Jesus Towers Above the Kingdom of Man
Scripture: Genesis 10:1– 11:32
Jesus Towers Above The Kingdoms of ManGenesis 10:1-11:32
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
As most of you know, I was a public school Jr. High teacher for nine years - it was probably something more intense than pastoral ministry and air traffic controlling combined!
In our school district we had a special program for gifted students. I'm not talking smart kids; I'm talking walking geniuses that were zapped by God to process at a level entirely foreign to me. I taught in Indian Prairie School District and this assembly of elite students was known as: "Project Arrow."
One day the Project Arrow science teacher asked me to come to her class and give a special presentation on muscles - back then I was the health teacher and did have something on my body that resembled muscles. While she thought I would be a perfect fit, I was scared to death. I knew that these students already knew more about the subject that me! I envisioned endless questions, none of which I would be able to answer. So I did massive amounts of research. I came in with information that guaranteed that I would not look foolish before these fourteen-year-old students. I'm dropping words on them that I could barely pronounce. I mean, a PhD in physiology would have been impressed! And then I finished
When I finished there was nothing but silence. It was deafening. Hesitantly I asked, "Are there any questions?" Silence again, until a hand eventually and slowly rose from the back of the class. It was Jacob Zielenski, the smartest kid in the group, probably working for NASA right now designing rockets to send humans to Mars.
"Mr. Smith," said Jacob in his distinctively Polish accent. My heart dropped. I knew I should have been even more prepared. Where is he going to go with this question? "Mr. Smith, how much can you bench press?" They were geniuses, but the entire lesson went completely over their heads and I never connected with the areas they were most interested!
So two weeks ago we had a couple intense sermons on the sanctity of life. Did we connect? Last week for Mother's Day we jumped out of Genesis to consider a passage from Acts 14 as I addressed the issue of self-worship. Did we connect? And then this morning we are back in Genesis and confronted with the Tower of Babel. Will we connect? If we are not careful, all these apparently disjointed sermons can be a bunch of babel through the dissimulation of much information with little understand and meager application in our lives.
So today I'd like find the golden thread that weaves all these subjects together. I'd like to put aside all the details about adenosine triphosphate molecules and pectoralis majors and the motoneurons and talk about the basics, like how much we can bench press, the fundamentals that every beginning weightlifter knows and practices from a Christian perspective.
Last week I dropped on you 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." As Christians this verse provides excellent framework to assist us with every decision we need to make. Decisions like, how should I raise my children and how should I structure my priorities and how should I be involved in my church and how should I treat other people and how should I spend my money and how should I spend my time. You get the point. Our goal in life is to do all for the glory of God. Specifically, is this decision pleasing to God? Is this how Jesus would have responded? Is this action rightly representing Jesus to a lost world? Is this behavior edifying and encouraging God's elect? Whatever I do, in all that I do am I doing everything for the glory of God? Implication, everything I do or think at all times falls into one of two categories: the worship of God or the worship of self.
Last week, by way of review, we looked at a passage from Acts 14 (you may turn there is you wish). Paul and Barnabas travel to a remote pagan town on their first missionary journey named Lystra. Throughout this account, they were forced to decide, like we are everyday, who or what they will choose to worship.
First they are used by God to miraculously heal a man who is described in verse 8 as "lame from his mother's womb." In sheer excitement, verse 10, the guy leaps to his feet and starts walking.
God-worshippers see themselves last and others not to be used but rather to be loved. If anybody could have cried, "What about me?" it was the Apostle Paul. Yet the needs of this paralyzed man took precedence over his own. On the other hand, self-worshippers want to be served. And they become disgruntled when others get more attention or their perceived needs are not fulfilled. It is about them and others are simply a tool to fuel their tanks with personal esteem.
Second, the ultimate purpose of the miracle goes south. Instead of people praising and honoring God, the townspeople praise and honor the missionaries. It was done to such a degree that the people exclaimed in verses 11-12, "The gods have become like men and have come down to us. And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes" Even the "priest of Zeus" in verse 13 came out with the oxen decorated for sacrifice.
For a self-worshipper this would have been a dream-come-true. For the God-worshipper this was appalling. The God-worshipper understands him or herself as a mirror whereby all the praise that arrives is deflected back to the only One worthy of it. But indicative of this fallen world is the incessant need for human affirmation driven by the Devil, the prince of self-worship himself. As he said to Jesus, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.' Jesus answered him, 'It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only''" (Lk. 4:6-8).
Folks, I'm not aware of any pictures of heaven that we have from Revelation where anyone other than the Triune God receives worship. Is there evidence your heart is being prepared for that eternal existence?
Third, instead of receiving worship, the missionaries shun the worship in verse 15 and then proceed to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in verses 15-17 that the townspeople would turn from "vain things" to the "living God."'
God-worshippers bent of seeing God receive glory want nothing more than seeing people get saved. People are not created to worship us. They are created to worship God. And the only way they will worship God is to be reconciled with God. And the only way they will be reconciled with God is if they come to Jesus Christ in faith to have their sins removed and forgiveness extended.
And fourth, self-worshippers do not share the Gospel. They want the esteem from others and they know Gospel sharing most often results in ridicule, anger and abandonment. Consider what Paul went through in this account. Hailed as a god one minute to being stoned the next and hauled off to the town dump like yesterday's garbage. But God-worshippers know their desire to honor God doesn't come cheap and they are willing to pay the price in their service to their Master. It is not a well-traveled road for the coward or fainthearted. But as the bloodied and disfigured Paul stood to his feet in verse 20, he went back to the very town he was stoned and then traveled the next day some sixty miles on foot to Derbe at the expense of self to reach people for Christ.
Now our assignments from the Lord may not be of this nature, but Jesus warned us before we receive Him that we are to "calculate the cost" (Lk. 14:28). It is easy in this country to profess Christ and give very little evidence of it through our actions. Like we saw with Paul and Barnabas, is there proof that we are presently living for the glory of God and not the glory of self?
Let me now show you what God thinks about self-worshippers as we move to some new material and stay within our theme. Turn in your Bible to Genesis 10. In the genealogy that reads like the Hebrew phone book we are introduced to a character in verse 8 named "Nimrod." He is described as "a mighty one on the earth" and in verse 10 the founder the kingdom called "his kingdom," a place called Babel. Then sandwiched by two sets of genealogies in Genesis 10 and 11, the inspired writer of Genesis provides information about Nimrod's town called Babel. It explains why we now have so many different languages in the world, but it also depicts God's attitude when people built to worship Him turn on their created intentions and begin to worship themselves.
Beginning in verse 1 of chapter 11: "Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.' And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar" (Gen. 11:1-3).
Some like to make a big deal that humanity was traveling "East of Eden" (so to speak), but for the most part everything is OK so far. Then we run into trouble. See it you can see for yourself the two mistakes these people made as I read verse 4.
"They said, 'Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.'"
Did you catch their two mistakes? For starters, they want to build a city with a tower that will reach into heaven. Again, nothing wrong with a city and nothing wrong with a tall focal point in the city, most cities have them. The issue here is the intent. The issue here I believe is the quest to achieve for oneself the preeminence of God. Now some have argued that the tower means nothing. Others have claimed the tower was a ziggurat, a structure used for pagan worship. Either way, what I see is the quest for human greatness in such a way that supersedes the greatness of God and get worship for themselves. Do you see it in verse 4? They wanted to "make for [themselves] a name."
Nothing wrong with having ambitions and goals in your life. The problem comes when we seek to pursue them at the expense of God or as it is often done in the church, simply using God to achieve our wills as if He is some kind of cosmic Santa Claus. Who do you want to be great? You can't answer both yourself and God (see Jn. 3:30). Psalm 96:4, "For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods." Psalm 95:3, "For the LORD is a great God and a great King above all gods." Psalm 145:3, "Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable." The source of anger with God is usually rooted in the fact that I want what I want and God has failed to deliver. It is a simple question. When the dust has settled whose name do you really want exalted? Is there any greater goal than God being glorified and is it seen in all your ambitions? Do you want God to be number one in your life? That is the heart of a God-worshipper.
Another related mark of a God-worshipper is the desire to obey His will. Logically, it is impossible to say you want to honor God while at the same time you are living in disobedience. So how many commands from God did the ancient world have at this point? Probably very few, but one that was repeatedly stated: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen. 9:1; cf. Gen. 1:22, 28; 8:17; 9:7). Yet back in verse 4 we read they wanted to build the city and become great "otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." That was God's point! When you want worship for yourself it is impossible to worship God. And when you care not to worship God, you will have no desire to obey God.
God's goal was that His image-bearers would spread His glory all over the earth. As the prophet Habakkuk declared, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). Jesus commands us to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Mt. 28:19; cf. Ac. 8:1). Even each week we gather for worship (proper to be here and we dare not stay here) and then we scatter to proclaim God's greatness to the world. God told the ancient post-flood world to go. Under the direction of the egomaniac, Nimrod, they stayed. The temptation for autonomy, independence, power and fame and in the process the subtle and often-unnoticed dethroning of God through disobedience.
Verse 5, "The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built." What a stinging indictment of human greatness. God had to stoop down on His knees (so to speak) to see the tower that supposedly reached to heaven.
Verse 6, "The LORD said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.'" God made us great as humans, far above the animals so we can do great things for Him. Yet when we do not pursue Him, we are outstanding at doing great evil to oppose Him. Man can never overthrow God. Even Satan tried and he failed. But unless God in His mercy at times chooses to thwart the plans of man, the evil they will do will undue this world. If they succeeded here, who knows what they will purpose next?
Verse 7, "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech." See the irony? Man's words earlier, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city" (Gen. 11:3). Now from the Trinitarian God, "Come let Us confuse their language." It's awfully difficult to build when you can't understand each other. You ask for a level and some guy pulls out the ladder! Here God in His mercy saved them from themselves. So often our disappointment from foiled plans is only the hidden love of God in action saving us from greater destruction to ourselves.
Verses 8-9, "So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth."
Babel, soon to be known as Babylon, the biblical symbol (from Genesis to Revelation) of all that dethrones God in an effort to oppose God and exalt self.
So God accomplished for Himself, the very thing He commanded and the very thing they resisted - despite their disobedience, they still were scattered and despite wanting to be a great name, the name they earned from themselves was Babel. The confusion of tongues. A glimpse of the reversal was seen at Pentecost (Ac. 2:6-11). A complete reversal of the curse will be seen in Heaven (Rev. 7:9-10).
But we are not in Heaven yet. We live in this world among the ever-present temptations to exalt ourselves. To some degree we all blow it in this area. We listen to the world and reject God's Word. And when we live for self it betrays us and brings pain into our lives. We were never built to receive worship, but we want the love of people more than we want the love of God. We fear man. We worship ourselves to the point that we cheapen our lives. We care less for the lives of others, specifically the unborn (as we have been learning). In all this we hurt ourselves and God is rejected.
A lot of people inside and outside this church hear my sermons. I received this e-mail last week. I share it anonymously with the writer's permission. And I share it because it puts words on the matters in my heart that exceed my levels of wisdom and articulation.
Hi Pastor Randy!
I wanted to share my thoughts about the message. The sanctity of life is something very deep and personal to me, but beyond that I was moved but not necessarily for the same reasons most others might have been. I agree with you 1 million percent in this: we as believers, not everyone but many, are almost scared or unsure or simply deliberately ignorant when it comes to dealing with issues surrounding life, value and the realities of our world. I realize I may be stretching your words some but please let me explain.
Our society has pushed kids toward a view of themselves and life that is so tragic, so painful, and so untrue (as you obviously know). The part that has been such a burden of mine for years has been this: I feel we as parents fall short because we simply don't know how to talk to our kids about what is in the world at their level. Their level meaning the glamorization of sex and amoral behavior in music and media; what they hear kids talking about in school when it comes to crushes and dating; bullying because of their beliefs, whether they wear glasses, or what they look like or wear; why two mommies/daddies are OK (or not), and the list goes on and on. Kids think we're old, we don't understand what they feel and see - these are things we, too, as kids did to our parents. The big difference is that we REALLY don't "get it" because the times and tastes have changed so rapidly, with sin so out of control now. And we don't know, in our strength, how to deal with it.
So instead of trying, in the Lord's strength, to learn and apply today's world to our kids' understanding of Scripture and teaching them in the admonition/fear of the Lord, we might sugar coat things to try to avoid discussing them; we might just run and hide because "they're too young" to hear certain things; or we just go ballistic and maybe say, "Don't ever bring that up! That's sin, that's evil ... or fill in the blank." This isn't everyone, but unfortunately over the years I've seen and heard this so many times both from young kids, youth, and adults and it's sad.
Children and teens - and we adults - MUST learn that our value comes from the Lord. He cherishes us so much, He goes beyond the latest fads. The Gift He gave to us in Christ's death on the cross only heightens that value He places on us. If that doesn't humble one's heart what will? I was the teen who felt like she never fit in anywhere, who felt like nobody liked her because she was always teased about her weight or something about her. Yet later did she learn that she had so many friends who truly loved her yet didn't know how to help her see how loved she was. I was the High School senior who swore she'd stay a virgin until marriage because she feared God so much (I was raised Catholic, and hard core at that!) yet in college moved away and then two years later found myself pregnant twice in 6 months because I thought the boy I was dating was "the one."
Both times I wanted to go through with the pregnancies. It was utter fear. I was 20, my junior year of college, and dying inside. I thank God for the friends He surrounded me with during that time, but it was the fear of being chastised, disowned, put out from my family, and the stigma that would come along with that that caused me to terminate both pregnancies. I became a [selfish] chicken.
Why am I sharing this? Because it's something that maybe a handful of people in my life know. It's something that, sadly, in many church families we don't accept talking about.
I also have never shared the details. I have no idea why the Lord has allowed me to remember the details of those events literally down to the machinery, the sounds, the other stuff that I won't discuss because it still makes me sick. It isn't something that torments me. I praise God for His healing in that area of my emotional life. But I believe He has it in my memory to one day be able to share with more women and girls what this terrible thing is and why I pray nobody ever EVER has to go through it.
Abortion and unplanned pregnancy affects many, including "church kids" and their boyfriends. And, in the case of older women who may have had abortions for one reason or another, the men in their lives. It may not be immediate, but unless the man is dead he is affected indirectly by abortion. The big difference in an inner-city environment is that it's "out there" and probably more acceptable to talk about it than what I've found in "suburban" churches. Many hide behind the white picket fences and say "oh not here." Guess what? Surprise, it does.
What we need to remember is that the Lord has all of those babies in His hands. When I get to Heaven, I believe I'll see my babies. There are so many [Christians] who still carry the guilt and pain even though the blood Christ shed on the cross forgave that sin. Those are the ones I pray for and that I pray I can help one day, but also I pray for those who need to learn now that premarital sex is wrong. That they have a value that goes WAY beyond what this world's "view" of value is. And it's in the One in whose image we were created.
I am sorry I've gone on, but this is an area that I'm extremely passionate about. I'm a bit more "out there" about this than most, only because today's kids sadly don't accept a "oh honey, it's blah blah blah." They almost need to hear it, see it, and feel it "in their face." It's sad, but the world's kids today - sadly, even some churched kids - don't get it. What an absolutely horrible message society and government are sending our kids. I pray and pray. But thank you for what you shared. I could hear the tears and emotion, and as one who understands it firsthand I pray as a body we do something more.
Thank you again. Please continue to be "out there" with the messages God gives you. And if folks get offended, as I put it - "oh well!!" If the Lord is showing you something and it's something that we need to learn in His Word then there should be no offense!!!
Having raised three daughters I have seen my share of fairy tales. We all love a happy ending. Yet we are only in Genesis 11 and there hasn't been much beyond human failure. At times we feel no different in our rebellion against God. But the good news is that God is at work. And next week we will be introduced to man named Abraham. Soon we see God carve out a nation for Himself - a nation that will eventually bring forth a Messiah that will bring total forgiveness and healing to those who receive Him. The history of self-worshipping humanity is depressing. But our hope is that God is in control and by His grace He is making worshippers for Himself that will culminate in the day when "every knee will bow and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11).