Monday, June 25, 2007

Nimrod and the Babel Builders (Part 4)


I remember being due for some parental discipline as a youngster and running upstairs to lock myself in my bedroom. I thought to myself, “If I close myself in here, my parents can’t get me. I will be safe from the consequences of my actions. Surely safety could be found in this room”. How foolish I was to think a little, easily unlockable door would keep my parents from entering to administer discipline. It only took locking myself in the room once to realize how big they were and how very puny I was.

Babel was no different in the presence of God. They had constructed this huge city and mighty tower thinking they could stand in opposition to God. Just as I thought I could hide from my parents and be safe from judgment, the Babelites thought building a mighty city could keep God from them. Further still, they probably thought the tower would be intimidating to God. Imagine such pride. We gain proper perspective when we carefully consider the fifth verse of Genesis 11-

Genesis 11:5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.

Notice the wording- The Lord had to come down to see the tower! The tower Nimrod and the Babel-builders thought was so impressive... God couldn'’t even see from heaven! The tower that Nimrod and the Babel-builders thought would intimidate 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 our works and accomplishments like we are. We just put a huge steeple on our new church building, yet, we have not done so to somehow impress God. We have done so to make an earthly statement to draw people's thoughts heavenward, to our Great and Awesome God. The Babelites were building something they believed was truly awesome- that even God would have to be impressed if not intimidated.
What folly! Nothing we could make or do impresses God if done independently from a love and appreciation for God and His great grace. Only works done in Christ "impress" God. Needless to say, the tower of Babel didn't qualify as impressive to God.

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.

As God observes what the people have done He states that their mischievous unity will surely get them into further trouble. Keil describes the meaning of verse 6 by stating, “By the firm establishment of an ungodly unity, the wickedness and audacity of men would have led to fearful enterprises.” As we peruse history we find this to be the case. On the positive side of the ledger, when man has time and is unified in his thought great things happen- huge structures are built, great machines are invented, we can reach the moon in a single bound. We can even send probes and satellites to the uttermost parts of our universe. But when man’s intent is for evil, his unity of thought can be devastating. We build bombs that can destroy whole cities. We invent and develop medical procedures that kill the unborn while still in the womb. The list of atrocious things unified fallen humanity has concocted is long. In verse 6 God detects how quickly things are going downhill. He has promised not to judge the world by a flood again, so he forges another plan to thwart the sinful, prideful efforts of the Babelites. He decides to confuse their language. This simple action would divide their brain trust into dozens if not hundreds of groups.

Genesis 11:7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

The wording here hearkens back to the creation when God set out to create man.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

How tragic it is now that the creator has to discipline and correct His prized creation using the same wording He used to create.

Imagine the scene, one minute you are talking to your friend, the next minute you cannot understand a word he is saying. Quite possibly you are talking to your family and your children begin uttering a different language. For people who knew of only one existent language this would have been terrifying. It would have caused a huge panic. People would begin screaming out for someone to hear them. It is possible that when a person began to speak that they would not even understand themselves. They could be trying to communicate and would know what they meant to say but the sounds wouldn’t come out. So it is quite possible that you would have to find someone who was making similar sounds but you would have to get together to try to understand your new language. There were probably dozens if not hundreds of languages being shrieked and screamed all about the land. You would race around in a frenzy trying to find someone, anyone who would understand you or maybe someone who’s language sounded like yours! This had a obvious scattering effect on the people as they broke up into their various language or sound groups.

Genesis 11:8-9 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.

So it is that God would accomplish His Will with or without the cooperation of man. He confused the language to accomplish the end of mankind inhabiting the whole earth. We know from the genealogy table in chapter 10 that Nimrod went on with those who spoke his new language to build other cities but none like Babel. Babel literally means “Gate of God”, but its legacy is not what the people intended it to be. When a person utters in a seemingly meaningless bungle of sounds we refer to it as “babble”. Babies babble all the time. Only they know what it means.
Nimrod and the Babel-builders stand in the halls of history as a testimony to what happens when mankind thinks itself to be above God. They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.

1 comment:

Phantom495 said...

I am always struck by how God's Grace shines through in events such as this throughout human history. Although these arrogant, prideful, ruggedly individualistic people (sound familiar?) deserved to be struck down, or even allowed to continue in their path which would have led them to ultimate destruction, God showed mercy.

As Calvin said, our hearts are idol-making factories... What idols and "towers" have we built in our individual lives, and in our nation that will, at some point, bring about God's discipline? I praise Him for His sovereignty, and for giving us, His children, the ability and desire to struggle against the idolatry that would overcome us and confuse us.