And they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)
The people who decided to build a great city and a great tower were decidedly self-centered. In one sentence, they used the terms “us, ourselves and we” 5 times. And they made clear their intent: “…let us make for ourselves a name.” It seems that even in the days of Genesis, people believed that if they were celebrities or a people of renown, they would be untouchable. Haven’t we seen this today, not only in celebrities, but in politicians and even dictators? Somehow a “name” that is revered throughout the world seems to carry with it a shield, a safety net for those who live beneath it. But in God’s eyes, it is simply a house of cards.
These people had incredible arrogance as well as ignorance (both of which usually go hand in hand). They planned to build a tower whose top would reach into heaven. Was this an attempt to make their own kind of “Jacob’s ladder” so that they, like the angels Jacob saw, could sally between earth and heaven whenever they pleased? Did they really make God so small that they thought they could reach Him simply by building a tower high enough? Did they not know that by simply humbling themselves on their knees, that He would bend down to them, and be as near as their very breath?
And the motivation for all of this was a thinly-veiled fear they all possessed: that God would scatter them over the face of the earth. God had told Noah to populate the whole earth, but they were clearly not of a mind to move very far. In fact, 100 years after the flood, they had only scattered as far as 100 miles. So, just to ensure that God knew they were serious about staying put, they began to erect a mighty city and a huge tower. Surely God would see that they could take things into their own hands and create an incredible metropolis that the whole world would revere. Why would they need to scatter when they would have everything right there?
So God saw that they had begun to be filled with pride, and the belief that they could do anything they set their minds to. And He knew what would happen after that. They would no longer think they needed Him. They could handle everything themselves. So He confused their language so they could not communicate with each other. And He scattered them across the face of the whole earth. There’s nothing like being put in a strange place where you can’t communicate with anyone that brings you back to basics: you and God.
The city and the tower were then named “Babel,” which means “confusion.” Another word for “Babel” is “Babylon.” It was the beginning of that great and terrible city, home of Nebuchadnezzar, who was known for his incredible arrogance and pride. And like Nebuchadnezzar, the city was reduced to a heap of rubble. According to Wikipedia, “All that remains of the original ancient famed city of Babylon today is a large mound of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the fertile Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.” Pride ultimately goes down upon its knees before God Almighty. And “confusion” reigns wherever God is not exalted.
Among all the great ironies of the Bible is this one: the people were indeed “confused” and not just in their language. They were confused as to what would give them a “name.” They were confused as to how to reach God and His kingdom. And they were confused as to why God wanted them to scatter.
Here’s the marvelous truth…
…The greatest name in the universe is Jesus. No other name can give us love, provision, salvation, hope, happiness, truth, light and contentment. And He promises to give each one of us a new name, one that He alone will choose. Glorious!
…The only way to reach God in heaven is through believing on that name, Jesus Christ. We need no lofty towers, only humbled hearts.
…And we are to scatter ourselves and the seeds of the gospel throughout the world, wherever we are or wherever He sends us, so that when He comes back, He can gather a great harvest of souls.
Many are living in their own Babylons–their own state of confusion today. We are here to clear up the confusion. Let us scatter, love those we come in contact with, and tell them about Jesus, another name for wonderful, counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.