Back at the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama proclaimed that the fall of communism heralded the end of history. At the same time, George Bush (snr) announced a new world order. In this brave new world there would be an end to conflict and an era of peace. The World would come together. Sadly, and perhaps unsurprisingly the reality has been anything but. Western powers have been involved in multiple military conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa whilst Russia has seen tis fair share of conflict, Islamist Terrorism has brought fear to the streets of European and American cities, apocalyptic warnings tell us that time is running out before a cataclysmic climate event and we are currently living in the shadow of a Global pandemic.
Genesis 11 tells us about the confident dawning of a new era in history. The people of the earth gathered together in one place and built a city, hoping that as they made a name for themselves, they would enjoy peace, security and unity. Little did they know that they and their idolatrous hearts were their own worst enemy. And so, God came down to look at their puny tower and then scattered them by confusing their languages. Biblical scholars suggest that the break down of communication may not be purely about linguistic differences but the confusion of tongues may reflect religious and ideological confusion.
The Bible uses “Babel” or “Babylon” as a codeword to represent this world’s unified hostility to God and his people. Babylon is the “anti-Jerusalem.” Yet, that should give is a clue that buried deep in the psyche of Babylon is not just unified opposition to the living God but also division and distrust amongst humanity. It is only when we have true peace with God that we can have peace with one another.
And so, we see today the problem of Babel or Babylon remains present. We live in a world united by international trade, international institutions and international communication through the internet and social media. In many ways, we have never been more unified. However, in so far as our world rejects God and stands against him, it has never been more divided. The break down and confusion of language is seen in the way that one little word “woke” can hold both deeply positive connotations for some and deeply negative ones for others. It is seen in the way that throughout the pandemic, people have looked at the same evidence and come to completely different conclusions with resulting distrust.
So, if this world has experienced its 2020 Babel, then now more than ever it needs Pentecost. I don’t mean that we need the event to happen again. I mean we need to see the outflow of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit works in people’s lives, emboldening the church to preach the good news and bringing people to knowledge of the truth and faith in Christ. Now, more than ever, our world needs the Gospel.