(focus on Genesis 11:1-9)
I remember at some point in either high school or college, doing some reading about the first manned flight to the moon.
I’m not going to remember exactly what I read, and when I tried to research the point I wanted to make this morning, I quickly realized I was in over my head, so just take me at my word!
The reading I remember had to do with the margin of error the scientists were working with when they decided to put a man on the moon.
The difference between ‘mission accomplished’, and missing the mark by hundreds of thousands of miles was like a fraction of a fraction.
The whole mission hinged on the trajectory that the scientists set at the point of liftoff.
And there are so many variables that they had to consider; it’s really pretty amazing.
There are so many ways to miss, and the smallest mistake at the point of liftoff is magnified beyond comprehension by the time you get anywhere close to the target.
I think about that concept when I read Genesis; specifically the first 12 chapters.
Within these first 12 chapters, we read about a massive work of creation at the hands of a creative God, and we also read about a horrific act of un-creation as God’s heart is filled with grief and pain because “their hearts are turned to evil continuously”.
We read about the fall of humanity when Adam and Eve choose the knowledge of good and evil over knowing God Himself…and then we read about the efforts of humanity to rise up from that fall in the story of the tower of Babel.
And in the middle of it all, we read about Cain and Abel; the firstborn of Adam and Eve.
It’s in their story that the word “Sin” is first mentioned in the Bible, the reference is printed at the top of your bulletins, and it’s described as something “lurking” at Cain’s door; the image is that Sin is like a lion, ready to pounce on it’s victim.
Cain, the firstborn, ends up killing his younger brother.
The trajectory had been set.
Humanity was missing the moon.
So, there are three stories I’d like to talk about this morning as we continue this series on the theme of evil, sin, and brokenness.
First, There’s the story of The Creation and the Fall in Genesis 3. We barely scratched the surface of this story last week.
In that story, we read about a powerful, creative, imaginative, yet lonely God who walks in the cool of the garden he had made, looking for Adam and looking for Eve; calling out to them as friends would call to friends.
They were nowhere to be found.
They were hiding from God because they had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; they had gained wisdom that was not for them to gain.
Have you ever thought about it; they wouldn’t have been hiding had they not known that what they did was wrong? That what they did was more evil than it was good?
Every choice has it’s consequences.
And I’d like to suggest this morning that the trajectory of the path they chose shows up most clearly in the story we heard this morning; the story of Babel in chapter 11.
But we’ll get back to that in a minute.
See, Genesis is a book about God.
And it’s telling, that one of the very first pictures it gives us is of God as a lonely creator, searching in vain for his creation who are in hiding.
It’s a story that’s repeated throughout history, right up until the present day.
Sin divides Creation from the Creator; which isn’t at all how God wanted it to be.
The second story I wanted to touch on is the story of the flood beginning in Genesis 6.
In that story, we are told “The LORD was grieved that he had made humanity on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”
He had seen how great the wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of humanity was bent on evil.
And so the Creator un-creates the world that he had made.
In the Bible, the sea is more than just a big body of water.
It’s kind of a symbol for uncontrolled chaos.
See, God created the world; he gave order to it. He separated the land and the seas, he set a rhythm to the days, he put seasons in order and set in motion a cycle of life and death so that there was not chaos; but there was order and life.
So in the story of the flood, we get the fullest picture of what sin does.
The Chaotic waters of the deep swallow up all that God called “Good”.
What I’m trying to say is this: the core, the foundation, the essence of Sin is un-creation.
Not just destruction; that implies a kind of haphazard removal of something.
When you destroy a building, you can replace it with a different building or a park or any number of useful things.
When I say un-creation, I’m talking about a deliberate, intentional separation of creation from its’ Creator.
The result can only be loneliness and pain and chaos.
Not only for creation, but for the Creator as well.
At the end of the story, creation is once again restored. The message of salvation comes to Noah in a fresh sprig of an olive branch, brought to him on the wings of a dove.
Creation ministers to Noah, and the relationship between humanity and the land is healed. Creation has been cleansed; but not without great cost.
God gives Noah a command we remember from the first act of creation; “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”
Noah promptly returns to the soil he loved, plants a vineyard, and wastes no time getting drunk on its wine. His youngest son brings shame to him by seeing him naked, and Noah goes on to curse him.
Round 2 is off to a great start, right?!
…Finally, the third story I wanted to touch on this morning is found in chapter 11; the story we heard this morning: the Tower of Babel.
In it, the creative, lonely, searching God who’s heart was grieved and full of pain again shows up to see what the people were up to.
They were building a city and an enormous tower to reach into the heavens.
It seems as though humanity had gotten a little too big for their britches; but it’s more than that, too. The people who bear God’s image; the people He had formed from the dust of the earth and to whom he had given the task of tending creation; they no longer saw any need for this God.
They were doing just fine by themselves, so it seems, and they were out to prove it by building to heaven.
Creation finally seeks to become the Creator.
In building this tower, the people were making a very clear statement.
I’m tempted to say this is the beginning of atheism, or humanism, or more simply, the good old-fashioned American Dream: the belief that we can solve any problem and make a name for ourselves with just an idea, some hard work, and some ingenuity.
Maybe it’s not the American Dream after all! Maybe it was first the Babylonian dream!
Can you see the progression?
Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
At the root of their sin was a desire to be like God; judging good and evil as it suited them.
That choice set a different course for creation, and the tragic consequences unfold in the story of the flood.
The world is un-created, as the sinful way of life bears its fruit; dividing creation from creator, and humanity missed the mark entirely.
And here, finally at Babel, the other shoe drops.
In seeking to build to heaven, humanity convinces itself that we could become even more like God; that we in fact are gods in our own right!
And at this point, I imagine God slapping his forehead in exasperation.
God was lonely, and God grieved, and God became exasperated; but he didn’t give up!
God never gives up.
Once again, he throws the world into chaos; but chaos of a different kind.
He confuses their speech and scatters them over the face of all the earth. (not unlike the rain at the time of the flood).
What I’m hoping to do this morning by breezing through all these stories is to give us a sense of the continuity.
Genesis 1-11 reads like one long story about a lonely, grieving, exasperated God who refuses to give up on creation as he made it.
And if there’s one thing to take from all this, I think it’s that God’s plan is redemption; not perfection.
That’s why he didn’t finish taking the world apart at the time of the flood!
God knows better than anyone, that the world He made is still ‘good’, and that the most important line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ runs down the middle of each person; not between nations, not between the spirit world and the physical world…but down the middle of you, and me.
We are the solution, but we are the problem as well.
Just like Noah; just like Adam and Eve.
Now, in Genesis 12, God takes the first step in forming an alliance.
We call it a covenant.
God saw that the biggest problem creation faced was not evil; it was sin…as in the actions that separate creation from the creator…the actions that un-create creation.
So God tries to form an alliance; or a covenant.
He calls Abraham, out from his country, his people, and his father’s house; into a new land.
And again, God creates a new people; a ‘chosen’ people.
Our lonely, grieving, and exasperated God does his creation thing once again, because He is still in love with His Creation, and He never gives up!
From Abraham forward, we have the history of our people; the chosen people; the Jesus-people.
What God did through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ was accept all the consequences of sin. It’s like he let evil exhaust itself, and then he struck the fatal blow.
When Christ cried out as if he was forsaken; he was experiencing the fullness of that separation; the fullness of that un-creation.
And then he rose!
Where sin seeks to divide, God unites.
Where evil seeks un-creation, God creates.
When Sin dishes out punishment, God accepts it,
And when Sin leads us to death, God offers us life!
It’s a plan that was laid before there was time!
Sin is still a problem, and evil still has its way often in our world.
But we have this hope; that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; while we walked in darkness, we saw a great light!
The creative, lonely, grieving, exasperated God Loves us! And he’s Still working on Creation.
Let’s pray the Lord’s prayer together…