1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." 5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." 8So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
There has been much made in recent times about culture and the Kingdom of God. The quest for “engagement of", and/or "relevancy to" the prevailing culture(s), is the rage du jour in the post-modern church; emerging and liberal, seeker friendly and charismatic.I have read such profound musings as; the story of Babel shows us God giving us the “gift of diversity”, or that “since Jesus celebrated diversity, so should we”, etc. etc. etc.
Now I am not promoting the denigration of any culture or people group. I am saying that the embracing of culture is not the goal of the Gospel. Contextualization is not a means to salvation. What does the Word of God actually say about culture and the Kingdom?
In the passage above we see the beginnings of cultures, nations, i.e. the kingdoms of this world. They are birthed out of an attempt by men to make a name for themselves. God told Adam and Eve to fill the earth, and have dominion.(Genesis 1:26-31)
This event shows men in direct disobedience of that command. Adam was expelled from the garden, but God did not rescind His directive. Adam was told that the fulfillment of that directive would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, because of his rebellion.(Genesis 3:17-19)Essentially, what we have in Shinar is a repetition of that very rebellion, that is, “you will be like God”. (Genesis 3:4-6)God disperses (expels) mankind, just as he did after the fall.This is a “coercing” of men to take dominion.
Unfortunately the difficulties of subduing the earth still prevailed.
We must also note that Shinar is a plain found in Babylonia, the land settled by Nimrod, who was the grandson of Ham, Noah’s son, the one who uncovered his father’s nakedness, when Noah was in an inebriated sleep.
Genesis 10: 6-20 gives us an interesting reading of Nimrod’s ancestors and descendants; in light of subsequent history.So when God dispersed mankind over the earth and confused their language to thwart their rebellion, He set in motion, the establishing of every tribe, tongue, nation, and kingdom; all of which are tainted by Babylon. There does not exist a kingdom on this earth, that is not Babylonian; some more than others, but Babylonian nevertheless.
So “cultural diversity” is the outcome of man’s rebellion in Shinar.Much the same as the rebellion in the garden created the need for the “seed”, a savior, to crush the head of the serpent, so the rebellion in Shinar creates the need for a true Kingdom, and a true “King of kings”Babylon is both, geographical location and an historic kingdom. Because of its origins, it is also a spiritual kingdom that fills the entire earth.
Babylon is where God’s people, Israel, spent 70 years in exile, until the time appointed by God through the prophets came to fulfillment. (Isaiah 45:1-7; Daniel 9:1-3 and Jeremiah 51:45)Babylon is also where all of God’s people are in exile, so to speak, until the time spoken of by God through His prophets comes to fulfillment. (Romans 11:25-26; Rev 10:5-11 and Rev 18:1-5)Babylon is spoken of over and over in the Scriptures, culminating in the revealing of the harlot and her demise in Rev 17 and 18. (See also Rev 14:6 and 16:9)
So with the Scriptures in mind, and the origin of cultures found to be rooted in the pride of the human race, how is the Body of Christ to reach this world with the message of the One who’s Kingdom is NOT of this world? (John 18:33-38)
That is the subject of my next installment.