Genesis 11: 1-9
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
This week we are summarising the key messages from our ‘Encounter More’ conference which took place this past weekend.
SUMMARY OF PETE HUGHES' MESSAGE ON SATURDAY MORNING
Our posture towards culture is that we are to be a people who stand in culture so that we can stand against the evil and injustice that we experience in culture.
The church is good at talking about being counter-cultural, but first we have to stand within the culture and affirm the good that we find there. We then offer a new culture, the culture of Heaven, infecting every sphere of society with the values and DNA of the Kingdom of God.
To be like Jesus we will need to experience a shift from extraction to servanthood. Instead of taking from the city, we serve and invest in what God is doing in the city.
The city needs to be redeemed because sin has devastated the city. The example in the Bible is Babylon. Babel became Babylon and it is a metaphor for the city that sets itself far apart from God. Here are some characteristics of Babylon:
(i) They were trying to make their way to heaven without God. They are trying to build the kingdom without the King.
(ii) There is confusion regarding language. We see this in our cities.
(iii) The people are scattered. People in our cities live so close together yet feel incredibly isolated and lonely.
(iv) People are trying to be God’s rivals, as well as one another’s. We see fierce competition in our cities today. Pushing people aside to make it to the top.
(v) People trying to make a name for themselves.
It is significant that on the Day of Pentecost we see a reversal of Babel. Instead of people trying to climb to heaven, God comes down. Suddenly there is understanding instead of confusion around language as people hear worship in their own native tongues. The people are gathered rather than scattered. They become God’s servants rather than His rivals. They begin living for the name and fame of Jesus instead of simply trying to make a name for themselves. Restoration, redemption and re-creation begins to take place.
How can a city be redeemed? The people of God need to carry the presence of God into the city.
How do the people of God end up in Babylon?
The Hebrew people start in Egypt as slaves for 400 years where they are beaten, oppressed and abused. The Egyptians were best known for their architecture. They built them on the backs of slaves.
God shows up in incredible power and liberates His people in what we know as the exodus. They enter into a covenant with God and they receive the new title of “God’s son.” They settle in the Promised Land and eventually they appoint a King. A glorious city, Jerusalem, is built by David and then Solomon builds a house for Yahweh. They thrive in this city.
God had called them to be a blessing to the nations, liberators, a light pointing to Yahweh. They were never to use their freedom to oppress others.
In Exodus 23: 9 God explicitly commands:
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Then in 1 Kings 9: 15 we read:
“Here is the account of the forced labour King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.”
They’re building a house for the God who liberates slaves, by using slaves.
Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer were military bases. Solomon was planning to expand the empire through military means. This is so far from God’s call to be a blessing to the nations. God’s commandment in Deuteronomy was broken:
“The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.” (17: 16)
Solomon has become the new Pharaoh, Israel has become the new Egypt and the slaves have become the new slave-drivers.
Similarly, many people who come to the city with great ideals to serve gradually take on the mindset and practices of the city.
Israel’s sin and disobedience had the consequence of exile, first with Assyria and then Babylon. They misused their freedom so now they are back in Babylon as slaves. However God still wants to use them to bring freedom and redemption where they are.
In Jeremiah 29 God speaks to His people in the midst of their exile. He tells them to settle in Babylon and, “…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” (v. 7) This is a paradigm shift, revealing God’s heart for Babylon. He wants it to prosper. The mindset of ‘passing through’ undermines the mission of God. There is a low commitment to people and place.
The key phrase is: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place.” (v. 10)
They were there for the sake of Babylon. God wanted to redeem the city which had set itself against Him. Daniel was one of those exiled to Babylon and during his time there the city prospered because the exiles made it their home. We read this of the impact he had on the city:
“Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
‘May you prosper greatly!
‘I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
‘For he is the living God
and he endures for ever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.’
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm.