In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Noah and his sons emerged from the ark. God repeated His blessing and command given to Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:28) three times (Gen. 8:17; 9:1, 7), “Be fruitful and multiply and the fill earth. Make it a paradise of those who walk with God, who trust in Him who will send His Son born of human flesh to crush the works of the serpent. (Genesis 3:15; 4:1)” But it doesn’t take long—just the space of four generations (Gen. 10:6-10)—for unbelief to take hold, for the great-grandson of Noah to not walk with the Lord in faith. But rather to lift himself up (Gen 10:9-11). To turn to himself and his own works. To build a city to make his own name great on the earth (Gen. 11:4). Rather than walking with (Gen. 6:9) and calling upon the name of Him (Gen. 4:26) whose Son will save all mankind from sin and death.
Oh, how hearts of men have not changed! For we all want to carve out names for ourselves. To leave our mark. To live a life with “purpose” or “meaning” by which, more often than not, we mean being remembered here on fading earth as though that salvation. And so men in particular often wish to have son so that their name, their line, their genetic material, or special gifts and abilities might be passed on. That they will not be forgotten. And whether we are believers and especially if men are not, we desire to be recognized and remembered that we might not be forgotten.
Of course, children are a blessing from the Lord! (Ps. 127:3-5) But even while being blessed we sons of Adam and daughters of Eve never have pure motivations on this side of heaven. And so men frequently desire sons so that their name might continue, rather than for the joy and privilege of raising up the next generation of God’s people.
So there are multiple sins going on with the founders and builders of this city, later called Babel. (Gen. 11:9): a trust in self, a rejection of the Lord, a turning away from Him in faith, an exultation of themselves over and against the Lord, a rejection of His command to be fruitful and multiply, to disperse and replenish the earth.
All of this is tantamount to forsaking the having of children so that they might make themselves greater! It is a sacrificing of the blessings and joys that God would give you through children for the sake of lifting yourself up. In a sense they are sacrificing their children on the altar of their own ego. This is the original precursor to child sacrifice. For though they have not actually slaughtered their own children, the motivation behind it—ego, self-aggrandizement—is the same.
And you wonder why is language the culprit? Because language has a purpose: the communication of the Almighty; the giving of His gifts. God gave life by speaking His creating word. (Gen. 1) God gives life even in the midst of sin and death by speaking His promise of His saviour. (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 10:17) He gives life by blessing mankind with the command to be fruitful and multiply thereby giving us His creative image, His capacity to create new life. (Gen. 1:28)
Language is an intricate part of God’s creation and preservation of life. Mankind having one language is meant to be a blessing by which we continue to hear of God and His life-giving promises. Yet, if they are going to use this one language for such sinful purposes, even this blessed language God must frustrate and confuse. And so it has been throughout all of history to this day. That language is frustrating and confusing. So much gets lost in translation between languages. Even when we speak the same language we don’t really understand each other half the time.
Well, God’s judgements cut two ways (Heb. 4:12): they judge our sin and they accomplish His saving purposes. He frustrates our abilities to work in unbelief against Him and against His good life-giving purposes. All the while bringing about His own goals and lo and behold thousands of years after this event the Lord began knitting His broken, divided humanity back together. Through His Son’s death and resurrection, by His Holy Spirit’s supernatural overcoming of the divisions of languages on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2)
For on that Day language was once again used to proclaim the life-giving word of Jesus Christ who has crushed the head of the serpent, defeated death, and brought life and immortality to light. (2 Tim. 1:10) God, come down to earth, has torn down the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:13-17) between all peoples and languages (Rev. 7:9-10, 13-14) by giving us the same words of salvation—the word about Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:17)—and knitting together in the womb of His Church, one body for Himself: a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. (1 Peter 2:9-10) A people saved from our pride and foolishness, prospered in spite of ourselves, multiplied by Him and His action as He has first scattered us across the earth, but by faith gathered us from east and west, north and south, to feast at His table.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON