Day 18: Let’s build ourselves a city

Read Genesis 11:1-9

“The Lord scattered them.”

And that was the whole idea.

Why did they want to build a city? So they wouldn’t be scattered. They wanted to stay together. There’s strength in numbers. They wanted fame, they wanted power; they wanted the safety of brick walls and the security of a great tower.

‘Let’s make a name for ourselves. Let’s make a tower that reaches the heavens.’

Can you hear the dragon? Doesn’t this sound a bit like, “You will be like God” (3:4)?

God sees what the humans can do. He sees that “Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them,” and he doesn’t like it. Apparently, some things are supposed to be impossible. So he gets involved.

Back in the garden, he let the woman eat the fruit: not here.

It’s almost as though he’s not going to let their sin pile up like it did before the flood. He’s going to help them against the dragon despite themselves – as though their tendency to sin is a foregone conclusion, so now he’s doing damage control because he made that promise about the rainbow. He will bear with them; he won’t end the whole story if it gets out of hand.

No, he says, I won’t let you eat this fruit – the fruit of fame, strength, and god-likeness. So he destroys the dragon’s tool: their unity. He confuses their speech and scatters them abroad ‘over all the earth’.

Look at verse seven: “Come, let us go down and confuse their language.” Did you catch that? He calls himself ‘us’ again, like he did in the very first chapter when he said, “Let us make mankind in our image” (1:26).

God is an ‘us’.

Even while he separates the dragon-poisoned, fame-seeking, one-language-speaking, ‘us’; he is himself part of a genuine, truly-God, ‘us’.

The scattering is not because God is against community. He likes community – he is in one. He just doesn’t like what this community is trying to do.

He scatters them. Maybe so they will turn to him instead of to one another. Maybe so they will fill the whole earth instead of just one small part of it.

The story doesn’t tell us what he is thinking or planning; only what he does.

I believe that, as usual, he wants something better for them: better than what the dragon is trying to sell them, better than what they can imagine.

After all, he has never forgotten the dance.