The Law of Babel
The Law of Babel
Scripture: Genesis 11-12
It is a great privilege talking to y’all this morning. This is a pretty personal sermon to me as it is something I feel like I have struggled with my entire life, but especially in ministry, and also a theme passage for the very driven Rhodes College. Pray
Read Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 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.
Ill-William story- “I am a great evil robot hunter.” That’s sort of boring-“It is a lot cooler being an evil robot hunter”
Now I saw this as absurd bit of imagination from William. But the more I thought -is it really that absurd? I mean I love the thought of being great and being part of something great. And I especially desire to be great a ministry, at relationships. I want to be a great RUF CM.
Most of my life beginning with a youth internship at 19, I wanted to be a ministry rockstar. When it comes to ministry, to my life as a friend, husband, and father, -I want to be awesome People in Babel wanted to be awesome as well. In genesis 11, the people of Babel gather together and decide
In vs. 4, “Come let us build for ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 1) They desired to “make a name for ourselves.” They make lofty plans to build a tower that reaches God. We see this throughout the ancient world. You build great wonders to show how great and powerful you are. This was how you could intimidate and impress other people who might try to conquer you.
Here we see the beliefs of Babel. 1) They assume that making a name for yourself is their purpose for living. 2) They assume that making a name for yourself will eliminate their fear and insecurity. 3) Their identity then is in what they do, in their performance, their talents, their accomplishments.-and if they perform, and their name is made great then happiness, a life free of shame and fear
3 Where do you find your worth? What makes you feel good about yourself? Chariots of Fire-Harold Abrams 10 lonely seconds to justify my existence? How do you justify your existence? For my students, it is success, grades, how much attention they get from guys or girls,
For you, it may be your bank statement, your job title, the behavior of your kids in public, where you or your kids go to school or college, that number on the scale or your pant size. being the best family, having the best yard and house, being the best friend, we can even justify ourselves by our holiness or theology, especially compared to “those people” and “those families.” Along with those things,
For me, it is my ministry performance, my preaching abilities, my gathering abilities, my leadership development, my one-on-one skills, students converted is this your identity? I often joke with supporters who want to know what it is like being a CM that it is like being a college sports fan- with your happiness and identity based on the whims of 18-22 year olds.
What is the problem with putting our identity in these things? 1)These identities are so self-consumed (they are all about us even if you think they are not) and 2)worse these things can change at any moment, they make for an unstable identity. -People’s opinions of you change constantly-friends boyfriends/ girlfriends- family can hurt or even leave you;
Ill-Paul and snake biting him- people pleasers -your looks are always changing -our performance-we can fail-ashamed to go outside yesterday We secretly know how unstable these things are so guess what happens to us, we become obsessed with these things- and our purpose in life becomes making a name for ourselves, justifying our existence.
“I daily feel pressured to conform to a certain image. As a young woman, I am expected to be beautiful, thin, poised, elegant, respectful, educated, fashionable, and mature. I should wear certain clothes, shoes, and makeup. I also feel expected to know the latest fashion trends, gossip, and celebrity news. In respect to men and dating, I must be fun, flirty, sexy, and exciting. These expectations and pressures are reinforced through magazines, television, movies, and friends…. Together these structures mold the image of the perfect young woman and demand all to conform. Although I am aware of this superficial marketing technique, I still desire to look like the models in magazines and the celebrities in movies. I realize that men are attracted to numerous qualities in women, but I want most to be beautiful and sexy.”-Regnerus and Uecker, Premarital Sex in America.
That makes me so tired and so sad for my students and my daughter. The law of Babel is brutal-our culture’s never-ending quest to create a law more difficult to obey than 10 commandments.
And I would say the culture of our neighborhoods, our campuses, and our churches often preach the law of Babel do more, self-improving, -basically “be better” shame, shame Perform, perform! And life is all about getting on that treadmill again and again and again. The Babel way is legalistic and moralistic, a culture that produces shame and guilt when we fail-and self righteousness when we achieve. God shows the foolishness of Babel, and our own, by “coming down to see the city and tower the children built.” Because the Babel way is childish, and he disperses them. So what is the alternative to Babel, what is our identity, our purpose, what do we do with this shame of failure and fallenness?
- This sets us up for Chapter 12 as God comes down to Abram.
Read Gen. 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God will redeem the world through a people. He chooses Abram to be the father of these people; he reveals his plan and promises to Abram. God chooses to bless Abram 6 Does God choose who the law of Babel would have chosen to start a people? -a mighty man, a man of renown, a man of a large family with the perfect wife, a man who worshipped him and loved his God perfectly-a rock star
No, God chose Abram who has no children, whose wife is barren and past childbearing age. Abram would be considered very weak by ancient standards, not someone to father a nation. He failed the law of Babel, the law of the ancient world where a man would put his identity in not only descendants but also in his tribe and land which brought security and status However, God tells Abram to leave his land, his family and go to a land God will give him later but is now inhabited by dangerous strangers. God strips Abram of any possible strength and anything he might desire to “make his name” in, leaving him nothing in which to put his identity and then God promises this stripped man 1) a land 2) a nation, in others words descendants 3) to bless Abram and protect him 4) to make his name great (very ironic after Babel)
- God gives Abram an identity, God’s say your identity is in me, you are mine. I will bless you. I will make your name great. B. And this new identity come with a new purpose- so that Abram will be a blessing, and specifically a blessing to all the nations created after Babel .
God blesses Abram, so that he will be free to be a blessing to others. God loves Abram so that Abram will be free to love others. If you are a Christian, we are children of Abraham and receive this identity and purpose of Gen. 12.
More than Abram, we have multiple stories of God’s blessing his people, ultimately seen in Jesus’s life, his death on the cross for us and his resurrection.
Therefore, our identity is in Christ, in his perfect love that never changes, our union with him that will never be taken away God promised Abram protection, Jesus gives us eternal life God promised Abram land, Jesus promises a new heavens and a new earth God promised to be with Abram, Jesus gives us his Holy Spirt God promised Abram a people, Jesus gives us the church God promised Abram a great name, Jesus gives us his perfect righteousness, he gives us worth, he justifies us, our shame and guilt are gone, and he will do great things through us, and we will be glorified. What an identity! Yet it is so easy to forget it.
I find that I believe God’s grace is sufficient for my salvation, but really in the day to day, in my job and with my relationships, I still live by the law of Babel- be better, do more, So, I am saved by grace for my sinfulness, but not from my poor ministry performance. I have to be better, preach better, socialize better, be cooler, study more. I know God loves me despite my sins, but have you seen how much weight I’ve gained and how crazy my kids behaved in church, or how poor my job performance has been lately.
Jesus says I love you, and nothing can separate me from that love but look at all my friends’ lives on Instagram and Facebook- they are so much cooler and more active than my family- their family just seems so perfect. The God of the universe rejoices over me with singing, but my yards looks terrible, my wife Leigh and I have been fighting all week, and life is so chaotic. And we see this with Abram in the following chapters.
When real life hits, Abram quickly forget the promises of God and decides to return to the false assumptions of Babel. by giving his wife to another to feel safe and to gain riches, by taking a concubine to try to achieve himself what God had promised.
He did not want to wait around for God to work, he must make his name great now! He must achieve a son now! We see Abram has forgotten his new identity and returned to the Babel way…
2) We also see here that Abram is not being a blessing to anyone. He has puts his wife and others at risk (so much for being a blessing to others and to the nations), He forgot the promises of God, his identity, and it has devastating consequences for the people he loves and even those he does not. It’s funny when I examine my life- the more I have pursued my own happiness, the more I promote my agendas, the more I obsess about my performance, and how people view me, the more people around me get hurt- I become a blessing to no one.
You see the law of Babel, the law of the world, takes our desire to do the job God has called me to well -bring the gospel to student’s lives and to be a loving husband, father- and changes it into a performance to make our names great.
And it also diminishes others-for to be great others must be less! It is taking our duty to proclaim Christ through our words and actions to this world and instead leads to proclaiming ourselves. This is a daily battle.
“And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation…But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.” -David Foster Wallace
This is the choice we have to make each and every day- the way of Babel or the gospel way 5) And god is so great that when like Abram, we forget all this, and lack faith, and sin and sin and sin-God stays true to his promises. He remains faithful to Abram again and again. God’s grace overcomes our unbelief as he patiently and lovingly reminds us of his love and shapes us into people who bless others daily. I want to leave you with this picture of our Savior this morning. Just look at Jesus in Mark 6-8 After himself suffering rejection in ministry.
He sends out his 12 disciples taking away all their comforts -no money, no food, limited clothing, similar to Abram- to do ministry in their weakness, to be ok with rejection. 12 And when the disciples return and tells Jesus of their successes and their failures, Does Jesus give them a lecture, Does he tell them to be better, does he grow frustrated by their inability to spread His word, or bring them any shame- NO!
he says to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Rest! Rest! Not have a better yard, a cleaner house, better clothes, better car, get that promotion, better sales, better behaved kids, And then later as they are overwhelmed with the over 5000 people – Jesus shows even further what the gospel way is about as he does a great work of multiplying the bread and fish- and he lets the disciples be an instrument of blessing as they pass out the food- He makes them great as he enables them to be a blessing to others.
And when they return from being a blessing, there remain 12 baskets of bread and fish- an entire basket of food for each one of them. That is Jesus, that is the overflowing grace of the gospel, he is not an accuser, he is not saying “be better or you are worthless” You are never a failure in the freedom of the gospel, you are essential. And when we remember and are secure in our identity in Christ, we will find ourselves being a blessing to others in our relationship and our jobs, fulfilling our created purpose. 13 Jesus, our Saviour says come to me you who are heavy burdened, not just by sin but also by the expectations from an accusing world, and I will give you rest, Let’s pray