Recently, I’ve been reading about the kings of Israel and Judah and one day, it struck me how when kings first come to power (also presidents and dictators) one of the first things they do is to consolidate power and either eliminate or at least minimize opposition. They try to create at least an impression of unity backing them – whether it is real or not. They know that in unity is strength…and creativity, whether for good or evil. So, better to rally forces behind you, rather than have them rally behind your back to overthrow you!
As I pondered on this, I soon thought of the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9). In this story, the people enjoyed unity and accomplished much…so much that God was concerned. You see, it was not the unity or the accomplishments that bothered God…it was the purpose of their unity, the people’s goals. They were unifying to usurp God’s rightful place. But God alone is worthy of glorification and praise. When people try to steal it, they find real opposition from God! (Remember what happened when satan tried to steal God’s glory or when Herod accepted the people’s adulation, calling him a god?) God will not share his glory with another! And yet generations of kings, presidents, dictators try to steal God’s glory, demanding it for themselves, insisting on god-like treatment. God will oppose these leaders.
The world has become a small place with the incredible increase of global travel and communication. The Disney song of it being “a small world after all” seems to be a prophecy fulfilled. The world has been striving for global unity and has been largely successful in several areas. Many of the values people hold dear have become standard world-wide. For instance, civil rights for all people groups has been a growing value, with people world-wide agitating for it. There are organizations that promote unity of goals and purposes globally (UN, AU, NATO, EU to mention just a few). In light of the Tower of Babel story, it prompts one to wonder what is the aim of all this unity-seeking? Are we making the same mistake? Is history repeating itself? Are we truly trying to seek the good of mankind world-wide, or could there be a more sinister hidden agenda of world control in the hands of the few? God has His ways of correcting such things. Remember, He will not share His glory with another!
And then came the novel corona virus and world-wide social isolation. Suddenly, nations all over the globe have closed their borders completely. Once again, we see the signs of xenophobia and racism rearing their ugly heads with nation blaming nation for this distress. We all seem to be retreating to our respective corners and sulking, while licking our wounds. It has put me in mind of the Tower of Babel…the nations once again being scattered and speaking differing, incomprehensible ‘languages’ – only now it is languages of distrust, blame, even hatred. A sad scene indeed! We can only pray that God helps us to learn to love our neighbouring countries as He does and to teach us to seek His kind of unity, which brings blessings rather than curses (Psalm 133).
As we sit in isolation, with even churches closed, I find myself thinking, so what would God speak to His church. Sometimes we get too comfortable being spoon-fed the gospel by our leaders. We don’t even sing much in church anymore. The worship service often can resemble a Christian concert these days. Will God be pleased if, when all this is over, we return to business as usual? I suspect not. I’m inclined to think that God is giving this ‘gift’ of social isolation, this total and definite break from the routine, to give us time and opportunity to seek Him, to find out what He would like to see come out of all this. How should we act when on our jobs, assuming we have jobs to return to? What should ‘church’ look like now? How should communities be? And what about our families? Do we really want to return to what we had before? Each of us now has the time to seek God’s guidance, to really listen to Him as we pray, as we read His word, as we seek to help others, the way Jesus did when He walked this earth. What is He speaking to us? Will we use this time to listen or will we waste it doing nothing much at all or complaining of being bored? This time of enforced rest is a gift. Let us use it well and come out with new vision and restored strength.