The Tower of Babel

"Now the whole earth had one language and the same words... 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.” And the LORD came down..."

Genesis 11:1–5

In the account of the tower of Babel, we find man’s attempt at failed religion and God’s faithfulness to interrupt.  After the flood, mankind began to repopulate the earth.  In Genesis 11:4, we read that people gathered in one place and said to themselves, “let us build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed.”


The word “tower” here in the orginal language was a structure that was often used in the ancient world for a temple to practice religion.  I was a ziggurat or a pyramid, with one express purpose, to reach the heavens.  This was an idiomatic way of saying to reach God through man-made religion.   All man-made religion has one thing in common, it is man’s effort through works to be in right relationship with God.   


In Genesis chapters  3, 4 and 11, we see three expressions of false religion.  We see it in Adam and Eve who tried to cover their shame and guilt with fig leaves.  We see it in Cain, who tried to offer to God his own kind of sacrifice without blood, which God rejected.  And here  we see it here in Babel, where the text reveals how mankind tried to reach the heavens on his own terms, “let us.” 


But God is faithful to interrupt.  In Genesis 11:5 we read that “God came down.”  Many theologians believe this is a Christophany, which means a appearing of Jesus before the incarnation.  Regardless of the interpretation, God interrupts man’s plan of false religion and his desire to “make a name” for himself.  Ultimately, God confuses man's language and then disperses them throughout the earth. 


The reason we say that our faith in Jesus is not “religious” is because we are saying that it is not our effort reaching God, but rather it is Jesus who came to us, died on a cross that we may be forgiven and in right relationship with God.  We are not saved by our own works or our own goodness, but salvation rests solely on Christ’s finished work who came to us.


So let’s celebrate and be reminded that we don’t need to be more religious or good enough to reach God.  "For it is not by works we are saved, but by grace through faith, and this is not of ourselves, that any of us should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)    This is good news indeed!  God has done what we could never do for ourselves, He came to us, so we don't need to build a tower to reach Him!