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.
I remember an interview with a young man from several years ago. He had been in a violent gang. They had engaged in criminal acts, violence, and generally terrible things. He had gone to prison, gotten his life in order, and re-entered society as a contributing member. Now, in this interview, he was helping me understand the men and women who make up these violent gangs. He said that he had joined the gang looking for community. The gang offered a very lonely and afraid young man a group of people who would care for him, surround him, and support him. His own family had been terrible. These became his real brothers and sisters. He was also looking to be part of something larger than himself. He was looking for significance in his life. At the end of the interview, they also interviewed a psychologist who said that most young people who join gangs, join a gang looking for all the right things. They just go looking in bad places. Like this young man they want community, safety, and meaning for their lives.
Did you notice what the people of Shinar are looking for? They want something to bind themselves together, a community. They want to make a name for themselves, they seek meaning and significance. But they go looking for these things through all the wrong means. They would make themselves to be God, building a tower to the heaven. God thwarts that plan. The Moses even gives us a little joke. God is so high he must come down even to see this little tower they are building. In the very next chapter of Genesis, God comes down again, this time to call Abram. If you have time read that story. God gives Abram everything the folks in Shinar were looking for. He gives him community, a significance for the whole world, and much more. The gang member today, the idolatrous tower-builder of ancient times and, if we are honest, we too are looking for something which is likely good. We hunger and thirst for community and meaning. But it is God who comes and gives it to us. He knows that we seek all the right things in the wrong places and the wrong ways. This is Pentecost week. God’s Spirit undid the confusion of Babel that day, that he might proclaim the work of Christ, not of tower building ancients or sinful people today. He knits us together into one communion and brings us into the very Kingdom of heaven. Look no further.