Sunday, October 23, 2011

Who Does God Think He Is? Genesis 11:1-9

I'm of the opinion that a good story needs to be told even if it makes me look bad.  One of these days I'm going to have a story where I'm the hero, where I save the day.  This isn't it.

Years ago at another church I attended, I was asked to teach an adult Sunday School class.  I had never done anything like that before but I agreed and even though I was nervous I started to do it.  I found out I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it and from the response I got other people were enjoying it and getting something out of it so it was working pretty well.  People would tell me they enjoyed it and that I was doing it well.    The problem came when I started to believe them.  You know where I'm going with this but you don't know how bad it gets so allow me to humiliate myself.

One Sunday I was going to teach about Paul being shipwrecked in Acts 27.  I had prepared well the week before.  I had studied the passage, made notes, marked my Bible for the passages to read and marched confidently to Sunday School that morning.  I was about to really bring the freight.  I just knew I was going to do well.  I was really gonna let em have it.  When it was my turn I boldly approached the lecturn where I would teach the students from my vast well of knowledge.

I opened my Bible and told them to turn to the passage and then I had a complete and utter meltdown.  I had notes but got lost.  I had some points to make but had no idea what they were.  I tried to read the passage and couldn't even do that.  I kid you not, I felt like I had brought a Greek dictionary up there instead of my Bible and notes.

I stuttered and stammered around for a while not even able to complete a sentence.  Long pauses with complete silence.  I prayed for God to help me.  Should have done that the prior week, huh?  Absolutely nothing.  I was miserable.  Finally, somebody spoke up and said, "What that passage means to me is..."  Then somebody else said what it meant to them and then somebody else.  Finally, I just sat down behind the podium and quit trying.  It wound up being one of the most meaningful classes I had ever been a part of.

I will never forget that day.  I think about it almost every week as I prepare a sermon.  Now, every week I pray that God will say what He wants said through whomever He chooses.  And if He wants to embarrass me to do it then that's fine.  I bring nothing to the table.  I am totally reliant on Him and I know it.  And God, if today is the day that I need a reminder then so be it.

It's pretty easy to get to that point.  It didn't take me long and now I am grateful that God showed me early that I am nothing and have nothing without Him.  Our passage today is in Genesis chapter 11 verses 1-9.  It's the famous old story of the Tower of Babel.  We are working our way throught the book of Genesis, not necessarily verse by verse or chapter by chapter but just as the Lord leads and I was tempted to just skip this part.  I mean, what can we learn from an old children's story?

I'm very concerned as we go through Genesis that we learn what it is that God wants us to learn from the passage.  Why is this passage in here?  What's God's point?  Is it just history?  Are we supposed to learn more about the people who lived during this period?  Or does God want to reveal something about Himself to us?

Let's start by reading the passage and I hope to show that it is the latter.  Read Genesis 11:1-9

The title of the message is, "Who Does God Think He Is?" and in this passage we see who God thinks He is and what He is like, how He works and what His character is.  The first thing I see in here is that God is powerful.  He is powerful enough to cause every person to speak another language.  He is powerful enough to know that this will cause them to stop building.  He is powerful enough also to know the proper discipline the people needed.

The problem with God's power in the eyes of man is that He is too powerful and it makes us uncomfortable and so we try to dilute His power.  Chemicals like ammonia or bleach or vinegar are too strong to use straight and so we water them down to more manageable amounts.  Otherwise they would be too strong.  There is nothing wrong with that.

The people in the book of Genesis show that they feel God's power is too strong and it makes them uncomfortable.  It makes them realize who and what they really are so they try to dilute His power and thereby try to dilute who God is.  Looking at the story again, what seems to be the problem?  They built a building.  Nothing wrong with that, right?

Let's look at it closer.  Biblical scholars, geologists and archaeologists agree that the kind of structure they built is called a ziggurat.  Not a cigarette.  Ziggurat.  Anybody know what that is?  The pyramids are one form of ziggurat.  It was a tiered building with either winding steps or a wide smooth walkway going up to the top.  Usually at the top there would be a place to worship.  So when they say in verse 4 that they are going to build a tower to make a name for themselves they make it plain that they are not building this to worship God.  They are building it to make themselves look good.

Ok, so what's so wrong with that?  Everybody wants to leave a positive legacy.  Everybody wants to be remembered after they die.  The problem is their motive.  They are not saying that there is no God.  They are not even worshiping other gods.  The problem is that God is just not much of a factor here at all.  "Yea, yea, that God stuff is great and all but that's just for Sunday.We are doing our own thing today.  Later on we might do a little bit of that God stuff but right now we are working."

Pretty soon God gets watered down to where He doesn't really factor into our lives much.  I read one man say that to do this was to redistribute God's power.  Let's look at what that means.

In ancient times it was common for people to redistribute God's power by praying to Baal to provide good crops.  They prayed to Ishtar to protect their families and relied on political alliances with other countries for their security.

In more recent history the church redistributed God's power among the saints or Mary or the angels.  Some people today in the New Age movement believe in God but say He shares equal power with Allah or Buddha.  I even heard somebody the other day say their religion was Chrislam, a combination of Christianity and Islam.

I told you last week that every other religion was born from basically some guy sitting under a tree somewhere trying to make a religion that makes sense to him and is not too hard.  Well, there are a lot of people under that tree nowdays.

Even in Christianity I hear people every now and then talking about reading their horoscope or reading a oija board or meditating as they do yoga or Tai Chi.  That is acknowledging divine power but outside of God.  You can know if this is something you do by taking a real easy test.

To what do you turn when you have a problem or question?  When something goes wrong where do you turn?  When you need help where do you go?  If it is a person, place or thing other than God then you may be redistributing God's power.  If you say you don't rely on anything, that you can handle whatever comes along, then you may be redistributing God's power.

The psalmist says in Psalm 102:1-2, "Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly"

I wonder what we would look like if we left God at full-strength instead of diluting His power by redistribution.  If we turned to God first and only to answer our questions and help us with our problems, what would we do differently?

Would you be more outspoken at work or with friends about your relationship with Jesus?

Would you get out of your comfort zone and serve somewhere in the church?

Would you give a gift on top of your tithe even if it meant you had to cut back somewhere?

Psalm 37:5 says, "Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust Him and He will help you."

Have you ever had a friend to tell you, "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you" and then when you ask them for help they don't show up?  Or they say, "Well, I'm pretty busy but ok."  And you know they don't want to help and were only saying it to be nice.

You know what's worse than relying on an unreliable friend?  Relying on yourself and failing.  I'm the only one who has ever done that.  Let me close with a couple of verses.  These should be marked or referenced in the flyleaf of your Bible somewhere.

Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight."

Has God proved Himself trustworthy to you?  Like a good friend we can trust Him and rely on Him and turn to Him with our questions and problems but unlike our earthly friends God is all-powerful.  How are you going to respond to Him today?

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