I was sitting in the Moscow airport when I heard it.
After four days in Russia, I had managed to increase my Russian vocabulary by 400%. From zero words to four: tea, thank you, no, yes. In that order, apparently the four most critical words for a traveller to Moscow. Or at least the four I encountered frequently enough to learn. Needless to say, as I was waiting for my outbound plane and listening to the chatter around me, I was at a loss regarding what was actually being said. Until I heard it. A familiar sound that caused me to suddenly pay attention. Was someone speaking English? I looked around as I listened intently, but everyone around me was speaking Russian. I’m sure it had not been one of my four Russian words. For a moment there, I had heard a sound I knew.
There it was again! Only this time my brain registered the sound. Laughter.
I sat there musing on this as I listened to the incomprehensible flow of their words. I smiled every time I heard one of them laugh. I did not understand the conversation, but I understood the laughter. Laughter sounds the same in any language.
The Bible tells us that God introduced the world languages at the Tower of Babel. Until then, the whole world had one language and a common speech. Then the men of Babylonia said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). But as Solomon noted, unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain (Psalm 217:1). And the Lord was less than supportive of man’s latest endeavor. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city (Genesis 11:6-8).
At first glance, this may seem a little uncalled for. What’s wrong with a little global collaboration? I think the answer lies in that one phrase embedded in mankind’s plan: “Come, let us build ourselves a city…so that we may make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4). People were once again falling away from God’s purposes and thinking instead only of themselves. They were not glorifying God, or even acknowledging Him. It was the original sin all over again – snubbing our Creator and grasping glory for ourselves. I can almost hear the resignation in God’s voice. See Him shaking His head with a sigh. “Will they never learn?” People were once more on track to distance themselves from God, and God in His wisdom put a stop to it. Just as He sent Adam and Eve from the Garden, so He sent the people from Babylonia. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11:9b).
And yet, God left one piece of language the same. No matter where in the world we are, laughter and tears are the universal language. I think this tells us something of what God expects from our relationships with one another. When someone we cannot speak to is crying, we have no response but to cry with them. When someone we cannot speak to is laughing, we have no response but to laugh with them. God confused the languages of the world, but He left us enough language in common that we could share what is clearly of foremost importance.
Laughter and tears. Compassion and joy. A conversation not to glorify ourselves, but to share with one another.
That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:9
2 thoughts on “Tower of Babel”
How are you, my friend?! I miss you tons and it seems as though we have spent a lifetime apart. I love your new posting so much- what incredible insight! I’ve never had this much clarity on this particular part of the Bible before reading your posting. You’re so very gifted in being able to listen when God is speaking and are most courageous and kind to share your relations with those around you- a wonderful thing indeed!
I thought of you today when I gave our lovely Janet C a call. It is quite a delightful thing to know two beautifully spirited people by the same name. When I think of a positive memory of one Janet I quickly can recall a positive memory of the other within a split second, bringing one beaming smile to my face after the other :o). Thank you so much for your prayers regarding my recovery from my car accident! They have been much needed and greatly appreciated! I was in the hospital a total of 11-days and I’m still on the mend. That being said. I have decided to take the semester off of school to work on my recovery and stay up to date with my doctors (I have about 10 doctors appointments each week and spend a lot of my time waiting in waiting rooms or sleeping). Even though you are far away, it is such a comfort knowing that I have found a dear friend and kindred sister-in-Christ in you. I pray that you are well and have a joy-filled day!
Much love and many blessings,
Crystal, this made me smile! “It seems as though we have spent a lifetime apart” because we HAVE spent a lifetime apart!! I hope you continue to heal well. God will use this time in your life too. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) Prayers and thoughts are coming your way!