“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.” (Genesis 11:6)
The power of unity. This is what God brought to mind this morning as I read about the Tower of Babel, specifically God’s response to the people’s achievement.
As an analytical person, I absolutely love God’s paradoxical nature. He is seemingly contradictory yet consistent at the same time. Nevertheless, even the apparent contradictions make sense when viewed through the eyes of God’s glory. Take, for instance, the events of the Tower of Babel. It was after the flood, and the people of the earth were unified in language and purpose. They came together as one in mind, body, and spirit to create the tower and build the city. In unity 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…” (Genesis 11:4).
Now at first one may think, “Great job guys! Way to work together!” Yet in the very next verse we read the following: “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 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 they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language…” (Genesis 11:5-7).
What?! Did God just confuse their language because they had been working together in unity and succeeded?! Yes. Yes He did. But I believe if we take a closer look, we’ll see a possible reason why God did what He did.
Why did the people build a tower? Did they make a tower reaching to the heavens to honor God? Nope. They did it for themselves, to glorify themselves. They built the tower to make a name for themselves (verse 4). So when God came down and viewed the tower, He didn’t just see unity, He saw unity used in an unrighteous manner.
Only a few chapters before the events of the Tower of Babel, we read the events of Noah and the flood. God had looked down on the earth and proclaimed, the “wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). So He destroyed every living thing save Noah and his family. He effectively started the earth over. Yet no sooner does the earth begin to repopulate then the people of the earth come together as one to build a tower glorifying themselves, not God.
I believe when God looked down, He saw not only the people’s wickedness but also their potential. The One who created man in His image knows man’s full potential. Knowing man and knowing what this tower and this city would lead to, yet also knowing He couldn’t destroy man with another flood, God acted. He acted for His glory and for man’s ultimate well-being. He effectively put an end to what He in His omniscience knew would happen if the people continued together in unrighteous unity. So He confused their language and dispersed them.
“…and they left off building the city” (Genesis 11:8).
In the case of Babel, God brought confusion as a means to prevent evil. Yet I believe His first desire is not to avoid evil via confusion but rather to draw people to Himself through unity. Unity is such an important key to changing this world in a mighty way. There is power when people come together. Even small groups who are unified can do greater things than large groups riddled with discord. Jesus Himself prayed for the unity of believers so “the world will know” God loves the world and in His love sent His Son to earth to die for our sins (John 17:23).
So what then can we take away from the events of Babel? Well, today I took away two big truths: there is power in unity and God calls us to righteous unity. If we want to change the world, if we want to draw people to Jesus, if we want to bring glory to God–then we need to unite. We need to link arms with each other, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, and work together as one body. Whether you are the baby toe or the head in ministry, you are essential and you must work well with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Rejecting any part of the body only brings discord and destruction. Jesus himself proclaimed, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). There is power in unity, and we as believers must tap into this power if we want to change the world. Yet we must not unite “to make a name for ourselves.” We must come together as one body to serve our Lord, to give glory to our Lord, and to draw people to our Lord. We must unite to show the world Jesus and to ascribe glory to our King.
And as we do this, we can join the choir in heaven singing, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)