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Monday, January 4, 2016

The Destruction of a Building Program

The Destruction of a Building Program

The flood did not alter the landscape of the human heart. Its story exalted faith—the righteous shall live by faith, and warned of judgment—“the wages of sin is death”.
Men began to multiply, but instead of obeying Gods’ last command given to them, “multiply on the earth and increase upon it”, they assembled together to remain in one place and began building a great 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”. Many archeologists surmise the people built worship center at the top of this tower—not to the Creator God but to the hosts of heaven, the stars, the moon, and the sun.  
The creation narrative teaches a timeless truth, that God evaluates what He creates. He acknowledges and rewards faith with salvation. He also acknowledges unbelief and rebellion and rewards them with judgment. Therefore, in response to this building program God thwarts their ability to communicate with one another and scatters them over the face of the whole earth. 
This narrative teaches a number of truths:
  • Those who refuse to take the path of faith soon develop highways that lead to gross idolatry. 
  • Churches that refuse to obey the Great Commission, both financially and with personnel, celebrate their commercial real estate and soon begin worshiping the host of heaven, but not God Himself. 
  • Though God may allow spiritual nonsense to continue for a while, He will act.
The narrative continues with the genealogies of Noah’s sons. Though Noah’s sons, Ham (the Canaanites) and Japheth (progenitors of Europeans and Asians), will continue to have their place in His Story, the descendants of Shem will take center stage. 
It is through Shem’s descendants that we are introduced to Abram. Joshua provides background that Genesis doesn’t include, “And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel; ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods” (Joshua 24:2).
Ten generations after the flood even Shem’s descendants worship idols. The wickedness of man, however, doesn’t prevent God from fulfilling His promises of redemption. An important intermission occurs with the insertion of Job’s story and demonstrates that, once again, God always has a remnant who worship Him and refuse to bow to idols.  

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"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."

God's first command to man is carried out halfway, "Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it (1:28). The people practice "partial obedience" as they reproduce "according to their kind ("after the Fall"--in the image of Adam, see 5:3), so much so that their exceeding wickedness demanded judgment from God. The flood rearranged the earth, killed all of its inhabitants except for those on the ark, but it couldn't change the heart of man . . . only faith in the Coming Messiah could do that!

A population explosion takes place through Noah's sons. To establish total independence from God some of Noah's descendants act pridefully, defiantly and collectively against God. They refuse to scatter and "fill the earth"; therefore they enter a building program centered around human effort, selfish ambition, and pride. "Come" they say, "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." Nothing attracts the resistance of God toward a man or mankind more than an attitude of proud independence (Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5); and man is naturally self-centered, independent, and resistant toward God.

The problem with humanity is NOT their environment. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden when they sinned; Noah and his family began life all over again in a totally refurbished world. The problem lies with the human heart which is, "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). Only by faith in the coming Messiah can man escape the corruptness of his own heart.

People and nations still build towers of Babel today in which they place their trust. Only one reliable tower, however, exists. King David constantly referred to the LORD God as a strong tower (see Psalm 18:1-3). His son, Solomon, declares, "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." The wicked, instead of running to God, build their towers of trust while the righteous run to the LORD.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Genesis 10:1-5; 1 Chronicles 1:5-7; Genesis 10:6-20; 1 Chronicles 1:8-16; Genesis 10:21-11:26; 1 Chronicles 1:17-27
  • What event took place during the days of Peleg and his brother Joktan?
  • Describe the people of Shinar.
  • Why does God confuse the language of the people in Shinar?
  • What does "sharing a language" do for people?
  • How do you see the "sharing of language" and the different languages in America affecting our culture?
  • What does the story of Babel teach you about God? About human nature?
  • How are life spans affected by the post-flood environment?
  • How do you see God working redemptively via Shem's descendants?
Turning truth into prayer
Prayerlessness characterizes proud and independent people. Ask the Lord to reveal how desperately you need Him and to make you into a person of prayer.