The Tower of Babel: granite gardens and fake fruits

picture1Over and over in the Bible, we’re told to “root” ourselves in God Himself for fruit will reflect real Life (see the contexts of Psalm 80:15, Isaiah 11:1ff, 27:6, and 37:31, Jeremiah 17:8, Daniel 4:26, Hosea 14:5, Malachi 4:1, Matthew 3:10, 13:6, and 15:13, Romans 11:16-18, Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 2:7, Revelation 5:5, etc.)  If our foundation is in anyone or anything else, we will bear nothing more than plastic petals.   How would you like fake flowers for Valentine’s Day?

At the Tower of Babel, they did far worse.  And the Lord responded appropriately.

In this series, “Fruitful Fridays”, we’ve been studying what it means to be the fruit of God’s image and to bear fruit for Him.  Today, we consider Genesis 11:1-9, the literal and symbolic “height” of rebellion to God’s call.  Notice a few specific things they did that were the complete opposite of God’s good will for our lives.

One of the first things we see is that people found a nice spot of land and “settled”.  Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting and enjoying good things God has created…as long as our motive is Christ-centered and not self-centered.  The Lord had told Adam and Eve (and, therefore, all Mankind) to spread out to populate and rule the earth in His image.  At Babel, they were longing for a castle on the corner of Easy Street and Itsallaboutme Blvd.

Each of us must remember that the Lord created us to bear fruit for Him, not merely to enjoy the fruit He’s given.  Yes, God is gracious and finds great joy when His people are pleased with His bounty of blessings, praising Him for all that they have.  But we must guard against that slippery slope of loving the created things more than the Creator.  We are always to be seeking His pleasure, not settling for our pleasure.

Second, notice that the people collaborated.  But they put their faith in their hard work of brick and tar, not God’s direction of ruling in His image and blessing of relationship in Him.  As I mentioned in the article on Cain and Abel, the most basic difference between Cain’s line and Seth’s was that the former trusted in their own works.  The latter cried out to the Lord, trusting in Him.  We, too, must work together but for the purpose of resting in Christ for real Life and the fruit that comes from His works of grace in us.

Third, the people at Babel wanted to make a name for themselves.  The Lord has called us to tell others about His glory, not our own.  And that calling makes complete sense, given that He is perfect in every way.  When we take a close, deep, honest look at ourselves, we’re far from glorious.  In fact, we’re stained and incomplete in every area.  The Lord wants much more for His people than to stare at themselves for empty hopes.

Lastly, we see that the Lord frustrated their plans, forcing them to spread out for His intent to lean on Him.  And we need to be clear.  In verse six when God said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech”, He wasn’t threatened by their potential for greatness.  He was guarding them against the certain self-destruction of trusting in themselves to glorify themselves.

For the same reason, He had barred Adam and Eve from returning to Eden, not because He was pitching a temper tantrum.  He was displaying both His judgment and His mercy.  The first you probably see.  But we must also see that He didn’t want His people to eat from the tree of life and then to live forever in their sin.  They (and we) need to see that we’re broken so we can depend fully on Him.

It can be difficult to confess our inadequacies and to ask for help from family, friends, or even strangers at work.  But, when we work together because of our rest in Christ, everything is an opportunity to point to His glory:  His compassion to forgive our sins, His power to change us from the inside-out, His plan to work in and through us to show Himself as the true meaning and certain hope of Life in Christ, and His faithfulness to bless our trust and obedience.

As I’ve stated before, with the first eleven chapters of Genesis being a blueprint of the gospel, the account of Babel seems to be the “height” of human rebellion against which each of us must guard daily.  This world’s most prominent themes of temptation may be to settle, to trust in our own works, and to make a name for ourselves.

Consider the way the Genesis 11 begins – moving further away from Eden where Adam and Eve were evicted and finding a plane:  a seeming perfect place on which to build.  It seems that they were looking to recreate their own paradise.  But granite gardens can only bear fake fruit.  We need more than plastic life.

We need the fruit of real Life that can only come by rooting ourselves in the good ground of Jesus and His works of grace.


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