Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Power of the Open Gate

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Mary Kassian asks, "Do you ever use your words like weapons?"

Mary Kassian: Often our communication resembles a war game. We have our personal castles and our empires that we feel we need to defend, so we set up high gates of defense and fortify our walls. At the same time we try to topple the empires of our opponents by verbally or non-verbally attacking them. We see ourselves as better than the other person.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, January 23, 2015.

Nancy: This week my friend, Mary Kassian, has been our guest teacher. She's been addressing a topic that affects every single one of us. Mary's the author of a Bible study workbook called Conversation Peace. Today and through next week, she's teaching through that helpful study on the power of our words. Here's Mary.

Mary Kassian: When I was young, I loved to watch a children's television program called "The Friendly Giant." The Friendly Giant lived in a castle with Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster. Every day at ten o'clock, when the flute music started, I watched in fascination as the drawbridge of the castle was lowered and the gates opened to allow all the young viewers to enter in.

The Friendly Giant would put some miniature chairs and a rocking chair in front of the fireplace to welcome guests, and the stories and music would begin. At the end of the show the massive gates slowly closed and the drawbridge lifted, and the giant was closed off from the outside world until next time.

Castles and fortified cities and walled villages have existed throughout history. All were surrounded by a system of protection that consisted of walls, towers, and gates. City walls, if you think back to your ancient history lessons, were constructed of stone. Many of them averaged between twenty to thirty feet in height and could be over thirty feet thick. You could actually ride a chariot on the top of some of those city walls. They were that thick so they could withstand enemy attack.

Gates were equally formidable. They were constructed of heavy wood, iron, and brass, and they could be bolted shut with horizontal and vertical bars. The gates were the weakest point in the perimeter when under assault, so special care was taken to build them tall and strong. In times of war, gates were closed and fortified, but in times of peace the gates of the city were open so that residents, visitors, and traders could freely pass through.

We're continuing our series of programs on transformed speech. Today you'll see that, like a gate, our words can either pridefully shut people out or humbly invite them in. Pride is the biggest barrier to effective communication. Transformed speech lowers the drawbridge, raises the bars, and throws open the doors of our "castle" to unleash the power of the open gate.

In the Bible, gates and towers are highly significant structures. To understand their significance and how they relate to communication, we're going to look at an Old Testament story about the Tower of Babel (which in Hebrew means "gate of the gods"). The story is found in Genesis 11.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men 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 tar 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; and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men 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 (vv. 1–9).

Babel, or Babylon as it's also called, was one of the chief cities in the land of Sumer in ancient Babylonia, which is now modern-day Iraq. At Babel, the people were building a tall tower. The Greek word for the tower is really interesting. It's a great play on words. The Greek word for the Tower of Babel is Borsippa, which literally means "Tongue-Tower." So they were literally building a tongue-tower. Let's look at some of the characteristics of that tongue-tower. I think you'll find that they're similar to the towers we put up with our tongues and in our speech. When we put up towers of pride, they are barriers to good communication.

The first characteristic of this tower was its height. The people wanted to build a tower so high that it reached to the heavens. High towers are symbolic of Babylonian culture. Every important city in Babylonia, from the fourth millennium to 600 B.C., was built with a temple tower called a ziggurat. Ziggurat means "to build high."

Constructed of mud and glazed bricks, ziggurats rose in spiral or terraced stages to a small temple or sanctuary at the peak of the tower. Stairs led to the summit. At the summit was where the god was purported to manifest himself. Historians say that Nebuchadnezzar built the famous ziggurat Etemenake to replace Babel's original tower. That tower reached a height of three-hundred feet. In those days, that was actually very, very tall.

High places are extremely significant. Shrines of deities were most often built on hills or elevated platforms. Castles were built at the highest point of the city or region. That was a defensive strategy to help guard their power. The height is symbolic of power. A high place has a metaphorical meaning. It always carries overtones of dominance and control. "He who controls the heights controls the land," is how the saying used to go.

The Bible equates height with the pride of man. In Isaiah 2 there is a whole list of tall things and high things. There are tall cedars and oaks, the towering mountains, high hills, fortified walls, lofty towers, and tall ships. All of those tall things, all of those things with height are all cited as being symbolic of the arrogance and pride of humanity.

What do we say when someone is full of pride? They are too "high" for us. They are higher than everyone else. That's pride. Being "high" according to the Bible doesn't mean being strung out on drugs. It means being proud. Height equals pride. Other synonyms are: insolent, arrogant, haughty, presumptuous, boastful, self-righteous, and lofty.

A high place represents a prideful attitude that sets itself up above others. It is self-exaltation. "High" is the opposite of lowly, humble, gentle, considerate, and gracious. Pride sets itself up; humility bows itself down before God. Pride was characteristic of the great-grandson of Noah, Nimrod. We used to have a trailer named the Nimrod trailer. Nimrod was the great-grandson of Noah, and he was the founder of Babylon. He was the man who was likely the driving force behind the tower of Babel.

In the chapter before the story of Babel in chapter 10 of Genesis, we're given some important information about Nimrod. He was a great hunter, a great ruler, and a great builder of cities. The Bible tells us, "He began to be a mighty one in the earth" (Gen. 10:8). In other words, Nimrod probably had an attitude of pride and superiority. He began to be "someone." In Nimrod's mind, the mighty city and tower of Babylon would be the perfect showcase for his superior position, skill, and ingenuity. The tower of Babel was going to be high, higher than anything else around.

There's a similarity. If I build a high tower with my words, if I am proud and lofty and I see myself as better than you and build a high tower with my words, if I think my perspective is the only right perspective, and my goal in my conversation with you is for you to bow down to my superior wisdom, then I'm putting up a barrier. I'm putting up a high tower that's a barrier between us communicating well.

A second characteristic of the tower of Babel was that it was a "closed gate." I mentioned before that in Hebrew, "Babel" means "gate of the gods." A gate is a barrier that either prevents or allows access. Gates were highly significant structures throughout the ancient world and throughout Scripture. The importance and strength of city gates and their ability to monitor and restrict people's movement caused them to be viewed as these places of power.

Religious services, conferences on public affairs, courts of justice, business transactions, and the king's counsel were all said to take place at the gates of the city. You might remember in Proverbs 31 where it talks about her husband is well known where? At the gates of the city.

A gate represents power because it controls access. The ziggurat of the tower of Babel was built to give humans access to the god Marduk. But no human could climb all those steps and pass through the gate into the heavens where Marduk supposedly lived. In all practicality, this gate was closed.

When I am full of pride, my gate is closed. I am unwilling to listen to you. It's like I've closed my gate. I'm not willing to listen to what you have to say or to your perspective. I jump to conclusions. I'm defensive, and it's a barrier to our communication.

Babel is where our word "babble" comes from. To babble is "to talk idly, irrationally or incoherently." The tower of Babel is where God confused language and people began to have difficulty communicating with each other. They could talk, but they couldn't connect. They couldn't understand each other anymore.

Pride sets up communication barriers. If I have set up this prideful gate in my speech, I won't be able to communicate with you. There will be a barrier in place. The high gate will keep me in and you out. No matter how much we say, we just won't connect.

Have you ever been in a conversation like that? You're talking and the other person is talking, and there is just no connection because you're not able to listen or perhaps that other person is filled with pride and is unable to listen. It just doesn't connect. It's just babble. Our speech is nothing more than incoherent, irrational babble.

What inspired people to follow Nimrod's lead here and to build this tongue-tower? What did they want to get? Why did they want to build this high gate? If we look back at our passage in Genesis chapter 11, we can find some clues, in verses 2-4.

To begin with, the people were complacent. After the flood God commanded Noah and his descendants to spread out and repopulate the earth. That was their mandate. They were supposed to move out. The clans were supposed to move to different territories.

The people building Babel were the Hamites, descendants of Noah's son Ham, who was the grandfather of Nimrod. I don't recommend that you name your children Ham or Nimrod, but that was their names. The Hamites had become complacent about their mandate. They were still all clustered together in a clump. They had stopped moving out and had settled in the plain of Shinar. Verse 2 says they "settled there." This was contrary to what God wanted them to do.

It was just easier to stay together and build cities rather than to move into their assigned territory. Their attitude of complacency was likely motivated by their desire for ease and comfort. The people were also independent. Instead of doing what God wanted them to do, they made their own plans. "Let us build a city. . . Let us build a tower" (v. 3) "Let me decide for myself what I want to do." Their independence was likely motivated by a strong desire for control. They were control freaks. They wanted to have a say in what their lives were going to be and how they were going to live.

The people were self-centered. The Scripture notes they wanted to build this tower "for themselves," indicating that they were motivated by the desire for personal gain. They were also performance oriented: "Let's make bricks. Let's bake bricks. Let's build a city." They were in a plain. They didn't have any stones. This wasn't a mountainous region. They didn't have the right materials. But they were going to prove they could do it anyway.

In verse 3, they used brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar. They were so intent on succeeding and showing that it could be done. I'm sure they also had unspoken expectations and demands. "If I get to contribute here, if I'm part of this building project, I get to be part of the city." There may have been a desire for acceptance. They wanted to be part of the group, part of the project that was going on.

They were self-promoting (v. 4). Their goal was to "make a name" for themselves. They said, "We're going to do this great work because we want to make a name. We want everyone in the region to see this city and see this tower and agree that we're pretty good. There's none better."  

But under their proud exterior, it seems to me that they were also fearful and defensive. In verse 5 it says that they were afraid of being scattered. They hoped their high tower and this wonderful city would help defend them from enemies. They had a deep desire for security. They thought that the god of the tower would protect them and watch over them.

In building a tower "to the heavens" with its top in the sky, they presumed that they were striking a bargain with their deity. They wanted him to show them favor and make them preeminent. They wanted to be the ones that their god favored.

Isn't it interesting that the attitudes and desires of the people who strove to build that first tongue-tower are the same attitudes and desires that prompt us, over four millennia later, to build high gates with our tongues? 

  • When I am complacent, desiring ease and comfort,
  • When I am independent, wanting to be in control,
  • When I am self-centered, eager for personal gain,
  • When I am striving, trying to attain acceptance,
  • When I am self-promoting, wanting to be recognized,
  • When I am fearful and defensive, feeling insecure,
  • When I am presumptuous, expecting to be preeminent, that's when I set up these high towers of pride in my heart and in my life that keep me from connecting with you.

At Babel, God intervened to interrupt and frustrate the progression of human pride. As a result, humans experienced a breakdown in communication. Their language was confused. They had speech, but no understanding.

There was disunity. They were unable to get along and unable to work together any more, so they stopped building. In frustration, they scattered, not because they wanted to obey God, but because they couldn't stand to live near each other anymore. Their relationships were fractured.

Finally, they experienced ongoing pain and conflict. Try as they might, they weren't able to understand each other. They did not have the capacity to see things from the other person's point of view or to get along. Babel marked the beginning of person fighting person, family fighting family, and nations fighting nations.

Do any of these consequences of pride sound familiar? Yes they do. They do to me. Often our communication resembles a war game. We have our personal castles and our empires that we feel we need to defend, so we set up high gates of defense and fortify our walls. At the same time, we try to topple the empires of our opponents by verbally and non-verbally attacking them. We see ourselves as better than the other person.

This communication game of war is played with one ultimate goal in mind: being the winner at the end of the game. But life isn't a game. We don't win when we do battle with words. No one wins. We all lose.

Proverbs 17:19 says, "He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction."

Have you ever experienced a breakdown in communication? Disunity? Fractured relationships? An inability to understand and be understood? I have. The bad news is we all have, at one time or another. I think all of us put up these prideful barriers to communication.

But the good news is, today and for the rest of this week, and for the rest of your life, God wants to teach you how to drop your defenses, lay down your pride, and begin to interact in humility.

Many years after the tower of Babel, Babylon grew to be a beautiful, mighty city of tremendous wealth. Its hanging gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Ishtar Gate, the main entrance into the city, was doubly fortified. It was more than thirty-eight feet high and half a mile in length. It was a massive gate. No army in the world would attempt to breach it.

But pride comes before destruction. The pride of Nimrod and his people built the Tower of Babel, but God intervened and that tower fell. That amazing tower, that amazing gate that Nebuchadnezzar built in Babylon also fell. His Etemenanki Ziggurat is now pillaged. It is now a pit as deep as it once was high.

According to Proverbs, the prideful high towers you and I build with our tongues will also lead to destruction. Constructive and healthy communication only happens through the open door of a humble heart. As we end today's program, I want you to consider whether you've put up a prideful barrier in your heart toward someone you are in relationship with. 

  • Have you set yourself up as higher? 
  • Do you see them as being less than you? 
  • Do you approach conversations in battle mode, making assumptions, jumping to conclusions? 
  • Do you fail to acknowledge that it may be you who is contributing to the problem?
  • Is your pride keeping you from opening up the door and welcoming others in? 

Nancy: I hope you won't just rush past what we've heard today. I hope you'll take some time to let the Spirit examine your heart and help you to evaluate your words. Is your conversation like a tall, reinforced tower? Or like an open gate? Mary Kassian has been contrasting these two different ways of speaking. She'll be right back to pray with us.

But first, to help you use your words in a humble and helpful way, we'd like to send you a copy of Mary's Bible study workbook called Conversation Peace. As you prayerfully go through this study and see what Scripture has to say about the way of your words, and more importantly, as you respond to what you read, you'll find that your conversation will be marked more and more by peace.

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size this month, we'll send you a copy of this workbook, Conversation Peace, to show our thanks. The only way we can continue to bring teaching like this, day after day, is because of listeners like you who support this ministry financially.

Your gift this month will make a big difference as we continue calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. Just ask for Mary's workbook, Conversation Peace, when you call to make a donation. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Is there a relationship that you have that seems impossible to mend? Mary Kassian says that the Lord can help you use your words to get through the most difficult barrier. She'll explain more on Monday. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. Now, let's join Mary as she prays.

Mary: Heavenly Father, Your Word says that pride leads to destruction. And certainly, the pride that shows up in our words and in those tongue-towers that we build, leads to destruction in relationships. It doesn't build relationships, it creates a barrier.

So Father, we just repent of our pride and of seeing ourselves as better than others. I pray that You would give us the heart of Jesus, the humble heart of Christ, the humble heart of Jesus who was willing to go that extra mile; who was willing to open up to others; who was willing to be the one who was humble in the relationship.

I pray that today we may begin to take hold of that power of the open gate; that we would throw open our gates and begin to truly connect with one another as we lay down our pride. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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