March 9 I Friday
“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…” —Genesis 11:4
Genesis 10 lists Noah’s descendants, including his great-grandson Nimrod. Nimrod was a powerful warrior, “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Genesis 10:9), and the king who established many of the early Mesopotamian empires, including Assyria and Babylon. Babylon, in particular, is a symbol throughout the Bible for humanistic culture and godless folly—a city and empire in opposition to God. Yet, when we consider Babylon’s beginnings, we see this is born of a corrupt understanding of how to worship God.
The first settlers of Babylon decided to build a tall tower, which we call the “Tower of Babel.” Given Babylonian history, we can assume this was a ziggurat. Ziggurats are Babylonian temples that were said to be gateways to the gods. The greater the god they were worshipping, the taller the ziggurat would be. At the very top, the Babylonians would build a room where the deity could descend onto the tower and have a place to refresh himself. In other words, the Babylonian settlers were at least partially motivated to build the Tower of Babel as a way to bring God down among them by means of their worship.
Their desire to worship God may have been genuine, but their focus was actually on themselves. The motivation behind their worship was the desire to make a “name for themselves,” perhaps as Nimrod had. They wanted to be the ones who defined how to worship God and on what terms. Wanting to house God physically within their temples is illustrative of wanting to confine Him spiritually within their own systems and understandings of worship. In essence, they were trying to refashion God in their image.
God is not customizable, nor is truth negotiable. The pride of Babylon is essentially the same as what caused the Fall: an attitude that makes us think we know better than God and can redefine Him and His commandments according to our perceptions. This is also what blinded the Jewish leaders to the truth of who Jesus is, for they could not reconcile Him with their preconceived ideas about the Law and the Messiah. As a result, they rejected Him.
We also fall into this trap when we ignore the parts of Scripture that do not fit into our theologies or preconceived notions of who God is. God is kind and loving, but we cannot ignore that He is also just and hates sin simply because we do not like those teachings. God delights in our worship, but He wants us to worship Him, not some celestial idealization we have crafted in our image to call attention back to ourselves. Such worship makes God less and us greater, defeating the point of worship entirely.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as I study Your Word, may I not pick and choose what I like, but imbibe every word in recognition of who You are. Help me, Lord, to worship in spirit and in truth. Thank You, God.