This morning I’m going to pick up where I left off on March 15th. As I noted last week, the last historical account we looked at from Genesis was that of how the LORD from his good favor chose to rescue and deliver Noah and his family from the rampant evil present in his day by means of the flood. And given such a devastating judgment—judgment so devastating that the LORD promised Noah he would never again destroy the world by way of a flood—I’d like to report that from that time following, people learned the lesson of the consequences of doing evil and determined instead to love God and one another forevermore. Well, though I’d like to report that this was the case, we know all too well that that wasn’t the case for even after the flood, God’s image-bearers continued to pursue their own ways rather than those of the God who had made them.
Now, that even a catastrophic flood wouldn’t change human nature was no surprise to God. If you’ll recall, after Noah had offered a burnt offering to him upon leaving the ark, “21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. 22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’” Did you catch that? God knew that though the flood had cleansed the earth of the tremendous evil that existed at that time, what humans really needed is inner cleansing. For without such inner cleansing, “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.”
Well, as we arrive at the next major event recorded for us in Genesis, we find the evil that is in humanity’s heart from childhood is still alive and well. At this time, as stated in verse 1, “the whole world had one language and a common speech.” This “whole world” is a reference to the survivors of the flood and their descendants. And as the people began to migrate “eastward,” verse 2, “they found a plain in Shinar”—another name for Babylon—“and settled there.” But, sadly, once the people had settled there, the evil that had been in their hearts from childhood began to play itself out yet again. As stated beginning in verse 3, “3 They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly….’ 4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’” As one scholar notes concerning these events, “Since ‘name’ connotes fame and progeny, these city builders were attempting to find significance and immortality in their own achievements.” In other words, they were building altars for the sake of their own glory rather than for the glory of God.
For notice what we see here:
Rather than populate the world as God intended for them, the people sought to build themselves a city;
rather than being content to live in the world in which God had placed them, the people desired to build that city “with a tower that reaches to the heavens;”
rather than depending upon and praising the name of God who had made them in his image in order that they might love him and one another, the people determined they would “make a name” for and depend upon themselves;
again, rather than trusting the LORD for their daily bread and inhabiting, filling, and caring for all the earth as God had told them, the people sought to rely only upon themselves lest they “be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
By their actions it’s evident that these people were following the line of the serpent, not the line of Adam. They were following the ways of Cain when they should have been following the ways of Abel. They placed their trust in themselves, not God; they sought to aggrandize themselves rather than seeking to glorify their Maker and LORD.
And though they may have thought that the city they were building was mighty and great, in the grand scheme of things it really wasn’t for the world God created is vast and enormous. So much so that, as stated in verse 5, “the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.” From a God’s–eye perspective, the city whose tower reached into the heavens was miniscule. As Old Testament scholar Carol Kaminski observes, “Although [the people] want to be known by their great building achievement, [the city] is so small in God’s eyes that he has to come down to see it!” Now it isn’t as though God was unaware of what was going on for Scripture clearly teaches that he is omniscient, or all-knowing. Rather these words are provided for our benefit, in order that we might know that nothing we do escapes God’s notice. Similarly, the LORD’s response, recorded in verses 6–7 are also for our benefit: “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” Because this kind of reliance upon ourselves to the exclusion of our reliance upon God will lead us to harm, God took action. He judged the people—and protected them—by confusing their language “so they [would] not understand each other.”
What is more, as stated in verse 8, “the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” If the people refused to fill the earth as God had told them, then he would make it so that they would have no other choice. Indeed, this scattering is the source of our referring to this account as that of the “Tower of Babel” for Babel sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “confused.” As verse 9 goes on to state, “That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” What is more, one commentator notes that “babel is also the name used in the OT [sic] for the city of Babylon. As a city, Babylon symbolizes humanity’s ambition to dethrone God and make the earth its own.” Therefore, having promised Noah never to destroy humanity again, God chose instead to thwart humanity’s evil intentions and inclinations by making it impossible for the people to understand one another thereby forcing them to scatter “over the face of the whole earth.” And so we see that as Adam and Eve were sent away from the Garden after they sinned; as Cain was sent away from his home after he sinned; so now Noah’s descendants were being sent away for their sin of seeking to build a city in order that they might make a name for themselves. For at the end of the day, it’s impossible for humanity to defy God; it’s impossible for humanity’s ways to triumph over the ways of their Maker and LORD.
Now it’s perhaps worth noting here that the reason I jumped from Genesis 9 where we left off in March to Genesis 11 this morning is because the events opening chapter 11 actually precede those in chapter 10. Again, this portion of chapter 11 opens with “the whole world” having “one language and a common speech” and settling in Shinar, or Babylon and it closes with these same people being scattered “over the face of the whole earth.” And chapter 10, commonly referred to as “the Table of Nations,” reflects that scattering having already occurred. It begins by stating, “This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.” Then in verses 2–5, it lists the descendants of Japheth noting in verse 5, “From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.” Then it turns to Ham and his descendants in verses 6–20, noting at the end of verse 18 into verse 19, “Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha.” And it ends with Shem and his descendants in verses 21–32, noting in verse 32, “These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.” Therefore, what we see at the end of each of these genealogies in Genesis 10 are the ways in which the descendants of each of Noah’s three sons were scattered. Genesis 11, then, opens by providing us the reason why the scattering occurred in the first place.
Now after the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, you’ll notice that the line of Shem is privileged over those of Ham and Japheth. This is because Shem is the son of promise. It is through him that the promised Messiah will one day come. Part of the back story to this takes place at the end of the ninth chapter of Genesis where we’re again there in verses 18–19, “18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.” So far, so good. But then we’re told how Noah, “a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.” Ahhh, even righteous Noah’s heart could be inclined to evil for as we’ve noted before, despite being righteous through his believing and obeying God, he, too, was sinful. One commentator states concerning this: “Just as Adam, the original head of the human race, sinned through eating (3:6), so Noah, the head of the human race after the Flood, sinned through drinking”— adding how this should “direct the reader to God, not man, for salvation.” Humanity’s fallen nature is also on display in Ham, Noah’s son, for we’re told that “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside.” As one scholar notes, “Gazing at another’s nakedness, either in lust or scorn, is morally wrong.” Ham had humiliated and dishonored his father by observing his nakedness. This displeased the LORD for as we have the benefit of knowing, honoring our mother and father is one of the commandments he later gave to Moses. Though Ham could have covered, rather than gazed at, his father’s nakedness, instead he went on to tell his brothers about it.
But unlike Ham, “Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.” In other words, Shem and Japheth did honor their father by taking great care not only to cover his nakedness but to keep themselves from gazing upon it as their brother, Ham, had done. Subsequently, after Noah awoke and “and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.’” Ham’s punishment for gazing upon his father’s nakedness was to bring his father’s curse upon his offspring. Indeed, if we look at the list of Ham’s descendants provided in Genesis 10:6–14, many of those listed will later turn out to become some of Israel’s most feared and dreaded enemies including not only Canaan, his son, but also Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, and Babylonia. As one commentator notes, all of these later “experienced severe divine judgments because of their hostility to Israel and Israel’s God.” Yet notice the contrast with Noah’s other two sons. Concerning Shem, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.” Shem’s honorable behavior resulted in the LORD being praised which is how it should be. Concerning Japheth he said, “May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
The point is that we see early on how Shem’s line was favored. And, again, this is because Shem’s line is that of Adam—and Abel—and Seth—and Noah. In other words, Shem’s is the line through which the Messiah that God promised to send in Genesis 3 would come. And as was the case when we were presented with the genealogy that listed the ten generations that existed from the time of Adam to Noah in Genesis 5, so, too, here we are provided with the ten generations that existed from the time of Shem to Abram [count out loud]:
- We begin with Shem;
- Who “became of the father of Arphaxad”;
- Who “became the father of Shelah”;
- Who “became the father of Eber”;
- Who “became the father of Peleg”;
- Who “became the father of Reu”;
- Who “became the father of Serug”;
- Who “became the father of Nahor”;
- Who “became the father of Terah”;
- Who “became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.”
And with this, as we’ll turn to next week, we can see how Shem’s line leads to that of Abram, whose name would be changed to Abraham, and from whom God would create a new nation, the nation of Israel, that it might follow and serve him. It is through Abraham—and Shem, Noah, Seth, Abel, and Adam before him—that God will fulfill his promise to send a Messiah. And not even the evil inclination of the human heart from childhood would be able to thwart his plans to save any and all who would but turn to him.
For as we’ve noted, God knew that though the judgments he executed would be effective in displaying his expectations and holiness, they ultimately would only deter humanity’s evil behavior and that but temporarily. For if humanity’s problem is that of hearkening to a heart that’s become hard towards the LORD due to the Fall, then humanity would need more than God’s law for a solution. And so we know that God not only sent Jesus the Christ—Christ being the Greek form of the Hebrew word Messiah—in order that salvation from evil, sin, death, and the devil might be provided to all who believe in him, God also did more than that. For to all who believe in Jesus as their Savior and LORD, he also sent his Holy Spirit to seal and indwell those who believe so that by his presence, he might make us holy. This is our how we are sanctified. To be sanctified means that we are set apart to do God’s will and we are made holy that we might do his will honorably by his indwelling Holy Spirit. He is the one who unites us to Christ Jesus and our heavenly Father and to all who have similarly believed in him.
This is what has taken place in our passage from Acts 2 which took place on the Jewish Festival of Pentecost. After Jesus rose from death and ascended to heaven, around 120 of his followers were gathered in an upper room. Then, as stated beginning in the second verse of the second chapter of Acts, “2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” This was in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise for prior to his ascending to heaven, he said to them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And now they were all indeed receiving from Jesus his promised Holy Spirit.
And whereas at the Tower of Babel, “the whole world had one language and a common speech” which God confused when they sought to make a name for themselves, at Jerusalem God made it possible for “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” to understand in their own language what was being spoken by these 120 women and men who were disciples of Jesus. And what was the message they heard? As stated at the end of verse 12, they heard them “declaring the wonders of God in [their] own tongues!”
Dear brothers and sisters, this is how God brought clarity out of confusion—by sending his Son to die and rise on our behalf that we might no longer be plagued with the disorder—and pain—and suffering—and death that is the result of our disobedience and indifference to God. Oh, the wonders of God!
But God further brought clarity out of confusion by sending his Holy Spirit in order that the benefits of Christ’s work might be applied to us. For, again, he knew that what we so desperately need isn’t just an outer cleansing; it isn’t just a deliverance from the evil that is outside of us; it isn’t just being taught and told what we are to do. What we so desperately need is a cleansing of the evil that is within; a cleansing of the evil that causes us to hurt each other—and ourselves—and our heavenly Father who loves us with his immeasurable love. Therefore, God sent his Holy Spirit that we might be cleansed by him and made holy even as he is holy. Oh, the wonders of God!
How appropriate it is to consider the magnitude of humanity’s sin on this communion Sunday; and how appropriate it is to consider the magnitude of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us and our salvation. For apart from him offering his body to be broken for us and shedding his blood for us, our sins would never be covered. And apart from his sending his Holy Spirit to seal and indwell us, guaranteeing us that he will keep his promise to never leave or forsake us, we would be incapable of fulfilling the purpose for which he made us. For it is by his initiating and doing alone that we’re able to know the joy of knowing, loving, and serving him and knowing, loving, and serving one another, now and forevermore. Oh, the wonders of God!
Let us pray.
 See sermon preached on March 15, 2020, On Second Chances and New Beginnings, on Genesis 9:1-17 (2 Corinthians 5:16–21; Revelation 21:1–8). This series began on the first Sunday of the year, January 5, 2020, and may be found on <linebrook.org> under the “GROW” link which lists sermons chronologically beginning with the most recent.
 Genesis 8:21–22: Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. 22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.
 Genesis 8:21–22.
 I have omitted, “They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.” The Zondervan NIV Study Bible says concerning this editorial note: “Stone and mortar were used as building materials in Canaan. Stone was scarce in Mesopotamia, however, so mud brick and tartar were used.”
 Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 11:4.
 The LORD reinstated with Noah the cultural mandate originally given to Adam and Eve. Compare Genesis 1:28 (God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”) with Genesis 9:1–3 (1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.)
 In Casket Empty: God’s Plan of Redemption through History. Casket Empty Media, 2012, p. 24.
 See, e.g., Psalm 147.2–5: 2The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.3He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.4He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names.5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.; Isaiah 40. 27–28: 27Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hid from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable.
 As to pronunciation, “In British English, Babel is pronounced BAY-buhl. In American English, they say either BAY-buhl or BAB-uhl,…” https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=pronounce+babel
 Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 11:9. It mentions there the NT passages of Revelation 17–18 which tell of Babylon’s final judgment and doom.
 Genesis 3:23: So the Lord God banished him [and Eve] from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
 Genesis 4:12b: You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.
 See also 1 Chronicles 1:4: The sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
 See also 1 Chronicles 1:5–7: 5 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek and Tiras. 6 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah. 7 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites.
 Emphases added.
 See also 1 Chronicles 1:8–16: 8 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan. 9 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raamah and Sabteka. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 10 Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on earth. 11 Egypt was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 12 Pathrusites, Kasluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites. 13 Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, 14 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 15 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 16 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.
 Emphasis added.
 See also 1 Chronicles 1:7–27: 17 The sons of Shem: Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram. The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshek. 18 Arphaxad was the father of Shelah, and Shelah the father of Eber. 19 Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan. 20 Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 21 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 22 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 23 Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan. 24 Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu, 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah27 and Abram (that is, Abraham).
 Emphasis added.
 Genesis 9:20–21.
 Genesis 6:9: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.
 Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 9:21. As stated in Genesis 3:6: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
 Genesis 9:22.
 Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 9:22.
 Exodus 20:12: Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
 Genesis 9:23. Emphasis added
 Genesis 9:24–25.
 Twice this chapter notes that Ham is Canaan’s father. Genesis 9:18, 22: 18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.)… 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside.
 Genesis 10:6–14: 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan. 7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteka.The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 8 Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city. 13 Egypt was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 14 Pathrusites, Kasluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.
 Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 9:25.
 Genesis 9:26.
 Genesis 9:27.
 This is part of the LORD’s curse upon the serpent found in Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
 Genesis 5:1–32, i.e., the entire chapter.
 Genesis 11:10: This is the account of Shem’s family line.
 Genesis 11:10b–11: Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. 11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:12–13: 12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:14–15: 14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:16–17: 16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:18–19: 18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:20–21: 20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. 21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:22–23: 22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. 23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:24–25: 24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. 25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
 Genesis 11:26: After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
 2 Corinthians 1:21–22: 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.; 2 Corinthians 5:5: Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
 Acts 1:12–15: 12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)….
 Acts 1:8.
 Acts 2:5–6: “5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.” Some of the countries represented are listed in verses 9–11: 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs
 Acts 2:11. Emphasis added.
 Hebrews 13:5–6: 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”[Deuteronomy 31:6] 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”[Psalm 118:6,7] Deuteronomy 31:6: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.; Psalm 118:6,7: 6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? 7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.