Summary: What are we building our lives toward?
For several years, an unfinished building, which looked like it was to be a hotel, stood along Interstate 69 south of Fort Wayne, I believe at one of the Marion exits. I often wondered what happened to create this unfinished monument of someone’s hopes and dreams. Did they run out of money? Did they die? What kept the person or persons from completing this project?
In Luke 14, Jesus speaks of the cost of following Him and in one illustration speaks of the need to count the cost before building a new building in order to save the embarrassment of having an unfinished monument.
In our story of today, there is a building that remains unfinished but not because they ran out of money, or material, or personnel. The building was never finished because God kept it from being completed. Why?
What was wrong with building this great and wonderful piece of architecture? What was God afraid of? After all, what’s wrong with a beautiful building?
Now there is nothing wrong with a beautiful building, is there? We marvel at the various buildings that have been built over the years. But, there was something different about this building. And the something different had to do with what it stood for - human self-sufficiency and self-glorification.
At this point in Biblical history, the earth has dried out. Noah’s sons have begun to re-populate the earth. But, little else has changed. Humanity is not seeking God like Noah sought Him. In fact, they are going further away by the construction of this great tower as a monument to themselves. So, the situation comes to a place that God decides He has to do something or it will get worse.
He comes down, as it says in verse 5, to see the city and the tower the people were building. And He then He does two things. First, He makes a rather unsettling statement: "If they can accomplish this when they have just begun to take advantage of their common language and political unity, just think of what they will do later. Nothing will be impossible for them!"
Second, He makes what seems to be a very uncaring and harsh decision; "Come, let’s go down and give them different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other." And that is what happened. Confusion reigned and the tower was left unfinished and the people were scattered across the earth. Why on earth did God do this? What was the point?
What could humanity have done that not even God could have stopped? Why was God concerned about this building and political unity? Shouldn’t God be pleased with what He saw? Is God pleased when people work together?
Now, before we move on to think about the implications of this passage, I want to share with you some information about what we call the Tower of Babel.
On the overhead, is one artist’s possible conception of the tower. In the research I did regarding the type and location of the Tower of Babel, I learned of the existence of a large pile of material that is made of material such as described in verse 3. It is around 2,300 feet in diameter and around 250 feet high. It is located, of all places, in south central Iraq.
One of the challenges of this story is that it challenges our 21st century thinking. Every once in a while the media reminds us of our lack of geographical understanding. We are taught; we are encouraged to think globally; to see beyond the borders of our own towns, cities, states, and country.
To some people the words that we have read and heard this morning would perhaps make them say, "Why would God do this? Doesn’t He want human beings to live in harmony and respect? “Didn’t Jesus talk about being a peacemaker? Isn’t there something in the Old Testament about the Lion lying down with the Lamb? But, if this is what Christianity is all about, I want nothing to do with it!"
Others would say, “Let’s think for a moment about the implications of what this could have meant for the human race. First, instead of the confusion and misunderstanding that surrounds us today, having the ability to speak one language most certainly would have improved our ability to better solve our problems, wouldn’t it?”
“Second, being able to speak as one and work together as one could have made life much easier. Correct? Man, human history could have been written much differently! Think about all that the human race could have done if God would have stayed out of this thing.”
But, there’s the rub - if God would have stayed out of it. This whole scenario that I have just described leaves God out. It is all about humanity. It is all about me, us. God is nowhere to be found.