Building A Babel

Let’s say that you are toying around with doing a particular thing in your life. Maybe you are considering buying something (a house, a piece of land, a car, a boat, etc.) Maybe you are mulling over making an investment. Maybe you are thinking about marrying a certain person. Maybe you’ve been asked to accept a position, teach a class, or coach a ball team. Well, here’s the one thing to always keep in mind when you are making any decision: Seek God’s will in the decision and DO THAT!

In Genesis 11:1-9, we find the Bible’s record of how a group of people once got together and built the city of Babel, the centerpiece of which was the fabled Tower of Babel. The group’s leader was an impressive fellow named Nimrod, who was renowned for his skill as a hunter (Genesis 10:8-10). The site for the city was a plain in the land of Shinar (v.2). Today we know that land as Iraq.

But God had three major problems with the building of Babel.

Problem #1 was: Nimrod was a godless leader. The name “Nimrod” literally means “rebel” or “let us rebel.” With a name like that, you know what kind of leader you are going to get. Ancient historical records tell us that Nimrod’s wife, Semiramis, founded a mystery cult religion that promoted the worship of her and her son, Tammuz. She was known as “the queen of heaven” and Tammuz was purported to be a Messianic figure. The legend associated with him told that he was conceived by a sunbeam. When he was older, he was allegedly killed by a wild boar and miraculously resurrected forty days later. Down through the centuries, the false “mother-child” religion spread around the world. It even worked its way into Israel (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25; Ezekiel 8:14). It all started in ancient Babel, though, in the house of a rebel leader named Nimrod.

Problem #2 was: Babel itself was an attempt to disobey God’s decreed plan. When Noah and his sons got off the ark, God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). To fill the earth, Noah and his descendants had to scatter themselves. In other words, in those days God did not intend for people to find a nice spot, build an empire, and remain in that specific location. But what did the builders of Babel say? They said, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly. Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (v.3-4).

Problem #3 was: Pride was the driving emotion behind the entire project. The people said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves” (v.4). Those people didn’t build something to bring honor to the name of God; they built something to bring honor to their name.

With all of these things going against it, it comes as no surprise that God the holy Trinity (note the use of “Us” in v.7) put a stop to the building of Babel. He did this by confusing the peoples’ language (v.7). The construction project was brought to a screeching halt as simple everyday tasks that involved people interacting with one another became monumental struggles. Imagine telling the guy next to you to hand you a hammer, only to discover that he nows speaks a completely different language. Babel was the beginning of multiple languages being spoken upon the earth.

God understood that unity was the secret to the strength of the people of Babel. Unity is a very powerful thing. Used rightly, it can bring about tremendous good. Used wrongly, it can bring about tremendous evil. The people of Babel used their unity wrongly, and God ruined that unity. In Nimrod’s day, the name “Babel” meant “the gate of god” or “the gate of the gods.” After this event, however, the name came to signify conversational confusion. Even today we sometimes hear the question, “What is that fellow babbling about?”

Now, as you ponder the subject of God’s will concerning a particular situation, you can pull five valuable lessons from the story of Babel.

Lesson #1 is: Some amazing Babels can be built. This story offers clear proof of the incredible capabilities of the human race. God Himself said of the people of Babel, “Now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” We have it in us to ignore God and yet still accomplish tasks that seem to be great and wondrous. Certainly that applies to mankind as a whole, but it also applies to individuals.

Lesson #2 is: The blueprint for your Babel always looks appealing. As you think about building your Babel, you will quickly find that the idea appeals to you. Nimrod and company wouldn’t have dedicated themselves to building the grandest city on earth if the idea hadn’t appealed to them. A Babel is like that. It looks good to you.    

Lesson #3 is: Building your Babel adversely affects others besides you. Nimrod’s building of Babel wasn’t a solo project. Others got caught up in its wake. That’s how it works with a Babel. When you begin to build one, a domino effect is set into motion. You don’t just hurt yourself; you hurt others. 

Lesson #4 is: God never helps in the building of a Babel. When you do something that is in God’s will for your life, the thing goes better and the end result creates a lasting effect for the good. But when you step out of God’s will and build a Babel, the reverse is true. Isn’t it interesting that the city of Babel was never actually completed (Genesis 11:8)?  What happened? God worked against the endeavor.

Lesson #5 is: A thing that is the will of God for one person might be a Babel for another person. City-building is neutral. It isn’t always right or always wrong. David and Solomon renovated Jerusalem, added structures to it (namely the Temple of God), and built the city into a magnificent place. They did that in God’s will. Nimrod, on the other hand, did his building outside God’s will. Do you see the difference? One noted preacher from the past said, “There are plenty of things in life that are perfectly legitimate, but when they get on a God-forbidden tree they are not right.”

I preached this sermon “Building A Babel” in a certain church a few years ago. When I gave the invitation a man came forward and knelt in the altar. I knelt down beside him and asked, “Why did you come to the altar?” He answered, “We’ve got a few vehicles around our house that are Babels. We didn’t buy them in the will of God; we just bought them because we wanted to. We need to sell them and get back in God’s will in that area.” You see, that is how practical these five lessons from this story can be.

A Babel is anything that isn’t in God’s will for your life. To build one, you’ll have to step right over Him. And, friend, believe me when I tell you that’s not a step you want to make. Oh, that Babel might look good to you right now (after all, that is one of the lessons), but it won’t look nearly so good when the dust has settled and all the accounts are in. Therefore, I’ll say again what I said earlier about any decision you ever face: Seek God’s will in the decision, and DO THAT!     

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