By Ashley Synowicki
In this week’s lesson, which was also our final lesson of the study, we learned about the tower of Babel. Though this is a familiar story, a lot can be gleaned from this well-known tale. We start out in Genesis 11:3-4 where the people of Babel say:
“Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. . . . Then they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Their choice of words is surprisingly familiar. It echoes Gods own words at the very beginning of Genesis in Chapter 1:26, where He speaks to the other members of the Trinity saying, “Let us make man in our image.”
This interesting choice of words by the men in Babel gives us an insight into their motives. This wasn’t simply a building project. Something much darker was going on here. They were pursuing a way to glorify themselves. They wanted to create something of their own and to occupy the heavens just like God. In a matter of a few sentences we are back to the very first original sin. In the Garden of Eden, Eve chose to believe the lie that she could be like God by eating the forbidden fruit. In the story of Babel, we again see a similar sin, however this time people are unified and sinning corporately.
It’s important that we recognize the distinction between the people of Babel’s actions and their motives. Building and creating alone are not sinful. Oftentimes humans build and create to make order out of chaos. To bring beauty and organization to the world, echoing the actions of our Creator. Building can be a beautiful and God glorifying act . . . if done with the right motives. However, that’s not what we see here. Instead, we see a people acting out of prideful ambition to promote themselves and attempting to put themselves where only God should be.
This story caused me to consider my own motives. What cities and towers have I built only to bring attention and praise to myself? How often have I believed the lie that all I do, I do in my own power? When have I denied the Creator God who has so graciously given me any power I could ever hope to possess?
We then moved forward in our passage and realize that it was indeed a gracious act of God when He chose to confuse their language and disperse the people of Babel. It was merciful when He prevented them from communicating with one another. In fact, He even fulfills His own command that His people be fruitful and multiply. Without God intervening, people would continue to sin corporately, as well as individually.
“And the LORD said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”Genesis 11:6
He knew what they would be capable of if He did not intervene. They would continue in their pursuit of becoming like God. Out of love for His people the LORD intervened. By dispersing them, God provided a roadblock. He gave them an interruption, creating an opportunity for them to acknowledge their failure. He used His mighty hand to show who truly is in control . . . and who is not. This was the only hope for them to be reconciled back to Him. Without dispersing them and confusing their language, there would be no hope. They would instead be left to continue blindly in their own sin.
For us, thousands of years after this original story took place, I believe we can still build cities and towers of our own. Sometimes we build them corporately with others, and sometimes we build them all on our own. Either way, they are built brick by brick out of our own self-sufficiency and pride. Have you ever built a tower of your own only for God to come tear it down? How have you responded to your tower falling? Perhaps you can view that situation differently in light of this lesson. May we no longer see it as a failure or mistake, but as God’s gracious care and love. He would not allow our cities and towers built with selfish motives to stand. For that we can be grateful.