Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nothing Will Be Impossible for Them

As I've begun reading through Genesis again in my annual trek through the Scriptures, the well-worn story of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9) spoke to me a new word. Wicked men, unified not only in language but also in their desire to exalt in their own accomplishments, abilities, and ingenuity, erect a tower from which to assault heaven and earn for themselves fame, glory, and autonomy from God. I always laugh that God "came down" to see what they were doing; their tower really fell quite short of imposing upon heaven (v. 5). But what God says next has always unsettled me: "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will be impossible for them" (v. 6). Frankly, I hate this verse. Why? Because it doesn't fit with my idea--and a very biblically consistent idea at that--that God is completely sovereign and in control over all of mankind's activities. No one can thwart the God-of-Angel-Armies.

But this time it spoke to me a new word of hope. It's true that this story of origins--the origin of cities--occurs in the very place man tries to erect a kingdom for himself in rebellion against God (see Gen. 10:10-11). But where is it that the apostles first carry the gospel? Cities: Jerusalem, Damascus, Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, Rome. These were no doubt major hubs of anti-Christ religion and philosophy. Cities were (and are) Babylon in all its hollow pleasures and prides. But that's also the key. The gospel spreads and the kingdom of God invades those strongholds of darkness, upsetting and transforming them--and the culture along with them--at the very root of worldliness and rebellion. Cut off the cities, and you've made a good way to cutting off the devil nationwide. If cities such as Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, New York, Sao Paolo, Helsinki, New Delhi, Baghdad, or Cairo were to become predominantly Christian, what was once spoken of men in their evil could be true for the kingdom of light: "nothing will be impossible for them." Now, I'm no postmillenial*, but it's cool to see the power of the gospel to bring liberation to Satan's most entrenched outposts and to imagine the ever-present hope that greets those who labor to reach urban areas for Christ.

*Postmillenialism is the view that the Lord will return after (post-) the "millenium." In this scheme, the gospel will spread with increasing effectiveness so that eventually whole nations and cultures will be largely converted and Christianized.

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