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My dad worked the evening or night shift so that he could work our family farm during the day. He got us started on our chores and then left around lunch time for work, leaving my mom in charge. My dad expected us to obey immediately when we were told to do something. He didn’t have the time to go behind us and double check our work. He expected us to obey his second-in-command (my mom) as if we were obeying him.
My mom was a bit more lenient in our more mundane chores (cleaning our rooms, washing the dishes, taking out the trash). She knew that we would do what she asked, eventually. She might have to gently remind us, but those chores also got done. When my dad would see us delaying our obedience to her, we would have a “come let us reason together” moment and we reasoned that it was better to obey immediately than later.
During a recent personal study of the genealogy line of Jesus in Genesis 9-10, I read Genesis 11, regarding the building of the Tower of Babel, trying to put it into the time frame of the families and their generations. Chapter 10 tells us that the families had their own languages (vs 5, 20, 31) and at one point (vs 25) the land was divided (which means it was undivided before that). Genesis 11 starts with telling us that the whole earth had the same language and the people wanted to stay together. I conclude from that, in my simple thinking, that chapter 11 took place as the families in chapter 10 were developing.
I wondered why God didn’t want them to stay together. Wouldn’t it be simpler if we were all of the same language?
I had to go back in my study to Genesis 9:7, to God’s command to Noah. Fresh off the boat, so to speak, God tells Noah to “be fruitful and multiply, spread out over the earth and multiply on it.”
How could this command be carried out if they all stayed in one place, as was the people’s desire in chapter 11?
There is also another little statement the people made that might have rubbed God the wrong way, “let’s make a name for ourselves.”
Verse 7 is a “come let us reason together” moment if I’ve ever seen one! God says, “Come, let us go down there…” I envision my mother at the bottom of the stairs, calling out to me and my brothers as we argued in our rooms; “don’t make me come up there!” Only punishment would come if she came up those stairs.
God came down and confused the languages. The people gathered by languages and were scattered over the face of the whole earth (vs 7-9). To my way of thinking, that was when the land was divided, (10:25) and how we have the different people groups in the different continents. The people probably saw this as a punishment and it was.
God had to force the people to do what He had commanded in 9:7. He also had to make it clear that the people were to glorify God, not themselves. The work they were doing for themselves, to make themselves great – building the city and the tower, was stopped. The people were forced to do the command of God, to spread out over the earth. Let’s face it – God has a plan and He will not be deterred from that plan.
I learned quickly from my earthly father that immediate obedience is better than forced obedience. The same is true with my heavenly Father. Reluctant obedience is the same as disobedience.
I quote my dad when I say “come let us reason together” because he says it often, however he is quoting this from Isaiah 1:18-20.
“’Come, let us discuss this,’ says the Lord… ‘If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’”
How quickly do you respond to the command of your heavenly Father? I want the good things, not the sword. How about you?
Lord, find me willing and obedient!
Deborah Boutwell is a wife and mother to 2 grown children. She works for B&H Publishing Group and serves in her church as a women’s leader. Deborah blogs at www.apurplecloth.com. She lives outside Nashville and enjoys quilting and reading.