Elijah, thanks again for the chance to think through what the bible says about “mission” – and to do it out loud like this.
The Great Flood
Mankind and his depravity multiplied after Eden until the population was so decadent that the bible says only Noah “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9-12)
God drowned the people of Mesopotamia (the world known to Noah) or the people of the entire world we know today. Only Noah and select animals – a righteous remnant of creation – were delivered (Genesis 7:1-5).
God made a promise of protection for “all life on earth” (Genesis 9:12-17). This promise was a covenant – a two-sided agreement – between God and Noah’s family. God would protect and preserve and they would “increase in number” and fill the earth (Genesis 9:7).
Then there’s some foreshadowing: God is called “the God of Shem” (one of Noah’s sons) after an embarrassing passed-out-drunk-and-naked incident. Shem’s descendants will be God’s chosen people the Jews. Japheth is also a beloved son of Noah and it’s prophesied that his descendants – non-Jews or Gentiles – will one day “live in the tents of Shem.” In other words, God’s plan all along was to give all people – Jews and Gentiles – the opportunity to be family under one Father again (Genesis 9:26-27).
Mission In The Great Flood
Through the Flood story we see how sin continued to separate Man from God and drew his continued wrath but also how man’s faith expressed in obedience drew God’s grace and united a remnant of mankind with God, His approval and His protection. God was willing to be in relationship once again with Man even if that relationship wasn’t as intimate as it was in Eden. His mission to restore all things to their created order and intimacy continued!
Tower Of Babel
Noah’s descendants multiplied but didn’t keep their end of the covenant with God: they didn’t spread out and fill the earth. Instead, they stayed together in one place (Genesis 11:1-2) and tried to replace submission and faith with self-exaltation and independence.
They formed the first nation mentioned in the bible – Babel – building a great city and attempting to build a tower so grand that it would make them famous and would protect them like a fortress against God’s scattering hand, against keeping their covenant with God (Genesis 11:4).
God saw their rebellion and mercifully confused their language instead of doling out death – turning one language into many – making it impossible for mankind to work together, live together, and have one national identity (Genesis 5:6).
Mission At The Tower Of Babel
God once again showed that He detests sin but is able to act graciously. God did not kill but generously held up mankind’s end of the covenant Himself, forcing mankind to spread out as originally agreed.
The mission of God becomes more complex after Babel: Once God’s people scatter they will begin to fight with one another and turn to many other gods including the god of nationalism. The bible will speak more and more after this point in history about God’s mission to bring His “scattered” people back together and unite them as one under His rule. If not for the Tower of Babel this dimension of God’s mission would not exist.