By Lim Chong Teck
About two weeks ago, bro. Ee Gene shared a good lesson from the text in Genesis 11 regarding the building of the tower of Babel. As he expounded his points, one of them caught my attention. Having given it some further thoughts allow me to share some insights with you.
A cry for unity is a good beginning for many tasks that we wish to do. Disunity is the cause of many failures. But it is interesting that “Genesis” being the book of beginnings has a first negative outlook for unity. The reason for this is because the people were united in themselves but they were not united in God for the goal and work which they aspired to do. Every man was united with the goal of building a tower that reached heaven. They were interested to build a name for themselves and they were determined not be scattered from the place where they planned to build the tower. The goal of building a tower to reach heaven to make a name for themselves showed their pride in their own ability and wanting to have a status comparable to being like gods, neither of which gives God the glory.
Their fixation in not being scattered is in direct contravention of God’s plan for them to fill up the earth and multiply ( Gen 9: 1 & 7). They were fully united in themselves but not in God. They planned without God’s consideration. They went without his blessings.
There are some examples in the Bible that tell us not to be united with men when they plan to do evil contrary to God’s will. We should examine our plans and works whether we have God in consideration or it is just to fulfill our own selfish desires.
In 1 Sam. 8: 4-22, the people of Israelites were united with one voice to ask for a King. The only one who objected to this was Samuel. God says the people actually rejected him.
“But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” 1 Sam. 8:6-7.
Even after much protest and admonishment from Samuel , they were ardent in their request.
“Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king” 1 Sam. 8:9-10.
“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” 1 Sam. 8:19-20.
While the Lord was displeased with his people but he bore with them and granted them their wishes (1 Sam. 8: 22). It was a day when God’s leadership was watered down to an earthly king’s. The glory to God was many a times given to the earthly king as the practice of their nations rather than to God. While God bore with them, yet much of their hardship was a result of their own arrangement.
In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira would have been a good example of unity in marriage but they represented a “Babel” unity. They were united to get personal glory in their contribution to the church even if it meant lying to God. They were united in themselves but not with God. If one of them had not agreed to the deceit, they would not have been punished for their foolishness.
The book of Proverbs warns us not to be part of an evil plan. If we are persuaded with much enticement to be in unity for a work that is against God’s will, we should refrain from such work.
”My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:
Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:
We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:
Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:
My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:
For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.
Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.
And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.
So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof” Prov. 1:10-19.
The scriptures tell us that we are to function as one body. Each part of the body is united in taking care of each other for the growth of the body. But as the body functions to work, we are to take instructions from the head who is Christ. This tells us that even if the body is in harmony, yet it is joined to the head and thus is in subjection to the head. If a congregation is united with themselves but not with Christ, then it is severed from His instructions and would not get the nourishment for growth. We need to take care that we are united with each other and with Christ and not have a “Babel” unity.
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” Eph. 4:15-16.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” John 15:1-7.
The Bible tells us that we are unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10) and the work we do is to bring glory to his name and not ourselves.
In a dual reference to the work of Solomon in building the temple of God and Christ who builds the house of God which is the church (1 Tim3:15, Matt 16:18), it is a house for God’s name.
“He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever” 1 Chron. 22:10.
“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” 1 Cor. 3:7-11.
In summary, these are the three characteristics of a “Babel” unity which we should avoid.
1. When we are united to take glory for ourselves rather than God
2. When we are united to do a work without due consideration to God’s view.
3. When we are united to accomplish a work although it contravenes God’s will.
“A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” Psa. 127:1.