Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reaching Past the Stars

Earlier in the week, my oldest son asked if we could go to the moon. I smile tight, wishing I still believed such wild dreams and reality could collide. Today, he's reaching higher, beyond sun, moon, and stars.

With the loss of his "friend" kitten last Thursday, Wyatt has turned to asking if he can go to heaven to "visit Micah." At four and a half, his question actually makes a lot of sense. The only person he really "knows" in heaven is Jesus--and He's alive!

This reaching higher towards God and the heavens resonates in me and my love of architecture in both ancient and modern cultures. From the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza to the Sumerian ziggurats to the dome of London's St. Paul's cathedral--these buildings were built with the intent not to literally reach the heavens but to figuratively, metaphorically do so by providing a central place of religious ritual and worship, similar to the way Israel's temple functioned.

Although I've always wondered if those building the Tower of Babel were filled with enough hubris that they actually believed they could construct a tower tall enough to reach God, it seems more likely that their structure was intended to function in the same way as comparable ancient religious structures throughout the world--as a figurative representation of a place where they would be able to reach God.

First, they chose to build their tower on "a plain" (Gen. 11:2), not atop a mountain. Surely, if one literally wanted to touch heaven, he would use the natural heights of creation to give him a good head start. Yet, this group chose not a mountain but a wide expanse of flat land, which hints at the tower's true goal.

They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth" (v. 4). Considering the location plus this goal statement, it seems they had plans to build a great kingdom in a wide open area of land with one tower standing tall as a religious beacon, drawing to worship all who could see it miles away across that flat plain.

Such a refusal to be scattered by building of a solid, well-rooted kingdom, though, was disobedience, for God had instructed Noah and his sons to "fill the earth" (Gen. 9:1). However, unlike in Noah's day, God didn't just wipe civilization out again for this organized, of-one-mind disobedience. Instead, the trinity's decision to frustrate mankind's work by confusing their language showed mercy.

One very worth your time to read article states, "God frustrated the efforts of the builders at Babel before they reached the point of no return. God thwarted their plans in His benevolent omniscience."

Without God's intervention, as the Lord said, "nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them" (Gen. 11:6). With mankind's naturally sinful nature, they were already headed straight down the path that had led God to flood the earth just a few generations ago.

Ironically, they were already reaching heaven, even if their structure was barely off the ground--reaching it with their disobedience, their sin. And with one language and one mind, they would quickly build a tower of sin so high that God's holiness would be justified in destroying all living beings once again...although not by flood.

I have never before thought of the language barrier as an act of mercy by my God. That language slows worldwide progress, yes. But that it slows the spread of organized sin in rebellion against God, makes sense.

In John's Revelation when he records what is to come concerning Babylon and her final rebellion against God, he says, "for her sins have piled up as high as heaven" (18:5). The Tower of Babel has figuratively continued to be built all these millenia, one sin piled atop another, reaching God.

This time, though, the peoples of the earth have reached the point of no return. This time, there will be no mercy, no thwarting of man's evil intent, no confounding of language. And the result is utter, eternal destruction.

Our vision of a far-away God who is unreachable and out-of-touch is completely flawed. Our prayers, our cries, our sins pile up before Him.

Atop the highest mountain or deep in the valley below--He is near, wanting to offer His mercy and grace to all who will repent and believe in His Son.

No comments:

Post a Comment