Not My Name, but Your Great Name, O Lord
Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1
Pentecost has been called a reversal of what happened at Babel.* The tower of Babel was built by the great-grandson of Noah, a powerful man named Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12). At Babel Nimrod built a tower that would reach “to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
Not only did Nimrod and his people choose to defiantly disobey God’s command to Noah and his descendants to scatter and fill the earth, but they also built the tower in arrogance, pride, and idolatry. They built a ziggurat, a terraced structure with a temple on top to call on a pagan god.
In the account of Pentecost in Acts 2, the followers of Jesus Christ are humbly and reverently waiting together in Jerusalem as He had commanded them (Luke 24:49). They sat, we would say, “doing nothing.” Maybe they prayed, discussed what had happened, or wondered what would happen when God sent the Holy Spirit.
When God came down to Babel, the only sign of his presence was the confusion of languages (Genesis 11:9). But at Pentecost, the people heard a sound like a violent wind and saw cloven tongues as of fire. The followers began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost as God had commanded (Acts 2:5-6). Through the one voice of the Holy Spirit, each heard their own language being spoken. The Spirit did not glorify Himself; He declared the wonders of God.
When Peter explained what was happening, these visitors’ hearts were stirred. They repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and joined others who had been saved (Acts 2:41).
God thwarted Nimrod and his builders’ attempt to make a name for themselves at Babel. But the Holy Spirit exalted God’s name in Jerusalem and later to the ends of the earth through the humble and obedient followers of Jesus Christ.
Are we more interested in making a name for ourselves or in making God’s name known throughout the world?
Babel meant “gate to god” and sounded like the Hebrew word Balal which meant “confusion.” The city would become known as a place of confusion. What is our “gate to God”? Read John 14:6. Compare Jacob’s gate of heaven in Genesis 28:10-17, the image Jesus gave to Nathanael in John 1:43-51, and Jesus’ prophecy to the High Priest in Mark 14:61-62.
Read Exodus 20:25. What do you think God would say about great cathedrals? Might we be more awed by the Presence of God or by the achievement of the builders?
Read John 14:13-14, 15:16, and 16:24. Why did Jesus tell His disciples to pray to God in His name? Is this how you pray? Do you see the results Jesus mentioned?
For another devotion about Pentecost: see Pentecost, Part Two.
Nancy J. Baker
*Guthrie, D., et al. The New Bible Commentary Revised. Michigan: Wm. B. Eeerdmans, 1970, 91.