The first half of the book of Genesis is about four great events: Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Babel means confusion. God is not the author of confusion. God’s mission can be seen from the beginning. God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen.1:28). After the flood, God told Noah and his sons the same. “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). In Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20, and Acts 1:8, we are told to go into all the world and make disciples. God never intended for people to huddle in one place. They were (and we are) to scatter and fill the earth for the glory of God. At the Tower of Babel, humanity willfully rebelled against God’s mission. What can we learn from this?
“Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there” (Gen. 11:1-2). Another word for “dwelt” is “settled.” Every human heart has a desire to belong. We want and need a place to call home. In verses 3-4 we read that they made bricks and decided to build a city for themselves. Cities are not bad in and of themselves. The people were tired of wandering and wanted a place to call home. The problem was not building a home, but it was building without God. “Unless the Lord the build the house they labor in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1). The truth is this world is not our home. The desire was right, but the destination was wrong. It is not about an earthly city, but an eternal city. It is not about an earthly home, but an eternal home. Abraham looked for a city whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” Home is where God wants you to be. Home is being in the will of God doing what God has called you to do. Home is where the heart is, so the question is, do you have a heart for God?
The people desired to make a name for themselves (v. 4). They were motivated by pride. They were looking for significance and security. Our problem comes when we (just like they) try to find our significance and sense of belonging in other people, jobs, and possessions, and not in the Lord. They were looking for identity. We all find our identity somewhere. If your identity is in your marriage, job, a relationship, what do you do when those things are gone? Our identity must be found as children of God, made in the image of God to be His image bearers throughout the earth (Gen. 1:26,27). Their failure was that they left God out. So many people are trying to build a name, life, marriage, home, family, business, without God. The people of Babel made a declaration of independence, not from a country, but from God. They sought personal greatness. God made us to be a part of something great. Jesus told us we would do greater things! But the greatness we long for is in God alone. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The Lord ended up coming down and scattering the people (v.5-9). God always has the last word. He was not intimated by them, but rather said you will accomplish my original purpose.
Like the people of Babel, people today want to build their own way to heaven. They think if they do enough good works, live a good moral life, or if they are religious enough, they can get to heaven. But there is only one way; God has to come down to us. That is why Jesus came. The confusion of tongues that began at Babel was reversed at Pentecost. In Acts 2, people were there from every nation and they heard the gospel in their own language! In Genesis 10, Noah had three sons. Their family lines are known as the Table of Nations. Jesus came to take away the sin of the world. In Acts 8, a descendant of Ham is saved. In Acts 9, a descendant of Shem is saved. In Acts 10, a descendant of Japheth is saved. All the nations are of one blood. God separated the nations by location and language, but we all come from the same parents – Adam and Eve. We all have the same problem – sin. We all have the same hope – Jesus.
Praise God that we can learn from those who have gone before us. Praise God that through Jesus we can be a part of something greater than ourselves and we have the hope of an eternal home in heaven!