Friday, September 11, 2009

Our Heart is Desperately Sick

This post is the first of a three-part series on the sin of those who purposed to build the Tower of Babel.

4They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." 5The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6The LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7"Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech." 8So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.
- Genesis 11:4-9 -

So for most of my life I haven't understood this passage.

What was the problem with these guys just building a tower? Yeah, I guess they were prideful in imagining they could reach heaven, but they wouldn't have been able to do it anyway. Did God really feel threatened? Would a successful effort on the part of these 'Babel-onians' have really opened the door of omnipotence to them? And was all God after in confounding their language getting them to give up because they just couldn't understand each other?

In the past couple weeks, for my Old Testament studies class, I've had to read Genesis twice. I've read that story a couple more times as well (quick review before class, lecture during class, etc.). There's a benefit of reading large portions of Scripture repeatedly. As I did this, I believe I gained some insight into why the Babel-onians' sin was specifically offensive to God. And the insight the Word of God gives us into their sin will help us know our own sin, and will therefore aid in that process of the mortification of the flesh (8:12-13), in which, as Christians, we are engaged.

Their sin of congregating and building this tower is twofold: there was direct disobedience of God's command, and there was grievous treason. Today, we'll look at the direct disobedience and seek to find ourselves there, building that tower, as well.


The part of their sin that I want to focus on first is revealed by the following: "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."

And you say, "What's the problem with that? They like hanging out with each other. Is it really such a big deal that they didn't want to be scattered abroad?"

The problem was that it was in direct defiance of the very first command God gave man after He made them.
  • Genesis 1:28 - God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
After destroying the earth by the Flood, because every intent of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5), He also gave this charge to mankind, now to the descendants of Noah.
  • Genesis 9:1 - And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth."
And so in chapter 11, one of the Babel-onians' intentions was to avoid being scattered abroad, in direct disobedience of a command they'd received once from their Creator, through their federal head, and then again through their ancestor Noah (only 4 or 5 generations back).

Where this intersects with all of us is: it illustrates the same truth as Genesis 6:5. You say, "No, we're not like those 'every-thought-only-evil-continually' people! God wiped them out! These guys may have been bad, but if they were that bad God would have wiped them out again."

Not at all. God's mercy that has flowed to us through the blessings of the Noahic Covenant did not come because we were a better product than those alive before the flood. Listen to God's reasoning for why He decided never to destroy the earth again by water:
  • Genesis 8 - ...and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done."
God basically says that if He gave us what we deserved, He'd have to destroy the earth every couple of generations or so! The intent of man's heart is evil from his youth. And even though that's the case, He'll bless us by not wiping us off the face of the earth as we deserve.

And so when God gives us a command to fill the earth, our wicked, rebellious hearts that think only evil continually decide that we'll stay put. Know the depth of your depravity, friends. Know that, when met with our corrupted flesh, God's holy, righteous, and good Law (Rom 7:12) serves only to aggravate our sin all the more, to drive us to despair, and to cause us to call out for mercy from the One who was born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the Law (Gal 4:4-5), from the One who became a curse for us in order that we might receive the blessing of the promise of the Spirit (Gal 3:13-14).

This is your heart. This is, straight from the mouth of Almighty God, what your heart is. Oh, may it keep you near the cross!

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
- Jeremiah 17:9 -

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth,
and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
- Genesis 6:5 -

No comments: