In Part 1, we covered the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. To sum it up briefly, the people found a comfortable place and wanted to settle and put down roots, but God’s plan was for them to scatter and fill the earth. The people came together and built a tower that reached high into the heavens. It was a monument to their ingenuity and skills. It glorified man, not God. God could have destroyed the tower and even the people, but instead found a better way to move them along to fulfill His purpose. He said, “Come let Us go down and there confuse their language”, which meant the Father, Son and Holy Spirit worked together to confuse their language, which naturally separated them into groups that then spread out all over the world. The word babel means a confused mixture of sounds or voices. So you would hear a mix of languages and may not understand them, but someone could. This is opposed to babble, with two b’s, which is foolish or meaningless chatter.
So what does this have to do with Pentecost?
Leviticus 23:21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
Pentecost is part of the Jewish Feast of Shavouth, or Feast of Weeks. Pentecost literally means 50. It was observed 50 days after the wave offering of Passover and celebrates the end of the grain harvest. All Jewish males were to return to Jerusalem for this sacred assembly (holy convocation). That is why there were so many people in Jerusalem when the disciples were in the upper room waiting for the Promise of the Father as Jesus had instructed them.
Acts 2:1-4 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Pentecost is one of the annual Jewish feasts, as outlined in Leviticus 23. However, for Christians it has come to mean something else. It is the day that the Holy Spirit, the Promise, was given to the Church. And what happened when the Spirit came upon them? They began to speak in different tongues, or languages. They still had their native language, but now they had new ones that they didn’t necessarily even understand. This ability came to them through the Holy Spirit, who was also present at the Tower of Babel when the people were given new languages. That is what ties Babel to Pentecost – the presence of the Holy Spirit gifting people with languages. The disciples were all speaking in different tongues, but in this instance the purpose was not to confuse them or scatter them, but to bring people together.
Acts 2:5-11 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
At first it was confusing to the Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast. These simple Galilean fishermen, who were not wordly men, were speaking the wonderful works of God in all their languages – it was a babel, a confused mixture of sounds, but sounds with meaning. The Jews had come to Jerusalem from all over the world and spoke many different languages. Now each of them were hearing them speak in each of those languages so that everyone that day heard the same message. What once was a barrier among them was removed. Instead of dividing them as it did in Babel, it united them. It brought them back together in one mind, and in one accord.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
At the Tower of Babel, the scattering of the people by the confusion of their language may have felt like a punishment, but it had purpose for the good of mankind. What seemed like a punishment was flipped around for good on the Day of Pentecost, used by God to bring His people together.
Of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, two deal with tongues – different kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues. Of course, man has come up with technology to translate languages. You can even ask Siri to translate something for you. But there are some languages that only God knows and we can speak to Him in those languages and only He will understand. The enemy can try to listen in on your conversation with God when you pray in tongues, but he will never know what you are saying. God can speak through us to others when we speak in tongues. That’s when we need an interpretation of tongues. God will let the person with gift of interpretation know what the speaker has said so that he can speak it out for everyone to understand. If we speak in tongues, we are to pray to give the interpretation ourselves. With the interpretation comes prophecy and edification.
So is it nonsense language? It would be easy to argue that if it weren’t for the thousands of testimonies of people who heard someone who was speaking in tongues doing so in their own language when the speaker had no idea what was being said. The following examples can be found on the web site: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201501/201501_010_Tongues.cfm
Tongues of Praise -- While attending North Central Bible School (now North Central University), Merlin Lund prayed for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Time after time, he sought the Lord, but nothing happened. Then one day in prayer, he started making clicking sounds. The noise surprised everyone, but most told him, “That’s not the Holy Ghost. Just come back tomorrow, and we’ll continue praying.” A year later, a visiting missionary heard Lund make the clicking sounds and, as one eyewitness put it, “about went into orbit.” “Oh, if you can hear how he’s praising the Lord,” the missionary exclaimed. The visiting missionary recognized the clicks as Zulu. Lund eventually moved to South Africa as a missionary and ministered among the different tribes there, including the Zulu.
Tongues of Deliverance -- Kathy Buckles went on a short-term missions trip to Costa Rica with some members of her church. Once she arrived, Kathy prayed, “Please Lord, let me pray in tongues in the language the people here understand.” One evening, as Buckles prayed with a distressed woman, her prayers turned into tongues. She kept praying with the woman until she felt a release from the Lord. When Buckles walked away, the thought came to mind that she had actually spoken in Spanish when praying for the upset woman. The next morning, the resident missionary, Rick Ryan, told Buckles he was standing nearby as she prayed in tongues the night before. He told her she spoke in fluent Spanish, and because of her prayer, the Lord delivered the woman from an evil spirit, saved her, and baptized her in the Holy Spirit. When Buckles asked the Lord to let her pray in the local language, she had no idea how He would answer her prayer. She simply trusted the Lord, and the Holy Spirit did a marvelous miracle.
Tongues of Prophecy -- Murray and Marjorie Brown served as missionaries to West Africa from 1940 to 1980. Not long after arriving in West Africa, the couple welcomed their first child into the world, a baby girl named Ruth Elaine. Little did they know a decade would pass before they would have another child. They prayed repeatedly over the ensuing years as they faced one failed pregnancy after another. They almost gave up, but God had a miracle in store. While serving in Dapango (now Dapaon), Togo, Marjorie overhead an African child praying in English: “You’re going to have another baby, and it will be a boy. When he is born, you will know nothing is impossible with God!” But the African child couldn’t speak English. He was simply praying in tongues. God spoke a prophetic word through the young child specifically for Marjorie — a word not only of encouragement but also of promise. This promise was realized on September 9, 1950, with the birth of Murray Nelson Brown Jr. at the Ridge Hospital in Accra, Ghana. He now serves as executive director of Teen Challenge of Greater Cleveland in Ohio.
Our church is a non-denominational Pentecostal church. The designation of Pentecostal goes directly to what happened in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost. We believe in the special filling of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by the speaking of tongues. There are churches that do not believe that speaking in tongues is for today’s Church. I cannot find anywhere in the Bible where it says there was an expiration date on that gift. I do read that God’s gifts and calling are without repentance. I read that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. I read throughout Acts of instances where the disciples were ministering and the Holy Spirit filled the people, who then spoke in tongues. Paul addresses the issue of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14, which I recommend you read for yourself.
Thank you Holy Spirit for our native tongues, which you created, as well as for our heavenly language which allows us to speak to our God our Father, indiscernible to our enemy, and for the ability to speak God’s wonderful works in all languages and edify the Church.