Humanity multiplied as God commanded (Genesis 1:28), but they did not disperse to fill the earth. Instead, they “settled” (v. 2). Our meditation could stop right here. Does God want us to move out to something wonderful but risky? Are we instead choosing to “settle” for security?
In Genesis 11, the people decided that, rather than following the risky prospect of obedience by scattering and filling the earth, they would choose a safer option and stay right where they were. They decided to unite for self-exaltation (“make a name for ourselves”) and self-preservation (“not be scattered”) (v. 4).
The account of Babel contradicts the spirit of sacrifice that the Lenten season encourages. Babel features people who turned inward for the purposes of safety and selfish greatness. Sacrifice, especially as illustrated by the life of Jesus, encourages us to lay down our lives for the benefit of others.
In response to the people’s action of disobedience, God came down and introduced a plethora of languages. Confusion divided the people and they were scattered “over the face of the whole earth” (v. 9). To fulfill His diversity plan for humanity, God created cultures.
Think about it: if all people of all cultures are created in the image of God (Genesis 1-3), and a multi-cultural society was God’s intent (Genesis 11), this means that God revealed something about himself through the people of all cultures on earth. Even if we take into account the corrupting effects of sin on societies and traditions, the common grace of God would teach that if God is behind the culture as the Creator, then there’s some latent “fingerprint of God” in every culture.
If all people in all cultures reflect the image of God (imago dei), then every person in every culture can teach us something about God’s character. Do we act towards diverse people like we believe they carry God’s image?
The dispersion at Babel resulted in the creation of separated tribes, languages, peoples, and nations. But God will bridge the separation. God’s work of redemption brings diverse people together.
The readings ahead will take you through this journey – from the coming of the Holy Spirit, when the Gospel was communicated in multiple languages (Acts 2), to God’s ultimate long-term diversity plan: great worship services with people from every nation, tribe, people, and language who have been redeemed by, and now worship, the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). Enjoy the journey.