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Home School of Biblical Theology Doing Biblical Theology: The Beginning and the Beginning from the End - Genesis 10 - 12 - Talk 7

Doing Biblical Theology: The Beginning and the Beginning from the End - Genesis 10 - 12 - Talk 7

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Doing Biblical Theology: The Beginning from the End and the End from the Beginning - Genesis 10:1-12:3

Talk 7

Things started out so well in God’s good world. But sin or rebellion changed everything.

People multiply on the earth and spread out to fill it, as God directed, but sin has been part of that spread. And God’s judgement increased as sin got worse – from the judgment on Cain and his descendents, to the judgment of the flood, God’s act of un-creation.

But God‘s grace is also spreading. God is at work blessing his creation and planning to put things right. We have seen God’s grace to his sinful world in Seth and the godly line of descendents.

Likewise we saw God’s grace to his sinful world in the person of Noah and renewed blessing in a renewed creation. But Noah was not God’s promised ‘bruiser’, or ‘crusher’, who will undo the effects of sin and restore God’s perfect kingdom. And the flood did not remove the problem of sin.

The story of the tower of Babel becomes the third example in the spread of sin. It is the story of proud people who think they don’t need God, and who band together to create their version of ‘the good life’:- a meaningful, useful and happy life without God, and even in open hostility to him.

It is an attempt to remove God from his own world: ‘Let us . . . ‘ (11:1-4).

But before I highlight the key details of chapter 11, we need to understand how chapter 11 fits with the genealogies in chapter 10.

It appears that chapters 10 and 11 are not chronological in order. Chapter 10 is a summary of all Noah’s descendents. The story of Babel fits into this summary.

The existence of different nations with their own language is mentioned in verse 5. Then there is reference to Nimrod ruling and possibly building Babel or Babylon in verse 10.

Finally, verse 25, there is reference to the earth being divided. But all these things happened as part of God’s judgment on Babel.

So, once again it is the flow of history that is important. We should not think that Moses was giving every detail of every generation in order. Moses’ point is that the origin of different languages and distinct nations is the evidence of God’s judgment on sinful society and culture.

What stirs God’s anger? It seems to be their arrogant attitude: let us make bricks; let us build a city; let us build a tower that reaches to the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves; let us act so that we will not be scattered across the face of the earth.

Instead of people joining together to serve God as their king and creator, they are determined to reject God completely and join together because of social, cultural and economic values.

Instead of living life under God and giving him praise and glory, they are determined to do their own thing and give praise and glory to themselves for their own achievements

Instead of longing for the security that comes from being in God’s place, God’s city, they are determined to build their own place of security and permanence.

Instead of obedience to God’s command to Adam at creation and then re-stated to Noah to spread out and subdue the earth, they determined to congregate in one place.

The symbol of their independence is the tower they built. It’s hard to be precise what the tower represented.

The Hebrew word suggests a defensive tower. Possibly they built it to the heavens because that was where they perceived their chief threat to come from. That is, they viewed God as their enemy and were determined to keep him out of the world and out of their lives.

Others suggest that in building to the heavens they were setting themselves up as equals to God. Therefore they were determined to build their own heaven on earth where they would set the rules and determine what was good and what was evil.

And we also get a glimpse of this belief that they don’t need God and can live their lives better without him, in chapter 10:8-12. Nimrod is Ham’s grandson, and God’s judgment on Ham was that he would be the slave to his brothers.

In naming his son Nimrod, which means “Let us rebel”, Cush was expressing his hope that Nimrod would rebel against God’s curse and rebel against God himself and create his own future by his own strength and cunning.

Nimrod was a classic example of the attitudes highlighted in 11:1-4, the self-made man who lives in defiance of God. And all his descendents were likewise defiant of God and determined to build their own good life apart from God and his word.

2. But God will not be pushed aside:- ‘The Lord came down . . .’ (11:5-9)

The dream of unity, security, permanence and prosperity apart from God will always be just that – a dream because God is left out of the calculations.

Not only is it a dream, it is a silly dream. Look at verse 5. Human arrogance saw a great architectural masterpiece that reached the heavens. But in God’s eyes it is so small and insignificant that he has to come down to earth to get a good look at it.

God, by his action mocks human defiance and combined human achievement, and demonstrates his rule and that he will not be excluded from the world he made.

God comes down to smash their defiance and humble them. His judgement stops them in their tracks. It also builds into God’s world another permanent reminder of the reality and consequences of sin.

And it is a reminder we see in every generation through history. The greatest violence of history, right up to our own day comes from conflict between different races and nations.

So, Babel is a symbol not of human achievement – as its builders believed it to be – but of man’s rebellion and refusal to trust in God. And this scattering reminds us of Adam and Eve being forced from God’s garden, and Cain from his people. It is the pattern of the spread of sin and the spread of God’s judgment.

3. And God does not give up on his sinful world: ‘I will . . . .’ (11:10-12:3)

In previous chapters we saw God’s grace at work even when sin was at its worst. There is hope because God does not withdraw in response to the sinful rejection of his people. There is hope because of God’s promise of ‘the bruiser’.

But after Babel it appears that there is no word to soften God’s judgment. Is this really the end? Has sin triumphed over grace? Is God unable to move forward and fix the problem?

Has God abandoned his creatures in the awfulness of a sinful world?” Never! The genealogy of the second half of chapter 11, reminds us that there is still a godly line in God’s world.

It introduces us to Abram, and yet another new beginning and renewal of the hope and expectation that perhaps he might be the bruiser. Genesis 12:1 reminds of the language of genesis 1:3 and introduces Abram as the start of God’s new creation, God’s new plan.

This is just the end of the beginning and Abram is the beginning of the end. His descendent will re-establish God’s kingdom – restoring God’s people to God’s place, under God’s rule.

What is God’s plan?

- To form a new nation through which he will act to bring blessing and renewal to the whole world.

- To do for his sinful people what they foolishly try to do for themselves.

Verse 1 – I will give you a place to be, a special land.

Verse 2 – I will make you a great nation & I will make your name great.

Verse 3 – I will be your blessing and guarantee of future safety. And I will make you a blessing to the whole world.

The good life of safety, prosperity and happiness that sinful people tried to create for themselves, will actually come to them as a gift from God, though they don’t deserve it.

And all of this is finally achieved in Jesus. So, the rest of the Old Testament is simply the story of God’s preparation for Jesus, the descendant of Abram who is the bruiser.

In the meanwhile as this process begins, Abram must trust God – he must leave everything that is the visible measure of safety and success in his world and trust God to give him that which will be truly good.

So, at the end of the beginning, at the end of Genesis 11 we have a clear understanding of our roots as God’s people. In a real sense there is nothing new in the Bible after these chapters. There is lots more details to be revealed, but there is nothing completely new.

It is God’s world, made by God for his own glory. We are the centre of God’s world as image bearers and made for relationship with God.

But sin or rebellion changed everything. The basic desire to reject God and build life apart from God, based on our own rules rather than the rule of God’s word, means we are no longer in relationship with God as we were created to be.

But we also know that God intends to fix the mess people have made in God’s world through rebellion. So Genesis 12 introduces to the beginning of the end.

And once again we are pointed forward to Jesus. Once again it is clear that every aspect of God’s promised grace in response to Babel in particular and the whole of chapters 1-11 in general, is Jesus.

1. Jesus is the true city of God and the founder of a truly united humanity.

That age-old dream of Babel is still with us – the dream of one world nation and culture and economy. And all of this pursued and built apart from God and in opposition to him. And it is no less a disaster today than it was in the days of Nimrod.

It is always an impossible dream when God is left out of the calculations. But Jesus has achieved what sinful people have only ever been able to dream of. Jesus has done what God has always intended to do in his world.

In Jesus the curse of Babel is reversed. The gospel of Jesus is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, to Jews first but also to every other race (Romans 1:16 ).

The death and resurrection of Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility that existed between Jew and other races and brought salvation to those who previously were without hope and without God in the world. The result is one new humanity, who are fellow citizens in God’s household or nation, called the church. (Ephesians 2:11-22 )

The death of Jesus is described as destroying forever the great city of Babel or Babylon as it is referred to in Revelation 14-18 . Babylon was a picture or symbol of life lived apart from or in rebellion to God. It is a city of rebellion and lies where the good life described as life free from God’s rule is shown to be no life at all.

It is the death of Jesus that frees from sin, changes a person’s attitudes and desires and frees them to be what God intended them to be. Frees them to live the good life as God intended.

And it is that life and that city that Abram longed for and was commended for in Hebrews 11:8-10 . And in Hebrews 12:18-24 we have a clear picture of that city, that secure place where the good life would be enjoyed. And the city of God is Jesus.

The way into God’s city is, verse 22, through being converted to Jesus. God’s place of security and life; God’s kingdom; God’s temple where he meets with his people in fellowship and blessing is in Jesus.

And nothing displays the glory of God quite like the fact that people from every nation and tribe and language group are now – by virtue of being in Christ - once again God’s people, living under God’s rule in Christ, who is God’s totally secure place.

Not only did the Lord reverse the curse of Babel, but he used it to bring great glory to himself and to the Lord Jesus in the process.

All the hopes of God’s great reversal longed for throughout the history of Israel, only to be dashed time and time again. All those hopes are met in the Lord Jesus.

The most glorious praise rises to the Lord Jesus from every nation and language group on earth. And that includes the people of Myanmar. God’s glory will not be hidden. God’s purposes for his world and his people will not be pushed aside and destroyed by the rebellion of people. God’s saviour will not be silenced.

So, praise the Lord for his goodness. Read this word to you with a focus on Jesus and let everyone and everything that has breath praise the Lord and live obediently under the name of Jesus.

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 January 2011 20:29  

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