A toddler cuddles a satin-edged blanket. A teenaged girl cherishes her grandmother’s heirloom ring. A father bursts with pride while his son helps him restore a ‘57 Chevy. Why prefer the frayed for comfort? Why seek the familiar for security?
My husband sees no reason to discard a t-shirt until it’s riddled with holes and you can read a book through its worn-sheer cloth. When we were newlyweds, I made the near-fatal mistake of throwing away one of his holey shirts. (Notice I said hol-EY, not holy.) By the time he realized it was gone, it was truly gone—irrevocably buried in the landfill. Years later, when my mother came to stay with our girls for a week, I forgot to inform her of our non-discard t-shirt policy, and another shirt returned to the dust during her servant-minded laundry week.
Ever the gracious son-in-love, Roy refrained from scolding her, but the next time Mom stayed with the girls, I explained our “no throw away rule.” She apologized to Roy for her previous “oops,” and when we returned from that second trip, she met him at the door, proudly sporting one of his worn-sheer t-shirts…with a newly-sewn neckline. She’d cut off the frayed collar and purchased new material—bright yellow—and added it to his old t-shirt. It’s one of the handful of times I’ve seen my husband speechless.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking comfort or hanging onto familiar things…unless they stand in the way of our moving forward with God. That’s when it became a problem for the generations between Noah and Abraham.
Simple Instructions Ignored
When Noah and his family first step off the ark, God give some extremely simple instructions and a promise (Gen. 9:1-17):
- Here’s what you can eat.
- Don’t kill each other.
- I promise I won’t destroy the earth and all living creatures with a flood again.
- And I have one very important job for y’all…
“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.…As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Genesis 9:1,7
Notice how God repeats this command twice? It’s the main job God gave humankind on earth. Multiply and spread across this big planet!
What’s the Real Issue?
Genesis 9:18-10:32 tells the sad story of Noah’s drunkenness and his sons’ descendants. Then comes the story of the Tower of Babel—a part of Scripture that’s always befuddled me. The people begin building a tower, and eventual God stops them…why? Remember God’s overall story of Scripture: to reveal Himself and relate to humankind. So, how does the Tower of Babel “build” (okay, a little pun intended there) on the overall story God is telling?
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 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 11:1-4 (emphasis added)
Let’s look at the emphasized phrases individually:
- settled there/not be scattered over the face of the earth – the people directly disobeyed God’s command to “fill the earth.” They clung to the familiar, unwilling to move away from each other and the plain of Shinar.
- build ourselves a city/make a name for ourselves – progress and intelligence isn’t wrong; however, selfish ambition and excluding God from our lives is sin. Trying to become equal to God is what drove Eve to accept the forbidden fruit from the serpent in the first place (Gen. 3:5)
The same parameters apply to us today. God often blesses His children with success and opens doors for their pursuit of knowledge, but seeking selfish gain and stubbornly clutching comfort hinders us from filling the earth with disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).
How Does God Respond?
“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 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. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’” Genesis 11:5-7
Think about it. Did the LORD need to come down because He couldn’t see from heaven? Ummmm, no. He came down so humankind could watch Him assess their sin. Evidently, there was no human being alive who God wished to confide in, to fellowship with—as he had with Adam and Noah. It’s as though He had to break into their world to remind them He was there.
It breaks my heart, but I must confess—there have been times God interrupted my world to remind me He’s there. When my whole world seems confused, and nothing seems to be working, it’s a Tower of Babel moment. He’s beckoning me to run into His arms and remember His desire to reveal Himself and relate to me.
God Will Have His Way
“So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 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
Humankind tried to thwart God’s good plan by settling into their selfish desires. But God WILL have His way on this earth, and in His perfect wisdom, He allows each human being to make his/her own choices to become an obedient or rebellious part of that plan. My job is simply to focus on God and let His plan work its way through me. Will you be an obedient or rebellious participant in God’s good plan?