Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Gen. 11:9)
Following the flood God blessed Noah and his sons telling them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1). The LORD’S intention was for them to not just increase in number, but to inhabit all places on the earth.
Over time the people migrated from the east and settled on the plain of Shinar. As descendants of Noah and his sons, the whole earth spoke the same language. It is here that they agreed together to build a tower reading to the heavens, but don’t miss their motivation for this major undertaking. They said, “let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Get. 11:4). Their desire is not just to be famous, but to remain together in that place specifically going against the very thing God had blessed Noah’s family to do.
Notice the LORD’S response; God came down among the people to see the city and tower being built. He understood that nothing would be impossible for them as one people all speaking the same language; this was only the beginning of what they would do together as one people. (As an aside, understand that this was an act of rebellion against the LORD, so had God not intervened one can only imagine how they would have continued to turn from the LORD’S plan and purpose including working together to destroy promised seed of woman who would ultimately defeat the serpent and redeem humanity from the curse of sin, but I digress.)
And so we see in this story that the LORD came down among the people and confused their languages. In doing this God dispersed the people all over the face of the earth just as He had blessed Noah’s family to go and do with one language.
Now stay with me and connect the dots to see what God did then and how the LORD is working today to bring together what He dispersed.
Recall that of the six days of creation only five are specifically said to be “good” by God. The second day when God separated the waters is not recognized as good; only on the third day after the waters are being gathered together does the God see His creative activity as “good” (see Genesis 1:6-10).
Thus the act of separation alone is not good. Separation is only good if what has been scattered is brought back together. The dispersion of humanity dashed to pieces the unity the people with one language. Now when they spoke to one another confusion and misunderstanding would undermine the unity they sought. And even among those of us who speak the same language such division occurs as misinterpretation of our words and perceived intentions further separate us from each other.
The place where this all took place was called Babel also known as Babylon meaning confusion. When God’s people Israel would later rebel and serve other gods, the LORD’S judgment was to send them into exile in Babylon.
May the Holy Spirit help us to understand that today we too are living in a similar exile in Babylon. The world system or Babylon is still confused and seeks to make a name for itself rather than glorify the LORD Yehovah who alone is God. As followers of Jesus we are strangers within a foreign land for “our citizenship is in heaven” (Php. 3:20), and we must be careful not to live according to the pattern of this world.
And so the confusion of language and dispersion of people alone is not good, but the LORD has the power and understanding to restore and bring together what has been scattered. Even within our spiritual exile of Babylon the LORD can bring His people together again in true unity. Whatever labels we might use describing our differences and division from each other is all made null and void through Christ. As Paul said, “You are all one in Christ Jesus”, or again, “that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15-16).
Our world is trying to make peace, to bring together peoples who are divided. But Babylon will always remain confused, misguided, and divided as peoples. May the Holy Spirit give us wisdom to understand that the good they seek is truly only possible in Christ. Let us, therefore, leave Babylon not to be further dispersed and divided, but to come together in Christ. The One who dispersed and scattered people to the nations is the only One who can make them whole again bringing peace.
I must not let misunderstanding or words misspoken bring division between those Jesus has brought together by His faithfulness offering Himself upon the cross for our sin. My responsibility is to work to maintain the peace and unity He has restored within His body, the Church.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, forgive me for letting language and words continue to divide what You have worked to bring together in the unity of Your Spirit. You have given us the mind of Christ, so help us to discern how the enemy will seek to destroy unity through misunderstanding. Give us a greater love for one another to forgive and not let bitterness or resentment grow in our hearts as a dividing wall of separation. You paid too high a price for us to not come together as one body and as Your church fulfill Your purpose within our community and world. Let Your work of restoration and bringing what has been separated back together begin in me.