The Babel Problem

I want to take a minute today to talk about something called the Babel Problem. The Babel Problem is got its name from the Tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11. If you’re not familiar with the story it goes like this. Nimrod decides that even though the people were supposed to spread out and fill the land they would stay where they were. The people wanted to build a great city and tower to touch heaven. But what was the tower? The tower was more than likely a ziggurat and at the top of it was a temple. Basically, it is a tower made out of mud bricks and the temple is like an apartment. Their assumption was that God needed things, and if they provided what God needed then He would bless them. Instead of blessing them though God confused their language so they would spread out like He said to do. With a name like Nimrod, what should we expect?

Walton and Hill in their book Old Testament Today define the Babel Problem this way “The problem is that people have corrupted the concept of God.” I think that is a pretty good definition. If I could simplify it anymore it would be to say we have made God into something we like. I say it that way because when they decided to build the tower the people included this statement “Let us make a name for ourselves otherwise we will be scattered” They wanted to reach God on their terms and in their way. They wanted to be the ones who decided what God was like and how He should act. God was clear in what He wanted; He told them to spread out over all the earth (Gen 9:7) but this group decided that they knew best. The figured they could coax God into blessing the work of their hands because they either did not take the time to get to know Him, or care what He had said. Although, I suppose it could also be a combination of the two.

Sometimes we have this idea that we cannot know God so we write Him off. We decide that because the idea of eternity is too big to understand there cannot be anything more after this life. Maybe we have decided that because we cannot measure God in a laboratory then He does not exist. Maybe we decide that because bad things happen there cannot be an ultimate love in the universe. That because of the pain we see God cannot be real; after all, if God was real why would there be so much hurting. Because we have corrupted the concept of God and therefore, do not really know Him we find ways to discredit Him altogether. We can find a thousand ways to do it but, in the end, it the same message “I know best, so I will make my name great.”

The other part of the problem was they wanted God to bless them on their terms. We still do this. We come up with ways to make God pleased with us. Ways to earn His favor, or to convince Him into blessing us. Then when our ideas fail we blame God because He didn’t conform to our image. But, the problem was not and is not God, instead, it’s us. We cannot make Him love us, we cannot earn His blessings, and we cannot earn His favor. These are gifts that He gives to us because He is good. Because of the peace we have through Jesus we get to enjoy Him. It is not a matter of being good enough because you can’t be. You will never be good enough. We just need to enjoy Him. Martin Luther in the shorter Catechism answers the question what is the chief end of man, and that is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

When we create the rules for how God should operate the only one bound to those rules is us and that is a problem. God is not going to change His nature to fit in our box just because we want to play God and that is a big part of the Babel problem. When we decide who God is and how He should act we doing two things; we are playing God and we are creating a false god. It is false because it is not the real thing it is a construct of our own imagination, and it can be done in a variety of ways. However we do it the outcome is the same; we walk away disappointed. We might say things like “how could God xxx”, “but I did xxx”, “why would God xxx” or add your own statement. We have all at times done it.

We need to get back to what He said. We have to go back to what He has already told us about Himself. Read the Bible, and I mean the whole Bible. Don’t neglect the Old Testament because it was written before Christ. There is so much there that we need. Leviticus, for example, is a wonderful book when you look and see God is telling us about Himself. Over and over again God says something and then says “I am Holy” so we should read about why and how He is holy. That does not mean we need to follow the Mosaic Law but we should look at what God says about Himself. Read the whole Bible because God gave it to us so we could start to understand who He is. I guarantee you this one thing whatever you think you know about God is short of the full picture because God is so much bigger than you can ask, think, or imagine.

Just a thought,



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