jesus rose from the grave on the day of the Feast of First Fruits, and fifty days later on Pentecost, the believers were gathered together in Jerusalem and received the Holy Spirit, which Christ had promised to them.

Pentecost is now a Jewish Holiday & a Christian Holiday.

 

It doesn’t take long before the events in Acts 1-2 begin to reflect the Tower of Babel — only opposite.

On the day of Pentecost, all the believers (those who believed in Jesus Christ for their salvation from sin) were meeting together. Suddenly the sound of a rushing wind filled the place and what looked like “tongues” of fire rested on each of them.

The Red Thread (@JeanWilund.com)

At the Tower of Babel, God came down and removed their “power.”

At Pentecost, God’s Spirit came down and filled them with His power. 

 

Each one of them, now filled with God’s Spirit, began to speak in other languages by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Red Thread (@JeanWilund.com)At the Tower of Babel, the people all spoke one language until God confused their language, leaving them unable to communicate with each other.

At Pentecost, God’s Spirit gave the believers the ability to speak and understand other languages.

 

(How much would you have loved for God to have done that for you when you were in your foreign language class? After three years of a language some have still only mastered counting to ten. Did you know I speak German?)

At Pentecost, devout Jews from every nation were living in Jerusalem. (These weren’t believers, but rather Jews dedicated to the Law of Moses, but who refused to believe the things Moses wrote about Jesus.)

The Red Thread (@JeanWilund.com)At the Tower of Babel, God scattered the people across the world, creating different nations.

At Pentecost, God brought the Jews together into Jerusalem from every nation.

When the Jews heard the sound of the rushing wind, they ran to see what was happening. (That had to have been quite a sound for it to travel around that crowded city.)

When the Jews heard their own native languages being spoken by Galileans, who shouldn’t have been able to speak their tongues, they stood in shock.

(It makes me wonder how they knew they were Galilean. Was it like hearing a Southerner speaking French? No matter how well a Southerner knows the foreign vocabulary, they’re probably still going to sound like they’re from Paris, Tennessee — not Paris, France.) 

What were the believers saying in these many languages?

The Red Thread (@JeanWilund.com)At the Tower of Babel, everyone spoke one language and talked about the wonderful things they were doing and would do. They exalted their own name.

At Pentecost, the believers spoke languages from every nation, all exalting God’s great name and the things He’s done.

Of course, those who perhaps didn’t want to deal with the truth that they crucified the Son of God, grasped for an excuse.

“They’re just drunk, that’s all!” they said.

How ridiculous is that?

Alcohol impairs the ability of someone who’s drunk to speak even their own language well. No one is suddenly fluent in Swahili after one too many beers.

This large group of believers had not come together at 9:00 am to drink Mimosas and then instantly became fluent in the languages of every nation.

Despite some detractors, many listened to the message with humble hearts. They asked, “Brothers, what should we do?” (Acts 2:37)

The Red Thread (@JeanWilund.com)The people in Babel had heard God’s message and rejected it, refusing to “scatter and fill the earth.” Their hearts were full of pride.

The people in Jerusalem heard the message and accepted it. They trusted in Christ, repented of their sins, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Their hearts were humble.

About 3,000 were saved that day.

Fast forward to Acts 8.

God once again scattered the people, but this time for a different reason.

“. . . And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
~ Acts 8:1

God didn’t create the persecution; He just used it. (He’s good at using man’s own evil choices to fulfill His purposes.)

The Red Thread (@JeanWilund.com)In Babel, God sent the people off in shame and confusion, babbling as they went.

In Jerusalem, God sent the believers off in unity and in the power of His Spirit – no babbling – to proclaim the singular message of God’s incredible grace in offering salvation to every nation through His Son Jesus Christ.

The Lesson For Us Today:

♦ When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we’ll be blessed.

♦ When we choose not to humble ourselves and exalt ourselves instead, God is able to humble us for our good, and His glory.

♦ We must rest in the sovereignty of God. His ways don’t always make sense to us, but He always knows what’s the absolute best in every situation.

♦ God is exceedingly patient. He’s willing to wait thousands of years between giving a promise and its fulfillment. Don’t let doubt steal you of your joy as you wait for God to move in a situation. 

All of the Old Testament prophets eagerly awaited the first coming of Christ into the world, and all were blessed, but none lived to see it. We must not lose our eternal perspective. God’s timing is best. 

♦ When we learn to rest in Him and listen to Him, we’ll follow Him wherever He leads without regret.

May the Name that is above all names be exalted!

And what a difference it makes when the right name is exalted: 

“They worshiped together at the Temple each day,
met in homes for the Lord’s Supper,
and shared their meals with great joy and generosity —

all the while praising God and
enjoying the goodwill of all the people.
And each day the Lord added to their fellowship
those who were being saved.”
~ Acts 2:46-47

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QUESTION: How has God taken you from a Tower of Babel mentality to a Day of Pentecost heart? (Let me hear from you in the comment section.)

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[†] (BACK TO POST) A Red Thread Clue is a term I came up with to lump together any picture of Jesus Christ revealed in the Old Testament.

They can range from official prophecies given by the great prophets of God to mere reflections of Christ in the works or character of those we see in the Old Testament.

God left prophecies, types, and symbols of Christ throughout the lives and history of the Old Testament so that those living in the time when Christ came into the world in the form of man would have no excuse not to recognize Him as the Promised One — the Messiah.

This was important because many individuals, who came before and after Jesus came, claimed to be the Messiah, but only Jesus Christ fulfilled every single prophecy, type, and symbol.

Over two thousands years later, we can open the Bible and see how God worked every detail of every life to fulfill His purposes, including the purpose of pointing those living in the days of the Old Testament forward to His Son Jesus Christ, and those who’ve lived in the New Testament days back to Jesus and the Red Thread Clues of His Coming.

There are still many Red Thread Clues in the Old Testament that have yet to be fulfilled. Their fulfillment will come when Christ returns for the church, brings judgment upon those who have rejected His salvation, and sets up His Heavenly Kingdom.




What Was So Wrong With The Tower of Babel (Part Three) — & Why Do We Even Care?

 

If God is sovereign (and He is) why did He let them even begin the Tower of Babel?

If God is sovereign (and He is) why did He let them even begin the Tower of Babel?

 

If God is sovereign (and He is) then He knew the people of Shinar were going to build a tower to their great name before they laid the first brick.

Why didn’t He change their languages earlier, before they could gang up in Babel? 

Why did He even let them begin?

Since there’s no verse in the Bible that says, “I, the Lord, chose not to confuse the language of Babel earlier because . . .” then all we can do is look at what we see and what we know about God in the Bible for possible answers.

We’ll have to be content to wait until heaven to find the actual reason — not that it will matter then.

Why does it matter to me now?

Because every day we wake up to news of another person or group who did something somewhere to someone because they wanted what they wanted and didn’t care what it cost anyone else — and God let them.

If we can understand why God may have let the people of Shinar have their way for awhile, we’ll have a better understanding of why He lets bad things happen today — and why we don’t need to freak when He does.

Among the many possibilities, four stand out to me:

1. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” ~ 2 Peter 3:9

This verse refers to God’s unbelievable patience in waiting for Christ to return again so that more can humble themselves in repentance for their sins, and trust in Christ for salvation.

I feel God’s letting the people of Shinar continue in the path they chose is another example of God’s amazing patience.

God gave the people of Shinar plenty of time to humble themselves and choose to exalt the name of God, not their own.

His act of grace in choosing to confuse their language, instead of annihilating them, also emphasizes His great patience.

In letting them live, God gave them yet another opportunity to turn away from their self-serving pride and begin exalting the name of God in their brand new languages.

 

2. “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” ~ Hebrews 4:2

This verse isn’t referring to the people who built the Tower of Babel, but rather the Israelites who stood on the edge of the Promised Land.

They heard the reports of giants in the land and didn’t unite what they heard with faith in God to overcome those giants and give them the Land. Therefore, the whole group had to hang out in the wilderness for forty long years before God allowed them to enter the land. (Numbers 13-14)

This verse may not be speaking about the people of Shinar, but the principle remains the same:

Unbelief will get you somewhere, but not a place you want to be.

Unbelief didn’t get them where they wanted to be, but in the end, God got them where He wanted them to be.

Had they just believed God and obeyed Him, there’s no telling the challenges they could have avoided and the blessings they would’ve received.

They needed to understand that. I believe they got the message — but I don’t know if they chose to believe it.

 

3. “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” ~ Job 42:2

The people of Shinar weren’t getting away with anything, no matter what they thought.

God allowed them go their own way until He deemed the time was right for Him to step in.

God will often let us do what we’ve determined in our hearts to do up to a point so that He can let us know that we have no power apart from what He has allowed. 

“when I [God] said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” ~ Job 38:11 [The brackets are mine for clarification]

Jesus made this truth clear to Pontius Pilate when Pilate declared to Jesus that he had the power to crucify Him or set Him free. I wonder if Jesus had to stifle a laugh as He set Pilate straight.

(Click this link to read Jesus’ response and many amazing circumstances surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion that prove God is more in control than we often realize: If God Weren’t In Control.)

In the end, God will have His way – and His way is perfect and always for our good and His glory.

They needed to know that, and so do we — which brings me to my fourth possible reason God let them even begin the tower.

 

4. “These things happened to them [the Israelites in the wilderness after having been brought out of Egypt] as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” ~ I Corinthians 10:11 [The brackets are mine for clarification]

The tower is long gone, but their testimony of foolishness persists even today.

They wanted to create a name for themselves that would be known across the earth and be praised. 

Instead, God gave them the name Babel, which has become known across the earth and means “foolish talk.”

This was not exactly the legacy they were going for. Oops.

The testimony of their legacy serves to warn us about what kind of legacy we’re leaving.

The Towers of San Gimignano, Italy

The Towers of San Gimignano, Italy

In medieval San Gimignano, Italy, 72 towers stood proud across the hill city for all to see. Today 13 of those spectacular towers remain.

(In case you’re interested, each post in The Tower of Babel series features pictures I took while I visited San Gimignano.)

The towers symbolized the family’s wealth and prestige, thus each family wanted his tower to stand above all the others.

The tall tower competition only ground to a halt when the government stepped in and declared that no tower could be taller than their own city tower.

Apparently it didn’t take long before the law was ignored — the desire of the wealthiest to display their prominence was just too great. 

We haven’t changed much since the 1200’s.

The story is told that one citizen actually claimed his tower was made taller by the devil while he was away on a trip. I’m sure he would never have intentionally tried to break the law. Right! 

His tower is called Torre del Diavolo, or “Tower of the Devil.”

I wonder if that was really the name he or his family wanted to have as their legacy? 

Oops.

(See a photo of the Torre del Diavolo in What Was So Wrong With the Tower of Babel (Part Two) — God’s Response.)

We may not understand all God calls us to do, but we can trust Him.

He knows how to get us where we need to be, and He cares more about us and our good than anyone — even us. 

The people of Babel could tell us that in, oh, so many languages.

I have one more post left in The Tower of Babel series. We’ll take a look at The Red Thread in The Tower of Babel.  God gave us a Red Thread Clue in The Tower of Babel of what Jesus would do. Stay tuned!

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What Was So Wrong With The Tower of Babel — (Part Two) — God’s Response

How Did God Respond to the Tower of Babel? - Mercy

How Did God Respond to the Tower of Babel? – Mercy!

 

The people of Shinar broke ground on their pride and joy — the tower they knew would stand for all time to their greatness.

(See my post What Was So Wrong With the Tower of Babel — Part One for the first part of this story.) 

It was no doubt a glorious day for these people.

But a greater Glory was headed their way, and He meant business. 

 

1. The Lord came down.

“The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.”
~ Genesis 9:5

Wait a minute. If God can see everything from His heavenly home, why would He need to come down to this earthly place to see the tower? [1]

He didn’t need to come down. He chose to come down.

Why?

I don’t know. He doesn’t say, but I can see what He did once He got there.

These high and mighty men had determined in their hearts to build a tower that would reach up into the heavens, but they couldn’t.

Notice that these weren’t “sons of God” — which would imply they had hearts for God.

These were “sons of men” — men whose hearts were set on themselves. 

They wanted to be like gods, but they were just men.

God came down to investigate and make changes.

He didn’t come down to seek vengeance, but He did come down to judge.

How would He judge the builders of the tower?

 

2. God Judges Righteously

“And the Lord said,
“Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”
~ Genesis 11:6

The first time I read that verse as an adult, I was dumbfounded.

Did God really mean that if He didn’t stop them, they could have done anything! All things would have been possible for them?

That sounds like they’d have had the power of God.

No, they wouldn’t have had God’s power anymore than Adam and Eve became like God when they ate the forbidden fruit.

Instead, these men would have gotten drunk off their success and lived as though they were all-powerful. 

The King James Version says that nothing would be “restrained” from them.

There’s nothing they wouldn’t try to do, no one they wouldn’t try to control, and nothing they wouldn’t try to possess.

God has given man tremendous intellect. We not only got man to the moon, but we can publish articles about it on the internet and send it around the world instantly. 

We can also act the fool, though.  

We see this is in the sports world almost every day.

After a sports hero reaches the top of his sport, many suddenly feel entitled to do anything they want, no matter how wrong it is.

Even more telling is the current situation in the Middle East.

ISIS’s actions were evil from its inception, but their actions have only grown more monstrous and widespread. The more evil they commit, the more drunk they become for more evil.

It’s now clear that nothing is too heinous for them to do. Nothing will restrain them from their path, unless a stronger hand steps in and stops them.

Because of their unbelief, the people of Shinar were headed on a similar path of self-rule, self-indulgence, and self-exaltation, so the strongest hand stepped in. 

What was God’s big plan?

How would He stop these men who were so openly defying Him in order to exalt their own name, not His?

 

3. God Extends Grace
“Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”
~ Genesis 11:7

God changed their languages — He confused their speech.

Wow! I would have never thought of that plan!

I might have thought of raining fire down on them or sending a mighty wind to blow their tower over.

I might have hit my “Smite” button and just watched their tower crumble, but I never would have thought of something as simple as changing their language.

Brilliant!

Imagine how much bloodshed would be averted if we could just confuse the language of every member of ISIS?

The people of Shinar wanted to make a great name for themselves. Suddenly they couldn’t even understand the word for “name.”

In the end, they did make a name for themselves, though:

Babel  — a name that doesn’t speak of greatness but of foolish talk. Not exactly the type of name they were going for.[2] 

This is a perfect example of God’s mercy reigning through His righteousness. (Romans 5:21

In God’s matchless kindness, He confused their language, resulting in their giving up building the tower and spreading out across the earth — just as He’d told them to do in the beginning.

God’s purposes will not be thwarted.

Thank goodness one of His purposes is to extend grace and mercy!

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In my next post, we’re going to look at a question I had:

In God’s sovereignty, He knew they were going to attempt to build this tower, so why didn’t He stop it before it even got started? Hmmmm.

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[1] I cannot say unequivocally that God came down in physical form, but I have no reason to believe that when the Bible says He came down, that He didn’t physically come down.

I believe that if He did come down, it was probably in the form of Jesus Christ because John 1:18 tells us “no man has seen God at any time.”

Throughout the Old Testament we see appearances of Jesus long before He came down into the world as a baby — known as a “pre-incarnate appearance.”

It doesn’t take an over-abundance of brilliance to realize that whenever we see a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, it means that moment is a pretty big deal, and we ought to take note.

[2] Genesis 11:9 ~ “Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth…”

 




What Was So Wrong with the Tower of Babel? — (Part One) — I’m the Man!

 

Click to read What Was So Wrong with The Tower of Babel?

  

“They said to one another, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city,
and a tower whose top will reach into heaven,
and let us make for ourselves a name,
otherwise we will be scattered abroad
over the face of the whole earth.’”
~ Genesis 11:4

The people of Babel wanted to build the first skyscraper, but God wouldn’t give them a building permit. Why not?

God surely didn’t feel threatened that they’d actually build a tower so tall they could sneak into heaven and form some sort of revolt.

So what was the big deal?

What was so wrong about the Tower of Babel that God would come down in person and mix up their language, creating a babbling rabble all over a single tower?

God’s reaction seems extreme – sort of like God’s reaction to Cain and his offering seemed extreme.

(Check out “What Was So Wrong with Cain’s Offering” if you want to know the truth about that situation.)

Fortunately, God’s character never changes. He’s always just, good, and right.

Therefore, we only need to take a closer to see the truth jump out:

Back in Genesis 9 – long before the first brick was laid for the tower – Noah and his family stepped out of the ark into a new world and received this command from God:

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” ~ Genesis 9:1

How wonderful it would’ve been if they’d populated the world with holy and righteous children eager to follow God.

However, as I discussed in The Red Thread in Noah’s Ark — The Man, only Noah was found holy in God’s eyes – and he was only “considered” holy. That’s not the same as actually being holy.

We don’t even make it out of Genesis 9 before Noah’s son Ham reveals himself as a bad seed.

Ham’s seed sprouts a bunch of trouble, and the trouble centers itself in Babel around this particular tower.[1]

At this time, Noah’s descendants are moving around and “the whole earth used the same language and the same words.”[2]

Along the way, they came upon the land of Shinar and “settled there.”[3]

This is what started the problem – or should I say more accurately – revealed the problem.

They said to one another, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11:4).”

 

Let’s break this verse down and expose the root of the problem to find out what was so wrong with building the Tower of Babel:

 

1. Self-Rule

They said to one another, ‘Come’”

The people in Shinar didn’t want to obey God and go out and fill the earth.

God had told everyone, “Go.”

They told everyone, “Come.”

In other words, each said to God in their heart: 

“No. You’re not the boss of me. I do as I please.”

Even from a young age, we want to do what we want to do. When our youngest was three, and we told her it was time to go to sleep, she’d stick out her bottom lip and say, “No! I don’t want to go to fleep.”

Yes, she said, “fleep.” She couldn’t say “sleep.” It’s a lot cuter for a 3-year old to say she doesn’t want to go to fleep than it is to tell God, No. 

 

2. Self-Indulgence

“Let us build for ourselves a city and a tower
whose top will reach into heaven”

“Just a little bit more.” 

John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in American history, uttered those words when asked how much money would be “enough.” 

“Just a little bit more.” 

The people of Shinar weren’t content to wait on the Lord to provide. 

We’ll take care of ourselves how we want.

We’ll provide for ourselves what we want.

They looked at God’s command much the same way Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. They saw God’s command as keeping something good from them, not providing the greatest good for them.

Give me! Give me! Give me! I need! I need! I need!

 

3. Self-Exaltation

 “and let us make for ourselves a name”

Me! Me! Me! It’s all about Me!

They wanted the world to see how amazing they were. They wanted to make their name famous.

Their theme song could have been “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. “I’m the man! I’m the man! I’m the man!”

They couldn’t speak the world into existence or cause a world wide flood and dry the earth up again.

They couldn’t set the sun and moon in place nor create even a blade of grass, but they desired to be worshipped none the less.

Don’t we all, truth be told.

It really is about the attitude of the heart — that deceitfully wicked thing

Their purpose for coming together and building the tower was so they would be exalted on high to the praise of their great name. 

“I’m the man! I’m the man! I’m the man!”

 

4. Unbelief

“otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’”

We could be tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt that they just didn’t understand God’s command to scatter and fill the earth, except for what we just read:

“otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.

There goes any excuse of ignorance.

These people knew God’s command full well and didn’t like it. They issued their own command in full defiance of God.

Unbelief was at the root of their rebellion.

They didn’t believe the promises of God that He would care for them.

They didn’t believe God’s plan was the best plan for them.

It’s not that they didn’t believe in God or believe that He had any power. We know they did because they state they need to come together or else they’ll “be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  

Scattered abroad by who? The wind?

They thought if they banded together they could keep God from scattering them. 

They know it’s going to take all of them to defy God, but they felt they were men enough to do it.

“I’m the man! I’m the man! I’m the man!”

They had belief in themselves, but not in God or His promises.

Big mistake.

 

To sum it up: 

The people of Shinar wanted to
rule themselves,
exalt themselves,
and indulge themselves,
because they didn’t believe in the promises of God.

We haven’t changed much, have we?

 

In my next post we’ll look at God’s reaction to their plan. It’s curious and astounding.

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[1] One of Ham’s seed was the original Nimrod and the first world ruler. He established a kingdom, which included none other than Babel (Genesis 10:8-10).