Nimrod, it seems, was able to bring people together for a purpose. The Bible refers to him as a man who became a mighty hunter. He made a direct challenge to the rule of the Lord.
This happened sometime after the days of the great Flood. With the waters that fell for 40 days and nights and left to cover every bit of Earth for months, the Lord rinsed away the stain of generations of earthlings whose every imagination of their hearts were only evil continually.
Only Noah, his wife, his sons and daughters-in-law were left. From these eight, the planet was to be repopulated and inhabited. “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1).
Again, however, the Word of the Lord was ignored, as it was ignored in the Garden by Adam and Eve.
In Genesis 11, we discover that people found a level plain in Shinar. They congregated there. All spoke the same language and all were of “one speech” the Scriptures say. This “one speech” represented a uniformity of thought and opinion.
A program and a project fueled the culture of those days. A city took shape. At its center was to be tower that reached into the heavens. By these things, they would establish the name after which they lusted.
Ovens were fired up. Bricks were fashioned. Slime, likely a form of asphalt, was the binding agent. And the structure began to take shape.
A uniformity guided things there in Shinar; there became a shared understanding that stifled dissent. It was all done in the spirit of togetherness. “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 9:4). The people thereby became determined not to do what God had commanded them to do.
The most interesting thing I find about the story is the devotion to mechanization and production. There’s nothing said of flowers and trees, animals and angels, song and artistry.
None of this diversity is mentioned in the story of the tower. All thoughts and actions melded in the push to accomplish this building. It was oppression that none could sense because none were attuned to spirit life. All was work of the flesh, carnal collaboration.
Talk alike. Think alike. Build alike. Make the tower. Make the name. Let Heaven know of your freedom from its rule. Let us stay in this place. What need have we for the whole of the earth? We have this – one world, one people, one tower.
This is the great deception of human unity. It attempts to reach its aims apart from the One.
Form and Void
The Lord is well aware of human potential. He spoke of this in Genesis 11 when He paid a visit to the plain of Shinar. The brand of oneness God witnessed was powerful, for sure. He made man in His image, so the capacity to create was a gift. But here in Shinar this capacity was riding on the wave of the curse.
At the beginning of our Bibles, we read that the earth was without form and void. There something of a chaos and emptiness. God answered with His proclamation: “Let there be Light.” The days of Creation began. The heavens were defined and filled with stars, planets, galaxies. The seas were framed by shorelines and populated with creatures huge – blue whales – and microscopic – plankton. The earth was seeded with trees and flowers and grains. Animals and creeping things appeared on the soil. And, from this soil, this surface dust, the Lord formed Man.And what does it mean to be Lost? I think it ultimately means a detachment from our created nature to be loved and to love. Click To Tweet
Formlessness was answered with form and the highest form was Man, a being of clay, made alive by the Lord’s breath. Man was made a being gifted with rationale – with a mind that could think, imagine, remember; he was a being made for relationship, for exchange. A being that, in the likeness and image of God, could be loved and could love.
In Shinar, the form that men fashioned among themselves pushed them toward another kind of void, another more sinister emptiness, an emptiness that would leave them to their own devises. They would have a name and a city and a tower, but they would be without God.
They would be Lost.
And what does it mean to be Lost? I think it ultimately means a detachment from our created nature to be loved and to love. I am being careful with the order of this phrase. For we love only because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
The Power of the Tongue
God so loved the world, and so He came to the scene of Shinar.
The work progressed at a fast, furious pace. The city was abuzz with each brick added to the tower. The humans raced to erect a symbol of their abilities. I have no doubt that whole affair was demonically activated.
To leave these people beholden to the atmosphere and energy at work in this time and space was something the Lord could not do. But how would God address the matter?
Flooding was no option – He’d made a covenant to never do that again, as evidenced by the rainbows that appear after storms. This was no time to rain down fire. He would not go large to show that He was in charge. He did not drive the people to their knees.
The Lord answered the challenge with words, with languages that worked through the tongue, the small member of our bodies that, as James writes, we struggle to control. It is as if the Lord said, “Let’s get those tongues wagging and the work will surely stop.”
He was right, of course. And by activation of the tongues, God also opened up ears to hear. It is almost as if this was His way of re-establishing faith, for “faith comes by hearing. …” (Romans 5:5).
Babel did come. Confusion circulated. Brick-making stopped. The slime pots were abandoned. The tower was left undone. It was a divide and conquer operation.
Those in Shinar shouted and chatted through the mob, seeking someone who spoke as they spoke. People had to search out a group to relate to, each had to find the voices that were recognizable. So the principle of the certain sound began to take shape. The sword of the Word was swung hard and fast and it divided asunder the human race that had come to chase after a name.
The Lie and the All
What can we take from the Babel story? I think it’s the awareness of the lie of more. The people worked along the lines that they could have more, that they could make a better life, and establish a better name for themselves without God.
It was the very lie that the serpent presented to Eve. Eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, hissed the devil. Eat and get more. Be more like God.
All, however, is so much better than more. “Christ is all, and in all,” (Colossians 3:11). Consider this truth from Ephesians 4:6: We have “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
All, Eve already had it. She was tricked into wanting more. Those at Babel wanted more than what God had for them. They were led into a conspiracy against the goodness of God.
When we come to understand that we already have all things in God, then we can rest in Him. There’s no need to strive and build towers and labor for the notoriety of a name.
The Name of Jesus is written upon us, and we await the day when we shall see His face (See Revelation 22:4). We are His and He is ours.
We really do have it all.