Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Confusion of Tongues!

Pieter Bruegel the Elder
(1525 – 1569)
The Tower of Babel
oil on panel (114 × 155 cm) – 1563
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

I don’t speak in tongues? That is, I don’t speak often in tongues! Unless, of course, speaking some (very little) Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German and/or French counts. I can sometimes think in tongues, however. I wonder if that counts? Still, I’ve been accused of talking in ways that need serious interpretative help. Say what?

I believe in tongues! Even supernatural tongues! Mind you, I have to listen lovingly to catch it; and sometimes I do, especially, with regard to my grandchildren. Say what? You need something to drink? Milk? “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men…” (1 Cor. 3.1). Are you sure?

At first blush, tongues reminds me of the ancient Tower of Babel incident recorded in Genesis 11. Recall, after the great flood, Noah's descendants settled in some remote lowlands near the Euphrates. At that time, they spoke a common language and formed a single, close knit community. Harmoniously, there was one tongue and no one was excluded.

Now we read in Genesis 11.4: "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Call it the Tongue Tower! Notice the tower had to serve as a landmark to keep people together, despite the fact that God had commanded Noah and his sons to 'replenish' the earth (Gen. 9.1). Also, rainbow or no, a great tower could be used as a safe haven in case of a new flood.

God looked down upon these busy folks, and concluded that in all their industry they were actually trying to rival him. That’s idolatry! So he decided to discipline them with the Confusion of Tongues. Since people could no longer understand each other, they were scattered over the earth at last. The site of the event would from that day on be known as Babel, apparently meaning 'confusion'.

I understand this feeling of bewilderment! I was listening the other day to a couple of Muslim’s interact in an aisle near me at the Wal-Mart. Say what? That evening, I attended a prayer meeting where two of my friends went off into tongues over a pressing issue. Say what?

Let it be known that tongues are important but not at the expense of love (1 Cor 13.1).

enjoy, ron

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