Genesis Part 8, Chapters 10 - 11: "Dispersed, at Last!"

Genesis  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:05
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What did God want humanity to do? Represent him well in every corner of the planet. God said, "Go!" and the people said "No!" They stayed together and built a tower that reached to heaven. We know this as the Tower of Babel. God, as the hero of this story, puts his grace, love and mercy on display. Great is his faithfulness to do what he promised! He said he would send the redeemer, and introduced the one through whom he would keep that promise. His name? Abram. Join the Grace United crew as we hear again, for the first time, the story of the Tower of Babel, and all the begats of Genesis 10 and 11.

Genesis Part 8: Chapters 10-11 “Disbursed, at Last!” So, where are we in God’s story? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since we began. God’s perfect creation, perfectly reflected his power and glory. Sin entered the universe and then the world, giving God an opportunity to display his justice, grace and mercy. He declared war on the serpent, and clothed his fallen image bearers. Sin began to abound, and grace abounded even more. We think of names like Abel, and Seth. And Enoch who walked with God and Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that in reverent fear, Noah, constructed an ark for the saving of his household—and the animals and birds of every kind. And righteous Noah, though blameless in his generation, was not perfect, as we found out last week. Noah’s soul needed rescuing, just as God rescued the whole world through Noah’s building of the ark. So, now it begins again. God tells Noah to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. As Noah and his family begin to fulfill the command, we find that they faithfully teach their kids to fly the nest. They spread out and from there in a very short time every corner of the earth contains an image bearer of God. Hallelujah! People are finally getting it! I mean, all it took for Noah’s kids and grand kids was one look at the boat for them to realize that God says what he means and means what he says. And as soon as they were able, the kids packed up and blazed their trail out to all parts of the planet. Right? Not exactly. See, last week we talked about how deeply sin has infected us. And we can compare the relationship of our soul to sin to be like that of indelible ink and cheese cloth. Permanent. No getting it out. Sin has saturated us. And that death sentence—that we are like god knowing good and evil is with us and tragically will be with many for eternity. And it’s this rebellion that lives at the core of our being that constantly screams out, “I know what is best for me.” Jesus said there will only be a few who put down that rebellion and cry out to him for mercy, grace, forgiveness and a change of heart. Today, in Genesis 10 and 11 we’re going to discover that humanity did begin to take dominion over the world and spread out over the earth, but their motives were not exactly pristine. They needed a little help from God. In these chapters we will see a lot of names, a couple of highlights, and the Lord taking action to make sure that humanity does what he wants. Because whenever we try to go against God, and insist on our way, guess who wins? David writes in the 2nd Psalm, “he who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord will have them”—those who rage against God-- “in derision.” Because it’s all about authority. Who is in charge. Finally Moses will make a transition in God’s story. Through these genealogies, Moses will introduce us to the first of 4 characters which Genesis closely follows for the rest of the book, chapters 12-50. His name? Abram. Later on, God will change his name to Abraham. It’s Abraham whom God will call to himself and tell him, “I will bless all the families of the earth through you.” The incredible, unbelievable, plan of God is about to be displayed through this man whom he will literally call out of Babylon—Ur of Chaldees. Let’s begin at the beginning of Chapter 10, where we will see that funny word again. Our English word is generations but the Hebrew word is, without looking at the manuscript! Anybody remember? Toledot! Don’t you love that word? I love saying that word—toledot! Again, this word means tablet or table. Somebody took the time to write down these names on that tablet. Though early mankind had incredible minds, primarily because they used them more than we use ours, I doubt that very few had photographic memories, like only a few do in our day. Not only did somebody write down the names and preserve them, the toledots were passed down from generation to generation. And eventually wound up in the hands of Moses. And Genesis 10 is commonly called the Table or toledot of nations. So, the toledot of Noah in v.1 lists his sons’ names in birth order: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. But in v.2 we see Japheth’s genealogy listed first. Then we see Ham’s genealogy and finally Shem’s, the oldest. Why do you suppose that is? You know the old adage, “save the best for last”? That’s sort of what is happening here, and it will become clear at the end of Genesis 11 as to why Shem’s genealogy was listed last instead of first. So we see name after name after name in the first few verses of this chapter. We see how Japheth’s sons spread out in red on the map, going north. But notice what the table says at the end of v.5: each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations. Then the genealogy of Ham. Let me highlight a few names here to see if they sound familar: Egypt, Canaan, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, and the Casluhim. Who in the world are the Casluhim? The forerunners of the Philistines. So, where do you think the Hamites went? They went south, as in south of Aarat, which was where the ark was. The Hamites are shown in green on the map. Where is Aarat? In Turkey. On the map, Turkey is part of the Japheth territory, in red. I had an opportunity to go to Turkey in 2000 as a chaplain. One of the neat stories I came back with was that one day I visited the troops at a site where we could actually see Mr. Ararat from a long distance. I was told that trips to Mt. Ararat were possible but it would take a year to get there because of all the political and safety concerns, but I was only there for 3 months. So I missed out on a trip to Mt. Ararat! But notice v.20: These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. Then we have the Shemites, the oldest of Noah’s sons, from vv.21-31. Their territory is highlighted in yellow on the map. And notice what city stands out in the Shemite territory? Babylon. Now, of course, that place will be very important as we dive into the next chapter. But why was this toledot, this tablet included here? I see 3 reasons. First, every name is a person. Each person is important and part of God’s plan for humanity. God created every person to fulfill his purposes. And again, part of the purpose that he created every one of us is so that we represent him well. That’s why we are to treat every person with dignity and respect. And we forgive others when they hurt us, lest we become bitter and take out our bitterness on others and mistreat them. I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about people. In his book, “The Weight of Glory”, he said, “Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. It is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Second, each person represents more than one person. Did you catch the repeated phrase of all 3 of Noah’s sons? Their own languages, their own clans, their nations. Of course, the emphasis was on multiplication. This was especially important during this time in world history. But in our lives as well. We represent more than just our own individual selves. Each of us is part of a unit bigger than we are. There are very few people on the planet who are not tied in some way shape or form with at least other person, be it immediate family, extended family, friends, and especially the body of Christ. When God said it is not good that man should be alone, how did he remedy this? By adding a human! And commanding Adam and Eve to add humans, too. The third reason for chapter 10. This is the result. A summary statement of what happened. The bottom line up front. Look at v.32: These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. As I mentioned at the beginning of the message, the multiplied people did spread out. That’s the good news. But the underlying story—the incentive they had to finally obey the Lord, is the story of the first part of Chapter 11. So let’s read this story as found in Genesis 11:1-9: Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Very familiar story. One where we, once again, almost despair. The ark was living in the memory of some. It was on permanent display on the mountain. They knew what God wanted them to do. But they did the opposite. God said, “Go!” The people said, “No!” But not quite. Perhaps they appeased their collective consciences by leaving the scene of the ark. But what did they do? They stayed together. How comfortable is it for human beings to stay together. Everybody speaks the same language. Moving together. And how powerful is peer pressure? With everybody moving together would anybody dare to break ranks? And when they found a good place to settle, they decided to enter into a little mischief. They knew what God wanted. But they became set in their settlement. “We need to make a city. We need to place a tower in the middle of the city to reach the heavens. We need to make a name for ourselves.” What an arrogant plan! God gave them the command. But just as Paul tells us in Romans 1:21: For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. What they thought was a good idea, was a very bad idea. And why was it a bad idea? For 2 reasons. Again, first God wanted them to go throughout the earth and represent him. He wanted his image bearers to take dominion over the earth. But whether it was fear of the unknown, or fear of going against the peer pressure, or what have you, the people failed to honor God to spread out. But they threw themselves in to their work to stay together! They made bricks and with the bricks they made the city, and the tower in the middle of the city. Uh oh! What was that tower for? A means of worship. On a massive scale, the human race now was in the midst of committing idolatry. And how was it that they would worship anything or anyone other than the true and living God? Now, the scholars, the learned guys have their opinions. But it seems best to say that the enemy had a field day. Because the human race refused to worship the true and living God, God gave them over to their own devices. Part of that had to do with the design of the tower, known as a ziggurat. Here are 2 pictures of the oldest existing ziggaurat in the near East. It’s about 3000 years old and is located in Iran. But the ziggaurat literally means “to build high”. Its design is multi leveled with a temple on top, usually higher than cloud level. So, what we have here is a rival religion to the true and living God. In this case, the Lord stopped them from completing their project. And he did it grand style—confusing their language. Because they couldn’t understand each other, they spread out. “Mission accomplished” says God. And curiously, at least to me, the Lord declared the power of unity in v.6: And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” Did you hear that? He said they could accomplish anything. Sounds like a great statement for the power of human potential. But think about it. Why were they in the situation they were in? They had an ark encounter only a few hundred years earlier. Human potential? How about potential to destroy one another all over again! Imagine this! The entire human race. With one mind. One purpose. One mission. All pulling together in rebellion against the Lord. Let me reiterate. The enemy had a field day. Though we don’t have time to go into it, it seems that the enemy inspired one man and everybody followed. One thoroughly charismatic, engaging, powerful individual. His name was Nimrod. He was mentioned in 10:8-12. Nimrod was a mighty man. He was a man of tremendous influence. He was king over an entire region of city states—that’s how things were done back then. And one of those city states, in fact, the central one, was Babel. The word “beginning” in 10:10 in reference to Babel can be translated first one or foremost, as in the most important. And as we see here in 11:9, the very place where all this happened is Babel, otherwise known as Babylon. In our day, things really haven’t changed, have they? We are still, as a human race actively rebelling against Lord and his ways. In our world today, there is a 4 word phrase which describes this rebellion: “fewer worshippers of God.” As I see it there are 3 main issues, all tied together. First issue is abortion which took 54 millions lives last year alone—the world’s number 1 killer. By the way, we are in league with the top 7 countries which allow for late term abortion, along with North Korea and China. The second issue is homosexuality, particularly gay marriage. It began to win world-wide acceptance in 1999 and today 32 countries have either made it legal or they allow gay civil unions. The 3rd issue is Islam. This is an antichrist religion. God’s word says so. Not one to mince words, the apostle John speaks this truth in 1 John 2:22-23 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. The truth is that we do not worship the same god as Islam. Ask any true Muslim if God has a son. They will vigorously deny it. How do all 3 of these tie together in a modern Tower of Babel, with it’s commitment to fewer worshippers of God? Abortion is obvious, though we know every one of these dear children go straight into the arms of Jesus. Homosexual unions cannot procreate and Muslims do not worship the true God. So, under the guise of Political Correctness, the world-wide 21st Century Tower of Babel makes a name for themselves, not God. That’s why we as followers of Jesus need to be that covenant of salt to the world - broken hearted prophets proclaiming truth to the world. The Holy Spirit right now is convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Sin of unbelief, righteousness by faith in Christ. Judgment of the enemy, for whoever repents of sin and places their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior will not be condemned. Jesus promised it. So, again, God upset their applecart. And they began to disburse themselves throughout the earth. I can imagine they all began to talk to each other louder. and. slower. That experience must have been extremely frustrating! Now we come to the human bridge between Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 12: The tablet or toledot of Shem in Genesis 11:10-32. Shem was the branch that the Lord chose to fulfill his covenant to send a redeemer, ultimately to pay the price for all of our sin. Just as God slaughtered innocent animals in the Garden of Eden, so, the Father would send his son to be his lamb to take away the sin of the world. Beginning with Shem, there were 10 generations from him to Abram. And as one learned man says, “the birth of Abram constitutes a turning point in human history.” And it’s a turning point because God is about to go to work dealing with one human clan, one human family. We will read about how God went about choosing Abram in the next chapter, chapter 12. So, what can we make of this? First and foremost, praise be to his name. God is the hero. His patience and mercy is put on full display. In the shadow of the ark all humanity build a rival tower. Mercifully, God messes up their work. But he doesn’t destroy them. God shows his marvelous patience as well. Remember how he said that he would never destroy the earth with flood because God observed that every human heart is described as one thing: evil from one’s youth. From the moment a kid knows his right hand from his left, it automatically is bent toward sin. It is impossible for us to do anything about it. I’m reminded of what the prophet Jeremiah wrote as he watched his beloved city, burn to the ground at the hand of Babylonian warriors in the aftermath of the mutiplied sin of his people. Here’s what he writes in Lamentations 3:20-23: My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. In our world, and even among us as followers of the Lord Jesus, how we need to remember that in God we have hope. The Lord’s mercies are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness toward us. Without his hope, we have every reason to despair. But with his hope, and the knowledge that our God is faithful to us and, most importantly, to keep his word, we can keep going. Even in the midst of our pain and suffering. Another marvelous truth we can observe as we watch our hero at work is this: Though humanity as a whole never turns from their sin, God never turns from his purpose for us. God’s will will be done. When God commanded humanity to take dominion over the earth, he meant it. He said, “go!” But we said, “no!” Guess who won? And sadly, for the most part, it’s the same with the church of Jesus Christ. He is building his one church throughout the world, and has been doing it down through the ages. In Matthew 28:18-19 He gave a command for his people to make disciples of all nations. Luke records the very last words our Lord spoke in Acts 1:8 when he said that we will be his witnesses, both at home, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. We would think that the every last member of his church would jump at the chance to make disciples and be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. I mean, this is the Lord Jesus! The one who died for us as God’s lamb! He took away our sins! But alas, just like humanity in Genesis, the new humanity in Acts liked to stay together. If you read carefully, the disciples loved the teaching and fellowship, when they were able to stay around home in Jerusalem. Only a few braved it past the city gates. Then Stephen spoke up. He spoke with such power and his opponents were cut to the heart. And soon, Stephen was dead. So what happened? Acts 8:1 tells us: And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. It took a supernatural move of God, once again, to get the disciples moving. It was not until persecution arose that the disciples arose and spread out. But what was the glorious result? By the end of the first century, 10 percent of the entire Roman empire followed Jesus. The bottom line here is God is relentless about getting his work done by whom he assigns his work to. In other words, the Lord Jesus has called all of us to make disciples and be his witnesses. If you and I individually won’t, then he will find another member of his body to make it happen. And we will miss his many, many blessings because of our failure to make disciples and be his witnesses. So, what can we do, right here, right now? I’m glad you asked. Several of us have been praying for our neighbors around the church building through Bless Every Home. This same ministry has gotten together underwriters who are willing to literally give away boxes of 100 Jesus movies to those who want them for absolutely no cost. I have just ordered a box. My challenge to all of us is to actually go to 40 homes around the church building, meet our neighbors, give them a dozen cookies along with the Jesus movie and invite them to watch it, and if they don’t have a church home to consider darkening the doors of this one. The plan would be to deliver them the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. What a perfect time to do this, wouldn’t you say? A movie seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world, with millions making professions of faith in Christ since its release in the 1980’s. It is nothing more and nothing less than the gospel of Luke on a DVD. See, right now in Mechanicsville, for all practical purposes we are, persecution free. The enemy doesn’t need to silence us because for the most part we silence ourselves. For whatever reason, we have a lot of trouble speaking to others about our Lord. Could the Lord use this simple gesture to get us at Grace United off center so to speak, to get us in front of people and at least break the ice? What could he do with this, especially since several of us have been praying for those right around the building. Could the Lord have put us here in this place at this time to reach this neighborhood for him? May the Lord give us courage and boldness to get out from under the shadows and take a stand for him. Would to God that we would not have to experience persecution in order for us to speak for him. Let’s take a stand now. And if you need a refresher about Bless Every Home, please see me.
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