Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

    The opening eleven chapters of the book of Genesis seek to explain why the world is the way it is. And though these stories were first told thousands of years ago, they offer a surprisingly accurate vision of our world, even today.

    The final story of this opening section of our Scriptures is none other than the Tower of Babel. A capstone story told in a single paragraph.

    Genesis tells us that the whole earth had one language, and few words. Though they did not say much, like today, mass communication was easy.

    But what they did choose to say to one another speaks volumes. Only twice in this passage are the words of this ancient civilization recorded, and yet both times the same phrase is used by those building the Tower:

    Let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.

    And they had brick for stone. Then they said,

    Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens,

    and let us make a name for ourselves.

    Let us make is not neutral language in the narrative of Scripture.

    It is God himself who first says Let us make in Genesis 1 when he creates the first humans in his image.

    And in Genesis 11 we see humanity taking the creative reins.

    It begins innocently enough: let us make bricks. The mandate given to humanity to subdue the earth has begun to play out. Humanity is learning to master the natural world through the use of technology.

    Technology helps us accomplish our goals faster, more efficiently, and without getting our hands quite as dirty.

    If your goal is to wear clean clothes to work each day, a washing machine and dryer will go a long way in helping you reach that goal.

    If your goal is to live in Richardson but work in downtown Dallas, a highway system and motor vehicles will go a long way in helping you reach that goal.

    But what happens when your goal is less than noble?

    What does progress, advancement, and technology offer you if your goal is to gain power? Or punish those you don’t like? Or eliminate entire people groups from the face of the earth?

    Technology offers you an opportunity to accomplish your goals faster, more efficiently, and without getting your hands quite as dirty.

    Technology does not offer its own moral compass. It simply helps you do whatever it is you already want to do.

    And sometimes, it can be scary what our hearts want to do.

    Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens,

    and let us make a name for ourselves.

    The story of the Tower of Babel is the story of humanity seeking to be the master of their own fate, the shapers of their own world, the judge and jury of what is right and wrong.

    They set their minds to establishing a civilization that had no need of God. That’s why their tower broke the plane of heaven.

    And it worked.

    Genesis tells us that God saw the tower. And his response may surprise you. He did not laugh at their futile attempt. He did not rain down fire and brimstone in righteous anger.

    He saw the tower for what it was: an ominous sign of what humanity is capable of accomplishing when left to its own devices.

    And the Lord said, “…this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”

    This shiny new tower—built by those who held power out of a desire to reshape the world into whatever they saw fit—was just the beginning.

    So God confused their language, and scattered them across the world.

    This story stands on its own as a compelling explanation for countless atrocities throughout history and today. Of what happens when an Empire sets their heart on ruling the whole world, when a people set love of country as the highest good, no matter the cost to others, when a leader’s ambition for power blinds them to the trail of destruction they leave in their wake.

    The Tower of Babel is a prototype of the story of human history.

    But it is not the end of the story.

    The Tower of Babel explains why the world is the way it is.

    The Day of Pentecost explains the world as it will be.

    Against the backdrop of the Tower of Babel, the Day of Pentecost presents a stark contrast.

    Instead of mankind charting their own course, the Day of Pentecost begins with God’s people awaiting his direction. Huddled together in a room, seeking His wisdom. Creatures relying wholly upon their Creator.

    At Pentecost, Humanity did not reach up to God, attempting to grasp him in their hands. Rather, God came down. It was not human ingenuity that saved the day, but the very breath of God.

    The Holy Spirit came to rest on God’s people. And then God’s people got to work.

    And the results were extraordinary.

    At Babel, confusion reigned supreme. One language became many, and communication became impossible.

    At Pentecost, many languages did not quite become one—each maintained its distinct contribution to human culture—but despite these many languages, all barriers to hearing the good news of God in Christ were removed.

    What happened next was no less miraculous.

    Peter, who weeks earlier denied that he ever knew Jesus, preaches among the greatest (and shortest) sermons you have ever heard, and thousands join the Christian Church.

    And it didn’t stop there.

    If you can carve out a few hours over the course of this next week, read the Book of Acts.

    You will be encouraged, surprised, and maybe even a bit confused. But one thing will ring true as you read: despite many obstacles, conflicts, twists, turns, and dead ends, God was at work in the world in a powerful way through his Church.

    God was establishing a new way forward for humanity.

    God’s people were given the Holy Spirit, not just to comfort them in Jesus’ absence, but also to teach them to have right judgment in all things. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, God’s goals can become our goals.

    When God saw the Tower of Babel and all that it represented, he knew something had to happen.

    This is only the beginning of what they will do;

    But now that God’s Spirit lives within his faithful people, the same can be said of the Church.

    and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”

    The rise of the Christian faith was improbable, to say the least. As sociologist Rodney Stark once framed the question:

    How did a tiny and obscure messianic movement from the edge of the Roman Empire dislodge classical paganism and become the dominant faith of Western civilization?

    The Christian Church grew from 1000 members in the year 40—.0017% of the population of the Roman Empire—to over 33 million by the year 350. That represents over 56% of the population of the Roman Empire at the time.

    But it was not just the impressive numerical growth that points to the power of God at work through the Christian Church to accomplish the impossible.

    Deeply rooted practices of the Roman world were challenged head-on by the growing Christian community. The widespread and legal trade of young girls and boys for sex, the killing of unwanted infants, the dehumanizing of slaves, and the worship of the Emperor are just a handful of cultural norms against which Christianity demanded a different path.

    These earliest Christians were not seeking ways to be counter-cultural. They were not interested in leading revolutions. They were simply living a life in submission to the God who made them, regardless of how backwards, how different they seemed to the world around them. And as a result of their faithfulness, many of these institutions and practices began to crumble.

    The world has its own agenda. Its own temptation to view this life as ours to do with as we please. There are countless opportunities to build towers to make a name for ourselves. And with the help of technology, we might just succeed.

    But God has sent his Spirit into the hearts of his people. And when God teaches his people to have right judgement in all things, to direct and rule them according to His will, their very lives will challenge some of the towers being built around them.

    And all of this begins, for us, in our Baptism. If you have been Baptized, let the Feast of Pentecost renew in you a commitment to living in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you have not, the invitation stands for you just as it stood for those who were there on the Day of Pentecost.

    God is at work in the world, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you are invited to join Him.

    This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.