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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“‘Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”— Genesis 11:7–9 (NASB)
I can speak both English and Spanish fluently. Sometimes my Spanish-speaking coworkers and I chat in Spanish—leaving everyone else confused. Once in a while our non-Spanish-speaking coworkers can decipher a few words, but they rarely fully understand what we’re saying. This likely makes them feel like outsiders, like we’re worlds apart. It creates a wall, a relational barrier between us for a moment. That’s because language is powerful. It has the power to unite or divide us. It can cause relatability or bring about distance and exclusion.
Over the last few days, we’ve explored the story of the Tower of Babel. We saw mankind’s unified yet selfish ambition to glorify themselves and make a name for themselves. English Bible commentator Matthew Poole wrote, “They take no care for God’s name, and the defense and propagation of the true religion, as duty bound them, but merely out of pride and vain-glory labor to erect an everlasting monument of their wit, and wealth, and magnificence to all posterity.” We also saw God put a stop to their sinful group project by confusing their “language so they will not understand each other.”
And as we see still today, the result of the Tower of Babel was that those who spoke the same language flocked to one another, leaving behind those who spoke different languages. And thus, the Lord saw to it that the 70+ families (likely around 800–1,200 people) were scattered all over, establishing nations in every corner of the earth.
It’s interesting that the location where the tower and city were being built was called Babel (believed to be derived from the root balal: “to mingle; mix; confuse; confound”). This sounds a lot like the English word babble, which means to talk in a way that is difficult or impossible to understand.
I pray that, as believers, we are not seen as babblers. I pray our language, conversations, and preaching of the gospel would not confuse others. I pray we would share the truth of God’s Word and the message of salvation in a way that unites instead of divides. I pray it doesn’t make people feel excluded, but instead, invites them in to experience the love of Christ for themselves.
DIG: Why does language play such a big role in how we relate to people?
DISCOVER: Have you ever felt excluded by people speaking a different language or even using vernacular you’re unfamiliar with?
DO: Pray the Lord gives you clear words of truth and love when speaking to others about Jesus.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.