Have you ever built something of which you were incredibly proud? Maybe you were a kid building a Lego tower, or an adult building a deck on your house? Maybe you didn’t exactly build it, but you crocheted a beautiful sweater or painted an incredible mural. Or, like many people, you simply reproduced, but you couldn’t be prouder of your wonderful children.
There is nothing wrong with creating something great. Keep that in mind as you read Genesis 11:2-4, and ask yourself: “if there’s nothing wrong with building something great, then what was the sin of this people?”
First, let’s look at what they did. From the mountain of Ararat, where Noah’s ark landed, the people have migrated east to the Fertile Crescent, eventually finding a fertile, open plain in southern Mesopotamia. This is the land that would later be called Babylon. Once there, they decide to build a city and a tower.
Moses, an Israelite raised in Egypt who is writing to an audience that was raised in Egypt but is entering into Palestine, particularly noted the building process of this city. Palestine had so many rocks that they were commonly used for building and burnt-brick technology was never even developed there, but southern Mesopotamia had no such rocks, so Moses described how the inhabitants used a foreign technology to build their city in an empty plain.
In addition to the city, these people built “a tower with its top in the heavens.” This was likely an ancient ziggurat, or stepped pyramid that represented a ladder or bridge from earth to heaven. Babylon would later follow this model and produce thousands of such pyramids ranging from 60 feet high to several hundred feet high.
So far, there is nothing wrong with what the people are doing. Now read verse 5.
If I were working hard to build such a great city and pyramid, I would be pleased that “the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.” It would be a time for rejoicing! After all, any child is pleased when his father appraises his work, especially if the child has worked particularly hard. But, as we'll see tomorrow, God doesn't praise them for their work--He judges them.
So what’s the problem? What is the sin of these people? It is not that they built a city and a tower. It is not that they used an innovative building process. It’s not even that they worked together to accomplish such a great feat. The problem is in their motives: “come, let us build ourselves… and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
They were more focused on themselves than on God, and while focusing on themselves, they were refusing to obey God’s commanded blessing to “increase greatly on the earth” (9:7).
If God calls you to build a tower, then build the best tower that you can. If God calls you to be a mother, then be the best mother that you can. If God calls you to play music, then be the best musician that you can. But do it all for God, and not for yourselves. Don’t make music so that people will praise you; don’t raise a family so that people will say how great of a mother you are; don’t build a tower so that you can put your name on the side of it. Do it all for God. Let Him get the glory. Only then will you be pleased when He comes down to see your work.
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