Pentecost – C LSB #’s 584, 831 (tune 498), 917
Text – Genesis 11:1
Now the whole earth had one language & the same words.
The Same Evil Words
Sticks & stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me....... It was a well-worn phrase during the years I was growing up. It was meant as positive self-talk encouraging someone to stand firm in the face of ridicule by small-minded people. However, the testimony of countless victims makes it clear that names do have the power to hurt me & each of you.
Names are simply a specific type of word & all types of words have been used for evil ever since the Devil spoke in the 1st verse of Genesis 3. You may remember these words, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Words spoken by human beings have continued to bring evil into God’s creation ever since.
Genesis 6:5 records this prior to The Flood, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, & that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Thoughts are basically words that have not been spoken yet, & every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually.
Without the Holy Spirit living in us that’s where all human beings are at. Given what’s happening in our nation, & in Ukraine, Genesis 6:11 sounds eerily similar to what we perceive today, “…the earth was filled with violence.” Verse 13 says that God, “…determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.”
Noah & his family were the only human beings on earth who trusted God’s word. They built the Ark as Yahweh commanded them & He rescued them in it. Still, in just the 3rd chapter after God’s promise connected to the rainbow, we have the OT reading for today, & mankind is right back to their old, evil ways: “Come, let us build ourselves a city & a tower with its top in the heavens, & let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4 ESV) Not wanting to destroy mankind again, as He did with The Flood, this time God addresses the problem in a very different way.
At the time, all people still spoke the same language, allowing them to communicate easily & without confusion. The problem, however, was not that communication was easy. It’s that the words of men were evil, & since communicating was simple much greater evil could be done, & it could be done quickly.
Fast forward from the tower of Babel to the year 2022. The internet & social media are allowing people to communicate much more rapidly than just 30 years ago. I suspect that many of you can remember what life & communication were like back in 1992. Cell phones were just becoming two G devices & the 1st text message was sent. It said, “Merry Christmas.”
If all of modern communication were still focused on celebrating the birth of Jesus, our world would be a much different place. Sadly, there are an increasing number of people in our country who are trying to leave the words of God behind. Those are words like:
“In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1) “…male & female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) “…You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) “Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven & on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18) “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, & the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)
Whenever human beings leave behind the Word of God all manner of suffering & tragedy will follow, yet many today are wondering, even in churches & among people, who claim to be Christian, “Is Jesus really necessary for salvation?”
Genesis 11 tells us what the Lord saw with the tower of Babel: “Behold, they are one people, & they have all one language, & this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” The people at Babel were trying to make a name for themselves. They did not want God’s name, nor they did they want God’s Word. We know that because here is the Word of Yahweh, “God blessed Noah & his sons & said to them, ‘Be fruitful & multiply & fill the earth.’” (Genesis 9:1 ESV)
That ‘filling the earth’ part is exactly what the people of Babel were trying to deny: “…let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4 ESV) You may think, “Hey, they aren’t talking about murdering anyone or smuggling in fentanyl. What’s the big deal?”
The problem is that God is good. Have you thought of that as a problem? In fact, He is the only thing in this universe that is good, & the people of Babel are denying God’s will & God’s Word. Such denial always & only leads to bad things. Adam & Eve just ate a piece of fruit, but it was fruit that God’s Word told them not to eat.
Like the original fall into sin, the people at Babel did not trust God’s goodness. They were working as a team, but that teamwork was based upon their own ideas of what was good. They were wrong! They were evil! They were plowing headlong towards destruction & death. The heavenly Father intervened in an attempt to steer them away from it.
Why is all of that important to us in the year 2022? Because all the problems in this world, in your life & in mine, have the same root of disobedience. The moment we turn away from the source of all goodness, in that moment we are lost, naked & afraid. Sure, we struggle to admit that but it is still so very true. Each of us has built our own towers to heaven.
Katrina was baptized, 14 years ago, by God’s Holy Spirit, & it was done with simple water connected to the Word of God, by the command of God. The Holy Spirit has been working in her life ever since such that today, she will be, with her own words, confessing that Jesus has saved her from sin, death & the devil. No, she’s not going to begin living a perfect life, but she will trust that Jesus did that already, for her. And resting in the knowledge of God’s mercy, Katrina can live a life of purpose & meaning no matter how the world sees that. Katrina does not need to make a name for herself because Jesus has already made a name for her.
The Word of God makes a name for each of us. We are called to be God’s own. Therefore, His Word challenges us & encourages. It humbles us & lifts us up. Our own words are evil, due to our sinful nature, so we memorize God’s Word because it is holy.
Since His Word never returns empty, whenever we receive the Word of God, which we can do through memory work, that Word then shapes our hearts & our thoughts & our deeds. The prophet Zephaniah, as with all the prophets, was sent to shape the people of God. Listen to God’s Word in Zephaniah 3:
1 Woe to her who is rebellious & defiled, the oppressing city! 2 She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God. 3 Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. 4 Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law.
5 The Lord within her is righteous; He does no injustice; every morning He shows forth His justice… each dawn He does not fail; 8 “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.
9 “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord & serve Him with one accord. 11 “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, & you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.
12 But I will leave in your midst a people humble & lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, 14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice & exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. Amen.
“How shall they hear,” who have not heard news of a Lord who loved & came; nor known His reconciling word, nor learned to trust a Savior’s name? Spirit of love, within us move; Spirit of truth, in power come down! So shall they hear & find & prove Christ is their life, their joy, their crown. Amen. LSB 831:1 & 5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet