Summary: The 21st sermon in our series on the book of Genesis. In this particular sermon we are looking at the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel.
Genesis Pt. 21 – “Say What?”
Text: Genesis 11:1-9
By: Ken McKinley
Now if you remember last time, when we looked at Genesis 10, we saw the sons of Noah and their descendants, and they were listed out for us, and we were told that from them, all the nations of the earth came into being. So I guess we could say that Genesis 10 was kind of like a pass and review of sorts. But when we get to chapter 11; Moses, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is going to go into more detail about HOW all the nations of the earth came into being, as well as how all the various languages in the earth developed, and how people got to the various locations on the earth that we associate them with today.
So the 1st thing I want you to be aware of is that these two chapters – Genesis 10 and 11 are like a bridge between the world of Noah and the world of Abraham, and a bridge between the lessons that both of their lives teach us. Because we’re getting to the point where God is going to specifically focus on revealing His will to Abraham and his line, and these two chapters are bringing us to that, but they are also a reminder of how God is still involved in all the affairs of men, whether they are of Abrahamic descent or not, and if you remember from last week, I was saying that it’s passages like these that drive our mission emphasis. It’s never acceptable for us to say, “OK, we’re just going to take care of ourselves, and everyone else out there can find God on their own.” Because one of the temptations of God’s people is to try and find a cozy, comfortable place for ourselves and forget all the bad things that are going on around us.
You know… that’s how monasteries started. Back in the Middle Ages, believers were seeking to retain purity in the middle of a wicked world, so they pulled back from society and built monasteries and separated themselves from the world and all its wickedness. They either misinterpreted or misunderstood Scriptures like 2nd Corinthians 6:17 which says, “Come out from among them and be separate…” thinking that they should tune out altogether. It’s true, they were separate in those secluded monasteries and they were trying to live godly lives, but in doing so, they became totally unable to influence the world for Christ. Also last week; we looked at Nimrod, who came out of the line of Ham. He was a powerful and influential man. An empire builder and we learned that he was the one that was largely responsible for the cities of Nineveh and Babylon. And it’s interesting how the philosophy of this one man, who founded those cities, carried on through them for generations to come. You can learn a lot about a group, a party, or even a person by looking at their education and mentors… but that’s for another time.
Now our text this morning divides into two parts. In verses 1 – 4 we see man rebelling against God’s command to fill the earth and have dominion over it, and then in verses 5 – 9 we see God’s response, and His judgment against this rebellion. So let’s look at that first part, verses 1 – 4 again (Read).
When we read that it should be pretty obvious what the problem is; it’s that little word, “ourselves.” It’s used twice in verse 4; where the people said, “Let us build OURSELVES a city and a tower,” and “Let us make a name for OURSELVES.” Self-glorification is always self-defeating. When man sets out to make a name for himself apart from God and apart from the grace of God, we can be sure that trouble is right around the corner.
Now remember; Moses was writing this to people who already were experiencing the result of God’s judgment. The Israelites knew what it was like to try and communicate with people who spoke different languages. They had grown up having to learn the Egyptian language, while preserving their own language of Hebrew, and so what Moses was saying to them, and trying to get them to see was that at one point in time, humanity had a great deal in common.
They had one language, they were able to cooperate with one another, and work with one another, and associate with one another, and fellowship with one another, and because of that they were able to do great things – just think of all the good things they could’ve done and accomplished. But instead of obeying God’s creation mandate to fill the whole earth, they instead chose to rebel.