Reaching for Heaven - The Tower of Babel
I have been working on this scene for the Tower of Babel for quite a while now and the story has been on my mind a fair bit. There was one thing specifically that had been bothering me and that was the part where God looks at the great city the sons of men are building and says :
“Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
It seems like the Lord is worried that men will be too good, too unified, that they would be able to create things that would be “Heaven reaching”. For me the whole thing seems to portray God as a bit insecure, worried almost and well, not like God.
Every now and then a thought would come to me and slowly a picture emerged on what may be going on. I remembered that the word Babel and the word Babylon are actually the same Hebrew word. Babylon comes into the Bible narrative several times and reveals much about the Babel account. Babylon was for the Southern nation of Israel a turning point, they were taken into Captivity after they were disobedient to Yahweh by committing idolatry, they lost their homeland and became prisoners to a different culture with different ideals and customs. Eventually they would return to their promised land but carrying the lasting painful memories of living away from the promise of God. The next pivotal passage is in the book of Revelation in Chapters 17 and 18 where we see Babylon the great, a great place of commerce and trade, a place of money making and great wealth. In Chapter 18:4 we read “come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven.” Here it seems that heaven can indeed be reached by man.
Jesus makes a statement in Matthew 16:24-26: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
The “self” that Jesus says we should deny, is the source of all our problems. We so easily forget that everything we have and everything that exists does so at the will of God, he upholds everything by his word, all things are created by him, nothing exists without him. Acts 17:28 says “we live and move and have our being through him”.
And so what does man do? We ignore Him, He who is life, He who is love, He who is the source of all peace and happiness and we look to build our own separate lives, we seek our own happiness in Babylon, we seek “great wealth” we build great civilizations in a vain and fruitless search for meaning when our meaning can only be found in the very one who gives us our existence. So when God confuses the language and separates the people of that great city Babel (Babylon) He does so from a place of truth and perfect knowledge, His will is to turn people away from a road that leads to destruction and correct their path to the path of life. I don’t know if that city and Tower were real but it doesn’t matter here, the point is so much greater. So much of what we endeavour to do produces nothing but disappointment and frustration.
2 Peter 1:3-4 says that “ His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
I believe that when Jesus talks about forfeiting one’s soul he is referring to the divine nature that exists within everyone. The “Self” that Jesus refers to is the ego, the independent, autonomous, lustful, worldly man, always seeking but never finding, always eating but never filled, lusting for one thing after another, desperate to BE someone without remembering that they already are the best someone they could ever be, made in the image of God, gifted from above with every good gift, would that we could just have eyes to see the truth and we may yet be set free, free to change the way we look at life to “Repent” if you like, to fall back into the all embracing arms of God who is Love, to see each other as God sees us, not as separate opposing selfish entities but as part of Him, part of Christ and of course part of each other.
The confusion that would have come upon the people in Babel would initially have seemed like a bad thing, it would have caused many to suffer in some way or another. I can’t imagine many people praising God at that moment, if it had been me I would have been shouting “Why Lord?” I would not have been happy. But how often do we look back at our lives and see that it was in the times of real trouble that something changed in us, that we became maybe softer, less judgemental, more Christ like.
Thanks for listening and May God bless you all.