From one man he made all the nations,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he marked out their appointed times in history
and the boundaries of their lands.
God did this so that they would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from any one of us.
In these three verses Paul summarized the history of the world under the sovereign direction of a loving God, whose motive has always been communion and relationship. And as Randall Gruendyke closes out the first section of Genesis this Sunday, our hearts will be encouraged to know that Babel is not the final word. Eventually what has been scattered will be gathered back up again.
Paul somehow found himself addressing a meeting of the Areopagus (Acts 17), and as he did, he condensed the history of the world into a few paragraphs. There is a God. And he is sovereign. His heart is one of love, of forgiveness and mercy and reconciliation. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” He is not far from any of us. He loves relationship. He is patient. He is long-suffering. But on the plain of Shinar, mankind pushed their independence of God too far, and he had to step in.
In his poem “On the Babel-Builders,” Francis Quarles summarizes their sin:
‘Twas not for love of Heav’n: nor did they aim
So much to raise a Building; as a Name:
They that by Works shall seek to make intrusion
To Heav’n, find nothing but their own Confusion.
Something had to be done, so the Lord came down for a visit, and concluded:
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.
Come, let us go down and confuse their language
so they will not understand each other.”
And confused we still are. The poet Laurence Wieder in his poem The Tower of Babel is able to point out the tragedy of the loss of Babel.
And God, that made of Babel rubble,
We call in many tongues a father,
Light, indifferent, shepherd, mild,
Stern, and absence, or a bubble.
The God Paul preached about at the Areopagus is not willing to settle for being a bubble. And so we see the vision of Psalm 22 is the heart of God for mankind.
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him – those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
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