Friday 29 May 2015

Bible Book:

Genesis 11:1-9 Friday 29 May 2015

Psalm: Psalm 97


This is the famous story of the Tower of Babel, the legendaryhuge tower which people built, and which God forced them toabandon, scattering them over the whole earth and confusing theirlanguage so that they could not work together on this project. Itis thought that Luke's story of the Day of Pentecost (Acts2:1-13) is like a reversal of this judgement, when God's spiritenables people of all ethnicities and languages able to hear andunderstand the disciples' speech about the resurrection of Jesus(Acts 2:7-8). You will sometimes see stainedglass windows in old churches that juxtapose the unfinished towerof Babel with the scene in the upper room where the Spirit descendsin tongues of fire above the head of each disciple (Acts2:3).

This narrative fits into the genre of story that is called'etiology' - it is a story that considers something we can allobserve (namely that human beings currently speak hundreds ofdifferent languages, and cannot understand each other withoutconsiderable effort), and offers an explanation - how we got towhere we are. There are several ways of interpreting this story,and what seems to be the underlying problem. Some have seen it asan image of human pride. Mortals want to make a name forthemselves; they want their tower to penetrate the very heavens.God (who seems to be discussing the project in the courts ofheaven) seems worried that mortals are simply attaining dangerousamounts of power: "this is only the beginning of what they will do;nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them"(v. 6). It is rather like the worry expressed in the story of theFall earlier in Genesis, that human beings are in danger ofbecoming like gods (Genesis 3:22). And so God does not smash thetower, but just makes it all a lot harder for mortals to worktogether, so that they abandon the scheme by themselves.

We may find it a story we cannot take literally, but there is agood deal of insight here. From the vantage point of our developedtechnological world, we know that the enterprise of buildingimpressive cities was indeed only the beginning of what humanbeings have been able to do. And the consequences, in terms ofglobal warming, have immense potentially destructive power for thewhole of earth's creation. We have the data, and we engage inregular high level conversations about what each nation can andshould do about it, but it is immensely hard, for all our talking,to achieve a plan of joint action to rein in the big money-makingprojects that we love to build.

To Ponder

  • In what ways do you find it possible to pray about globalwarming?
  • What steps have you and your church taken to reduce your carbonfootprint?
Previous Page Thursday 28 May 2015
Next Page Saturday 30 May 2015