The tower rose from the fertile plains of Shinar to stand above mankind and draw their eyes upward, forever upward, toward heaven.
In the early morning hours, before the sun was strong enough to consume the mists that rose from the earth, the old man made his way down the mountainside, his donkey, laden with goods, following close behind.
His two companions walked behind the donkey, staffs in hand, robes billowing in the hot breeze that came up from the valley floor, but he led the way. It would only be a few hours more and they would arrive at the center of the earth.
This great endeavor was the thinking of Nimrod, who was a mighty warrior and a builder of cities. Now he was gone and Sargon, his firstborn, was in charge. He was a man who got things done. It seemed that everyone was working and toiling on the tower and the city surrounding it. According to legend, this was the site of the original holy place in the heart of Mesopotamia. It was the perfect place to create a gateway to heaven.
The old man and his two companions walked through the throngs of people in the city as they busied themselves with their comings and goings. The marketplace seemed to be thriving, hawkers selling their wares, little children darting through the crowds, color and excitement in the air.
The city seemed to be celebrating something. The tower was almost finished. Soon the ceremony to open the gateway to heaven would take place and the people were convinced of divine blessing. It was cause to celebrate, to sing and dance and enjoy life.
The tower stood beside a temple. It was a low, squat building, appearing even smaller by the size of the tower next to it. Temple worship was a source of power for these people, a way to manage the mysterious forces of evil and good in a world that was not always friendly.
The old man understood well enough what was going on. He was of the old school, a belief in El Shaddai, the Creator God. He believed that mankind should worship in humility before him as he directs and obey his loving authority. There was little of humility in the tower or the temple, much less the city. This was a monument to the unity of man, the power of mankind to bring people together by force or by greed, to work together to become the masters of their own lives.
It was to be expected. They spoke one common language and they had one common dream – to recreate paradise by their own power on the very spot where paradise once existed, or so legend would have it. They wanted no outside interference. They have discovered the power of unity in a common purpose, whether forced or willingly, and have begun to build an empire.
This desire to re-create paradise was normal, and perhaps even good under the right conditions, but the old man knew that without God it would not be paradise but rather hell on earth.
History had proved it often enough.
“Where can we find the high priest?”
The old man spoke to a wizened old hag, ancient eyes opaque and sightless, sitting against the wall beside a stall selling pottery wares.
She had a pipe and was smoking some ill smelling brew, no doubt homemade, powerful enough to bring tears to the eyes if you got caught in one of her hacking exhalations of smoke.
“Who wants to know?” she said, spitting a stream of dark liquid into the dirt beside him. “You got a reason to talk to him? He’s a busy man.”
The old man made no reply. One of his companions indicated the temple and said, “Let’s go and ask someone in there.”
“He ain’t in there,” the old woman said, then indicated with her head at the tower. “He’s way up there. Nigh unto heaven. Seems they all getting ready for a big event tonight.”
“They gonna open up heaven or something. Makes no never mind to me so long as I have my pipe and a bit of something once ´n a while.”
“Thank you, grandmother. I guess we’ll have to make our way up there, then.”
“Grandmother, is it? Nobody’s dared call me that for a long time.” She paused for a second and then seemed to make a decision. “You be careful of that there Sargon character. Full of himself, he is and he ain’t got no right to be, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do.”
“Everyone’s expect’n something for nothing these days, as if all our troubles are gonna go once we open up that there gateway. Suppose you’re no different.”
“We’ll soon find out.”
The old woman thought about that for a moment. Then she laughed. “I guess that’s right,” she said. “It surely is. They’ll soon find out. Maybe more than they bargained for.” Then she scowled and looked up in the direction of the old man’s voice. “Sargon and that high priest now, they got plans. Don’t you be getting in their way or nothing. It’ll just bring a load of grief. There ain´t no give and take with them. No way. Hard men they are.”
The old man turned away, looking up at the tower thoughtfully. He walked over to his donkey and loosened a sack and threw it to the dirt beside the old woman. She looked up startled.
“Thanks for the advice,” the old man said. “That’s a bit of something for you.”
“Obliged,” the old woman said, and then she hacked and spat again but this time it landed on her own sandaled foot and she swore under her breath. The old man and his two companions had already turned away, headed for the tower in search of answers.
“What are you doing here? How did you get past the guards?” The high priest was tall and gaunt, a purple robe around his shoulders, an ornate hat upon his head and a scowl on his face.
“We have come to speak with you, to know your intentions and to decide what is to be done,” the old man said. He had left his donkey and its burden in the hands of two street boys, confident that they had already taken the goods for themselves and sold the donkey to the highest bidder. Then, he and his two companions had made the ascent to the shrine being built at the top of the tower, a doorway to heaven.
Before the high priest could reply, a voice spoke from the shadows in the corner of the room and Sargon, firstborn of Nimrod, moved into the light.
“Tobias, take care. Things are not as they seem.” His arm was outstretched toward the high priest as if to protect him. He was a large man, with thick arms and stout legs, a warrior no doubt, but also a leader of men.
“Wise advice, Sargon,” the old man said. His two companions had spread out behind him, their staffs ready, their eyes sharp.
“What do you want?” Sargon said, taking another step forward as the high priest scurried backward, behind him. “What is your business here? Why do you interfere?”
“Are you surprised?” the old man said.
Sargon looked at him for a long moment and then at his two companions. Finally he came to a decision.
“What is it you want to know?”
Gabriel watched as Sargon confronted the old man. He looked over at Michael and recognized the fierce look in his eye. His brother was ready for battle. It wouldn’t come to that but Michael was a warrior and he was always ready. This was a significant moment and Gabriel was thankful to be a part of it and to witness it firsthand.
This was not the first time his Master had interfered in the affairs of men. He remembered that terrible day when he had been commanded to take the man and woman by the arm and throw them out of Paradise.
He had stood there, with a grim and forbidding countenance, his glory unveiled and his flaming sword unsheathed. The message was clear. Stay away. You are no longer to enter the presence of the Holy One.
How could they know that this, too, was grace even as it was judgment? If they remained in the garden, eating from the tree of Life, feeding on the strength of His Presence, their evil would never be exposed and overcome; it would only grow stronger, unhindered.
God would not, could not, support evil any more than necessary to accomplish his plan. It would be tolerated for a time, that already was an amazing thing, but it would be kept in check and yet not kept in check. It would be hindered when necessary and exposed when necessary. It would be stamped out and it would be allowed to flourish, but only when and if necessary to accomplish the plan.
Another way back into the garden was being prepared. But first blood would flow, the purchase price would be paid, the punishment of death would be transferred, and the way would be opened once more.
First it would be foreshadowed in the Temple on the Day of Atonement when the high priest would enter the holy of holies and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice upon the altar and then it would come to pass in the fullness of time.
This was simply another interference of grace, another attempt to control unbridled ambition and manipulation and, ultimately, evil. It was not only mankind, but the Evil One, who was behind the building of empires, the grasping for dominance of the world he thought he had conquered. There was an unholy alliance between the two, and mankind was not innocent in the matter. Evil must be checked and the domination of man by other, stronger men must be slowed, even as they are all dominated by the Evil One himself.
Of course his Master would interfere. He had plans of his own. This was his world after all. He also wanted paradise restored but there was only one way for that to happen. Whether they liked it or not, as sad as it might be, paradise was lost to them and there was nothing they could do about it.
The memories of that terrible day outside the garden still grieved him, as did his memories of a more holy Lucifer, but it would not affect his firm and immediate obedience to his Master. If he, Gabriel, grieved in that moment, how much more must be the grief of the One who loved his children so much that he was willing to lay down his life for them? He is a God filled with grief for his children.
A God who weeps.
Although mankind doubted it every time evil or pain or death touched their lives, Gabriel knew it to be so. He had witnessed it over and over again. The Almighty God is a God who weeps with those who weep. There was no shame in it, only love.
If man only knew the healing that could be found in those tears, under those wings, weeping together with the Almighty God, their Father. It was a healing that could change everything and make all things new, especially the heart of man.
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The Tower of Babel by Bert A. Amsing. Used with Permission.
Excerpt from Tears of the Desert Warrior by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.