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WHAT LANGUAGE ARE YOU SPEAKING?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
14 MAY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
The Preparation: (Proverbs 31:26-29)
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
"Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all."
Since this is a day that is set aside to honor you, I would like to ask you a question.
Have you ever felt that your children didn't understand what you were telling them, as if you were speaking in some foreign and unfamiliar language?
It seems that with some things, no matter how many times we tell someone something, our words seem to go in one ear and out the other.
And kids, I have to ask you something.
And just in case you are wondering which kids I am speaking to, I will clarify myself.
If you have, or have ever had a mom, this question is for you, and I would like you to answer it honestly.
Did you ever really have any problem understanding mom, or was it that you
just wished you couldn't?
In God's eyes, our moms and dads are in a special place of responsibility.
Moms and dads are to train-up their children in the ways of the Lord, so that each and every one of us would learn to listen to the Lord and do all that He desires us to do.
But all through time, people have rebelled against God's word, perhaps because they never learned to listen to mom's word; or perhaps it's because mom failed to listen to her mom, and so on through time.
Prior to the great Flood, the people rebelled against God, and God brought upon the world the waters of purification.
But following the Flood, the people again began to turn away.
One of those who seemed to have led this turning away was Nimrod, the son of Cush.
He began his kingdom in Babel, and because of the way he acted in setting himself up with supposedly godly powers, the whole world, under his control, began to believe that they could have these godly powers, if they could reach into heaven.
Let's look at our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Genesis 11:1-9, and see what happened:
1. Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.
No one had any excuse for not understanding what they heard, and as a result, they could be led to do good or to do evil.
2. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
3. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.
4. And they said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
Do you hear the self serving attitude of these people?
They wanted to make a name for themselves, for their own glory, and not for
They only wanted what God could give them, but they didn't want to live as God wanted them to live.
Do you see the parallel between the people of the world with God, and that of children with their parents?
That's why God tells us to honor our parents so that we would be blessed, for if we honor our parents, who honor God, then we also most likely will honor God, and be blessed.
But these people in Babel were doing their own thing.
So, what do you think God did?
5. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
6. And the Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.
7. "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."
We can learn to agree, and to correctly apply the words of God to our lives, or we can reject them and follow the deceiving words of people.
And if we are in agreement, we can do much good, or much evil.
Many of the fellows I minister to in prison heard the truth from their moms,
but didn't want to follow their teaching.
So they were separated from their moms so that they might learn the truth, or learn more evil.
And thus it was with the people of Babel.
8. So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.
9. 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.
What the people didn't want to happen, happened.
They were scattered over the face of the whole earth.
There is a piece of trivia that you might find very interesting in connection with our look at language and listening to God's word.
Today there are approximately 3,000 different languages and dialects.
Remember that number.
When we started this look into God's word this morning, we asked the question, "What language are you speaking?"
And as we just saw, when all the people speak the same language as God, it does not mean that they will listen to and follow His word.
Then God separated the people into various languages so that they could not again agree totally among themselves, as to do either good or evil.
So God, in all His love, again tried to reach the people, and this time He separated one people from among the many of the world, so that He might impress His word upon them and they would be an example to all of the other nations.
These people were the Israelites.
God called Abraham from this very land we have been talking about – from Ur.
And God led them out of the land of Egypt, where they had later gone, and into the promised land; but even these, His chosen people, would not fully listen.
Thus, about 3,500 years ago, on this day of Shavuot, or Pentecost, the Lord handed down to His people the written word of His Law, so that His people might both see and hear what He expected of them.
But on the very day that God gave these tablets to Moses, the people went astray.
Let's return to God's Word, Exodus 32:25-29, and see what happened when Moses came upon this scene:
25. Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies –
26. then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.
When people have not established their own personal relationship with the Lord, or are not listening to or reading God's word on a daily basis, they become like grains of sand washed about by waves along the edge of the sea.
They have no mind of their own, when it comes to the desires of the Lord for their lives.
They are like sheep that can either be easily led to slaughter, or to a place of protection and everlasting life.
Aaron, above all, should have known better, for he knew God. He should have stood firm, even unto death.
But Aaron, like so many weak leaders, went along with the people, and even made a golden calf for them and allowed them to participate in all kinds of deviant behavior.
Aaron's behavior, in allowing the people to get out of hand in their actions, gave ammunition to God’s enemies to blaspheme.
He also placed the people in his charge in harm’s way.
Thus when Moses' family heard his voice calling them, they responded, because they knew he spoke with true authority, for he lived the life he spoke.
Do our families respond to us in the same way?
27. And he said to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.' "
28. So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
29. Then Moses said, "Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord – for every man has been against his son and against his brother – in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today."
It isn't because of the death of anyone that God bestows a blessing; it is because of the zealousness of the people to purify themselves before the Lord.
God doesn't want the death of any human or animal; He wants obedience.
And why God allowed Aaron to live is a matter between them, and we have to trust in God for that.
But did you notice that approximately 3,000 men died?
Do you also remember that we said that when all the people speak the same language, it can be used for good or bad?
When all the people of the world spoke the same language, they were led astray.
Here, where all of Israel spoke the same language, they were led astray and they were also led back.
But 3,000 died because they transgressed the Law.
Again, remember that number.
In Acts, chapter 2, we see another account of the occurrences that took place on this day in history.
Let's take a look at these verses of Scripture, beginning at verse 1.
And keep in mind that we have been talking about language, and about our hearing and following God.
1. And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.
4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
The Holy Spirit had come upon them and given them an utterance to speak out loud, and they spoke only what the Spirit gave them to say.
They did not do it on their own initiative.
Note the result:
5. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
6. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.
7. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
8. "And how is it that we each hear them speaking in our own language to which we were born?
9. "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10. Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
11. Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God."
12. And they continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
13. But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine."
Back in our Genesis passage, we saw that God confused their single language by making many, so that their evil intent would be stopped.
And here, where they all probably spoke Hebrew, God performed a miracle, so that they would listen, for from a people of one tongue, He caused them to speak in many for His glory.
And for every word that was spoken, there was someone to hear it in his own language.
Some heard and understood that it was from God, and others mocked, just as some do today.
14. But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words.
15. "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;
16. but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
17. 'And it shall be in the last days,' God says,
'That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18. Even upon My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
19. 'And I will grant wonders in the sky above,
And signs on the earth beneath,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20. 'The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
21. 'And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'
Peter, who had denied the Lord three times because of fear, is now standing up before thousands of people and proclaiming the truth with boldness.
He is speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that others might repent and come to have a personal relationship with the Lord.
The miracle of the tongues has passed.
It has attracted the people and filled them with amazement.
And in that amazement, they have gathered around Peter and the others.
The true power and purpose of the Holy Spirit is now at work; that all would call upon the name of Jesus and be saved.
And now the language that is being spoken is common to all:
22. "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know –
23. this Man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
24. "And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
25. "For David says of Him,
'1 was always beholding the Lord in my presence;
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26. 'Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted;
Moreover my flesh also will abide in hope;
27. Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor Allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.
28. 'Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;
Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.'
29. "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
30. "And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne,
31. he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.
32. "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
33. "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
34. "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
'The Lord said to my lord, "Sit at My right hand,
35. Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet." '
36. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified."
The whole Gospel message is there.
Peter, in the power of the Holy Spirit, has spoken forth the word of God, and he spoke it in a language that all could hear and understand; that is, if they were willing.
There were no other outward miracles that would be recognized as miracles, unless perhaps we realize that Peter was not a scribe or Pharisee, but a fisherman; yet he spoke forth with greater authority than they.
And because this message was powered by the Holy Spirit, it was intended to penetrate deep into each and every one who heard it, so that they would feel the pain of conviction that leads to repentance.
The message was not intended to condemn the people for what they did; it was to bring them into everlasting life.
So, what happened?
37. Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren. what shall we do?"
What happened in your heart, when you heard this message?
Did you respond the same way?
Perhaps you are responding this way for the first time, and that's all right, for this is what the true power of the Holy Spirit does within us.
But what shall we do?
38. And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39."For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."
40. And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
Isn’t this what we have been doing?
God wants everyone to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
And for those of us who have heard this message and responded, we must ask ourselves, "Have others heard this message from me, and have they responded?"
Have they responded as did those who heard it from Peter?
41. So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
What could we say, other than, "Amen" or "Praise God!"
This is the reason that the Holy Spirit came to be with us.
In this teaching, there is also a common thread of another message to remember concerning God's grace, and it has to do with the number three or three thousand.
This message was delivered by Peter, who himself had denied the Lord three times, and who did not die in his sin, but because he repented, he was forgiven by the grace of God, so that he would do the works of the Lord, which we all know he did.
And even with all those people of Babel who uniformly turned against God, He did not destroy them, but confused their language into 3,000 other languages and dialects, so that not all of them would be lost, but that some might hear the true message and repent and be saved.
Yet when the millions of Israel that came out of Egypt, who supposedly knew the Lord, turned against Him, he did not destroy them all, but only about 3,000, so that the rest would repent and be saved.
And then on this day of Pentecost, nearly 2,000 years ago, of the many that had turned away from God, about 3,000 of them returned to Him and were saved.
We are to live in the grace of God, and receive all that the Holy Spirit has for us.
Listen to the effect that all this had on the early church:
42. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
44. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;
45. and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
46. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
47. praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Hang on to this message for the church, for in it is the love of God that binds us together as Christians and gives us true freedom!