Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 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 and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
At first Genesis 11:6-7 sounds like everything is going great. Man is working together and God Himself says that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Yet God sees it as a bad thing and decides to confuse their language. Why? The ESV Study Bible notes that "The Babel enterprise is all about human independence and self-sufficiency apart from God." Look at what the passage itself says their motivation was, "so that we may make a name for ourselves." Their desire was not for God's glory but for their own.
Babel was man’s first real attempt at idolatry. They were going to build a physical image to the glory of someone other than God (in this case themselves.) Though it is not clear that they intended to worship either the tower or themselves in the strict sense of the word, it seems doubtless (knowing the evil that is in man’s heart) that had the tower been built it would have eventually led to full blown idolatry of some kind.
So God is not against cooperation, unity or great things being achieved by man. But when men's hearts are unified against Him and when we choose to cooperate in sinning so that we can achieve even greater sin, then our righteous and loving God intervenes. He intervenes in righteousness because no one deserves praise other than Himself and He intervenes in love to prevent us from bringing harsher judgment upon ourselves.
So what about you? Are you spending tireless hours working for your own glory? Are you allowing other people to lead you into even greater sin? Has something crept into your life and stolen your focus from your Lord? If so repent and remind yourself that the greatest pursuit of this life is to be spent for the glory of God. The Lord is our strong tower and He alone is worthy of our praise!
For further reading...
- Psalm 2: They wanted to be enthroned in the heavens like the Lord (Psalm 2:4), but like so many after them who have plotted to take the Lord's place our God laughed at them.
- Matthew 6:19-24: You can't serve two masters.