A Really Bad Idea (Genesis 11)

Summary:

Have you ever heard of the 1%? They are supposed to be the richest in our society, the ones who allegedly control most of the wealth and all of the power. Some believe that these influential few control our politics, our resources, and even our weather. They meet in secret and plan the fates of millions. Imagine that! Now imagine if the 1% were a little bit different. What if they increased in number? What if they all lived in the same place? What if they all spoke the same language? Maybe then we’d have something like the political state of the world some hundreds of years after the flood.

With none of the restrictions of modern governmental policies, like trade restrictions, economic sanctions, or, well, democracy, there was nothing really to stop the world’s leaders when they wanted to do something. So when they decided they wanted to build a huge brick tower, they got right to work. I wonder how far they got? Maybe they managed to build a tower the size of an apartment building, or even a skyscraper. It didn’t matter, though, because God soon decided to put a stop to their project. He did it by confusing them. He broke up their power structure by giving different groups of people the ability to speak different languages. Earth’s population split into nations, some people going one way, others going another. Empty lands began to fill.

Although perhaps crestfallen, the people of the earth weren’t too dismayed by their ruined plans. They continued to be fruitful and multiply, most notably Shem’s line, from which Abram descends. He already has an eventful family history – orphaned nieces and nephews to care for (verses 28, 29), a brother who marries one of those nieces (verse 29), and a father who decides to emigrate from Ur towards Canaan, only to die before reaching his destination (verse 32). Yet the story of Abram is only just beginning.

The Treasures Within:

An Art Project Gone Wrong?

The events that took place at the tower of Babel were pivotal in our history – language became beautifully diverse that day. But why did things have to happen this way? It seems like the situation escalated from a two to a ten! How did we get here?

The leaders of the earth dreamed of making history, of becoming household names (verse 4). They dreamed of years to come, when their own descendants would look around at what had been built and be so grateful because of the hard work that had been done. Most of all, they dreamed of power. The entire world was under their control, recognizing them, appreciating them. After all, some sort of government was necessary. The world’s population could not be allowed to run amok. They needed to be controlled and properly utilized. With the right organization, humanity would be unstoppable. They wouldn’t even need God.

But before they could get started on their goals, these Dreamers needed a monument. A central landmark, a national capital; something that could be seen for thousands of miles so that wherever the people of this one world nation were, they could be reminded of who they were and who they served. Some of the loudest, strongest, most intimidating and probably smartest people stepped forward to lead the initiative. They decided to build a tower for their monument. They decided on their building materials, eventually giving in to the urging of the most experienced builders among them by using brick and tar (verse 3). Finally, they began to build.

Men, women and children chipped in. The leaders began to plan what they would put inside of the building. They imagined the events they would hold outdoors, surrounding the monument. Day by day, the walls of their tower inched higher and higher. Pride swelled the hearts of the people. They could do anything they set their minds to, couldn’t they? Only the sky was the limit to their aspirations, and given the height of their building, perhaps they could surpass that limit too!

The leaders were not any less thrilled. Some fights and disagreements aside, the people listened well. They would probably do anything asked of them – as long as someone with just enough fame, just enough charm, and the right amount of manipulative power stood before them. The answer “no” would never be an obstacle again. The majority would always win because the minority could easily be silenced, whether through clever persuasion or brute force.

Thinking these fortuitous thoughts, one of the leaders standing watching the tower’s progress turned with a smile to his companion. “Things are looking up around here!” His friend looked sharply at him. A string of foreign syllables escaped from his friend’s lips. “What?” the leader asked, “what did you say?” His companion seemed utterly confused and could not respond.

The leader began to shout, but his voice was one among thousands as cries of confusion erupted all around him. Work was abandoned left and right as frightened people wandered around, shouting into the air, searching for someone who could understand them.

This freakish scene is so bizarre in our heads. Why would God even think to respond this way to something as seemingly innocent as a tower? But the omniscient God who understands and foresees all things knew what He was doing. To know that this is true, we need only to think of the destruction our world has been capable of, even with our resources and power divided!  Who knows what horrors could have taken place if we were united?

God’s Message To Us:

“Trust Me, even when your plans fall to pieces.” Just like our ancestors in this story, we are people who dream. We have goals. We make plans. We are told from childhood up that we must follow our hearts and do what makes us happy. But we aren’t told that sometimes our hearts tell us to do things that are not in God’s will. We aren’t told that God knows way better than our hearts what’s good for us, and happiness only comes through listening to Him.

Since we aren’t told this, or we don’t listen, sometimes God has to use other ways to dissuade us from doing something that isn’t His will. Widespread confusion breaks out. Or, more simply, a door closes. Plans fall through. We wonder why God is trying to make us unhappy, when His only goal is to give us life more abundantly. Our plans are so dim compared to His. We can’t tell, but it’s true. When our dreams are crushed and confusion swirls within us, will we trust Him?

There Are Always Questions:

  1. I find it interesting that even though God said in verse 3 of Genesis 6 that the lives of humans would be restricted to 120 years, in this chapter we see that people were still living to 400 and 200 years old. This is definitely a far cry from the 900 years we were seeing before the flood, but still, it’s not 120. Why did God wait to restrict our ages to what He said He would? Was it so that the population could regenerate? Was it for health concerns somehow?

 

What do you think? How do you think the events at the Tower of Babel went down? What plans or dreams do you have right now? How does God feel about them? What do you think God wanted to tell you when He wrote this chapter for you?

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