Shadows of Babel

tower_of_babel_2_sOur ancient ancestors are often considered to have been primitive and bereft of complex engineering skills. However, structures like The Great Pyramids of Egypt, The Great Wall of China, the Observatories and Pyramids of the Mayas, and a myriad of other incredible wonders tell a different story. Modern engineers and builders stand in amazement at the accomplishments of these early builders who had only primitive tools and rudimentary simple machines. Existing thousands of years nearer the dawn of human history than we, they demonstrate skills and intelligence that rival our present endeavors. We are left saying, “How did they do that?”

The record of the Tower of Babel is by no means mythical, but is solidly based in fact. Rawlinson, one of Britain’s great Mesopotamian excavators, reports finding references to towers a ‘mile’ high. That is over four times taller then the Empire State Building. There are fragments of cuneiform texts that relate to the building of the Tower of Babel in the Genesis account. In the ‘cradle of civilization’, the ancient Chaldeans sought to build a tower that would allow them to climb to heaven and take over. On the plains of Shinar, these infamous and skilled builders erected a tower that staggers the mind of modern man. Although the Tower crumbled to dust under the mighty hand of God, it has cast a shadow down across the ages. It has spawned a continuous line of tower builders that to this day toil in its shadow. People still labor under the misconception that they can get to heaven in their own way, rather than God’s way. I’ll share with you a few of the ‘towers’ still being built:

The shadow falls across Religious Tower Builders. They, like the ancient Pharisees, adopt an approach that reduces spiritual life to a list of do’s and/or don’ts. They devise a standard of godliness and then elevate themselves by criticizing others who do not meet their standard. The Rich Young Ruler, spoken of by Jesus, serves as a prime example. When told by the young man that he had “kept all of the commandments from youth up”, Jesus told him that he was still lacking (Luke 18:18-23). Trying to ascend to heaven any way other than through Jesus will always fall short. Acts 4:12 declares, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Sad to say, religious stonemasons often build walls around the church to keep sinners out if they don’t follow their man made rules. The Master said, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in.”(Matthew 23:13)

The shadow falls cross the builders of Towers of Good Works. They are kind and charitable people who ‘will give you the shirt off their back’. Others work diligently in civic organizations, community groups, and even church activities in the belief that enough good works will get them to heaven. They champion many noble causes, and this is fine, but Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)  The Apostle Paul instructs all who will listen in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast”.

Especially in our day, we have seen architects erecting Towers of Knowledge. They believe that the pathway upward is through acquiring more knowledge. The humanist asserts that academic and scientific pursuits hold the answers to building a utopia here on earth. They believe that man has only one way to ascend above this troubled world –  the intellect. Ingersoll, a renown intellectual of the past, stated during his last days, “Man has but one alternative to faith (in God) and that is his intellect, which at best is a flickering torch, born on a starless night and blown by the winds of prejudice.” Man’s use of his intellect to elevate human nature has proven to be disappointing and depressing, yet still men build on it rather than build on God’s sure foundation.

The last shadow I will point you to in this devotional are the Towers of False Doctrine. Although I could have perhaps included these thoughts under Religious Towers, I felt they needed special consideration:

  1. Some build Towers of Emotionalism. While true worship stirs people deeply, it is error to prescribe how that expresses itself.  1 Kings 19:11-13 tells the remarkable account of Elijah’s encounter with God. First, the Lord passed by in a great wind so powerful that it rent the mountains and broke the rocks to pieces, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. In the end, the Lord came in a still, small voice. The old adage, “it’s not how high you jump, but how straight you walk on the ground”, certainly applies here. At times, shouts of joy may be appropriate, at other times we need to heed Psalm 46:10, “be still, and know that I am God.” To judge worship by the degree of emotion shown is a tower that will crumble.
  2. Some construct a Tower of Gifts and Manifestations. The shadow of this tower is seen in the teaching that the only evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is the ‘gift of tongues’ or being ‘slain in the spirit’. An undo exaltation of gifts of healing or prophecy as the only measure of spirituality casts a dark shadow across the Christian world.
  3. The Tower of Elitism also has its construction workers. They insist that unless you are baptized in a certain way or into a certain denomination you have not been truly baptized. Still others try to de-spiritualize people who do not take communion in the manner they prescribe. Certain translations are deemed by some to be the only acceptable versions for a Christian to use. Others believe the use of musical instruments in worship or a particular style of music determines the authenticity of true worship.

The Tower of Babel crumbled and fell and so will all others raised in its shadow. Martin Luther contended that the events surrounding Babel were more damaging than the flood because the shadow has continued to effect people of all ages.

Psalm 24:3-4 – Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.”

~ Brother Roy

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