Today’s Reading: Genesis 9:18 – 11:26
After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. – Genesis 9:20-22
This was the mistake that would change the course of Ham’s life. It was an issue of disloyalty and selfishness, the heart of gossip. Ham had the opportunity to take responsibility and cover his father. Instead of taking action out of respect for his father, Ham went outside and told his brothers, who took care of covering their father. Ham shirked his responsibility and brought shame to his father. Noah cursed Ham’s descendants to a life of servanthood (9:26-27) – if you don’t want to help take care of family, you will spend the rest of your life with no choice but to take care of others.
Ham was not the only one of Noah’s descendants to think too much of himself. Ham had four sons but it was his son Canaan on whom the curse landed. With the curse of servanthood did not come a humble spirit. The desire to be famous and rise above the curse remained. The tendency to think too much of themselves remained.
The descendants of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan…Cush was also the ancestor of Nimrod, who was the first heroic warrior on earth. Since he was the greatest hunter in the world, his name became proverbial. People would say, “This man is like Nimrod, the greatest hunter in the world.” He built his kingdom in the land of Babylonia, with the cities of Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh… – Genesis 10:6-10
Recognize Babylon? Babylon becomes the epicenter of arrogance and idolatry. This is where it begins. The descendants of Nimrod thought too much of themselves. Their desire was to build a name for themselves, for their own glory instead of for the glory and purposes of God. I find it ironic that today’s slang definition of “nimrod” means idiot or jerk. Nimrod found much pride in being a heroic warrior and hunter, but pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Nimrod’s descendants are about to experience a fall like no other.
First pride, then the crash—
the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. – Proverbs 16:18 (The Message)
At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” – Genesis 11:1-4
With a shortage of stone in that area, the people used innovation and created bricks. Rather than recognizing this as a gift from God, they found excitement in the idea that they might become famous for their creation. If they could build a great tower made of bricks, the world would hear and see how wonderful they were. People would come from all around to see this tower that represented their greatness. They would become famous and there would be no need to ever leave their earthly kingdom.
Consider the sin of Adam and Eve. The serpent tempted them with the possibility of becoming like God. Eve was easily convinced by the serpent and her desire for a wisdom like God’s caused her to sin. Adam witnessed the whole thing and joined in this self-ambitious sin. They were banished from the garden, made to leave the area they had come to love.
Compare the sin of Adam & Eve to the sin of those building the tower of Babel. The people of Babylon desired to be as powerful and famous as God. Their longing for fame and fortune was stronger than their love for God. Their desire to stay there and not be scattered all over the world resulted in just that – banishment and the scattering of people across the region.
But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. – Genesis 11:5-9
Our salvation depends on having a humble and repentant heart. If we think too much of ourselves or think too much of what we have accomplished, we begin to depend less on God and more on what we think we can do on our own. When we start seeing ourselves as a HERO, we soon become known as a prideful IDIOT. When confronted with temptation and sin, we arrogantly choose to build our own tower of Babel. This reminds me of the words of James, the half-brother of Jesus:
And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. – James 4:6-10
God, humble us today. May we see every good and wonderful thing in our lives as a gift from you. May every blessing be evidence of your generosity. Forgive us for our moments of pride. We long to be your servants for your Kingdom rather than building our own fame and fortune. Help us to see the needs of others and respond with help rather than gossip. Help us to see every obstacle as an opportunity to see YOU glorified, not us. Amen.