Friday, March 8, 2019

The Tower of Babel

"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." (Genesis 11:9).

Adam fell in the garden, and his son Cain went out and built the City of Man in defiance of God (Genesis 4:17). Similarly, Ham fell in Noah’s vineyard, and Ham’s descendent Nimrod went out and built two great “Cities of Man” in defiance of God: Babylon (Babel) and Nineveh (Genesis 10:8–12). God permitted Cain’s sin to permeate the earth, and this brought on the Flood; but as we have seen, God promised never again to let man’s sin reach such a great extent (Genesis 8:21). God thus acted to break up the ungodly civilization of Nimrod after the Flood.

In Genesis 11 the people were united in language and in belief. They set about to build a city for themselves, with a tower in the middle that would “reach to heaven”: in other words, a temple or religious center for their anti-God faith. So far from reaching toward heaven, their tower was so puny that the text humorously says God had to “come down” even to see it. God declared that a unified humanity would have such great power that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Fulfilling His promise to prevent evil from developing that degree of pre-flood strength, God broke up their work by confounding their speech. Finding that they could not understand one another, they had to abort the tower project.

There are several important things to learn from this event. First, all attempts to create a one-world language are doomed to failure, as are attempts to create a one-world humanist state. Second, God intends for humanity to exist in nations and have many languages and cultures, each beautifully reflecting the infinity of His image and glory in unique ways. Third, while God frustrates the attempts of the wicked to achieve unity, He desires that Christians act in unity. Jesus prays for the unity of believers, and when we act as one, nothing that we legitimately desire will be withheld from us (John 17:22–23). Finally, as a sign of the unity of God’s kingdom, God transformed the Babelic judgment into a blessing on Pentecost by enabling people to understand one another’s languages (Acts 2:5–12).

Although the confusing of languages at Babel was a judgment of sorts, it is also an example of God using judgment for His own glory because as a result, mankind is now able to praise God with a thousand tongues. Think today about what it will be like in the kingdom to praise God with all the tongues of men. Strive also to praise God now as artfully and gloriously as possible.