Monday, November 14, 2016

The tower of Babylon (Genesis 9:18-11:32)

/sermon by Mike Enns/

-We do still have the sermon series about the gospel of genesis. And I hope by now many of us like myself have realized that the stories have more meaning and power than we give them credit to and are not just good children stories like Trif thought us about the flood last week and so today as well.
-The topic I want to talk about today is, many have probably guessed it…that’s right. Dinosaurs

-I’m just kidding of course we are going to talk about Alcohol right now.    -> Though dinosaurs will appear as well despite very briefly.
 - At this point you are allowed be a little confused because you were probably expecting some kind of tower.
But alcohol is a serious issue.  And in the bible it is mentioned a lot of times not to get drunk and even not to make others drunk.
->it is not only against the will of God. It is dangerous, can destroy families and many sad stories start with it just as the story of the Babylonian tower.
->In fact with the first human hangover in documented history.
        We can find the beginning of the story in genesis 9,18

-I will take you know a little bit through this history and I know many of you might think it is boring even though this history is more like blockbuster movie than any other story I know and it’s true. But I like history so my opinion is biased and I know that it might seem boring to some people.
-> That is why remember:  I will be talking about dinosaurs. That is interesting.

So After the flood Noah and his 3 sons left the ark and Noah built himself a nice vineyard which he then enjoyed a little to much and he was lying drunk and naked in his tent.
è This proves that Noah, even though he was a man of God was also only human and a sinner like all of us
-The problem here is that his youngest son Ham saw him and he was eager to shame him and told this sight to his brothers Shem and Japhet
-They however were not as amused and went walking backwards to their father to not see his shameful sight and dishonor him and they covered him with a cloak.
- When Noah found out he was really angry and cursed Ham who was called father of Canaan that it will be servant to his brethren.
And blessed Shem and Japhet.
->After Noah’s death they split up with their separate families and Ham got a few sons and one of them named Cush got a very important Son himself named Nimrod. The great grandson of Noah.
- He was the first King of Mankind and that is the guy who built the Babylonian tower
-So let us read about it in Genesis 11, 1-9 ……..

So this Guy called Nimrod and his people wanted to build a tower to heaven and God didn’t like it so he split the people up while giving them different languages.
This is not all that happened there.   
-This is not some legend or Childrens story to explain where languages come from like you might hear from others.
There is so much of importance in this story
- I do believe it is very important to understand Nimrod and his past to understand not only this story but also a lot of circumstances reaching till today.

So let us first talk about this people who apparently did not do what God wanted.
-        As you remember Nimrod was the grandson of Ham and cursed by Noah to serve. But he goes and makes his own Kingdom to rule. So clearly he is not following neither God’s nor Noah’s will so there can not be a lot of blessing on this.

-And in fact from the Mountain where the Ark landed Ararat in todays Turkey they went to Mesopotamia in todays Iraq  and started there Kingdom there. This became the start of the Assyrian Nation and the Babylonian Nation both bitter enemy’s of Israel. The Babylonians even destroying Jerusalem and the Temple around 587BC.

So let this get in chronological order of humanity. First we bring the sin to this world and God throws us out of paradise than we behave so badly that God’s sends a flood to save a few and promise out of love to never do something like that again and gives us a symbol for our bond in the sky the rainbow. And 3 Generations later the humans are already building nations to kill of God’s people.

And then we get so arrogant already that we try to built a tower to reach God in the sky as we read in verse 4

This is in fact a very nice description.
-> Let me get you a better picture of what happened.
-First the place Mesopotamia. It was not an easy place to live in. You probably have heard about the Nile and how easy and prosperous the regular floodings made the land to live in for the Egyptians. Well Mesopotamia is between the Euphratis and the Tigris and they flood unpredictable and violently. Historical evidence shows that a lot of slave labor was needed to make it livable there.
And Nimrod the name literally means “let us rebel” and that he did against God.
The tower reaching the sky was of cause not really reaching the sky.       even today the tallest building is only 828 meters high and we still don’t even know how vast the sky is.
-This tower was a symbol of arrogance just like some ship we were told is unsinkable.
And just like the titanic was not unsinkable this tower did not reach sky but only managed to stand as symbol for its creator’s arrogance and ignorance

Just that this tower was much worse
The Temples in Mesopotamia where called Ziggurat or Schiggorat which translates from Babylonian to “High , sky hill or God mountain” and they are Temple towers
-This one is a recreation of the one in Babylon by a german museum.
So when he built the tower to reach the sky it is not only to challenge God but a temple to reach his new false God’s and idols.
-3 Generations after the flood only it came already to that. Turning your back on God and making your own false Idols.
That is awful! But this is not all. There is historical evidence that he later became Marduk the highest God of the Babylonian pantheon. So he not only made up false God’s but proclaimed himself as such. Like the Pharaonians and the Cesars later continued.

That is unbelievable disappointing to the bound with God…  But wait Nimrod is not finished yet.
God gave his first command to humanity in Genesis 9,1:” “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth”
 And now Nimrod Comes and tells his followers in verse 4:” Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

This is open rebellion against God’s command. This is the story of human arrogance and ambition to be like God. What a sad thing. A thing very much alive even today.

So how angry was God after this disappointment? I would be absolutely furious. In fact I’m a still a little mad at Nimrod and he died thausends of years ago.

So how angry do you think God was?
I don’t think he was. I can’t see any indicator that he was.
 -5Chapters earlier in Genesis 6 verse 5-6 we read: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

God is not angry at us he grieves in his heart about us and our wrongs.
Think about that. You can be angry at anyone but to grieve it really has to mean something to you.
-So how much must we humans mean to God if he grieves about us in his heart.
Have you ever thought about that? We think about the consequences for us when we sin and we talked about it when we talked about the first sin. It means we get death and separations from God if you remember
-But have you thought about the consequences for God that we are hurting his heart and he is grieving for us.
-He loves us

- That is why while Nimrod and the humans pushed God away God makes a step towards us.
Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Verse 7
He actually says let us go down. The almighty God as the trinity. The father, the son and the holy spirit stepped down to stop them.
That is not punishment. That is love. He is concerned with us.
I don’t think it was necessary for God to step down himself  if he was not concerned
-That is more like a father seeing his child poking with a fork in the power plug. He doesn’t take the fork away as punishment but because the son is going to hurt himself.
We humans are so sinful and push God away. Everyone. But God loves us. He is concerned about us and cares about us.
That is also why Jesus had to stop down towards us and he took the punishment himself for us on the cross. God will never push us away. He sacrificed himself for us.
He knew at that time of cause already that for these humans there in Babel. The ones pushing him away, proclaiming themselves God. For these arrogant and sinful humans, he will die on the cross.      
Because God knows who we are. He knows I’m just as sinful as Nimrod the guy even I’m angry about and he still loves me and cares about me and that is amazing.
 Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Slow to anger and abound in love.

-So we learned what human sinfulness is capable of and saw a glimpse of what God’s love is capable of. But I think we can still learn more from this story.                      And that is about Unity and Diversity
->Furthermore I haven’t talked about the dinosaurs yet that I promised you .

- Unity is a very good thing. I think Bulgarians who fought for so long to be united and independent think so too.                       But is that true?
here we clearly learn that unity is not always good.
-        In verse 6 we read:And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.”
-        So the people were so united no one disagreed when they were doing something stupid
So Unity when you are united in the wrong thing is very much bad.
We just had elections here and probably not everyone is happy with the candidate elected so they will agree with me.
-For the other are other examples like one that Jesus gave about the body in 1st Chorinthians . If we all unite and site with the eye we would be only eyes and if we all agreed on the food is the best our body would only be feet.      -> That is not good

So the actual problem is that they all united in Nimrod. A human. And we know they are not perfect.
But I can understand Nimrod was pretty cool from human perspective.
In Genesis 10 verse 8 and 9 : “Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.”

-That sounds already pretty cool till you realize that at that time where still dinosaurs running around so imagine what he did to be a mighty hunter.
-do you remember that Nimrod later became Marduk the Babylonian God.
Well his symbol is the mušḫuššu.
->that translates to “fierce snake”
 So yes it is most likely that he actually fought dinosaurs. And if that is not impressive I don’t know.

But here we learn not to unite in people or follow them because we think they are impressive or for any other reason. And to ensure that and make it easier God divided us in different languages.

God gave us diversity so we can help each other stay and only unite in the right way. The one way.    ->Jesus Christ.
-because like Jesus said we see the splinter in our brothers eye and not the plank in our own.
In the story of Pentecost in acts 2 verse 4-6 we read: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
-God divided us by language to be separated in the world but he unites us in the fellowship of the holy Spirit

So when Trif is standing here translating I want to see it as a symbol. He is standing there not because we should be united in human language, values or standards but in God.
->He is standing here because the holy spirit unites us and we are brothers and sister in God.

I think we see that there is enough wrong kind of unity in this world. Racism and nationalist groups a gaining power everywhere and Terror is an everyday topic.
-And when we have diversities for example in elections or in families, …with friends we should be reminded that we are united in the fellowship of the holy spirit.

Or how Jesus said it in 1corinthians 12 verse 12 and 13 about the example of the body I gave earlier: For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into[c] one Spirit.

In the end I want you to take with you from this Sunday that this story about the Babelonian tower is not only about the human sin but even more so about the unimaginable love of God the Father and Jesus Christ has for us, as well as about the Unity and fellowship we do have in the holy spirit.


Sermon by Mike Enns
New Life Church Varna
November 13, 2016