Dear CSOPC brothers and sisters,
From the Pastor’s Desk
Genesis 11:5, “And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.”
The Babel episode recorded in Genesis 11:1-9 is one of the three great ‘falls’ recorded in Genesis 1-12, the other two being the original Fall (Genesis 3) and the Flood (Genesis 6-8). The Babel incident represents the height of sinful man – the city of man – exalting himself against the Lord. And the sin of man is shown forth in flying colors in vv. 1-5.
Verse 1 sets the stage against the background of the ‘Table of Nations’ (Genesis 10), and already in v. 2 we are given hints of what is to come: “And as people migrated from the east (lit. ‘eastwards’), they found a place in the land of Shinar and settled there.” To travel ‘eastward’ in Biblical language is to travel away from God (Gen 4:16; 13:11); and the region of Shinar is often associated in Scripture with Babylon, the city of man (Dan 1:2; Zech 5:11). And then man’s autonomous, self-exaltation is highlighted in vv. 3-4: “Come, let us make bricks … let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” Let US make a name for OURSELVES! The city of man! Sinful autonomy! Self-exaltation! Let us bridge the gap – let us make our name great! How arrogant! How filled with pride is fallen man (see Gen 4:17-24; Revelation 17-18 for the theme of the sinful city of man). Why did man do this? Verse 4b, “Lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Their goal was to preserve power and authority. It is interesting to note the contrast between sinful man in this episode and the Lord’s original mandate to Adam in Gen 1:26-28. In God’s original creation mandate man was called to subdue and to cultivate the earth in submission to God thereby spreading the glory of God throughout the globe. Thus, God’s glory would be on display from sea to sea, to every corner of the globe. In striking contrast, however, in this passage man is seen consolidating his power and exalting his own glory!
How will the Lord respond? He comes down – he condescends (vv. 5, 7). Verse 5 is filled with sarcastic irony as the LORD must come down to ‘see’ the tower and the city. Man had intended to build a tower to heaven, but the King of heaven must come down to see man’s futile effort (Is 40:22). And he condescends in both judgment and mercy. In mercy, God restrains man’s wickedness (v.6) and in judgment he disperses them and confuses their language (vv. 8-9). Man’s sin and God’s condescension in judgment and mercy. Brothers and sisters, this is the great theme of the Bible. God’s gracious condescension counters man’s sinful exaltation and rebellion. Of course, God’s greatest act of condescension is the Incarnation – God himself coming down low to save and to judge (Phil 2:5-11).
One cannot grasp the significance of Babel without setting it against the background of Pentecost (Acts 2). The confusion of languages at Babel … and the one gospel preached and heard in different languages at Pentecost (Zeph 3:9-10). And the curse will be once and for all rolled away in the New Heavens and the New Earth when the people of God from every nation, tribe, people, and language will sing the song of the lamb together with one voice (Rev 7:9-12).
Dear friends, do not trust in the city of man! Do not place your confidence in man! Rest in Christ! He is the one who condescends to save! He is the one who bridges the gap! He is the one in whom there is peace and forgiveness!