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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Tower of Babel
Text:Genesis 11:1-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:10/01/2017
Added:2017-10-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“The Tower of Babel”
Genesis 11:1-9
 
One of the many questions which has baffled evolutionists is a question about language. If humans evolved from animals, how did language begin and why are there some 7000 different languages around the world?  Even Richard Dawkins, the well-known evolutionist who despises biblical teaching, admitted in his book, Unweaving the Rainbow, “Nobody knows how it (language) began. …Equally obscure is the origin of semantics; of words and their meaning.” (Page 274)
 
The origin of language is found not in evolutionary thought, but in the pages of the Bible. The answer is recorded here in the passage we read from Genesis 11. But it is a passage which teaches us more than just how we got so many different languages. Like Scripture as a whole it teaches us multiple spiritual lessons including that humanity, apart from saving grace, will always oppose God’s will for them. We see that clearly in the three purposes that the people had for building the tower.
 
Humanity’s Opposition to God’s Will
 
Verse 4 tells us that the people wanted “to build … a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens.” But that has never been God's will for our lives. It is not God's will for our lives because the Lord realizes that it is impossible for us to build a tower which reaches up to him, and another reason is that God is building a heavenly city for those who believe in him, a city far surpassing any earthly city.
 
All Scripture makes it clear that the entrance into heaven isn't by man-made efforts. Entrance into heaven isn't by some tremendously long ladder which we climb rung by rung. Rather, entrance into heaven, and entrance into the heavenly city, is by God's initiative. We can only reach the heavenly city by the way that God gives us, and that is through faith in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
 
Yet throughout history, and still today, so many people think that they can construct their own way into heaven. Many believe they can build a tower or ladder into heaven by their good deeds and self-righteousness. But all their attempts fail because their attempts contradict the will of God. In John 6:28 the people asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
 
The word Babel means “gate of God.” But the only gate into the presence of Almighty God is the gate – or the doorway – of faith in Jesus Christ. Every man-made effort to enter into God's presence will fail because it is in direct opposition to his will that we enter into the heavenly gate by faith alone in Christ alone. The tower the people were building honored a false religion. Many point out that the tower of  Babel was the first Ziggurat. Ziggurats were huge structures with steps that would bring people, in their view, closer to the god whom they worshiped.
 
Although the word Babel means “gate of God” it was not built to get closer to the one true God revealed in the pages of the Bible. It was built in opposition to him and was built to honor false gods. Throughout Assyria and Babylon many ziggurats have been discovered and excavated. At the top of the ziggurat, which would often reach 300 feet or more, there would be a place to offer sacrifices to the false gods whom the people worshiped.
 
Another way that the people opposed God's will as they built the Tower of Babel is that they built the tower with impure motives. Did you notice in verse 4 how 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…” The tower was a work of pride. The tower was built to demonstrate human achievement. Instead of singing, as we did last week, How Great Thou Art, the people were proclaiming, “How great we are.”
 
One of the themes that comes through the Bible repeatedly is that God will humble the proud. Human pride directly opposes the will of God. God's name alone is to be glorified and magnified. The attitude of every believer is to be patterned after the attitude of John the Baptist who said about Jesus Christ, “He must increase but I must decrease,” and “I am unworthy to untie the thongs of his sandals.”
 
Yet human pride continues in opposition to the Lord's will to this very day. But rather than making a name for ourselves we are to magnify the name of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 10:18 points out it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
 
In the next chapter of Genesis we read God's promise to Abram, “I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”  That promise was not only given to Abram but to everyone who like Abraham has saving faith in the Lord. Every name written in the Lamb’s book of life reflects the greatness of the One who has redeemed us from our sin, reconciled us to our heavenly Father, and will usher us through the gates of heaven into the eternal city yet to be revealed.
 
A third way that the people refused to do God's will, and sought to do their own will, is in the last part of verse 4 where they say, “we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  Yet God's will for the people was that they would be scattered over the whole earth.
 
In our study of Noah's life we saw that God's will for Noah and his descendants was to populate the earth. In Genesis 9:1 we read how God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” The same command was given in Genesis 9:7. When we looked at those passages we saw that they were echoing the command that the Lord had given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…”
 
God's will, as expressed both to Adam and Eve and to Noah and his descendants, was for all humanity to spread out over the globe, to fill the earth by subduing – and caring for – every part of the world that God had made. But as the people gathered on the plain in Shinar they wanted no part of reaching out around the globe to settle in it; they wanted no part of caring for the world that God had created. Instead we read in verse 4 how 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.”
 
In that statement we see that the will of the people was exactly opposite of the will of God. And that should not surprise us because humanity, apart from saving grace through faith in Jesus Christ, will always oppose God's will for them.
 
God’s Plans Cannot Be Thwarted
 
However, the passage clearly teaches that the Lord’s will always prevails and he is not intimidated by humanity’s efforts to defy His will.
 
This passage can be divided by the uses of the word “Come”. In verse 3 the people said to each other, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly…” And the passage goes on to describe how they sought to build a tower reaching into the heavens.
 
But their efforts were frustrated by the Lord who also used the word “Come” there in verse 7. It is one of the many verses in the Bible that teaches the Trinity without ever mentioning the word. Verse 7 records the Lord saying, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
 
It was no big challenge to the Lord to stop the progress of the tower of Babel. Verse 8 and 9 simply describe how the Lord scattered the people over the face of the earth and they stopped building the city because the Lord confused the language of the whole world.
 
Can you imagine how astonishing that must have been to the people? Sometimes when I go to the store, depending which store I’m in, I may hear many different languages. If you have shopped at the Walmart on Harlem Avenue you know what I mean! I often wonder what the people are talking about. From the inflection of their voice I may be able to discern an exclamation, a question or a flat-out statement, but I'm in the dark as to what they are actually asking, stating or exclaiming.
 
But on a much larger scale, as the people were building the Tower of Babel, how shocked they must have been when God came down and confused their languages. For God it was a simple thing. His will and his plans cannot be thwarted. Psalm 33:10-11 points out: The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
  
Also, it is worth noting that in verse 6 Scripture is not teaching us that man has an infinite capacity for doing things that could rival God's power if God did not intervene. It may seem that way at first glance because in verse 6 the Lord said, “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.”
 
I like the way Derek Kidner explains that verse in his commentary on Genesis. He writes “The note of foreboding marks a Creator’s and Father’s concern, not a rival’s; it is like our Lord saying, ‘If they do these things when the tree is green…” And he refers to the quote where Jesus, on the way to being crucified, says, “If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:31)
 
But humanity, in their opposition to the Lord, is no match for the eternal God who made man in his own image and established the world and all that is in it.
 
Babel and Babylon
 
Another application is to see that the plain in Shinar (v. 2) was Babylonia and that Babel is Babylon, which represents the world in its willful rebellion and animosity against God. In English it is easy to see the connection between Babel in Babylon, but in the Hebrew it is actually the very same root word. There is no doubt about the connection.
 
In the pages of Scripture Babylon represents humanity in their opposition to God. Babylon is marked by sinful pride, a striking example being that of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon back in Daniel's day. With great pride he took credit for the power of Babylon, and the Lord humbled him, causing him to eat grass like the cattle until he acknowledged that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes (Daniel 4:25, NAS).
 
We read about Babylon throughout the Bible. We read about the sinful pride of the people who refuse to do God's will here in Genesis 11. And we continue to read about Babylon throughout the Old Testament and in the New Testament as well. Babylon is consistently portrayed as humanity rebelliously opposing God and his people.
 
Babylon represents all that is evil in the world. The Apostle John, in his visions recorded in Revelation 17 and 18 describes Babylon as being the great mother of prostitutes and of all the abominations of the earth. He describes in vivid detail how God will bring judgment upon Babylon. In Revelation 18:21-24 we read:
 
A mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
 
           “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
                  and will be found no more;
             and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,
                  will be heard in you no more,
              and a craftsman of any craft
                  will be found in you no more,
              and the sound of the mill
                   will be heard in you no more,
               and the light of a lamp
                   will shine in you no more,
               and the voice of bridegroom and bride
                    will be heard in you no more,
                for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,
                   and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
               And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
                   and of all who have been slain on earth.”
 
As we realize that Babylon, which represents the sinful pride of humanity against God, will be utterly destroyed, it is crucial to realize that figuratively speaking all humanity resides either in Babylon or the New Jerusalem, the city – the place of indescribable beauty – which God has prepared for those who have saving faith in Jesus Christ. And it is crucial to realize the differences between the two cities, each representing the eternal destiny of all humanity.
 
Consider the difference between the architect and builders of the two cities. Babylon was initially settled by Nimrod (Genesis 10:10), the grandson of Ham who (as we saw last week) was chastised along with his descendants for mocking his father, Noah when Noah fell into sin. From that point onward we see that Babylon is designed and built by proud and sinful people who oppose God and his will for their lives.
 
By contrast, “Jerusalem the Golden” has none other than God as its architect. The New Jerusalem is the heavenly city which figuratively describes the place of glory which we who believe in Christ will experience in heaven. Hebrews 11:10 describes how Abraham was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. He was looking forward to the New Jerusalem, to heaven in all its glory.
 
As we consider the difference between the architect and builder of the two cities we easily see that there is a great difference in the motive for building and establishing them. Babylon was founded and built because of hatred for God and a desire to do away with him, a desire to honor false gods rather than the one true God revealed in Scripture.
 
But the Jerusalem above is designed and built by God out of love for his people. It was with love that the Lord Jesus Christ described how he himself would build a home for those who believe in him. He said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 NAS).
 
There is also a great difference in the appearance of the two cities. We read how Babel, that is Babylon, was built with bricks and mortar. The old King James Version describes it as being built with bricks and “slime”; the mortar made of tar was somewhat slimy, especially until it cured and set with time. Babylon, just like our violent and decaying urban areas, has no lasting beauty.
 
By contrast our heavenly home is so beautiful that there is no way to describe it. Revelation 21 describes it through the use of numerous precious jewels in order to convey that the beauty of our heavenly home is so great that, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9,10a).
 
And another great difference is the duration of the two cities. Babylon will be utterly destroyed, just as Revelation 17 and 18 describe. But the heavenly city will last forever, for it is the home of our eternal God – and the home of all who are reconciled to him by grace through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.  
 
The Gospel in Our Own Tongue
 
One of the many questions which has baffled evolutionists is a question about language. If humans evolved from animals, how did language begin and why are there some 7000 different languages and dialects around the world?
 
This passage from Genesis 11 teaches us the answer. And each year at Pentecost we are reminded that the same God who confused the language of people can also give people from every dialect and language the ability to hear the gospel in their own tongue, and by God’s power, believe the gospel that they hear.
 
That is, after all, what happened at Pentecost. Acts chapter 2 describes how God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven were gathered together when the Holy Spirit came with power and they began to hear the gospel in their own language. Acts 2:6 describes how the when they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?”
 
What they heard was the gospel. And they heard it in their own language. When Peter addressed the crowd he described how Jesus Christ, by God’s own set purpose and foreknowledge, was put to death by being nailed to the cross. He described how each one is guilty before God, and yet God sacrificed his Son and raised him again to glory so that all who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life. On the Day of Pentecost the people heard the gospel in their own tongue, their own language.
 
Have you heard the gospel? Have you heard – not just with your ears but in your heart – the call to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you, by the Holy Spirit's conviction and regenerating power, committed your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? 
 
John 3:36 summarizes both Babylon and Jerusalem – both eternal judgment and everlasting life in heaven. John writes:  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
 
If you believe in the Son with saving faith, you are given entrance into the city four square. Your name is in the Lamb’s book of life. Your citizenship is in heaven and you can never be denied entrance there because of your faith in Christ. May that describe your faith and mine, this day and always! Amen. 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
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
 
“The Tower of Babel”
Genesis 11:1-9
 
I.  The goal of the people at Babel, expressed in the word “Come” (3, 4) was to oppose God’s will for their lives by:
     1) Building a city with a tower reaching into the heavens (4a)
 
 
 
 
     2) Making a name for themselves (4b)
 
 
 
 
     3) Keeping themselves from being scattered (4c), in opposition to God’s will that they “Increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1, 7)
 
 
   
 
II. Applications:
     1) God’s will cannot be thwarted (5-9; Psalm 33:10-11) 
 
 
 
 
     2) Babel is Babylon (2, 9), which represents the world in its proud rebellion and animosity against God (Rev. 17:1-18). All humanity resides either in Babylon
         which will be eternally condemned (Rev. 18:1-19:3) or the new Jerusalem, heaven itself (Rev. 21:1-22:6) 
 
 
 
 
     3) Just as God confused the languages, so also He has given us the gospel in our own tongue (Acts 2:6-8) so that we know the only entrance into the
         heavenly city is by having our name in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation  20:15, 21:27) by grace through faith in Christ alone (John 3:36; 14:6)
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 10/0, Rev. Ted Gray

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