Message from Sunday, June 9th, 2019
"Many Languages But One God"
Genesis 11: 1 - 9
If we’ve ever wondered why we have all kinds of different languages in the world, we need to look no further. Our text gives us the answer. At one time, there was only one language in the world. Everyone spoke the same language. But that all changed. God caused the people at the Tower of Babel to speak different languages.
Why did God do this? God had wanted the people of the earth to settle the entire earth and not remain in one spot. In direct opposition to God’s command, the people decided to settle in one place, in the land of Shinar, probably somewhere in modern-day Iraq. They intended to build a city and a huge tower there. But this displeased God. So, in order to foil their plans, God caused them to speak different languages. If they weren’t able to communicate with one another, they wouldn’t be able to carry out their plans.
As a result of God’s causing them to speak different languages, communication between them broke down. They weren’t able to build the city and tower they intended to build. So they moved away from each other and settled in different parts of the world. They developed their own cultures and traditions. In many cases, they developed their own religions and created their own gods.
This is evident in our world today. We have many different languages in the world. People live in nations, united in that they speak the same language and pretty much follow the same customs and traditions. Some nations even have their own religion. For example, the official religion of Sweden is Lutheranism. In Japan, it is Shintoism. In Thailand it’s Buddhism. In India it’s Hinduism. In Saudi Arabia it’s Islam. The list goes on. These nations have their own customs and traditions and religion.
Now, all this diversity in our world has caused some problems, the biggest problem being unable to understand each other. We are suspicious of those who don’t speak our language and value our traditions and customs. We’re not sure what is really going on in their heads. Do they intend us harm or not? We don’t know. So we proceed with caution around them.
There are times, too, when we aren’t patient with people who speak a language other than our own. “Everyone should speak English in the world.” I remember when I was in the military stationed in Holland. Some of the guys I worked with would complain that Dutch was spoken. “Why don’t they speak English in this country?” is what I heard them say in frustration. We Americans don’t like to learn other languages. Everyone in the world should speak English. There is a joke about Americans. I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not, but this is it. What do you call a person who speaks several different languages? A polyglot. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? An American. I realized I got off topic a little bit. But we need to realize the world is made of people who have their own culture and language, which are just as valid as our own. I think if we took the time to learn another language and culture, there would be less misunderstanding among nations. We wouldn’t have the tensions we have now.
Well, getting back on track, the reason we have different languages in the world today is because of what happened at the Tower of Babel. We could say that it is a result of sin. People refused to heed God’s command to settle the entire earth and so God confused their tongues so that they could no longer live together. The result is that we have many nations and different languages today.
This situation has made it more difficult to spread the Gospel. It takes time and money to learn a language in order to tell a person in another country about Jesus. But this really is no excuse not to spread the Gospel. The reason the church exists is to be Christ’s witness in the world. So we do our best to overcome the language and cultural barriers in our world today. It’s the only way we can reach the people of the world today.
In the Book of Acts, we see that the Lord bestowed the gift of the Holy Spirit upon believers in Jerusalem. This allowed the disciples and others to speak in different languages immediately. They didn’t have to study long hours to master the languages of the world. This was God’s way to deal with the diversity of languages in the world at that time as a result of what happened at the Tower of Babel.
Unfortunately, we have to go the academic route when it comes to learning a language. The Holy Spirit doesn’t give us the gift of tongues in the same way He did the apostles. But this shouldn’t hinder our mission to spread the Gospel to all peoples because all peoples and nations belong to Him.
Earlier I mentioned that there are many nations today with their own traditions and culture and even religion. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that there is only one true God, and that is the God we worship—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The true God is the God of all peoples whether they believe in Him or not, whether they worship Him or some other god. God Almighty is the true God.
That’s why Jesus commanded His disciples just before He ascended into heaven to preach the Gospel to all peoples. If God hadn’t been the God of all people, He wouldn’t have commanded the disciples to go to all people. This is why we continue to preach the Gospel to all people no matter who they are. They all need God’s forgiveness in His Son Jesus. It doesn’t matter if they are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or whatever. They need Jesus because as Peter said there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.
I think we all understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people no matter what language they speak or what religion they are. But we fail to get excited about Jesus’ salvation for all people. And we don’t see the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel. Some of us do, but most of us don’t. I pray that the Holy Spirit will change our hearts and attitude toward the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. He’s the only one who can. I certainly can’t. Only the Holy Spirit can move us to value the Gospel and understand the necessity of preaching the Gospel to all nations.
One thing we don’t think about is that the language barrier disappears when people come to faith in Jesus. Sure, the language barrier on this earth remains, but among the community of the saints in heaven there is no language barrier. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ becomes a part of this community in heaven. When we proclaim the Gospel and a person believes it, that person becomes a member of the community in heaven where everyone understands each other.
A day is coming when we will enter heaven. There will be no language barrier. Everyone will speak the same language. Heaven won’t be divided into nations. There won’t be different religions. Pagan practices and traditions will be absent. All that divides people now on this earth won’t exist in heaven. There will be one God, one people, one language. Everyone will get along.
We have the wonderful honor of bringing this good news to the world. May God continue to use us to bring hope to the world.