The History of Babeling

Sun, Sep 29, 2019
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:23 mins 47 secs

Message text

The History of “Babeling”
Genesis 11: 1 – 9

How many times have you heard someone say ... “I wish you would stop babeling?”
Parents frequently make the mistake of thinking they speak the same language as their children. We see this kind of misunderstanding all the time. Here are a few examples.
I can't finish my dessert." Meaning: Your child is defiantly sick and should be taken to the doctor ASAP.
"I didn't do it." Translation: It hasn't been conclusively proven that I did it.
"Frankie Smith is such a no-good rotten liar!" Meaning:
Expect a call from Frankie's parents.
"Mom said it was okay." Translation: I'm going to ask Mom as soon as you say "yes."
Several years ago, there was a tiny village in Scotland called “Lost.” It’s such a quaint name for a quaint little village... but they had a problem. Lost kept losing their sign. A local official explained, "For many years now, the sign has continually been taken because all it says on it is 'Lost.'" He said, “Many people want to have their photograph taken by it looking bewildered (because the sign said “lost”) and every so often it gets taken.”
Now that created two problems: 1st – it got expensive. The signs cost about $400 a piece. And 2nd - deliveries were often lost because some delivery drivers had no idea where "Lost" was. Eventually they renamed the city “Lost Farm” and apparently haven’t had a problem since.
Down thru history towns and cities have been named for all kinds of unusual reasons including the city we’re talking about today... the city of Babel. Why was it called “Babel?” Genesis 11:9 explains: “... its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”
Now the story in Genesis only takes 9 verses to tell, and is never referred to again in Scripture. But, its impact on mankind has been really long-lasting. From that day to this... the world has been divided by about 5000 languages. And that diversity of languages has created misunderstandings, tensions, conflicts... even wars.
But it wasn’t always that way. Before Babel “... the whole earth had one language and the same words.” Genesis 11:1
When going over this sermon, it occurred to me that one of the first questions people might ask is this: “Is this a TRUE story?” Was there really a city called Babel
with a tower reaching to the heavens, and do all languages really come from one original language?
Those who reject Scripture mock this story. They’ll say it was “an origin myth meant to explain why the world's peoples speak different languages.” And they dismiss it as a “made-up” story created by an ignorant culture.
So, was it made up? Is it a myth? Of course not. The fact that it’s in the Bible is really all I need to convince me – that it really happened. But there are outside sources to verify that this is indeed a true story.
ILLUS: For example, the ancient culture of the Chaldeans (from about 1500 BC) retold the story this way: “The building of this temple offended the gods. In a night they threw down what had been built. They scattered them abroad, and made strange their speech. The progress they impeded”
Another ancient culture of about that time period, spoke of a golden age when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the lord of wisdom.
Fast forward to about 600 B.C.. Babylon had a King named Nabopolassar who was something of an ancient archaeologist. He apparently would find old temples and other ancient buildings and rebuild them. He claimed that he had found the remains of the Tower of Babel and wrote: "At that time, I was commanded to build the Tower of Babel which had become weakened by time and fallen into disrepair..."
And, from what we can tell, Nabopolassar didn’t finish the tower. That task fell to his son, a King we all know as Nebuchadnezzar. Recently, a chiseled stone came to light which is called the “Tower of Babel Stele” which has a large engraved picture of Nebuchadnezzar looking toward the tower he built.
That tower appears to have stood for another 300 years until destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.
So, this was a true story. And given the Bible’s consistent accuracy on other historical events that’s good enough for me. But what about the language thing? I mean... we have about 5000 languages now, can we seriously believe that all those languages started with ONE language?
Well, yeah... that’s what the Bible says. But, don’t take my word for it.
ILLUS: Back in 1990 - U.S. News And World Report had this on their cover of their magazine: "The Roots of Language - How Modern Speech Evolved From A Single, Ancient Source." In the article, they wrote about modern linguists who were “reconstructing the pathways by which the world's roughly 5,000 languages arose from a handful of ancient 'mother' tongues. A few radical linguists have gone even further, claiming they have reconstructed pieces of the mother of them all:
the original language spoken at the dawn of the human species.” (Nov. 5, 1990 issue of US News and World Report magazine)
The TV program Nova had a special program where they examined the phenomenal discoveries of linguists in Russia and America who had shown that all languages could have come from a single, ancient source.
So, it’s a true story. But what difference does it make? Why should I care? So what if this was an actual event that occurred in the distant past? Well Romans 15:4 explains why we should care: “... whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
You see, there’s something in this story that God wanted us to see. Something that would instruct and encourage us. But what did God want us to see?
Well 1st, it seems, He wants us to see why He did what He did. And there seems to be at least TWO reasons why He did what He did.
And the first reason that catches my attention is found in Genesis 11:6 “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.”
What’s God talking about here? Well, He’s talking about the people of Babel becoming like the people who lived Before The Flood. In Genesis 6 we read “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” Genesis 6:5-6
Before the flood, there was one language. And in the days before the flood, people abandoned God and embraced evil.
It says every intention of their hearts was evil. It’s like they stayed up nights thinking of ways to do bad stuff. Evil had become an easy thing... and nothing was impossible for them.
Apparently, that’s exactly what was beginning to happen in Babel. And God said, “we’re not doing this again” and He decided to fix the problem BEFORE it became a problem.
Now, what was it that these folks were doing that made it so obvious to God that they were going to do evil? The answer to that question can be found in why these people were building the city to begin with. In Genesis 9:1 we read “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and FILL THE EARTH.’”
But just a few years later, in Genesis 11:4, we read “Then they said, ‘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.’”
God said: FILL THE EARTH and the people of Babel said “I don’t think so. We like it right here... and we’re not going anywhere.”
Now WHY would they do that? Why would they deliberately disobey God? (PAUSE) Because they were afraid. They were afraid that they’d be forgotten so they wanted to “make a name for themselves.” And they were afraid of the unknown. If they were dispersed over the face of the earth they’d be vulnerable... and they didn’t like that idea.
Their fear was based on the belief that they could NOT trust God. God (if there was a god) would forget them, and He definitely wasn’t going to protect or supply for them.
When people don’t believe they have God to supply for them, they tend to engage in the worst kinds of evil. We’ve seen proof of that in our own recent history. Just think of nations who embraced communism – Russia, China, North Korea and so on. What stands out about these countries?
First (because they were Communist) they rejected God. And second (because they rejected God) they were known for tyranny and oppression. They allowed no freedom for their people, because they feared that free people would overthrow them, and they eliminated huge portions of their population because of any perceived threat to their authority. They were afraid and so they embraced evil.
This type of thing can even happen to Christians. If we live our lives like God isn’t there for us, we can engage in evil as well. James says in James 4:2 “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.”) WHO did these Christians NOT ask for help from? God. And because they lived like God had no influence on their lives, they fought and quarreled... and worse.
That’s what happens when you live your lives under a bad theology. When folks leave God out of the picture they can become afraid. I’ve always been amused by this “Charlie Brown” cartoon where Lucy and Linus and looking out of a window at the falling rain. Lucy says: “Boy, look at it rain.... What if it floods the whole world?” To which Linus replies
“It will never do that... In the ninth chapter of Genesis God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.” The next frame has Lucy saying “You’ve taken a great load off my mind...” and Linus replies “Sound theology has a way of doing that!”
ILLUS: Sound theology deals with fear, because sound theology makes us focus on a God who has the power to deal with the evils of this world. By contrast, bad theology breeds fear. As I was reading the story of the tower of Babel in preparation for this morning’s sermon, an example of modern-day bad theology came to mind.
How many of you have ever heard of the conspiracy theory that there will one day be a “One World Government”.
Don’t listen to these guys, they’re crazy. It’s not going to happen. Do you know WHY?
I know this isn’t going to happen? Because Genesis 11 is God’s guarantee it won’t happen. He won’t let it happen! The people who sell this idea are really selling FEAR. They’re selling the idea that God can’t help you – and if God can’t help you, you should be afraid! Very afraid. But that’s just bad theology. It’s false thinking. It’s heresy. You need not fear. If God really wanted a One World Government... you couldn’t stop it anyway and God would still be in control.
The whole point of Genesis 11 is that God is in control. In fact, God was not just in control of Babel... He used what happened in Babel to lay the groundwork for something even greater.
Just think about this: at Babel God saw sin and turned one language into many languages. God showed His power by making it so that no one could understand what anyone else said. But about 4000 years later, God used His power to give a message to all people in the midst of their confusion.
In Acts 2 we’re told “there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:5)
It was the day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem there were a multitude of people “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians” Acts 2:9-11
There was a multitude of people in Jerusalem with a multitude of languages. It was the day of Pentecost... the day God had chosen to begin His church. Ten days earlier, Jesus had ascended into heaven, but now (at Pentecost)
He was sending down His Holy Spirit upon mankind as He had prophesied ages before. We’re told the Apostles “... 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.” Acts 2:1-4
And this huge crowd of Jews from all those different lands and different languages could hear what these Apostles were saying as they glorified God. And the crowd marveled at what they heard because: “... how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” Acts 2:8
At Babel, God divided the people because of their sin. Now, at Pentecost, God united all those who would be healed of their sins. God was not limited by the confusion of languages because He had come with a message that would – forever afterward – speak with one language.
I came across a website that spoke of “sacred languages” that different religions have. They said that for the Jews, that sacred language is Hebrew; for the Muslims, it’s Arabic; for many Buddhists, it’s a language called Pali; and for Hindus, it’s Sanskrit. But, as Christians, we don’t need a sacred language. We have “ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism.
ONE God and Father of all.” And we have ONE message (the life and death of Jesus.) Christians meet, in every nation of the world and they speak in many languages we may not understand, but Christians partake of this “bread & Cup” which represent Jesus’ body and blood, shed for our sins and everyone knows what it means.
And, in every nation around the world, the message of baptism speaks of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and of our accepting His forgiveness in our lives.
We have no need of ONE sacred language because we have a message that speaks to all nations and all languages of the love of God for mankind. That’s why so many believers are dedicated to translating the Bible into as many languages as possible, so that God’s love can be read by as many people as possible.
As Revelation 5 declares “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” Revelation 5:9

Sermon Contributor: Jeff Strite


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