I’ve never given much thought to the tower of Babel until this week. The reading was part of the “Through the Bible in a Year” plan our church is currently following. The first nine verses of Genesis 11 reads in the English Standard Version:
“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Today, we cannot even begin to imagine everyone using the same language, the same words! Verse 1 of Genesis 11 deals a heavy blow to the theory of evolution since there were obvious differences between human language and animal sounds. When I think of the word “babble”, I think of the nonsensical utterances of a young baby, or someone or several people talking so rapidly that his/their speech is incomprehensible. And while this “Babel” is pronounced, “ba-bel” with a long “a” sound and the accent on the first syllable, it seems most appropriately named to me! It may be a play on words, but in verse 9 of Genesis 11 we find these words, “Therefore its name was called Babel, because the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
People born after the Flood are all descendants of the three sons of Noah. This includes us! In the book of Acts, chapter 17, and verses 25b- 26 Paul states,
“He (Jesus) Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things, and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
Notice what the people who had settled in the plains of Shinar proposed to do. They proposed “to build for (themselves) a city, and a tower whose top (reached) into heaven, and to make for (themselves) a name, otherwise (they would be) scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” I immediately thought of the Scriptures in Proverbs,
“The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3).
And again in Proverbs 16:9 we read, “The mind of a man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”
In the first few verses of Genesis 11, we see no indication of these people seeking the mind of God, and as a matter of fact, their motive was just like I find mine to be on way too many occasions, “let us build for ourselves… and let us make for ourselves a name…
In effect, these people were trying to thwart God’s plans. Job, in his contrite answer to the Lord stated, “I know You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Job finally got it! God’s purposes cannot be thwarted, try as we might, and that is MERCY. In Genesis 9:1, Scripture tells us, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'” It was God’s intention for people to be scattered throughout the earth, not to be in one city, rallying around a tower. Had God not intervened and confused their language, they were planning to finish a tower which would have isolated them and left them altogether, after all it was more comfortable that way! But their plan was the exact opposite of what they had been commanded to do.
In the latter part of Genesis 11:6, we find these words, “…now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” Those are frightening words, aren’t they? When we are eager to have “our” plans work just the way we want them to, we manipulate, strive, pray, and do everything we possibly can to effect our desired outcome. Do we consider that our “desired” outcome may not be the outcome that is “best” for us? Oh, but we think it is, and that is the rub! God knows each of us better then we know ourselves, and He will intervene and thwart the best laid plans to give us His best. It is often the exact opposite of what we desire, and often very painful, difficult to accept – much less understand, but His plans are ALWAYS for our ultimate good and for His glory, because He is ALWAYS good. God cannot operate in a manner inconsistent with His character.
It is so easy to “see the speck in our brother’s eye,” isn’t it? And so many times we tend to harp on “the speck” and fail to acknowledge “the plank in our own?” I could wax eloquently about how wrong these people in ancient times were, how they defied the very commands of God, had selfish motives, and wanted their own way. But the truth is, I do the same things everyday. No, I am not into tower building, but I sometimes find that I try to build myself up in the eyes of others, I make decisions without going to the Lord first to see what He would have me do, or I even fail to go to loved ones, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances with the good news of the gospel. It is so much easier and safe to stay in my “holy huddle.” So in reality, I am not very different from these people who lived so long ago.
Dear Father, forgive me when I have judgmental attitudes toward others; when I capitalize on the specks in the eye of another, and fail to see the log or plank in my own. You have blessed us all with two ears and one mouth by design so that we would listen more and speak less, particularly when are busy “babbling”, promoting our own agenda with little or no consideration as to what You would have us do, say, or think. Help us to remember that while we are to spread your Gospel to the ends of the earth, it begins with our own family members, dearly loved friends, our neighbors and those with whom we come in contact. We may not be called to go to the ends of the earth, but we each have our own sphere of influence and even that sphere of influence is by your design! As we go throughout our days, help us to be mindful of the fact that we are Your ambassadors in a hurting world, and make us worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the precious name of “Him who is able to keep (us) from stumbling, and to make (us) stand in the glory of His presence blameless with great joy, to the only wise God and Savior, be glory, majesty, dominion and power both now and forever, AMEN” (Jude 24-25).