Genesis 11- The Tower of Google


Mcluhan QuoteEvery human being is essentially the same. We long for our lives to be filled with meaning, significance, and purpose. We want to change the world. We want to be noticed, recognized, and loved. At some point, we may lose those ambitions and settle for a quiet life in Tibet, but most people continue wishing they were well known, well loved, and filthy rich. So, we do stupid stuff in order to attain these shallow goals. In one way or another, we all want to erect a tower to ourselves (a guy named Donald comes to mind).

After a massive flood, God “reboots” humanity with eight people, fresh off the boat. After several generations the entire human population of the earth resides (at least mostly) in one place, speaking one language. They build a city with a large tower in it, called Babel. They want the same things we want: to be noticed, loved, and highly regarded. You know…like Kanye.

These people speak as one voice, as if they were God (also like Kanye). God says, “Come, let us make man in our image.” These people say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its tops in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

There is nothing wrong with building a city, but why build a tower to the heavens? The answer of course, is in the next statement: “Let us make a name for ourselves”. These guys are filled with pride and want to be praised for their accomplishments. There is no acknowledgment of God. In fact, they make themselves out to be God. It is worth noting that God gave them what they wished for. Thousands of years later, millions of people know about the tower of Babel. They certainly make a name for themselves.

These people reject God, who created a great big planet for humanity filled with beauty and fantastic surprises for those who would explore it. Exploration is like an Easter egg hunt, and these guys in Babel found one egg they really liked and stopped hunting. Can you imagine how sad that makes a loving Father? He’s filled the earth with good gifts. He doesn’t want us to settle for just one!

God’s reply to humanity’s pride is always the same: take them down a peg. Pride is a sin. It leads to relentless cut-throat competitions and one-upmanship. In this case, we don’t see where this ancient tower-building culture is headed, exactly. We are told that “nothing will be impossible for them.” Why is that a bad thing?

Well, to answer that question, one need only to look around. We now have a place we can go where there is essentially one global language. It’s called the internet. Barriers to global communication have been nearly obliterated (thank you, Google Translate). I can know up-to-the-minute information on any major news event in any place on planet earth with a few key-strokes and mouse clicks. We are Babel. I’m sorry to say that all of our advancements and endeavors have not produced world peace, ended poverty, or cured cancer, but we did create “Pokemon Go”. That’s almost as good as those other things.

Believe it or not, I fear what might happen if we accomplish even one of those “big three”. The world will abandon God and we will praise ourselves for solving our own problems. We will have made a name for ourselves. Humanity will become its own God. The Lord will not allow our godless tower to remain. He does not share glory with idols.

Marshall McLuhan, the prophetic media genius of the 20th century, predicted what we now see happening. He coined the term “global village”. He also told us it would be violent, and give rise to a new form of tribalism. We’re talking about an ideological form of “Clash of Clans” that threatens to tear our world apart from the inside. Mcluhan’s predictions were WAY ahead of their time. For more of his amazing quotes, check out Brainy Quotes:

All of this is to say that nothing should surprise you anymore. Shootings, war, corruption, Donald Trump, viral videos that make no sense, smart phones that raise your children for you, augmented reality video games…it all makes sense when the tower is built and we speak with one language. When nothing is impossible, when nothing is sacred, when nothing is universal except our ability to communicate…then every good becomes possible, and every evil is explored. Every random bit of nonsense is expressed. Nobody has the authority to define good and evil, because everyone wants to define it for themselves. We are not merely a house divided. We are a house shattered into millions of bits. This tower cannot stand. We all end up feeling like losers because we all end up feeling alone. The Global Village hates itself.

Humanity needs hope. Our hope comes in the next chapter of this epic story. God calls someone out to correct our course. He summons a “favored one” named Abram to restore humanity. Abram is humanity’s new hope. God doesn’t call down and say, “Help me, Abram, you’re my only hope.” Instead, he begins with a command, “Abram, go to the land that I will show you…”

The principle is universal: God won’t let our story end in despair. This is as true today as it was six thousand years ago. We are not alone.

Genesis 1 “Ultimate Origins”

Sometimes I wish I could create comic-book style art. The epic origin story of humanity lends itself to colorful action-packed graphics filled with speech bubbles that say “Wham!” and “Pow!” and “$#!@” (which is comic-ese for “Oh Snap!”). Alas, I can only use words, which in an age of information…well, let’s be honest…there are just too many!

However, I have been compelled to share my thoughts, in hopes that a few people might rediscover the action packed true epic story of humanity. And also to remind myself of how much I LOVE this story.

Disclaimer: I am approaching the Bible as a STORY. In other words, I’m not pontificating and postulating about every little exegetical detail. The point of this blog is to bring wonder and life and awe and laughter to everyone that loves Jesus. If you read the Scriptures and you don’t smile and laugh and marvel frequently…you’re doing it wrong.

Allow me to make my case with the beginning, which Julie Andrews tells me, “is a very good place to start”.

Epic Story Issue #1

In the beginning, God created stuff. Not just any stuff. ALL stuff. The whole universe. Everything you can see (like pandas) and everything you cannot see (like panda farts). If it is in this universe, then God made it. God said, “BANG!” with comic book flair and everything came into existence at once. And it was big. As Donald Trump would say, it was “YUGE!”

The earth (not the planet, but the “land”), was empty and without inhabitants. It wasn’t “formless” like an amoeba or “void” like a bad check. It was simply desolate. The land resembled the barren wastelands of central Australia (imagine Mordor without the orcs or giant flaming eye). It was lifeless and boring.

This is not a compelling beginning for a grand and beautiful epic story, but fortunately, the setting is transformed. Or as Sci-fi geeks might put it, “terraformed”.  God is going to carefully craft a place for the main characters in his story, like a universe-sized game of Minecraft.

Something curious is going on. The Spirit of God (whoever that is) was hovering over the waters. I’m still waiting on my hoverboard, but the Holy Spirit has been hovering since the beginning of time.

At this point in the story, everything has been created except for life. There is, as of yet, no life.

Then, in true terra-forming style, God starts messing with this desolate lifeless place. What does all life require? Light, water, and food. These are the three things that we share in common with lions, bugs, and crabgrass. So in this story, it makes sense that the first thing that happens is the appearance of light.

As much as I want to talk about light and water and food and other stuff… I’ve committed to keeping these posts relatively short, so that will have to wait until my next post. In the meantime, consider this: God is introducing a story here, which may be likened to a masterpiece painting. First, God gets the pallet together. This is the stuff that defines all of reality as we know it. We shouldn’t breeze past it just to get to the painting or we’ll miss the brilliance of the painter’s method. We’ll miss all the happy little clouds. (Click the link. You’re welcome.)

P.S. I should note that I have never seen, heard, or smelled a panda fart, yet I believe they exist. If they could be painted, I’m sure they would be happy little panda farts.

Genesis 1- Part 2 “Light it Up”

“It is one thing to go to your commanding officer first thing in the morning and have a string of commands barked at you.  But what would you do if, instead, he began ‘Once upon a time . . .’?” Bishop N.T. Wright

“In the beginning” is God’s own way of saying, “Once upon a time”. God introduces his story with the creation of the universe, then he introduces all of his most profound themes in the first chapter of the epic. Consider for a moment, that perhaps the days of creation are like colors on an artist’s palette. What if each created thing represents something far greater than the thing itself?

Before we continue, a short disclaimer: I am intentionally taking this part slow. Think of it like a frightened turtle crossing the highway. There will be plenty of action, but we don’t want to rush it or we’ll get completely smushed by the speeding theological 16-wheeler. Nobody wants that. Turtles are cute.

Day 1: “LET THERE BE LIGHT”. God already created everything in verse one, so here He is either being poetic about the spiritual significance of light, or he is shining actual light on this plot of land on a tiny pale blue dot for the first time…or both. My money is on both.

Light is not just a physical reality. It is also a symbol of wisdom, sight, and life-giving truth. This concept is not lost on George Lucas. The light side? He didn’t make that up. It’s a universal metaphor known to all cultures in every place and time since human history began. Light also gives us a sense of comfort and security, because we can walk around without stepping on Fluffy. We can roam freely without walking into a chair. We can go about our business without encountering a scary-looking dude with a chainsaw and a hockey mask. That guy does not hang out at the beach to enjoy the sunshine and watch the waves. He hides in the closet or under the bed. He loves the darkness more than the light. For the rest of this epic story, light always means truth, and it plays a life-giving role that delivers us from evil and leads us to salvation.

Lastly, light is a metaphor for two-being-one. It is not part-matter and part-energy. It is fully matter and fully energy. Our human brains might not understand how that works, but we know it is true.

Day 2: “LET THERE BE WATER”. There are two “areas” for the water to exist. Up in the sky (clouds) and on the surface of the planet (seas). For the rest of the story, the waters above are connected to life and God’s presence, while the waters below are symbolic of chaos, death, and darkness. This symbolic meaning becomes important on day three, when something rises up out of “death”.

Day 3: “LET THE DRY LAND APPEAR”. On the third day, God brings the dry land up out of the sea. This is not just “land”. It has to be “dry land”. Why? Because wet land sucks. It’s muddy and gross and gets into everything. That’s why there are no vacation resorts by mud. People don’t build on mud. Nobody frolics in mud. Nobody relaxes in mud. Even scary guys with chainsaws don’t do well in mud. More importantly, nobody in the Bible is saved by traveling through mud. Dry land is a theme that recurs over and over again in our epic story. It is a means of salvation. The dry land is what prevents us from drowning in the depths and succumbing to the chaos of death and darkness.

Dry land is connected to the most important theme in the whole story. The land, and the abundant fruitful life that grows out of it, rises out of death on the third day. Sound familiar? This is an especially bright color on the Artist’s palette. The Third Day is always a day when God shows up and does something awesome. The “third day” theme is incredibly important and it shows up far more often than most people realize.

Days four is about filling the heavens with specific lights for a special purpose.  Day five is about filling the two “water” regions from day two. The sky is filled with birds, and the sea with fish. Day six is related to the third day because it marks the day that the land is filled. It is also the day when a particular creature is formed. This creature is the one for whom this epic story is written. As smart as they may be, God didn’t write the Bible for dolphins. He writes it for these curious, hairless mammals, made in the very image of the author Himself.

In my next post, we’ll take a closer look at these peculiar image-bearing creatures called Adam and Eve.

Until then, consider this: Humans are the only mammals that look ok with little or no hair. Have you ever seen a hairless cat? Those are freakish little things, but they are nothing compared to a hairless bear. Those things will haunt your dreams. See for yourself:

After following the link, praise God for fuzzy bears and rabbits. He is a good God.

Genesis 2-3 “Rest for the Heroes”

God makes humanity in his image, “male and female”. Individually, they are each whole and complete and beautiful and amazing. Together, they are even more so. These are the heroes of our story.

God also gives a funny command: Be fruitful (like a tree) and multiply (like rabbits). I imagine Adam saying, “Yes, Lord” followed by an awkward, “Umm…how do we multiply, exactly?” Every parent who has ever given “the talk” knows how awkward this next part can be, but I imagine Adam and Eve’s eyes lighting up and a smile appearing across their faces like children on Christmas morning. “That’s your command? We can totally do that! We’ll get started right away, in fact!”

Being commanded to multiply is like me commanding my children to play with their favorite toy or eat their favorite food. How much of a command is it, really? This is a tremendous gift! I hate math, but God makes multiplication fun!

Another thing God does: he rests. The Hebrew word literally means “to stop or cease”. He did not cease interacting with His creation or his creatures. Nor did he sit down in his cosmic Lazy Boy chair and turn on the TV with a beer in one hand and a universal remote (pun totally intended) in the other to watch “Dancing with the Actual Stars”. He simply won’t be creating anything new for a while. The season for making stuff has ceased. He planted his seed, now it is time to watch (and help) it grow. The setting for our heroes is complete. All that is left is for them to sit back, relax, and enjoy Eden for all eternity. But that is so boring. God is telling the greatest story ever. It can’t end here. If Adam and Eve stay here, they won’t grow or learn. There is nothing to overcome. They have no depth.

In one sense, much like a parent that loves their cute baby, God doesn’t want them to grow. Growth would require temptation, sin, and death. Growth requires a loss of innocence. In another sense, God has to let Adam and Eve experience these things, or they will be shallow, arrogant, spoiled creatures. Without a conflict, our heroes will essentially be babies for all eternity. Not only that, but they will live forever knowing nothing about forgiveness, mercy, and sacrificial love. So God allows one temptation and one tempter into His story, in order that the characters might learn about love.

In every epic story there is an unassuming hero that lives in relative peace and knows very little of the wider world. They are often naïve. Then something happens. A powerful ring is found. Two droids from the rebellion show up (or a single droid from the resistance). A magical new world is discovered. Whether it is Narnia or Hogwarts or Neverland, this magical place holds wonders and dangers anew.

Eden is such a place, and Adam and Eve are our unassuming heroes. There is no need to work for food. There is no pain or suffering or tears or death. No jealousy or fear or allergies or cancer or unwanted hair loss, even among the rabbits and bears. But there is a danger. Two, in fact. One is a tree that holds unspeakable power over life: the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. All of the other trees are happy trees. But this tree is dreadful. The second danger is a serpent: Satan.

Satan has three strategies and he unleashes each one in a mega-combo attack against the mother of all the living. His first attack is an assault on the authority of God, “Did God really say…?” Eve counters with truth. His second attack is more direct, “Well, what God said is simply not true!” His third attack offers Eve (and all of us) something we want, “you will be like God.” The combo is complete- hook, line, and sinker. The conflicted thoughts stir in her head and disorient her until she decides to test Satan’s theory. Perhaps he’s right. It does look delicious.

The good news is that even the so-called punishment that Adam and Eve incur is softened by a tremendous amount of grace and blessing. The very first response by God is a curse against the deceiver. The serpent is forever cursed. Second, Eve is promised a son—a seed—that will strike the very head of the serpent. The serpent is poisonous. When he strikes, his victim will die. The promise of God is that the very same seed that kills Satan, will himself be killed by Satan. All seeds are sown in the ground; essentially dead and buried. After some time has passed, they are resurrected and forever changed. The seed of Eve is no different. It will not stay dead and buried.

Further grace comes in the form of clothing. Now that Adam and Eve know about evil, they recognize their own nakedness. How embarrassing. Nakedness is a metaphor for truth, and because of sin, the truth is ugly. It wasn’t so ugly before. The truth was laid bare and it was good. There was no shame because there was no sin. Clothing is a provision for sin. It covers and protects. It hides the ugly truth and protects us from the judging eyes of others. But Satan is like the people on TMZ, always looking to expose and mock us. If he can catch us without our “clothes”, he’ll broadcast it to the world.

From now on, humanity’s longing will be to return to Eden. Eden represents peace and rest. Humanity is running an endurance race. It is more than that; an enduring war with daily battles. To rest from this war is what we long for. Not just Eden, but an Eden without serpents, and rest for our heroes. That’s where our story is headed, but like every good story, there are many joys and challenges and triumphs and failures along the way.