The Tower of Babel

Unity In Disobedience

“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.” 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.” 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 11:1-9
“Whatever disunites man from God also disunites man from man.” – Edmund Burke
In Genesis chapter 11, we get an inside look at how the various languages, families and nations on earth ended up being divided and scattered. To put it bluntly, the Tower of Babel is the true story of people attempting to “…make a name for themselves.” It is a good lesson we can learn from history! Pride against man and against God will scatter us.
Earlier in Genesis chapter 9, God had said to Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” Though Noah’s descendants did spread out as God had said, at some point they stopped “filling the earth” and instead settled in one place. They knew what they had to do. Perhaps they decided to stop trying to understand God’s plan and made up their own. They stopped obeying God’s direction and became rebellious! Their decision to “settle down” was in direct defiance of God! They started building a tower that would “reach the heavens”! How worthless of an attempt was that? How does this relate to us?
When you look at the people who built the Tower of Babel, they probably thought they were very intelligent – advanced in technology and in their culture. What they were really doing was worshipping their creation instead of their Creator. Their purpose was to make a name for themselves. This ancient skyscraper was to be a symbol of their united front against God. They had disobeyed God and on some level they feared being scattered – which was what they should have done in the first place – so they looked for their meaning and security in a great city built to rival God. They looked for security through their unity, even through their unity was in disobedience to God. Is that true unity? A lot of people have been shaken by the events of the past three years in our churches because of the lack of unity. If the standard of being a unified movement of God, being totally committed, fulfilling Jesus’ commission of world evangelism, and one-another instruction and admonishment to be more like Jesus (i.e. “discipling”), has changed for some, why should that surprise you? Should we be unified for the sake of being unified? Should we compromise for the sake of unity? God scattered these people because they were unified in disobedience, yet through that scattering, God worked through Abraham to build a new nation in Genesis 12. God had faith that the scattering would accomplish his purposes, and God will again use those who want to be unified to God’s word and not their own selfish ends to grow His Kingdom.
Why do people not speak the unadulterated language of God? Because they are afraid that if they really do, they will be alone. Their security was in numbers. The past three years have shown that some preachers are afraid that they will lose a third of their congregation, or people will stop giving contribution if they lay out the unadulterated word of God and expect obedience to it. Is that not the standard that Jesus calls us to in Matthew 28:20? “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” As an evangelist in God’s Kingdom, I will not stop preaching the word for the sake of making people feel good about their sin. I will not compromise God’s standard to make people feel better about themselves. There are enough “smiling preachers” out there on TV to make them feel right at home as they have church in their armchairs.
Even those who call themselves Christians can fear being scattered and having to live without the company of others. It can hard to feel alone and vulnerable. Their fears drive them to be united for peace at any cost, but any attempt at peace without Christ at the center puts them – sinful men and women – in a position where they start compromising God’s standard and authority. They get afraid, and instead of trusting God, they attempt to become God and build their self-glorifying towers. Just like the Tower of Babel, they will not succeed.
For those of us who are sold-out disciples of Christ, we must understand that having a wholehearted commitment to God’s message will cause us to become strangers and aliens in this world. 1 Peter 2:11-12 states, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” This world is not our home. We are only ambassadors here for a short while. Who are we calling people to become? Who we are or Jesus is? Are we compromising our conviction and lessening God’s standard for the sake of false unity? These people were unified in sin. They were unified in disobedience. After they were scattered, only Shem’s descendants would be chosen to become a great nation for God through Abraham. Are you afraid of being alone? Are you afraid of being scattered? If so, you may be tempted to compromise the Word of God. We need to find our security in wholeheartedly following God’s Word, and God’s Word alone!
Churches scatter when people begin speaking a different gospel. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”

Sadly, there are those in our city who are deceived by the smooth talk and flattery of those who teach a different gospel (Romans 16:17-19). We have and will continue to pray for them in the hope that they will be united to the truth. However, Jesus’ standard cannot and will not change. If we are not speaking the Word of God, you can be certain that we will scatter. As the Scriptures state in 1 Corinthians 11:19, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” The folks that built the tower of Babel were unified, but they were unified in disobedience. Unity cannot be built on compromise. True unity is based on God’s righteousness and not our own, and what we build will be tested. It already has. Now God is looking for those who are willing to go anywhere, do anything, and give up everything to be used by him, like Abraham in Genesis 12. God wants to build a new nation of disciples for His glory. Will He use you?
For His Kingdom,
Andrew Smellie