When Confusion Leads to Clarity
Rev. Michael A. Trask
It had only been a couple of centuries after Noah got off the ark. And when Noah and his Sons and their wives got off the ark, God blessed them and said “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”
Fast forward a couple hundred years and we find that they had indeed been fruitful but they hadn’t filled the earth; they hadn’t spread out. Genesis 11:1-4 reports it in this way:
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then 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.”
So let’s summarize what we know:
1.They’re 1.fixing to build a city.
2. A city with a tower that reaches to the heavens.
3. They wish to make a name for themselves
4.They choose not to be spread out over the face of the earth.
What motived this behavior? Well, first of all it’s pretty clear that they wanted glory, they wanted to be famous and “make a name for themselves” they wanted some credit for being ingenious, clever, cool, and all that. Of course, it’s not wrong to cultivate a a good reputation, but there is danger in the mix. There was no one in the world besides them; to whom were they bragging to? God.
What was the original sin again? They ate of the tree from which they were told not eat. And why did they do it? because they believe the words of Satan who told them that if they ate it they would be gods themselves; they would make a name for themselves, as it were.
Now why is that bad? Because it’s a false way to live. Human beings are created by and depend upon God for existence. To turn away from him is to saw off the limb of the tree you are sitting on. It’s a self-elimination situation. If we begin to believe the lie that we are self-made and self-sufficient we are lost. This is why God began his commandments by saying, “You Shall Have no other God’” “You shall worship and serve the Lord and him only.”
And no, this is not God asserting his egoism! It is simply a statement of the way things are. He and he alone is God. In him we live, move, and have our being. Apart from him we would be nothing. Apart from him, we have no good thing. So seeking glory for ourselves is inimical to our very existence. When Adam did it, he was removed from eternal life in the Garden. When these folks on the plain of Shinar did it did it, he scattered them.
But those people on the plane of Shinar were motivated by something other than there desire for glory. They were motivated also by their desire for security. Emphatically they said, “Let us not be dispersed over the face of the earth.”
There is safety in numbers. Numbers of people will protect us. We like to and are often tempted to put our faith in big organizations. We feel so much better to not be alone. So much better saying “WE” instead of “I” And so we align ourselves with groups.
But the group always comes complete with it’s own thou shalt and thou shalt nots. In order for you to be part of collective you will need to obey, or else incur the wrath of the group and its leaders. And the commandments of the collective often stand in direct opposition to the commandments of God. And we, as children of God, are forced to choose between the security of being part of the group or the security of being right with the Lord.
I see the way the people in Shinar were talking. They were excited. They were united. They were proud of their fancy bricks. Now just imagine if one person among them stood up and said, “You know what? I’m not buying into this!” “I’m not going to work on your pointless tower!” “I’m not going to offend God in this way!” And then his problems would begin. They would scream at him and tell him he’s on the wrong side of History. He would be derided on Facebook and twitter. He would be sued, boycotted, and bullied and maybe even killed for insulting their group-think collectivism which had become their source of pride, their security and also their god.
5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And 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. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord dispersed them from over the face of the earth”
Did you catch that, “the Lord came down, to see the city.” A wonderful choice of words I think. Remember, they were going to build a tower to the heavens! But God couldn’t see it from there, had to come down down down to see it…. in other words they were not even close. As glorious as it may have been it was still dwarfed by the utter immensity of God. And so it is for all the things that we glory in other than God.
But then did something merciful. Yes, merciful I say, he confused their language. What if they had been allowed to continue? How pompously filled with vain-glory would they have been. How far they would grow from their creator. There is only room for one God. And there’s only one God who saves, one God who redeems, one God who holds the future in his hands. Who knows how much this confusion of languages and curbed the growth of evil in the world. I think a lot. Even to this day, the people of the world don’t get each other; don’t understand each other. With each different language a whole different way of thinking tags along.
This is a blessing. Indeed, the creation of all the different languages was a judgment on mankind, but it was done with merciful intent. It would now be difficult for humanity to remain united in anything…. and therefore it would be more difficult for him to put his faith in big collectives that insult God.
What are people saying in our country? Everyone is up in arms and confused over how our political parties seem to have fallen into disarray and confusion. The parties down’t understand there constituents and their constituents don’t understand the parties. There is much hand-wringing in these confusing times. Could the confusion be a good thing? Indeed, it wasn’t pleasant for those in Babel when they became confused, but ultimately it cleared the way for God’s will to be carried out. Is that’s what’s happening here? Such knowledge has not been given to me. But I do know that we, as a nation have been an affront to God for some time now. Maybe confusion is what we deserve and need at the moment. Maybe this confusion will bring clarity and repentance to us.
God is not against the unity of men. God actually want’s nothing less than unity for us. In his prayer offered hours before he died Jesus said “Father I pray that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:21) So this desire for unity which keeps popping up is not an incorrect desire.
But the question always has been this: On what basis will this unity be built? Will it be unity based on some tower built out of arrogance and bragging? Will it be unity based on a system of laws enforced by a totalitarian state that punishes those who do not think or say what the state tells them to think and say? No. These things have been tried again and again. And God mercifully does not allow them to stand for long. They fall under the weight of their own falsehood.
The only Unity that is truly possible and lasting and permanent starts by unifying man’s heart with Gods. And he does that through the Gospel proclaimed by the Power of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples began preaching Christ Jesus and all of these people with different languages were understanding at once! Then there’s this listing of all these different countries…. all of them suddenly united. The confusion of Babel was being reversed! People from all over were hearing of the savior that died to take away their sins, they were hearing it in their own language, hearing it in their hearts! The Spirit was penetrating their hearts so that they at last were ready to repent and believe the good news that Jesus died and rose again for them. On that day, they were as one.
Pentecost provides a little picture and foretaste of God’s ultimate goal to bring people from all over the world to himself. On the last day, when Jesus returns, language won’t matter, government won’t matter, nations and state and political parties won’t matter. Race won’t matter. People from everywhere will come streaming into the city of light where in perfect they will be glorified together in Christ in perfect security. No government or party or club or group can bring this about. Only God can bring this about. He is doing it through his Son. AMEN