Doing the impossible sounds like something God would cheer for, right? However, this phrase was actually recorded as a spiritual concern in Genesis 11:6. It seems that mankind had sought to reach the heavens by way of a large tower in the plain of Shinar. You may know the story as the Tower of Babel.
Babel of course references the confusion of languages, thought necessary by the host of heavens to stop these post Deluge entrepreneurs, who interestingly were using “brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.” Perhaps the flood in Noah’s day had proven the efficacy of tar, though not sure when brick making came into being. Perhaps it began in the building of the great city of Nineveh referenced in Chapter 10. It seemed that mankind was finally regrouping after leaving the Ark in Noah’s day.
So why this heavenly intervention, and if such a world changing event, why only nine verses tucked away in the entire Pentateuch? First it seems contrary to the positive desire for God’s people to prosper, at least based on the message of today’s pulpits. Secondly, if that was not the case, what was the reason for the confusing? Perhaps to scatter families for their good, now clustered in such a space that extreme vertical construction had become a goal. Most likely however, to create a pause in their lives for a spiritual adjustment? I find that to be necessary for me when I get carried too away with my own enterprises!
What interests me more is that just after Christ’s resurrection, at Pentecost, a common language was restored by way of the church. Could the church have finally been able to communicate with every tribe and tongue by way of the Spirit? Speaking in unknown tongues was introduced by the Spirit with no limitation on the church apart from the Roman government. It is interesting that within 300 years the government would negotiate a more acceptable means than persecution and once more institutional religion, which Jesus had contested with his own life, was on top again.
As a fourth generation Pentecostal, I know the beauty of a prayer language and the phenomenal prophetic edge that a message in tongues to an unbeliever can bring…particularly if delivered in a language the hearer recognizes but knows to be foreign to the speaker. Of course all done in order, with an interpretation or Word of Knowledge delivered in sync.
Most churches no longer accommodate such bizarre spiritual interludes for fear of loss of income and attendance. God’s intention at Pentecost was surely not just another religious denomination. Perhaps tongues, signs and wonders were a means of bringing the Gospel message to a people eventually reunified, “His Kingdom come, His will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven?” Then, a New Heaven and a New Earth brought about through the unity of His creation?
Was Babel a hiatus in the plan, until righteousness could be restored through the Son of God Himself? Have we as Pentecostals stopped far short of our heritage, while the institutional church still kicking and screaming has for the most part become irrelevant?
Is our postmodern culture now more self-assured than even in Babel’s day, convinced that nothing is impossible through the common language created by technology?
If so, stats like the following cause me pause, when culture and the church seem content to leave “the least of these” behind, right here in my own county: Children under 18 living in high poverty census tracts, 52%; Living in concentrated poverty census tracts, 30%!(1)
Thank God there are those, like Love Out Loud(2), who desire a better country, “whom God is not ashamed to be called their God.” (Hebrews 11:16 NIV). Men and women engaging as never before in true marketplace demonstration of the Spirit. Their lives and hearts focused with Christ on those left behind by a world that now seems maddened by success, greed and power.