The history of nations is certainly replete with countries who resolved to establish a land apart from God. The whole failed communist experiment of the Soviet Union was such an attempt. Other such attempts go on today. The history of nations is also covered with the fingerprints of God’s judgment upon it. Whenever and wherever God was left out of the equation, the nation has eventually fallen or experienced violent unrest. Nations, and individuals for that matter, who seek to exist and live apart from proper regard to their Creator will eventually be brought down. God will only strive with man for so long. The ancient city of Babel is a case study in God's dealing with an arrogant nation.
Consider the account in Genesis:
Genesis 11:1-5 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.”
The babel-dwellers decided they would make a name for themselves. They decided they would build something that would defy God himself. From what we can tell, this city consisted of all the inhabitants of the earth. When they proclaim “let us make a name for ourselves” from whom are they wanting homage? They are speaking directly in the face of their creator- God himself! What pride. What haughty arrogance.
They are twisting the mandate of God to fill the whole earth (Genesis 1:28). They are saying, "we won't do what God wants us to do so lets fortify ourselves and resist him. …we will do what we want." Think of how highly these people thought of themselves. They built an enormous structure. It was probably much like the ancient pyramids or ziggurats. It was probably enormous and could be seen for miles. It stood as a giant monument to the mightiness of man. It stood as a structure intended to magnify the presence and autonomy of man against God. It was no doubt the biggest, best, most awesome ediface man had ever built to this point in history.
What would God think? How would he react? Notice carefully the reaction of God:
Genesis 11:5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
Notice the highlighted wording- The Lord had to come down to see the tower! The tower the Babel-builders thought was so impressive, God could not even see from heaven! The tower the Babel-builders thought would intimidate and upstage God was so small, so miniature, so insignificant, so tiny, so peewee, that God had to stoop down and squint to see the work of their hands! God is not impressed by the work of men's hands like we are.
God met man's arrogance with a unique form of discipline that would force, to some degree, the spreading and filling of the earth as He mandated in Genesis 1:28:
Genesis 11:6-9 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.
The account of Babel is a stark warning to all nations and individuals who seek independence from God. One hundred forty-four years ago President Lincoln prayed that our country would humbly rely upon God. Surely this prayer is more applicable today.
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. -Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of a day of National Humiliation, 1863.
The truth from the text? They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by God's discipline.