To Bed Without Supper

Genesis 11:2 “…they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.”

Observation: Thus is introduced the story of the tower of Babel. The previous verse reveals that the whole world had one language and a common speech. This is reasonable, given that the story is set a mere two generations after the flood. Genesis 10 details the progeny of Noah’s son Ham: Ham fathered Cush, who in turn fathered Nimrod. Nimrod was a mighty warrior-hunter whose kingdom encompassed several cities “in Shinar.” (Gen. 10:10)

Application: In Shinar. This suggests that Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, was the visionary who sponsored Babel’s construction project. Ham, who was cursed for exposing his father’s drunken nakedness, would father offspring so prideful as to think they could “make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen. 11:4)

Yet God’s instruction as Noah and his sons disembarked the ark had been the exact opposite: “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Gen. 9:1) It seems tragically predictable given human nature after the fall, that Nimrod would have done the reverse. In fact, as God faced Noah after the flood in Genesis 8:21, His promise was to never again “curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”

What, then, has been the purpose of the flood’s destruction? Because I have known of the flood story from childhood, I realize that I have remained captured by childish understanding. God was not so naïve as to believe He could wash sin out of man with a worldwide flood; even in those righteous enough to be saved, sin abounded. In the immediate aftermath of the flood we find drunkenness, gossip and prideful disobedience, none of which caught God by surprise.

“Change your attitude young man or you’ll go to bed without supper,” we might say. While hunger pangs may bring quick enough compliance to fill the belly, improvement, sadly, is never lasting. What’s required is heart surgery, recognition that without sharing in Christ’s death it is impossible to please God. The flood was meant to be a picture—a mirror—of man’s core sinful condition. Oceans of water could never adequately cleanse, but blood could. Blood from God’s own body would prove the only effective agent of change. Noah must have reflected on the irony of his incredible deliverance only to be followed so quickly by fresh failure. My own experience has too often reflected his, yet I have a hope Noah never knew.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that through the flood story you have handed me a mirror and said, “every inclination of my heart has been evil since childhood.” Only your blood has kept me from well-earned death. Fill me today with constant remembrance of your fully effective sacrifice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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