“Then they said, ‘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.’” ~Genesis 11:4 (NLT)
You might read this story about the Tower of Babel and wonder, like I did, what’s so bad about Babel? I mean, was God just having a bad day of something? After all, it’s not often you see unity of purpose and effort achieved among human beings like this. The United Nations could learn a lesson here!
So why did God look upon what these folks were doing and say, “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. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (Genesis 11:6-7) And at that, he put an end to their efforts, confused their language, and scattered them across the face of the earth. (Genesis 11:8-9)
The problem was not the tower they were trying to build, nor their effort to achieve unity among the nations. In large part, public work projects and united efforts are a good thing. But in this case, good was the enemy of best. You see, after the great flood of Genesis 7-8, God had told these nations to scatter across the earth, repopulated it and establish human civilization wherever they went. (Genesis 9:1,7) In fact, this was a critical piece of the covenant God made with Noah and his descendants (Genesis 9:8-9), and was likely the reestablishment of the original covenant God had made with but had been forfeited by Adam. (Genesis 1:26-30)
What was wrong with Babel? Simply this: Disobedience, pride and independence from God. Instead of fully devoting themselves to God’s command, they thought they could do better. They chose to go it alone. And God put a stop to it!
That’s always the problem with human beings, including you and me, isn’t it? Every single day, we wrestle with who is going to be God in our lives. Rather than seeking and doing what God says, we seek and do what we want to do. Of course, we acknowledge God to a degree, but then we pursue what we want. With regularity, we twist Jesus’ well known prayer of submission into, “God, not your will but mine be done!”
Stop and think about that today. Is there a Tower of Babel in your life—something that seems so good; something that makes sense to those around you; something that would advance your comfort, security and name? Remember, what looks good to you may in fact be the enemy of God’s best for you! Maybe it’s a purchase you are considering, a plan you are making, a relationship you are considering, or…you fill in the blank.
Peter Marshall, the venerable Chaplain of the U.S. Senate in the mid-twentieth century, once prayed,
“Save Thy servants from the tyranny of the nonessential. Give them the courage to say ‘No’ to everything that makes it more difficult to say ‘Yes’ to Thee.”
That’s a great prayer: saying no to the good and yes to the Best! Why don’t you join me in praying that prayer all this week?