Language as Grace

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language?  As an English speaker, the toughest languages to learn are supposedly Turkish and Chinese.  Chinese has thousands of characters, and is a tonal language meaning if your voice goes go up or down at the end of a word it changes the meaning.  Turkish has no common words with English.  Missionaries spend a lifetime learning languages of the cultures in which they serve.

God gave a command at creation to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” in Genesis 1:28  and repeated it to Noah in Genesis 9:1.  But man disobeyed.

In Genesis 11 when humanity had: “one language and a common speech” (vs 1) people plan a city and build 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”. (vs 4) (my emphasis)

So the Trinity holds a meeting and decide: “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” And the Lord: “scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” (Gen 11:8).

So languages began at the Tower of Babel and today ay there exist over 7000 different languages around the world.  Amazingly only 700 languages have the complete bible and only 1500 additional languages have the New Testament or some portion of the bible.

A way to look at the events in Genesis 11 is languages are God’s grace to us in that he made it difficult for us to communicate. And from Matthew 24:14 we know God’s final judgment will come when all have heard and had a chance to respond: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  So aside from creation testifying (Rom 1:20) to people, God has given us time, through his intervention of scattering us and creating languages to get the gospel to all the nations.  This complexity allows us time to get the gospel communicated to all peoples as we learn languages and translate his word in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Just one more bit of evidence of God’s creativity, his patience, his desire that none should perish, and his love for us!

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