The lesson of the Tower of Babel is not that God desires to thwart our efforts, but that mankind is constantly seeking to usurp God’s authority and role as Creator. Note that the people who came to the valley of Shinar, which lies in the fertile crescent in modern day Iraq, did not include all the descendants of Noah. According to the previous chapter, the family lines of Ham and Japheth scattered as God had commanded.
Can you picture this group of migrants discovering an area rich in resources and saying to one another, “Why should we keep going? This place looks great. Let’s just stay here.” It seems like a logical choice, but it’s one that directly defies the expressed will of God — He had commanded them to scatter in order to fill the earth.
Even worse than their refusal to go where God called them to go (the ends of the earth), they decided to build a tower to reach the heavens. Essentially, they decided to go where God had not called them, to climb to the throne of God. It isn’t hard to deduce the inspiration for such a desire. Isaiah tells us of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:13:
“For you have said in your heart:
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.”
So God confused their languages. He caused division among them which made them unable to work together to complete their project. It forced them to separate because they could no longer comprehend one another.
But isn’t God a God of unity?
Yes and no.
God desires unity. But not for unity’s sake.
God desires for us to be unified in our worship of Him, not unified in defiance of His Word. Not unified in sin.
The world proclaims peace through tolerance of anything except the worship of God and reverence for His Word.
Jesus said, “ Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
From Jacob and Esau, to separating sheep from goats in Matthew 25, God has called and chosen to separate those who hear His voice, those who revere His Word, and those who honor His Name from those who do not.