Genesis 9 opens with a new hope. Remember that the world has been completely flooded as a judgment for the people’s wickedness. The only creatures who survived this judgment were Noah and his family along with the animals that were taken on to the ark with them. Now Noah and his family have exited the ark and God made a covenant with humanity that as long as the earth exists he will not destroy all flesh. We are left with a new hope for humanity because sin has been judged and wickedness has been cut off. Now people will learn God’s message and all people will live according to their life purpose: be an image bearer of God throughout the earth.
The Fall Again (9:18-28)
Our hope for humanity is quickly dashed as we look at Noah and his family after they settle the land after exiting the ark. Noah plants a vineyard. One night he drinks the wine from his vineyard, becomes drunk, and is laying naked in his tent. We are not off to a good start. Drunkenness is condemned throughout the scriptures. The apostle Paul tells Christians to not get drunk but to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Do not fill up on alcohol. Fill up on God. Noah sins and becomes drunk. But that is not the point of this event. Ham, one of Noah’s sons, sees that his father is lying naked in his tent and goes to tell his brothers. The implications is that Ham is mocking and ridiculing his father. He is taking a snickering delight that his father has made a spectacle of himself. Ham sins because he is not honoring his father. The two brothers do not join in on this ridicule. They take a robe and walk backward into the tent to cover their father so they do not see him naked. They honor their father instead of dishonoring him. What I want you to see is that the problem is us. We are the problem. God wiped the earth of wickedness and started over only to have the person who found favor in his sight sin and to have one of his children sin.
As long as there are humans, there are going to be sins. As long as there are people, there is going to be evil. Not even Noah’s family is immune from this. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is no one who is righteous, not even one. Noah sins and Ham’s response to Noah’s sin is to sin. This is what happens. We get caught up in the immorality and foolishness of the world. We follow along with others rather than being different and separate from the world. We look like the world in our thinking, actions, and choices. As long as God shows grace to the world to allow another day, it is just going to mean that it is another day of wickedness and evil. The apostle Paul tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Hold this idea in your mind as we move forward in the text and we will see how this connects to pride.
A Divided Earth (10:1-32)
Chapter 10 is one of those chapters that you glance at and want to skip over. It looks like a sea of names that we just do not want to read through. Chapter 10 is describing a division that has occurred on the earth. There are only a few personal names. Rather, most of the names are peoples and nations. This chapter is showing where all the people and nations came from. Genesis 10:2-5 shows how the offspring of Japheth spread out and inhabited the Mediterranean and European areas of the earth. Genesis 10:6-20 shows how the offspring of Ham spread out and inhabited the Palestinian and African areas of the earth. Genesis 10:21-31 shows how the offspring of Shem spread out and inhabited the Middle Eastern and Arabian areas. All three of these genealogies end with a strange statement. They spread out in their own lands, each with his own language, by their own clan, in their nations (10:5,20,31). People are spread out all over the earth in different lands, divided by their own clans, nations, and languages. How did this happen? Chapter 11 is going to explain the cause. Chapter 11 is going to tell how we got to this point. So what happened?
Humans Rise Up (11:1-9)
Beforehand, the whole earth spoke one language (11:1). Verse 3 shows that they have come up with a new technology so that they can make a name for themselves in the way that make and burn their bricks. The people said to each other, “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” (11:4). This is our key verse for the lesson and for this text.
Notice the people had two concerns. First, they want to make a name for themselves. What was the God-given purpose for humans that we saw at the beginning of Genesis? Humans were made to bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Your purpose is to make a name for God and his glory. Your purpose is gave glory to God. What do these people want to do? They want to make a name for themselves through building a tower. This is the problem of pride. We want attention. We want to make a name for ourselves. We want to have a reputation. We want to be remembered. We want people to know who we are. We want to be respected. Friends, all of this thinking is simply pride.
The second concern they show is that they do not want to be dispersed over the earth. This also is an effort to directly violate the will of God. After God said that people were made to bear his image, he then told people to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). Humans are to spread out over the earth, acting as God’s representatives in every place. But they do not want to do this. They do not want to dispersed throughout the earth. We are seeing another layer of pride in these people. They believe that they can control their own destinies. They believe that they can be the captain of their own lives. They believe they can live their lives their own way. Humanity is pictured as overstepping its boundaries. Humanity is ignoring its God-given mandate. In their pride they think they can live how they want to live and do what they want to do. So what is God going to do with people who are going against his purposes?
The Lord speaks in verses 6-7. These people think they can do whatever they want and live how they want. Since they have one language, this is only the beginning of what they will do. They will do whatever they propose. Now, is God concerned about people getting together and building buildings? No! What does God mean? What is his concern? His concern is that all humanity will gather as one person to do evil. They are only going to keep violating God’s will and living against God’s purposes. In fact, it will be grow worse because they have one language. God knows that his people have the potential to band together against him. So God’s response is to confuse the languages and disperse these people all over the earth (11:8-9). If you have ever wondered why we have so many languages on earth and how they came about, you now have the answer. God did it in a response to human sin. Notice that God has no trouble stopping people’s plans. He has no difficulty changing the course and plans of the earth. I think we have been made keenly aware of this truth with the pandemic the whole earth is experiencing. God can stop us at any time. He can stop our activity at any time. God is not afraid of what we can do, as if he can’t stop us. God is concerned because all we do in our pride is commit more evil. This brings us back to chapter 9. People are just bent on doing evil and we need someone to rescue us from our evil ways. We need someone to rescue us from our pride.
Pride loves praise.
Everyone struggles with this. Pride wants the praise of people. Why is this so important to see and understand? This is important because this is our warning flag for our hearts. When we are concerned about what people think of us, how people look at us, if people pay attention to us, or if people note what we do, that is telling us that there is pride in our hearts. As soon as we think about what others are doing and how we do not like it, that is pride. We are so smart and everyone else is so dumb. We know what is best and everyone else knows nothing. Unfortunately, we have social media today as the vehicle to encourage this pride. We post things about ourselves to show people what we are doing so that we can receive the praise of people. We need to be very careful, Christians. If we post something so that people will praise us, then we are seeing pride come out of our hearts. Do not post for your praise. Do not post so you can see how many thumbs up responses you can get. If you write something and are quickly looking to see how people responded to it, then you know that you are seeking the praise of people. We are in a pandemic right now and what we say about other people also reveals pride. People are dumb for wearing masks. People are dumb for not wearing masks. This is a crisis or this is nothing at all. We must watch out for pride as we look at other people. Pride loves praise. Pride loves self-elevation. Pride loves for people to look at them and what they are doing. This is what the people are doing here in Genesis 11. We are going to make a name for ourselves! This is what Ham is doing in Genesis 9. “Hey brothers, look at what our drunken father has done! Come and see!” Pride loves attention. Pride loves praise. We need to be very careful about any kind of attention we draw to ourselves. We need to be so careful to examine our motivation. Are we wanting God to be glorified or are we wanting to be glorified? We are called to not draw attention to ourselves. Remember that Jesus taught that we are do our works so that God is glorified (Matthew 5:16) and do it in such a way that the left hand will not know what the right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3). Attention goes to God. Honor goes to God. Glory goes to God. But that is not what these people are doing as they build this tower. They build for their honor and glory. Humility wants God to be praised.
Pride loves security.
This is another sin we easily struggle with. We want to make our lives secure. This is easy to miss in this account. Look at Genesis 11:4 carefully. The people said that they are going to build a city for themselves and a tower with a top in the heavens. The tower is for the praise of people. The city is so that they are not dispersed over the earth. Pride loves security. I can protect myself. I can make enough good decisions to prosper and do as I want. I will get an education. I will get a job. I will make a lot of money. I will build a house. I will have a family. I will enjoy life. I will store up my wealth. I will retire. I will take my rest. We think just like the rich fool who made the exact same plans.
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16–21 ESV)
How is our American way of thinking any different than what Jesus is condemning? Pride thinks that we can insulate ourselves from trouble. Pride thinks that we can protect ourselves. Pride thinks that we can be secure through our planning and execution of those plans. God has shown us that all our experience, wisdom, wealth, education, and planning are nothing to him. He can destroy it all in a snap, even by something we cannot see with the naked eye, like a virus. Notice this is emphasized in verse 8, “…and they left off building the city.” Pride says that I can make my life secure. Humility realizes only God secures our lives. Only God can make our lives safe and secure. We find our security only in the Lord, not in ourselves.
The Lord knows if pride is our problem.
The Lord knows our hearts. We cannot hide the problem of pride from the Lord. Notice the imagery that shows this in Genesis 11:5. The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the humans had built. We think we are so great. We think we build such great things and have such great accomplishments. But the Lord has to come down to see it. Do you see the picture? All that we do to elevate ourselves is still beneath the Lord and his glory. God comes down and sees what we are doing. God comes down and looks into our hearts. God is so great and so high and we are so low and so small. This text proves an important truth taught by the Lord. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Please think about this: God is actively resisting you when you allow pride to remain in your heart. God is opposing you. God stands against you and your plans when you continue in pride. God only gives grace to those who eliminate their pride. We find grace when we strip away these pride problems. Pride stands against God because the world becomes about us rather than our Creator God. God is resisting us and opposing us when we draw attention to ourselves, make life about ourselves, and think that we can secure our lives ourselves. Let us repent of these sins and truly work against these temptations to pride.