1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
3 Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
4 And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
6 And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
7 "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
When people think about the biblical account of the tower of Babel, they usually associate as the Bibleís explanation of diverse languages. Confusing their language is a part of this story, but it is not the main focus of this account. The language issue is only one of the details to this story. This is an account of the generations after Noah rejecting the commands of God. There are four key areas I see in this passage that this study will examine.
1. Preserve Our Group
The flood ended with the command in Genesis 9:
1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
2 "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every
Yet this generation said, letís build a city and towerÖ "lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth". The entire foundation of their plans was in violation of Godís commands. Since the fall, man has been seeking to build a utopia. The longing in our hearts is for what we have lost. The quest for heaven on earth has not ended and will not end until Christ returns. Godís purpose for man has always been to go out and do His will. We can only be complete in Him and we can only be satisfied in the center of His will. He is the One who satisfies, not things or activities. Even the church gets sidetracked from the purposes of God by seeking to live in a self-contained world. There is this idea that it would be nice to isolate from the world and only have church people and church functions at the center of our social life. The focus is on self and not Godís purpose for our lives. The average Christian cuts off most acquaintances to the world within a few months after accepting Christ. There is a line that must be drawn between living in the world and living for the world. We should cut off contacts that are destructive to our faith, but not isolate the church into a separate culture. We are the salt of the world and the light of the world; we are not salt for ourselves and light to the enlightened.
In the early church, God used persecution to get the church out of its isolated state and into the culture where their light could shine and impact the world. God used Saul to scatter the church and then later made called him to preach the gospel throughout the known world. He began as a persecutor and then God transformed him into a new creation and changed his name to Paul the apostle. God used him on both sides. Acts 8:3 tells that Saul persecuted the church and caused it to be scattered throughout the world. Acts 8:4 "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word."
God doesnít bless us so that we can lavish in His blessings. God blesses us so that we can bless those around us. He equips us so we can go out and do His will and touch the lives of others in His name. By nature we are self-centered. When the church gets a self-centered worldview, they lose sight of Godís plan. When we become self-centered, we want to be isolated from anything that will interfere with our world. Fearing to lose what we have is why people resist outreach. God commands us to go into the highways and byways to touch everyone with the gospel. This command to go often interferes with our preference to keep our group intact. We get content when our local church gets the way we want it. Then we grow complacent and isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.
Out of a self-centered view of life, the people of Babel made the decision to build their own utopia. Their goal was security and preservation. This life was all they acknowledged. God did not call man to protect his life and lifestyle at all cost, but to live this life with an eternal perspective. If we live like this is all there is, this is all we will have. Proverbs 11 says,
24 There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.
25 The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
If we want a blessed life, God requires that we get outside of ourselves. If we strive to preserve what is ours, we will see it slip away. But if we reach out as God commands us to do, God will increase abundantly above anything we can scatter.
Have you ever wondered why churches canít hold it together? I have seen so many churches grow from almost nothing to a exciting, vibrant church. Soon division comes in or the leadership fails and the church splits, becomes spiritually dead, or dwindles away to nothing again. The reason is that God will not honor our purposes unless our purposes are the same as His purposes. God doesnít build a church to be a social club, but to be a symbol of His glory. Our unity is the foundation that God gives us to reach out. If we quit reaching out, God quits blessing. A church is a place that we go to be encouraged, discipled and equipped. The local church is not the end result, but the place we are renewed so we can go out and do Godís will. If we make church the end of our purpose, we have missed the big picture.
2. The Works of Our Hands
"Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens". God does not honor the works of our hands. God honors those who yield themselves to His will and allow God to produce good works through us. To work without obedience is our own efforts, but through obedience God produces good works through us. Look at Deuteronomy 30:
8 "And you will again obey the voice of the LORD and do all His commandments which I command you today.
9 "The LORD your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the LORD will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers
If the builders of Babel had labored to obey, then they would have had the right motives and God would have led them to the work He was doing and blessed the works of their hands. If Babel was part of Godís plan, He would have blessed them. If not, He would have led them to work He could bless. The first key in finding Godís will and the work God is calling us to is found in John 12. Jesus said:
24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
25 "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
Until a person sees the bigger picture of Godís plan, they will cling to their own life and seek their own works. The one who responds to Godís plan will follow Jesusí call. When we die to ourselves for the sake of submitting to God, He will produce a fruitful and fulfilled life. Alone, we are like the grain of wheat that can do nothing. When we die, in Christ we are made alive. It is impossible to follow Christ without choosing to die to myself. When I die to myself, I live and abide in Christ and He produces the fruit in my life. God blesses what He produces, not what I produce. It is God that gives me significance and belonging. Good works are produced when we yield ourselves to God. I donít ask God to bless what I am doing, but I pray and seek to find where God is leading and I take up what God is blessing. God doesnít change, I do. In John 15, Jesus said,
4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing"
The key is abiding. God directs me to the work and produces the fruit of that work. The people of Babel sought to reach the heavens by their own labors and were climbing the tower of their own works.
3. "Let Us Make a Name for Ourselves"
Only God can make a name great. Romans 13 says,
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
All authority comes from God and is appointed by God Ė even those who are wicked and are in authority. God appoints evil men for judgment, to accomplish His purpose or so His name can be glorified. Those who seek to exalt themselves, God will humble (Matthew 23:11). In the account of Babel, we see that kingdoms banded together to build a tower with the ultimate goal of making their name great instead of acknowledging God. Letís jump ahead one chapter. Genesis 12 says:
1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Abram (or Abraham) submitted himself to God. He humbled himself and God exalted him but the people of Babel exalted themselves and God scattered their plans and divided the people. Abraham humbled himself, left his secure place at the command of the Lord and God made Abrahamís name great. God gave Abraham the very thing the people of Babel sought. Abraham received the promise of God because he died to himself and to his own plans and followed God. Abraham found the promise of Isaiah 57:15
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
What a promise! God, who inhabits eternity and dwells in the high and holy place also dwells with him who is humble and contrite. God is glorifies Himself by lifting up those who reflect His glory. You canít glorify God without receiving the blessings and benefits of His glory. That is our purpose in life Ė to glorify God and enjoy Him. God longs to pour out His Spirit and His blessings on us, but He will not exalt those whose hearts despises His glory or seeks their own. Those who seek to glorify their name, canít seek to glorify God.
4. Nothing Purposed Will be Restrained
Genesis 11:6b(KJV) says, "now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do". History has shown the truth of Godís warning in this passage. The only thing that restrains the evil of menís hearts is accountability. When a group thinks and acts as one outside of Godís plan, the result is always tragic. There has never been a time when all of humanity was united in one mindset. God in His mercy has always restrained humanity by foiling their plans. We have had glimpses of what is possible through unity without God. Hitler was able to unite the almost all the people in an entire nation with the same mind and the result was the extermination of over 17 million people. Stalin was able to unite the political and military forces of Eastern Europe and the result was a 50-year tyranny that murdered over 27 million people.
The confusion of the language in this passage is an act of mercy. When God allows man to have the godless desires of his heart, it is never the utopia satan promises, but chaos and tragedy. There is not one example of a godless society that has not turned against the people. The strong always oppress the weak, selfishness, greed and desire create envy, murder, thieves, etc. The world united truly would fulfill the warning that God declared when He said, "nothing will restrain them". At the heart of all world religions Ė including atheism Ė is the belief that at the core of man he is good. Man builds worldly systems around this belief and because the foundation is a false belief, the perfect society always crumbles into a violent attempt to maintain control or power. Since the beginning, mankind has always tried and failed in attempts to establish this perfect society. God has reserved a time when this united society will occur, but it is at the end-time as part of Godís judgment. It is ironic that God can execute judgment just by giving us what we demand. Our sinful heart blinds us to the fact that our desires are destructive. But if we lay aside what we want for the sake of pursuing Godís will, in Him we will find everything our heart desires. If God turns us over to our desires without restraint, our desires will always oppress us and eventually destroy us. But if we pursue Christ, He will not allow you to be unsatisfied. The problem is that most people canít trust Him. Psalm 36:7-9 says,
7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.
Without faith Ė Ďtrusting under the shadow of His wingsí Ė we will never benefit from this promise.