Wednesday, January 02, 2019

"Scatter or Topple"

Genesis 11.4 NIV

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 
After the flood, the descendants of Noah settled in “the land of Shinar” (Genesis 11.2). Communication in those days was easy and free-flowing. “The whole world had one language and a common speech” (Genesis 11.1). People who communicate well and work together can accomplish great things. The Lord acknowledged this of the Shinarites:

“If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do
this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
Genesis 11.6 NIV

I used to believe the traditional interpretation of “a tower that reaches to the heavens;” that is, the people were taking advantage of their unity to compete with the Lord. They planned to build a structure that would literally reach the habitation of God. Their intention was to co-exist with Him. To avoid that possibility, the Lord was forced to confuse their language to protect His realm from human invasion. 

This concept seems ridiculous to me now. Could anyone reach God with a physical structure of any size? Such an architectural feat could reach beyond Pluto, the Milky Way, the farthest galaxy, the edge of the Universe and still not locate heaven’s throne of God. These ancient tower builders knew better than that. Their intentions were straight-forward and certainly achievable: 

“…so that we may make a name for ourselves…”

The architects of a new world designed a building project to create cultural solidarity. A tall building would give them credibility and identity as a political power in the small region of their known world. The city of Shinar would have been lucky to compete with Seattle’s Space Needle at a mere six-hundred and five feet. With their limited building materials and inferior engineering capabilities, any structure bigger than two stories would have been unstable. Motivated by a sense of pride and the need to “make a name” for themselves, Noah’s offspring would most assuredly have taken architectural risks and suffer the building’s collapse during its first storm or tremor.  They would soon learn the awful truth:

“Pride goes before destruction...”
Proverbs 16.18 ESV

By confusing their language and scattering the people, God may have saved the inhabitants Shinar from themselves.

Could it be that the only thing worse than adversity is success? Perhaps success is a setup for a fall and not always in my best interest. God probably knows what’s best for me. He may scatter my efforts toward success to protect me from toppling once I’ve achieved it.


The beautiful painting above is from a children's pop-up book called The Tower of Babel (Master Books, 2007) written and illustrated by Jon Taylor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And scattered we are until this day. Funny how the fall has ramifications up until the very present. I live in a neighborhood that could best be described as racially and culturally diverse. Approximately 60% of the residents of my neighborhood are foreign born and do not speak English as a first language. The net result is that people just don't talk to each other and/or get to know each other anymore. The garage door goes up, the car goes inside, the garage door comes down and that's about the extent of social interraction in my neighborhood.

Please know that I'm not arguing for a fence on our Southern border or suggesting that we are or should be an all Anglo-Saxon society. Rather, I'm suggesting that sin has consequences, and I simply find it ironic that today, some 4500 years after the Tower of Babel, those consequences are being played out around the world, and often over something as simple as language and cultural barriers.