Babel in the Making

This winter I read through Jacques Doukhan’s new commentary, Seventh-day Adventist International Bible Commentary: Genesis. And in his fascinating description of the Tower of Babel event (Genesis 11) I wonder if we find the antecedent to (or at least the seeds for) what is happening to this nation even as I write.

“Babel”—“confusion” —“because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world” (Genesis 11:9). Could there be a more succinct descriptor for the babble of confusion that now defines this nation’s government? It seems there is hardly a soul in the capital not culpable for this chaos—in the administration, Congress, the news media, late night entertainment, et al. Washington is now a veritable cacophony of chaos and confusion: he said/she said, he said/they said, he said/we said. Does anybody know the truth anymore? Or is truth even knowable now?

In the construction of Babel, you remember, the workers (who set out to build “a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves”—v 4) suddenly found themselves unable to communicate with each other. For the Creator “came down” and rewired their linguistic circuitry. According to Jewish tradition: “And great confusion took place; nobody knew what the other spoke. If one would ask for an ax, the other would hand him a shovel; and getting angry he would throw the shovel at him and kill him. So they left off building the tower, and God scattered them from the face of the earth” (Jacques Doukhan 190).

But there is more to the story. Doukhan writes: “The story of the tower of Babel also conveys a message of hope. There is an ‘after’ Babel: God will come down. This is the central message of the story. . . . This hope resonates throughout the Scriptures. It is seen in the prophets’ vision of the gathering of all nations under the rule of God [one day]” (186).

Because no matter the confusion that reigns in our government right now, there is One who will have the last word—when “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed . . . . but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44). The Apocalypse declares: “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon [from “Babel” or confusion] the Great!’. . . ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments’” (Revelation 18:2; 19:1-2).

I find peaceful assurance in these words from a century ago: “. . . the complicated play of human events [even in Washington] is under divine control. Amidst the strife and tumult of nations, He [who sits] above the cherubim still guides the affairs of the earth. . . . To every nation and to every individual of today [including the President] God has assigned a place in His great plan. . . . All are by their own choice deciding their destiny, and God is overruling all for the accomplishment of His purposes” (Education 178).

So we need not fret. God is on His throne. The door of opportunity to reach this nation is still open. And He will have a people loyally devoted to Him over all rulers and politicians. And His people will surely soon mobilize themselves across this country with the urgently good news that Christ is soon to come. No confusion in their message. Just the earnest appeal to, as one ancient prophet put it, “Prepare to meet thy God!” (Amos 4:12).