The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the first book of the Torah, Genesis, or as the Hebrews call it, “In the Beginning.” The text is Genesis 11:1-9 and is a familiar pairing on Pentecost Sunday with the Acts text and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. With the Easter season behind us, we have returned to Old Testament texts for the first lesson.
This pericope is the well-known story of the Tower of Babel, which is a strong representation of the “separation/reunion motif” in Holy Scripture. Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden man has felt the pain of his separation from God. Thus, according to man’s usual pattern, he attempts to bridge the gap his sin has caused. What better way to reunite with the Creator than by building a tower which will put you on God’s level and give you your own special status and name. In other words, man is attempting to be equal with his creator. It is a fool’s errand, but man is caught up in the act and fails to see the folly. Man has always wanted to bridge the gap between himself and God. He feels he must somehow make himself acceptable, prove his own worth, show his own power, or at the very least fix the mess he caused. As it is now and has been since the Fall, man fails!
The manmade structure of the Tower of Babel is a failure, but the God-provided structure of the Cross bridges the gap! As Luther says, “The Cross is the structure that holds Heaven and Earth together.” This is why he identifies Jacob’s “ladder” as the Cross. It is God’s doing which reunites God and man. The LORD accomplishes this, not by requiring man to come up to God, but rather, by sending His Son down to man to hang on a tree.
The manmade structure of the Tower of Babel is a failure, but the God provided structure of the cross bridges the gap!
God is not worried for Himself about man rising to His level. Rather, He is concerned for man, that they will think there is nothing they cannot do together and thus will not need to rely on God. The confusion of the language at Babel is truly an act of God’s grace lest men should think they do not need Him and suffer eternally for this dangerous idea.
Thus, on Pentecost Sunday we are reminded how God confused the language of man at Babel, so man will fulfill His command to fill the earth. Now, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is poured out and the language of man is united again for the Gospel to be preached to the ends of the earth.
Concordia Theology- Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 11:1-9.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 11:1-9.