Today we see the transition from Noah to Abram (Abraham), and along the way a tragic episode in the history of humanity.
Chapter 10 looks like a long, boring, list of names. I get it, we’ve all been there. It really can be interesting to chase all these names down and track the people groups in ancient history, but it takes a lot of training and (quite frankly) nerd-obsessive interest to get a lot of satisfaction from it. We’re just reading for devotion, the love of God and His word, so we can know Him and love Him and enjoy Him better. We’re just not going to reasearch every single thing, every single day — and that’s o.k.
Here’s what we can see, even without lots of specialized ancient history training: God kept his promises. God created the world to work, and even though human sin gunked up the works, God is still at work to bring glory through grace. Through the sons of righteous Noah, the earth repopulates and the covenant with Creation is kept (more on that tonight at church). Noah is like a second Adam and the LORD blesses his descendants to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth. Humanity is given a second chance. Hip, hip, Hooray! Praise the promise-keeping God!
Yikes! But then chapter 11 comes. What does the remnant of humanity do with their second chance? With the grace that has been given? With the new life born through the waters under the mercy of God? They decide (again) to take destiny into their own hands and build a tower that they believe will give them independence from their Creator.
Did you notice in v.5 how the Lord had to “come down” to see the great City of Man? Even the highest of human achievements could not rise to any level comparable to God. I don’t imagine the Lord angry here. I imagine him shaking his head in mild, but not unexpected bewilderment at how quickly sinful humanity actually went through with rebelling against God again. Had they learned nothing from the flood?
Whereas we had been one race of mankind, with one language, and a relatively common culture – now God confuses the languages and cousins are unable to speak to one another anymore. They spread farther and farther away, their cultures and languages growing as dissimilar as the geographic regions they come to inhabit. Now humanity is truly broken, and many races are born.
This is why so many messianic passages of the OT and kingdom claims of the NT emphasize that God’s Restored People will be gathered from “many nations” (“every tribe and tongue and people and nation”): because humanity is not complete until all the cousins are gathered together again. Racism has no place in god-followers because we understand that racial separation is a result of human pride. Political multiculturalism aside, Christians embrace cross-cultural ministry and understanding because we know that our experience of being human is diminished if all we are is “white” or “black” or “Chinese” or “Ukranian” or whatever. We take cultures and sift them through the gospel lens to discover the parts of humanity we lost when we could no longer talk to our cousins. We recapture the good, because of Jesus, who tore down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and gentiles, and by extension, all the races (Ephesians 2-3).
Jesus is the last Adam, and this is our last chance. Repent of human pride and give Him the praise he deserves today.