Day of Pentecost

May 19, 2024

"The Stupendous Outpouring"

This morning’s Old Testament Reading might seem unusual for Pentecost. Yet, there really is a very strong parallel between what happened at Babel and the day of Pentecost.

Concerning the Tower of Babel event, Moses reveals to us: “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.” How awesome that must have been! Every single man, woman, and child on the face of this earth—they all lived in the same area after the flood of Noah—they all shared a language and the same words. No miscommunications! Everyone understood each other! But the point of that sentence strikes deeper. They had the same words within that same language. Their minds and hearts were harmonized. Their ideas and passions were harmonized. They had no divisions. They were at peace with each other. They experienced a unity we’ve never remotely seen in the world. It’s sounds so fantastically wonderful.

God originally created humanity to focus our fear, love, and trust toward Him. The Lord deserves all glory, honor, and praise as the almighty Creator. But… instead of harmonizing with a proper attitude toward God, notice what their hearts and minds, their ideas and passions were harmonized on accomplishing. “Let us make a name for ourselves.” That might be the best summary of the sinful nature. “Let us make a name for ourselves.” That sums up everything wrong with us sinners. Everything became about themselves. “Let us make a name for ourselves… Let us glorify, honor, and praise ourselves. Let us lift our name on high. How can we do that? Let’s build a tower reaching into the sky.” Such a harmony may be called peace by the world’s standards, but it’s not godly peace.

Things often become about ourselves. Selfish wants. Selfish desires. Me first. I’m most important. Glorify me. Bow before me. Our love is so often directed inward to ourselves, which is why—shamefully—Jesus must teach us to love God and others. We often want to make a name for ourselves—trying to be the almighty of our own little worlds.

The people think they’re so high and mighty, building this tower to the heavens. Yet, God goes down from heaven to see the city and tower built by puny, self-serving humanity. God goes down from heaven to confuse their language so that they inevitably scatter on earth.

That act of the Lord was actually an activity of grace, because God delivered the people from their sinful, selfish harmony. No longer would humanity harmonize to such a degree that they would together, with one voice glorify, honor, and praise ourselves. Even so, the sinful lusts, desires, and ambitions are still there. Being sinful, we human creatures still to this day try to exalt ourselves, saying: “Let me make a name for myself.”

Accolades for accomplishments, praise for good works seen by others, the worship of adoring fans that can come with fame and fortune, the pleasure of doing whatever we want—by these and many more ways we sinful human creatures seek to make a name for ourselves. The heart and soul of Babel is alive and well in this world—manifested by sinful hearts.

What did God do to break and shatter the prideful harmony of Babel? He confused their language so that they no longer had such a deep harmony of heart and mind, ideas and passions.

The question then becomes—what does God do to break and shatter prideful hearts in these days? Ironically, in our day God gives us the same—what Paul calls  “pattern of sound words.” God harmonizes us together through His Holy Word as He unites us by the Holy Spirit.

Today is the 50th day after Jesus rose from the dead. Today is also the day of Pentecost. Pentecost means fiftieth day—the fiftieth day after the Passover festival. Pentecost was a harvest festival day—one of three major festival days instituted by the Lord—for the Israelites to observe. With that being the case, there were many Jews from all over the Roman world in the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the Pentecost festival.

The followers of Jesus were gathered in a house within the city, where Jesus commanded them to be. Suddenly, the sound of a powerful wind—maybe a tornado sound—filled the room. Tongues as of fire came down upon each of the believers’ heads. The day promised by Jesus finally arrived—the Helper, the Holy Spirit had come upon them!

The Holy Spirit empowered them to speak in other languages. Languages spoken by people from all over the known world. Languages spoken by the Jews who traveled to Jerusalem for the harvest festival. As all of these Jews from all over the Roman Empire, who spoke different languages began to hear and understand what these Galilean Christians were speaking in the native languages of all these festival participants, an amazing thing unfolds.


The stupendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit commences what Jesus promised would happen. “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” On Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, these Christians are “clothed with power from on high,” and by the Holy Spirit they begin to bear witness to Christ in front of the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival.

On the day of this harvest festival, God the Holy Spirit miraculously begins to gather a harvest of believers because they hear the Gospel spoken in their own language by people who five minutes before wouldn’t have been able to speak their language at all. So, even though they still didn’t share the same human languages, they were brought into harmony of faith in Christ Jesus crucified and raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sins. Those who heard and received the preaching of the apostles are harmonized in godly hearts and minds, in godly ideas and passions, as one in Christ through faith in the Lord’s saving message.

The ancient people had sought to build a tower reaching from earth to heaven, but on Pentecost the Holy Spirit harmonized people with the One who brings heaven and earth together, the One who brings us into harmony with the Father and opens the kingdom of heaven to all who believe. The Holy Spirit unites sinners to Jesus—our Savior and Redeemer sent by the heavenly Father. Thus, those gathered by the Holy Spirit begin to give proper glory, honor, and praise to God, who has saved and redeemed humanity through the precious blood of Christ. A peace with God and one another that passes all understanding then results.

In a miraculous sign of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on Pentecost, people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world hear the Gospel spoken to them in their own language. By the end of the day, the Holy Spirit harvested 3,000 souls—baptized into Jesus.

The Holy Spirit’s work of gathering a harvest of believers into the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation continues today. You’re evidence of it. The same Gospel message proclaimed in all those different languages to the festival participants gathered in Jerusalem is the same Gospel message we hear, receive, and believe in the Holy Scriptures. This means the Holy Spirit continues to bring sinful creatures into harmony of hearts and minds, ideas and passions—with that harmony resting in God’s Word. As people born of water and the Word by the Holy Spirit, we don’t, “Let me make a name for myself” but we join together here and now in exalting the name of the Lord, boldly witnessing to His Word and works for the salvation of humanity. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we confess and live our lives showing forth that “Jesus is Lord.”

May the Holy Spirit grant us to continue to do so the rest of our lives. For Jesus promises: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my Word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

So, let us, empowered by the Holy Spirit, remain faithful to God’s Word. Let us tightly hold onto the Good News of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. Let us cherish God’s Word—His commands and promises—as the most precious jewel in all creation, so that we may hear it, receive it, believe it, and live in faithfulness and obedience to it. Let us, empowered by the Holy Spirit, humble our own name and exalt the name of the Lord. Amen.