The Problem with Babel | Debunking Selfhood

2 minutes

Of everything I am learning of my beloved father, self-sufficiency displeases him greatly as it often leads to disobedience. I reckon it’s because he had such profound plans for us that it irks him when we go it alone instead of trusting and obeying him. Our hearts have been wicked since the fall. We keep devising plans that don’t include our creator, plans that are never submitted to him for his stamp of approval, even plans that go directly against his instructions. 

Take the case of the tower of Babel, an event that took place in Noah’s generation 429 years after the flood, now chronicled in the book of Genesis 11:1-9. God gives them instructions in Genesis 9:1 to “multiply/increase in number and fill the earth“, and two chapters down, we find them doing the very opposite of that, and for very wrong reasons too. “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 11:7). They decided to gather at a time when God was telling them to scatter and fill the earth. And they wanted to do it for the selfish self-serving motive of making a name for themselves – choosing the love for self over the love for God. 

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” that was their one responsibility. They chose to disobey and do just the opposite, to gather instead of scatter. Their disobedience was their failure. God’s sovereign will prevailed when he confused the languages of humanity, preventing their further communication with each other, thus scattering them as he had originally intended for them to, dividing them up on the basis of language. The result was that people who spoke the same language congregating together and spreading out to settle in other parts of the world. 

God stopping them from understanding each other was his judgment on them. “That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:8-9). Yet in his faithfulness, he left himself a remnant in Abraham to continue his salvation plan through, a Jewish lineage through which the promised Messiah would come from. 

In Exodus 9:16 we see that God intended to make a name for himself, a name to be proclaimed throughout the whole world; “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Yet here was Noah’s generation trying to make a name for itself. So God in his sovereignty stopped them in their tracks. He says in Isaiah 42:8 that he will not share his glory with anyone “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to graven images.” May we learn to always yield our will to his, fully knowing that if it came down to it, a battle of the wills, his will will prevail because he is God, and his name will be proclaimed in all the earth. 

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