2012-10-15 The Tower of Babel: Security and Significance in Christ | Genesis 11:1-10, 31; 12:1-3
Genesis 11:1-10, 31; 12:1-3
At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.” In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. The LORD said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, so that will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
The mandate: to multiply and fill
In Gen 9:1, the descendants of Noah were commanded after the flood to multiply and fill the earth. They were sent out by God into a renewed earth to establish his kingdom and proclaim the message of his kingdom as his representatives or ambassadors in the world. Adam and Eve had been given the same command after the creation. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Likewise today, we are sent to fill the earth with the message of the kingdom. Matt 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We too are called to be God’s ambassadors. 2Cor 5.20 says, Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.
The problem: fear and pride
However, the ancients had a problem and it’s the same problem we have – sin. In them it was manifested in fear and pride. The problem arose when a group of people chose to disobey God’s command to fill the earth by building a city and a tower to prevent being dispersed. In Gen 11:2 and 4 we read, And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. Then 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.”
People were migrating from east to west according to God’s plan to fill the earth with his representatives. They were to establish outposts all over the world that represented and gave honor to their creator. They were not to stop until every portion of the earth was filled with his representatives or ambassadors.
An embassy in a foreign country today is not an end in itself. The ambassador represents the monarch or the government of his own country. He engages in diplomatic relations and communications, protects citizens of his country travelling abroad and works for peace between states. In exchange for his work, the ambassador and his family are granted diplomatic immunity and personal safety.
The trouble arose in our story when the people – God’s ambassadors – refused to go to their assigned posts. They refused to fill the earth. They were afraid that if they were dispersed they would become anonymous, forgotten by society. So they devised a plan to stay together and make a name for themselves. Instead of faithfully dispersing as God’s representatives, they fearfully hung together and tried to cover their fear with pride. They sought to find significance in their own ingenuity and security in their own numbers instead of finding their identity and safety in their relationship to God. Apparently, they had stopped believing in God’s ability to protect them and recognize them. They had stopped finding their security and significance as God’s ambassadors in the world.
God’s response was both judgment and prevention. His judgment was to bring what people feared upon them – they were dispersed anyway. God stopped their building project by confusing their language. In v7 He says, Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
The result was that they were dispersed and the city was never completed. V8 says, So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. And in so doing, God also prevented them from even greater sin. Verse 6 says, And 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. Why does modern law enforcement try to break up gangs and crime syndicates? It’s because as a group they are capable of greater sin than they are individually. In breaking them up, law enforcement both brings them to judgment and prevents their potential for worse crimes.
Churches throughout history have done much the same thing as the rebels in our story. The church in Rome around 250 AD had refused to take the gospel into the lands north of them because the people were pagans, the Goths, later called Germans. This went on for some time until the Goths invaded Roman territories for political reasons “and took a number of (predominantly female) captives, many of which were Christian” in the process. The conversion of the Goths to Christianity went quickly after that. What the Romans feared came upon them and Christianity spread in spite of their fears. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Abrittus
Some modern churches refuse to send their own people overseas for long-term service for fear of potential dangers. They prefer to stay home where it’s safe and send their money to missionaries they don’t even know and brag about their large missionary budget. Other churches refuse to go into their surrounding neighborhoods because the people are unfamiliar and the places are considered unsafe. They prefer instead, to put their time, money and energy into building a larger edifice so people will be impressed and come to them instead. They cover their fears with pride in their own accomplishments.
The solution: faith and obedience
The problem in a word was and is sin. The solution was and is faith in the Messiah, the coming one and the one has come, who would and did deal a death blow to sin, and fear, and pride, so that we are enabled to obey, trusting that the God who calls us to go will not forget us and will keep us safe.
Abram received a call to go – to leave his familiar surroundings and his family – and go to an undisclosed location and to an undisclosed people. Gen 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…
And God said that Abram’s going would serve God’s purpose found in vv 2-3. so that you will be a blessing… and …in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. God was speaking of Christ, who would come through the line of Abram. Paul wrote to the Galatians, Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Gal 3:13-16.
And finally, God promised that although Abram was being sent to an unfamiliar place and an unfamiliar people, he would not lose his significance and security, he would find it. Vv 2-3 tell us, And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great…I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse…
Hebrews 11 tells us Abram did this by faith. “And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith– for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. …
By faith, Abraham was looking forward to the city and the name that God would give him, so he didn’t have to build or make one himself.
By faith in Christ, neither do we. In Rev 3.11-12, we read, Jesus says, I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
How should we respond in faith to God’s call to go – to proclaim the name of Christ to our generation? Pratt: Don’t go back to your home church with the white picket fence! Go be the first martyr from RTS! Sarah’s idea – many of you are capable of teaching, leading, discipling, serving. Go to those who can’t come to you – those in your own church who are elderly and can’t get out the house; those who are so busy simultaneously taking classes in school, taking care of a family and working; those who live some distance away and can’t get into town easily; those who live in a dorm or apartment complexes at BGSU, UT.
Go to those outside your church who won’t or can’t come to you – go to the unfamiliar neighborhoods, the unfamiliar people that God puts on your heart. If you take it to them eventually they’ll invite their friends and neighbors. Church planting begins with church planters who are willing to go to unfamiliar people in unfamiliar places. If they won’t or can’t come to you, go to them.
Don’t give in to Excuses: We don’t have anything in common with these people. You have the bible in common. If they’re willing, that’s all you need. We can’t do this, we’re only a few. Jesus only had twelve at one time. He sent them out in pairs to the neighboring towns and villages. Jesus came to earth alone. We don’t have the time or energy or money to make a difference. Go to one place or one person that is in need, unfamiliar, unsafe. Jesus gave up his safety in heaven and gave up his reputation in order to be a blessing to us.
Like Abram, you have been blessed to be a blessing, to take Christ to your generation. Faith means being willing to go to unfamiliar places where you may be more vulnerable and therefore to trust in God’s promised protection, and to “live” and work among unfamiliar peoples.
Guthrie: “God has not left us to work our way up to him or make something of ourselves. He has come down to us. He will build a city for us. He will give us a name that will endure.”
~THE RESPONSE TO THE WORD~
We respond to the Word and work of Christ.
Please stand if you are able.
Song of Response
By Faith (insert)