3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “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.
Genesis 11:3-6 NIV (New International Version)
Why is security so important? Security is the feeling that people have when they have no fear of their hostile surroundings; or fear that basic needs will not be met. With security in place, a person has the freedom to do the things that they want to do. The story of the Tower of Babel is an illustration of what happens when you place your security on something that is not God.
After the Flood the united people built a city and then decided to build a tower that would reach to the heavens so that they could be one nation. When God saw this, He determined that this activity was not good. He went down to the city and confused the people’s language so that they could not understand each other and they ceased building the tower and then they scattered throughout the earth, each man to his new language. Why was it so bad in the eyes of God for the people to desire unification and not wishing to scatter?
To find the answer to this question, we must ask what is the function of a city. The first cities were built by none other than the murderer Cain. After he killed his brother Abel, Cain was cursed by God and he fled from the presence of the Lord. He built the first city in order to protect himself, now that God had cursed him. Therefore the function for a city is provide security for a community that does not trust God to protect them.
Now after the flood, the only people that survived were Noah and his family; and God blessed them and they multiplied. Now this big extended family had nothing to fear for there was no one else around to threaten them. With that in mind, why did they build a city?
Could it be possible that they were trying to protect themselves from God? It is a crazy notion to consider. Nevertheless, they probably built the city because they feared God (in an unhealthy way) and did not trust Him to protect them and meet their needs. It was because of this doubt in God that the people decided that the best security for themselves in within a city community.
The grounds for this kind of thought seems logical to any person. However such thinking is dangerous because it produces the illusion of security. Good security is always reliable and guarantees protection against all harm. Due to the sinful nature that is within man, he tends to make a lot of mistakes (making him unreliable) and he often struggles to even provide for himself (making him unable to guarantee provision and protection even for others). Furthermore, the most important thing that makes man incapable of providing his own security is that he cannot see what the future holds.
So why did God say that the people wanting to be unified was a bad thing? It was because it gave them a false sense of security. They believed that their own fallible selves could meet their own needs better than God can. This lie they let themselves live in would lead them away from trusting in the Lord and the world would revert back to the days before the Flood. Not wanting that to happen, the Lord humbled them, reminding them who had the power to protect, by confusing their language.
How often does it happen that you and I seek security in things: jobs, relationships, etc? How often do those things fail to keep us from fearing the unknown? The things of this world are unable to provide for us because they are finite like we are. Jobs are lost and relationships broken, nothing in this world is stable enough to keep us safe and secure. Often we learn this the hard way, much to our dismay. Thankfully, there is One whom we can rely on, and that is the Lord God. We can depend on Him because He is infinite (He existed before time began), He is all powerful (He created the Universe), and He knows what the future will hold (He is outside of our finite time, meaning He can see all time at a glance). All He asks of us is that we trust Him to meet our needs and not try to find security elsewhere. If we decide to seek security in something else, He will be quick to remind us the error of our ways, like He did at the Tower of Babel.