Summary: The Tower of Babel reflects a desire that we still have today, to be independent of God and focus on human achievement.
When I was a teenager one of the most popular songs out there was a classic by that wonderful, very non-Christian rock band Led Zepplin, it was called “Stairway to Heaven”. There have been few songs in history that have been listened to under the fog of marajuana more than this one. Fortunately neither the song or the marajuana had any appeal to me.
I don’t even pretend to understand all the lyrics, but it starts with a woman who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven. It goes on to talk about a choice between two paths and that someday the truth will come to you at last when all are one and one is all. Today’s story is kind of like buying a stairway to heaven, and it’s for all the wrong reasons, and doesn’t end well.
Last week we were introduced to Peleg who lived 209 years, sometime during his life the Tower of Babel incident happened, so for some of his life at least there was one language spoken. People who had dispersed to the east from the area where Noah’s Ark landed, began coming back for some reason, probably because Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan don’t have the kind of good land that is closer to the Mediterranean and the big rivers, and they certainly weren’t depending on God for their prosperity and survival.
So today we’re going to look at the revolt of man at Babel, and God’s response. Let’s start with our friend Nimrod and:
I. The Revolt of Man (vv 1-4)
This begins with:
A. The Centralization in Their Settling (vv 1-2)
God said one thing, man did the opposite. God told the people, “be fruitful and multiply”. He also said, “fill the earth, teem on the earth and multiply in it.” You see God knew what people were like, he said after the flood, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” He knew that if many people gathered together in one place, not much good would come of it, they would feel more powerful and easily forget their dependence on God to survive and thrive.
God also wanted people to experience all of His creation. Why would He create this whole earth if he didn’t want his people to experience all of it, to glorify himself through it? There may have been some aspect of judgment here too. Remember he dispersed Adam and Eve out of the Garden. We don’t always know the reasons God does what he does, but clearly he didn’t want people to centralize.
The first thing we see is that people started migrating from the east. In the Old Testament, east is not good, it’s always associated with evil. So it’s these darn easterners, just like Toronto who start messing things up. When people started to come to one place trouble began. Does this mean cities are bad, does God hate cities?
Let me just give you a fact. Here in Killarney, approximately 25% of the population goes to church. We can’t assume that they are all true Christians, but they go to church. In most Canadian cities approximately 4% of people go to church. The smaller the population, the more people go to church. Now that doesn’t mean the culture in the church is necessarily healthy and there are many factors here, but just using attendance as a measure we could say that spiritually, from a Christian perspective, cities are less healthy than small towns.
Having said that, we should have incredible influence over the rest of the population in a small town. But when was the last time you saw a lost person come to faith for the first time in this town because of the witness of the church?
Add to this that it is in cities that most of the human icons exist, skyscrapers, big stadiums, all sorts of massive manmade stuff. Most of the sinful activity like prostitution, homosexuality etc is practiced. People who want to do more sinful stuff usually migrate to the city where it’s more easily hidden and accepted.
So I don’t know if God hates cities, but it sure seems like the building of big cities was not in God’s original plan, therefore, they are not working out well for us humans as if we would have followed his way. So the bottom line is that cities are a revolt against God, today, as they were in the days of Genesis, and they are places where God is largely ignored.
Think about it, if you get a lot of people together in one place for an extended period of time, what usually happens? Competition, arguments, ultimately leading to fights, murder, cliques, nothing good for the most part. Pride and the associated desire for power, is the enemy that ultimately crops up when many people get together for long periods of time. It even happens in churches when God is not kept at the center and it becomes man’s church.