11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 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; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 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. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 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.
The tower of Babel is an intriguing passage, that has strong relevance to today’s world. In this story, all the people of the world spoke the same language and decided to build a great tower into the sky, to make themselves famous and to unite them. God sees this and is dismayed that their unity will make them too confident in their own strength, so He confuses them with different languages, scattering them all over the world.
At first read, I found this verse confusing – surely God would want people to be strong, unified and capable of anything! It almost sounds like a utopian vision of humanity. That is until you realise that God isn’t in the picture. If the people are so capable of doing whatever they dream of that they don’t need God to help them, then this quickly becomes a very bleak reality. Humanity is designed to be in relationship with God – we need Him in the picture, no matter how good we’re able to design our quality of life. We are also sinful by nature – so being fully unified and capable isn’t necessarily a good thing. Just imagine how corrupt and dark that city could have become if God had not stepped in.
These days, we are seemingly more ‘unified and capable’ than ever. We’re connected across the globe. We have instant access to one another and an increasing comradery around important world issues. We have technology which enables us to do almost anything – soon we may live in a world so automated that many no longer need to work. This could all be seen as a good thing, but only if God is in the picture. No matter how good we have it, we can’t forget where the goodness comes from. We need our Creator.
Lord, help each of us to not rely upon ourselves but to rely upon You. Even when we seemingly have so much of our lives together, help us to see the truth – that You hold the universe together, and it is only by Your grace that we live the lives that we do. May we never forget it. Amen.
Written by Ps. Matt Samperi