1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
The idea behind the Tower of Babel is to prevent people from dispersing over the face of all the earth. This is in direct contradiction from God that people fill the earth. (9:7). The attempt is to build a tower to the heavens.
In verse 5 God “comes down” to see the tower. This is a rebuke against man’s attempt to reach God. God must “come down” to see a tower that was built to “go up” to the heavens. Man cannot reach God, cannot climb to God and cannot thwart the purposes of God (in this case, to fill the earth). The destruction of the Tower of Babel is obviously not an attempt to prevent people from succeeding in their attempt. No one is ever going to build a tower to heaven. The destruction of the tower is to get mankind back to the mandate to fill the earth, which the confusion of the languages accomplishes and the resulting confusion causes people to disperse. God gets His way, even if it is through the ungodly.
This account is one more that demonstrates the rebellion of man against his Maker. What is possible for them is to absolutely ruin themselves by accomplishing the tower and thinking that they have reached heaven and are independent of God altogether.
The question arises as to why God did/does not continue to thwart man’s efforts in similar ways when he arrogates to himself great exploits and forgets his God. The answer is that God indeed may be doing just that. We do not know how many times God has “come down” and put a monkey wrench into some grandiose scheme that sinners had hatched.
But the larger point is that Jesus Christ is the ultimate coming down by God for the purposes of thwarting human sin. There is nothing greater that God can do than He has done in Christ. And that is where this text and others ultimately take us. See the stubbornness of sinners throughout history and there is only one thing God can do and that is what He did. He came down again as one of us and provided the final and perfect solution to the problem – Himself. This story points us to Christ.
Today when you see evidence of the sinfulness of humanity all around the world and you hear of the many and varied ways that people talk about providing solutions to make the world a better place, remember this. Jesus Christ is God come down to save the world from its sin.
If you are a believer, rejoice that God has come and found you. Be committed to speaking and living for Him to others.
If you are not a believer, you need Christ before anything else. Your problem is sin and He is the solution.