An ambitious building project came to a screeching halt. What happened? In the 11th chapter of Genesis we read how people got together to build a great city with towering skyscraper. Their goal was to become famous and to unify the world under one capital – incidentally the goal of many rising and falling empires in the history of mankind! With the introduction of foreign languages, however, God threw a mighty curve ball. It became increasingly difficult for people to get on the same page, let alone to pursue world unity by setting up a global government that was to represent all people. Instead of staying together people divided into their respective language groups and formed nations while separating and scattering into the four corners of this world, thus forever abandoning the construction project of the Tower of Babel.
With Babel came native and foreign tongues, and so we have been in dire need of translators to be able to communicate with people all over the world. “Babel” sounds like a Hebrew term that means “confusion.” And the confusion indeed is profound – even among people speaking the same language. Worse still, Heaven and Earth have trouble relating, which we can trace back to the time right after we were expelled from the Garden of Eden. We have been struggling continuously with all kinds of communication problems. We experience difficulties understanding the other person, much less can we make sense of what God has to say to us at times. Consequently, God has been misunderstood, and in the realm of human relations people have been misunderstood.
Here is where the Holy Spirit comes in: the Holy Spirit plays a crucial role as translator. He translates God’s language into human language by explaining God’s thoughts to humans. Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit to His followers as an advocate and His representative. In the 14th chapter of his gospel John wrote down Jesus’ description of the Holy Spirit. According to John’s eye witness Jesus said: “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” The Holy Spirit speaks God’s truth into the human heart and opens the door to a deeper level of communication by translating between humans and between God and humans. This is how the gift of tongues has become the powerful antidote to the Babel event. Instead of confusion there is meaningful conversation. Instead of separation bridges are built. The Spirit of God is the greatest global peace movement ever. Today the Spirit is knocking on everybody’s door asking to draw near to God; and all we have to do is … lend a listening ear!