Monday, October 12, 2015

Scattered!

(My Sunday School lesson for Oct. 11, 2015 ... )

FIRST THOUGHTS

Burger King's slogan for years has been "Have it your way."

Companies make a lot of money out of telling us that we deserve what we want and when we want it.

There is certainly something about our sinful nature that delights in self-centered pursuits, in doing things the way we want to do them.

Life ultimately is about the choices we make and whether we give any consideration to God and His purposes.

It didn't take long for humanity to forget all about the flood and God's judgment to wipe every living thing off the face of the planet. People went right back to disobeying God and going after their own selfifsh ambitions.

The builders of the Tower of Babylon were certainly neither the first nor the last to insist on doing things their own way.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Genesis 10:1–11:9

*** This is a very simple and straightforward explanation of how nations developed all over the world and how languages developed; God did it in one single act.

*** Even though Noah and his family were righteous enough to be saved from the flood, it didn't take long for mankind's sinful nature to show itself again.

*** Prior to the Tower of Babel, humanity was still unified by a common language and culture.

*** Following the events of chapter 11, humanity was scattered and divided into the various groups seen around the world today.

--- Genesis 10 is often called “The Table of Nations.” From Noah’s sons, Japheth (vv. 2-5), Ham (vv. 6-20), and Shem (vv. 21-31) came the various people groups that populated the earth. Some of the names of the people groups are easily recognizable, like the Egyptians (v. 6), Philistines (v. 14), and Canaanites (vv. 15-19).

UNITED BY A SINFUL PURPOSE (Gen. 11:1-4)

1 At one time the whole earth had the same language and vocabulary. 2 As people migrated from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let us make oven-fired bricks.” They used brick for stone and asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

*** It’s gonna be huuuge!

--- The builders were trying to make a name for themselves, a monument to their greatness, a Trump tower for the ages, so to speak.

--- Check out the words used by the builders of the tower: "Us" is used three times. "We" is used once.

--- QUESTION - What do these words suggest about the attitude of the people who settled in Shinar?

*** Out of one, many.

--- Genesis 11 says that humanity was still unified by a common language (v. 1). (This isn't surprising, since they were all from the family of Noah.)

--- After Noah's ark settled on Mount Ararat in Turkey, the family migrated east into Mesopotamia, or present-day Iraq, where Shinar was located. (Shinar is a synonym of Babylon.)

--- Interestingly, in Genesis, going east is consistently associated with moving away from God. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, the cherubim stood on the east side to prevent their return (3:24). When Cain left the presence of the Lord, he journeyed east (4:16). When Lot moved toward Sodom, he went east (13:11-12). Abraham’s sons by Keturah were sent east to separate them from Isaac, the child of promise (25:6). Jacob fled his homeland and “went to the eastern country” (29:1).

*** The tower into the sky.

--- This was going to be a tower that reached into the heavens so the people would have easy access to God (or "gods.")

--- Religious towers were called ziggurats, and many have been found in the region. Ziggurats are like pyramids, except the sides have layers like steps.

*** Pride comes before the fall.

--- Proverbs 16:18 - ”Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

--- One of the goals of the builders was to "make a name for ourselves."

--- When we're arrogant enough to think we can solve our own problems, God becomes irrelevant.

--- Another of their goals that disobeyed God was to avoid being scattered, which went against god's command to Noah's family to "fill the earth" in Genesis 9:1. (God wanted them all over, but these guys wanted to collect in one place.)

*** Question - What structures today impress people? How can the impressiveness of these structures make people think that the greatness of man lies within himself?

REVIEWED BY GOD (Gen. 11:5)

5 Then the LORD came down to look over the city and the tower that the men were building.

*** God had to come see this for Himself.

--- God is all-knowing, of course, so He did not need to come down to see what was happening.

--- By saying "the Lord came down" the Scriptures are mocking the men who dared believe they could build a tower so tall to reach God. No matter how high they built it they wouldn't get close.

--- God came down to hold the people accountable for their prideful project that was built without His approval and without regard for Him.

--- World leaders make their plans to rule the world. But God has demonstrated multiple times that He is in control of history. History will go the direction He determines.

(Think of the conquerers who thought they had it all, only to see their kingdoms fall away - Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler.)

*** A pattern of destructive behavior.

--- The tower of Babel is the first among many occasions in Scripture that illustrate the truth that pride often goes before destruction.

*** Question – What are some other examples of people putting themselves before God?

SCATTERED BY CONFUSION (Gen. 11:6-9)

6 The LORD said, “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So from there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babylon, for there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

*** A pattern of insubordination.

--- If you’ll try this now, what won’t you try to get away with?

--- God knew that if the people were allowed to stay on this course, it would lead them further away from Him.

--- This was a pattern throughout the time of Israel in the Old Testament of moving away from God, then being corrected.

--- Unfortunately, Israel descended into the kind of national pride that omitted obedience to God. The result was that Israel, too, was scattered throughout the world.

*** "Let Us go down there."

--- Verse 7 is again mocking the builders for saying, "Let us build" a giant tower to the heavens.

--- It's also an indication of the Holy Trinity. "Us" means more than one.

*** Confusion separates the people.

--- God had originally intended for us to “fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28, 9:1), so when they left Him out of their plans, He changed it for them. God’s way prevailed.

--- God didn’t just scatter everyone, he changed their language so they couldn’t understand one another.

(Think of a time you were in a foreign country, or in a situation in which you couldn’t understand the language being spoken.)

*** Bringing it back full circle.

--- Centuries later, God reversed the confusion of languages on the Day of Pentecost.

--- Acts 2:8-11 - 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontusand Asia,[a] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

That event demonstrated that when the Spirit fills a believer, He nullifies the effects of the life of the flesh and makes possible new life in the Spirit.

--- Ultimate power corrupts ultimately, and God's not going to allow it, at least not for millennia, not until the end of human history, when there will be one-world government, one people, one ruler, the Antichrist, empowered by Satan, who will be destroyed by the returning Christ.

*** QUESTION - God is able to ultimately bring good things out of seemingly difficult situations. How have you seen God use the gospel to bring unity among people?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Two workmen were asked what they were building together. One said he was building a garage. The other replied that he was building a cathedral. A day later there was only one man laying bricks. When asked where the second was, the first replied, “Oh, he got fired. He insisted on building a cathedral instead of a garage.” (Our Daily Bread)

The people in Babel were unified, devised a plan to build a city, worked together to meet their goal, and produced significant accomplishments. That’s good. Sounds like Nehemiah getting Israel to rebuild Jerusalem. Yet the folks in Shinar omitted God. That’s bad. Therefore, their efforts were futile, and God judged them.

Think about this: Shinar, where the events in these verses takes place, is right about where the Garden of Eden had been. So mankind was once again shamed and thrown out of the most beautiful area on the planet.

--- We can expect the Lord to respond to pride with judgment. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). The Lord said, “I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2).

*** The point of the Scripture isn’t that God doesn’t want people to work together. It’s that He wants us to work together to honor Christ and not ourselves.

*** Our faith does not rise out of our own dreams and solutions. The foundation of faith is in God alone and what He can do in and through us.

*** We must ask: Am I trying to make a name for myself? Am I focused on my project? My plan? My agenda? Or am I humbling myself before God to get in on His plan?

(Resources: Lifeway Explore the Bible Adult Leader Commentary)

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