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The first evidence in Scripture of wanting to be in the likeness of what we worship goes back to the Garden of Eden. Satan said to Eve, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). With aspirations of being like God, both Adam and Eve fall to the lure of Satan and eat the forbidden fruit. Sin enters the human condition. God withdraws His Spirit and banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

The second evidence of trying to attain to the image of what we worship is given in Genesis 11, three generations after Noah. The people greatly increase in number and although they retain a spiritual awareness of God, they do not know how to worship Him. In their broken, fallen state, the plan of man was to express their worship in a way that is an affront to God. Genesis 11::4 says, “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’” In an attempt to access the divine, they start to build a tower that reaches up to God. God comes down, confuses their language and scatters them across the earth.

The tower is called a ‘ziggurat’, and the greater the god, the higher the tower they built. Throughout Babylonian and Assyrian cities, it was not uncommon to have multiple ziggurats, all with a name of a different god. They would build a stairway to the top and at the summit was a room, furnished with a bed and sink so that whatever deity descended onto the tower would have a place to be refreshed. This would act as a gateway to the divine.

Behind any movement, whether right or wrong, there is a leader, an instigator who incites people to share in his cause and contribute to what it takes to achieve it. Behind the building of the tower of Babel was a man named Nimrod, a great grandson of Noah. He is described in Scripture as a mighty warrior on earth and a mighty hunter before the Lord (Genesis 10:8-9). Nimrod establishes military rule and within two generations of God cleaning up the earth with a flood, mankind is back to their sinful ways.

God, of course, has His own plan which He set in place before the foundations of the earth. The people, however, implement their plan and spurred on by Nimrod, their motivation is rooted in making a name for themselves by the work of their hands. Although the people have an awareness of God and perhaps even a longing for Him, they are trying to bring God down to their level, and in doing so, try to fit God into their image. This is Nimrod’s objective in building a monument to his own great name so that he may make a name for himself and fashion God in his likeness.

The Babel syndrome is still prevalent today. We can erect all kinds of ziggurats; build spectacular cathedrals and the most lavish churches by which we try to explain God. The ambience may be beautiful, but we will have no more access to God in these places than we would in the storage room of our basements. It is never by the plan of man, but by the plan of God that we have access to Him. This has nothing to do with the work of our hands or any kind of human endeavour or capability. We cannot bring God down to our likeness, but we can increasingly attain to His likeness by submitting our lives to Jesus Christ and by worship of Him that comes from a humble heart.

After seeing what the people were trying to accomplish in building the tower of Babel, God’s resolution in confusing their language and scattering them over the earth was actually an act of kindness and mercy. To paraphrase, God is essentially saying, “If these people begin like this, rallying themselves to build this complex system of worship by which they think they can relate to Me, and it is a continual growing movement where they all speak a common language, they will have their hearts so set on persisting in their own way that they will become hardened to the plans I have for humanity.”

“Let us ascend to the heavens,” is what man had set his heart to do and it was a growing pursuit entrenched in self-worship. Babel means “to confuse, to battle,” and this is exactly what God does when He confuses their language and scatters the people all over the earth. He spares them the effort and cost of their frugal endeavour. They stop building the tower and the city of Babel, which later becomes the city of Babylon. When we look at world religions of the Old Testament, whether it is Egyptian and their pluralistic society or the pagan worship of the Canaanites and Philistines, there is a longing for the divine. This created all kinds of systems of worship that was rooted in self and in God conceding to their ways and demands. And God writes all over them, “Babel.” It is mere babbling and utter confusion.

Psalm 135:15-18 says, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” This is true of materialistic society today. There is a self-absorption that pervades particularly western culture that is rooted in materialism, and wants its own interests at the epicenter of its worship system. It lends itself to all kinds of silver and gold, all kinds of things we idolize, and subsequently in our worship of them, we become blind to the truth of God and hardened to the hearing of His voice.

Right after the tower of Babel, God begins to implement His plan that would ultimately enable all people to have access to Him. He instructs Abram (later called Abraham) to leave his country, his people, his father’s household and go to the land God will show him. On faith alone, Abram embarks on the pilgrimage, and God promises him, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” From Abram’s descendants, God promises a great nation and from that nation, the Seed that would bless the world.

The Seed, of course, is Jesus Christ. Though faced with all the temptations we are, He lived a sinless life. In accordance with God’s plan, Jesus died on the cross for our transgressions, was buried in a tomb and resurrected by the power of God. Fifty days later, Jews from every nation under heaven were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, a celebration of thanksgiving for the harvest God had given. This was God’s timing to restore to humanity His Spirit that was lost in the Garden of Eden. He reverses what He had implemented in Genesis11, so that every nation, every tongue, every people would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their own language and bring it back to their homeland.

There are many towers of Babel today reflected in the things we worship, but only one gateway to the divine. By His work on the cross, Jesus Christ is the only one qualified who could ascend to heaven and bring about the restoration we need. From the day of Pentecost, every man, woman and child who comes in humble repentance to Jesus Christ is indwelt by His Spirit and has the remarkable blessing of direct access to God Himself.

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