Leaving God Out
It’s by the grace of God we have His Word to which we can turn our attention. So, I welcome you to join me in Genesis 11.
Almost everywhere we look around us we see people boasting of their accomplishments.
It’s true of sport’s icons, music and movie celebrities and the great scientific minds.
I found it interesting to read a list of what were dubbed the greatest accomplishments of 2018.
Here are some of the notable ones listed:
1. Vegetables were grown and harvested in a greenhouse in Antarctica without any earth of daylight.
2. Scientists have figured out how to erase damage caused by Alzheimer’s in a human brain cell.
3. Experts have discovered a chemical found in McDonald’s French fries maybe able to regrow hair follicles!
4. Doctors have used stem cells to restore the sight of two blind people.
5. And finally, a DNA nanobot has been created this year that can target and kill cancer cells.
These are wonderful discoveries. Tremendous accomplishments. Yet, in and of themselves, there’s a massive failure. In all these, there’s no honor given to Him who is most deserving- God.
It points out the danger of man with all his technological and medical advances choosing to live in an arrogant self-reliance from God.
Friends, we too run the risk of living lives distant from God, of forgetting God in our pursuits.
We too can forget that all the endeavors and accomplishments in the world that leave God in the shadows are ultimately disastrous.
So look follow along now as we see that so vividly in Genesis 11:1–9.
“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole
earth.” 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
This text places before us the Disastrous Danger of living at a Distance from God. It unfolds in three areas:
The opening sentences provide for us helpful
1. Orientation to this historic event.
Contrary to the attacks of liberals, this account is not a legend or myth, it’s a truth of history God.
Verse 1 tells us the entire world of that day spoke the same language. The original text literally says they were of “one lip.”
More specifically, the people on the earth, we are told, used the same words.
It’s not talking about some primitive and crude language with a minimal vocabulary.
Rather, the point is that all people communicated in the same shared language.
What language was it? Chinese, Spanish, German, English. Most likely, it would have been the same language spoken by Adam and Eve in the garden which was spoken by Noah and his family on the ark.
Since God gave us the O.T. that describes this historical event in Hebrew, that may well have been the language that all the world once spoke.
Now remember, chapter 11 is actually a flash back that explains the division into nations as the three sons of Noah lead their families into different regions.
Genesis 10:25 explains that during the lifetime of Peleg, “the earth was divided.” Well, the cause of that division is detailed for us in chapter 11.
Now based on the genealogies in chapter 10 and 11, we can determine that the Tower of Babel
endeavor took place about 100 years after the Flood. For Peleg was 5 generations from Noah and 5 generations from Abram.
One evangelical scholar has determined with large families of approximately 8 children each, reproducing, that would work out to be 30,000 people in the world from when Noah and his family got off the ark until the building of Babel.
To put that in perspective, all inhabitants of the post Flood earth could have comfortably been seated in the baseball stadium at Comerica Park.
Now we learn in the second verse of our text that this large group of inhabitants begins to journey east.
The Hebrew text pictures them pulling up stakes as traveling nomads.
As they journey along, they come to a large open plain in the land called Shinar. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, (Antiquities 1:4:1), this was the first place the multiplying group of people lived after leaving the mountains of Ararat.
You might recall from the book of Daniel (1:2) that Shinar describes the land in Babylon where King Nebuchadnezzar brought Daniel and his friends in the first deportation in 606 B.C.
And Shinar also shows up in Isaiah 11:11as one of the pagan nations from which God will one day restore some His chosen remnant. Now most scholars see Shinar as being located at Babylon which is present day Iraq. Because the name Shinar means “two rivers” (in Hebrew, “shene nahar”) it may have been situated between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. With that orientation, let’s now look at the
2. Ambition of the people 3-4
In verse 3 we read, “They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.’”
This marks a time of great technological development and progress. It had to do with the production of bricks for building.
There are basically two ways you can make bricks.
You get yourself some solid clay from the ground, form it in a rectangular shape, and then let it dry in the sun.
But if you try to build many levels with sun dried bricks they are weak and crumble.
But there’s a much better way. If you take that same hunk of clay and put it in a fiery hot kiln or oven, then you have a strong building brick.
In the early 1900’s dozens of brick factories were in full swing in the Detroit area.
They could produce as many as 100,000 bricks a day from material taken from clay pits.
In fact in 1922 alone, 58 brick plants produced 250 million bricks!
The open brick yards first used sun drying. But soon they were replaced with factories that hardened the bricks by fire in massive kilns.
What’s amazing is this. If they would have studied Genesis 11, they would have seen the wisdom the builders at Babel showed in making bricks hardened by fire rather than the heat of the sun!
We are also told in verse 3 that tar was used as mortar to hold the bricks together. In Iraq, ruins from once ancient ziggurat are especially fascinating. The bricks had been baked in fire and were connected together with a tar mortar! Now look at what they set out to build there at Babel: “They said”, verse 4 tells us, “come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven….” So they set out to build a great city and an extremely tall tower. So far, so good. Nothing inherently wrong with building big cities and spectacular towers. But here’s where they have gone wrong. These builders are motivated by pride. They are seeking to be independent of God. Some think they are trying to build a tower hoping to reach God. The reality is they are seeking to worship false gods they have invented in their minds.
They are duped into a satanically inspired religious system they have concocted. Now there have been nearly 30 ancient ziggurats discovered in what was ancient Mesopotamia. A ziggurat is a type of tower pyramid with a rectangular base that had a stair stepped exterior. They would place a temple at the top so their gods could descend to man. Babylonian legends describe these ziggurats which were likely inspired by the original Tower of Babel. In fact, one ancient Babylonian account, called the Enuma Elish, states that they made the tower with brick hardened by fire, and that every brick was inscribed with the name of the Babylonian god Marduk. So picture the great Babel tower as becoming the center of pagan worship in the city and was a great source of pride to the people. They even boasted that was the “gate of God” which they pronounced as bab-ili. Would you notice the godless motivation of the builders? There in the second part of verse 5, right after saying, let’s build a great city and tall tower they exclaim, “and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” O what frightening words. These passionate people have banded together with a cause not to glorify God but glorify themselves. They want a name, an identify, a purpose for themselves which leaves God out. It’s a reckless ambition for self-fulfillment, satisfaction, and significance man’s way. And they are trying to find safety in numbers not in God. For they fear being scattered. Remember, God had told Noah and his sons (Gen. 9:1), “Be fruitful and fill the earth.” Clearly, they were to spread out and not stay together. And you can be certain they would have passed that word from God on to their descendants. In fact, Genesis 9:28 tells us “Noah lived 350 years after the flood.”
That means he would have had opportunity as a preacher of righteousness to remind those even at Babel that God’s will was for them to fill the earth and not form a man-made alliance. But they choose to go their own way. They followed their whims not God’s will. In fact, friends, it’s right here where we see the first introduction of man-centered religion. It’s here at Babel that organized religion which opposes God finds its roots. For every false religion, every cult including New Age, horoscopes and astrology, all these trace back to the Tower of Babel. It’s the demonic deception first sown in that building program on the plains of Shinar by Satan who masquerades as an angel of light. And it’s all an affront to God. As Sonya and I flew back from Matthew and Natasha’s wedding last week, I came to find out that the lady seated on my left attends a church in Detroit. She gave off the impression that she loves God. Yet after we landed an as we prepared to debark, this lady begins to converse with another passenger about her astrological sign. And they really get into it, fully convinced that their destinies are influenced by their horoscopes. And I can’t help but think, “how duped they are by the devil’s deception.” The late James Montgomery Boice noted, “”Turn to any book on astrology and you will find that it was the Chaldeans,” [inhabitants of Babylon], “who first developed the zodiac by dividing the sky into sections and giving meanings to each on the basis of the stars that are found there. A person’s destiny is said to be determined by whatever section or sign he is born under.” You may not believe in the lie of zodiac signs. But you and I can so easily drift into seeking a name for ourselves. We can fall into trying to build a career, build a financial base, build a reputation and leave God in the shadows. O listen to the warning of the psalmist. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).
Watch now how God counters their wicked ambition with His 3. Intervention 5-9
“The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.”
The entire account hinges on this phrase, “The LORD came down….”
Here we see God’s close involvement in the affairs of mankind.
It’s not that God wasn’t sure about what was happening and had to come and see. His coming down wasn’t to find out something he didn’t know about the city and tower they were building. For God knows it all, the end from the beginning.
Job 28:24 “For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.”
King David takes great comfort in the fact that God knows everything about him:
Psalm 139:1–6 O LORD, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. 3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. 5 You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Solomon declares in Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”
God said through his prophet Jeremiah, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the LORD. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” Jeremiah 23:24
Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 6:8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
And then He adds in Matthew 10:30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
John the apostle John in I John 3:20 “God is greater than our heart and knows all things.”
He knows if we belong to Him as His children or not.
God doesn’t just know everything from a distance. His knowing includes a close and active evaluation of all man does.
Now God wasn’t impressed by the city and tower of Babel. For He’s never wowed by man’s accomplishments.
The prophet Isaiah declares, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers….” Isaiah 40:22
Kenneth Matthew in his Genesis commentary puts in perspective how the great building program appeared in God’s sight. It was “a tiny tower, conceived by a puny plan and attempted by a pint-sized people.”
And it represented the destructive nature of sin.
Notice, how in verse 6, “The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”
Man’s attempt here to build a society which excludes God is self-destructive.
Therefore, we must see God’s intervention at Babel not only as a penalty but as a prevention.
God keeps man from going too far in his organized sin and godless living.
Just as God expelled sinful Adam and Eve from Eden to prevent them from further sin in eating of the Tree of Life, so God put a stop to Babel.
He doesn’t strike the builders with blindness or some awful disease. He doesn’t kill them.
Rather, we read of God’s all-wise plan in verse 7: “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”
To the twice repeated rallying point of boastful man, “Come, let us…” the God of the universe now declares, “Come let us…”
Now to whom does the “us” here refer? The plural points to the 3 members of the godhead, the Father, Son, and Spirt.
Remember, God said during the week of creation, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26),
and now we hear him saying, “Let us to go down and confuse their languages.”
Remember, God chooses to break up their one-world language so as to break up their unified evil plan.
By the way, as we look at the end times in Revelation, we see that that global unification and a one world government ends in disaster and judgement.
Just imagine them working on that huge tower.
One builder yells to another, “We need a whole lot more tar mortar up here to secure the next level of bricks.”
And the guys around him stare with incredulity. They have absolutely no idea of what he’s saying.
It would be like us hearing someone give us instructions in Swahili. Soon the builders discover it’s impossible for them to understand each other.
Communication breaks down, it’s total chaos.
Notice in verse 8 the impact on those people.
So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.
Those godless builders can’t finish building their bastion of human achievement.
So they abandon their massive city and tower project. And they head out in different directions according to the new language groups that were formed.
Friends, this was the sovereign act of God to halt man in his evil purposes. IT was His wonderful design to show He rules over all including all that takes place on earth.
There’s wonderful irony that Moses the writer shows us in verse 9.
“Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
While those who set out to build that great city and tower wanted to make for themselves a name and find strength in their pagan alliance, God stops it all.
The name given it, “Babel,” shows for all of history the whole endeavor ended in awful confusion and failure. Why even in English, that word “Babel” means to speak nonsense.
And this points forward and anticipates two great realities in Scripture.
Babel was a miserable failure for man yet great victory for God.
For the language groups that leave Babel become the beginning of nations. Nations that God formed in which He would accomplish His saving purposes.
For what follows the Babel account is the line of Shem. And friends, here’s why that’s so significant.
It’s the line of Shem that we will see leads to Abraham.
That’ is the elect line which leads all the way to Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost world. So God designed the Nations in His glorious plan of redemption.
Revelation 7:9–10 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
So it is, the disaster at Babel prepared the world for how the Lord would come down once again. And He did that in the person of Christ who was born into our world. Born into our world to live and die and bring lost man to Himself.
The failure of Babel also shows us the failure of every individual and every organized system that opposes God.
In fact, the future one world system we see in Revelation 17 and 18 is called Babylon. It finds its inspiration and name from the Genesis 11 Babel. John the apostle writes of how Christ would bring about its doom once and for all.
An angel from heaven makes this great announcement in Revelation 18:2,
‘And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has
become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit…”
Then we read further in Revelation 18:21 “Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.”
Following that the apostle John hears a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven. Those are all the redeemed of the nations!
And in Rev. 19:1 they say, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
And once more in verse 6, John hears the cry of victory of that redeemed multitude saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.!”
Beloved, that’s the glorious outcome of what looked like disaster at Babel.
God sovereignly rules over all. He uses all the events of our lives, all the events of history including His enemies, to further His great plan of redemption.
This calls you and me Christian to submit every part of our lives in obedience to God.
To be done with our self-centered pursuits, living for what cannot last and yielding in obedience to Christ. It calls us to actively seek first God’s kingdom by pursuing what brings honor to Him rather than to us.
In 605 B.C. which was the 4th year of King Jehoiakim’s reign, Jeremiah announces to his scribe whose name was Baruch a message from God.
He told him about God’s sovereign rule over the nations of his day.
God through Jeremiah leaves a question with Baruch that is so fitting for us as we reflect on the lesson from Babel. Jeremiah 45:5
“But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them….”
Leaving God Out
1. Orientation 1-2
2. Ambition 3-4 Gen. 9:1 Gen. 9:28
3. Intervention 5-9
I John 3:20
How can I be a doer of the Word that doesn’t leave God out of my life?
Leaving God Out