Verse 5 – In pagan religions the stairway was a means for a deity to come down to earth but the LORD does come down to see the people (presumably not using the stairway). Humans were prideful in building their enormous tower but God had to come down to see it. It was not even visible from his position. He was unimpressed.
“With heavy irony we now see the tower through God’s eyes. This tower which man thought reached to heaven, God can hardly see! From the height of heaven it seems insignificant, so the Lord must come down to look at it!”
Verse 6 - 8 – What will humanity be capable of if they continue in this state? They will become more self sufficient. In order to stop what was happening God confused their language. God dispersed them by confusing their language…
Verse 9 – The place where this city is built was named Babel because it was there that the Lord confused their language. The word Babel sounds like the Hebrew word which means confusion.
What can we learn from this text passage? I think it can be summed up as Religion vs. Relationship. We live in a very religious world. If you were to ask around in your community you would find many people who are VERY religious. I have talked to many people who attend a particular church, or belong to various church organizations and clubs, and all too often they tell me they grew up in the church, were confirmed in the church and baptized in the church. These are not bad things. What I did discover is many people are affiliated with and have put their faith in a church, a religion or a misconstrued concept of Christianity and not a Savior. This is not unlike the people of Shinar. There is a clear distinction between being religious and being in a relationship with God and they are as follows...
People who are religious are very much like humanity in Shinar. The three characteristics of humanity in Babel are definitely present in religious people.
1) Pride – Religious people are prideful; they do things to be seen, they do things to gain favor and they do things to make a name for themselves. A religious person may be a giving person only if it makes him or her look good in the eyes of the public. A religious person is very pious. They have a pharisaical attitude… They have the outward appearance of being religious but they are dead on the inside.
2) Works based faith – Religious people depend on their works to save them. A religious person will attend church out of obligation or to "fulfill their end of the bargain.” A religious person will say lies like, “I am not a bad person”. Thus a religious person doesn’t see the need for a savior. A religious person will do things to get something in return. A religious person keeps track of their “good deeds” and as long as their good deeds outweigh the bad then they are all good.
3) Serve a small god - Religious people serve a god who can be manipulated and controlled. They make deals with God like “If you do this for me then I will do that for you.” They don’t fully trust God or think he is trustworthy. You may hear religious people say, “If God is like that then I don’t want to serve him.” Religious people put God in a box. They have what I call a “genie complex” – He has all the power in the world but confined to a teeny tiny box. He is only called upon when needed. He is expected to meet our every beckon call. He in fact serves humanity.
A relationship with God/Jesus looks completely opposite. It looks like this…
1) Humility – When you belong to Jesus Christ you know your position in the relationship. You walk in humility. You know that all you have has been given to you by God. Those in Christ walk in humility and lowliness; putting the needs of others before themselves. They serve others because they love God. They do not look for applause or recognition for what they do because they are doing it unto Jesus Christ.
2) Grace – People in relationship with Jesus Christ know that their salvation and redemption is based completely on grace. They have life not because they are a great and wonderful people who have a lot to offer God. They have a relationship because God in his grace has given Jesus Christ to die in their place and by faith they become a new creation. Salvation is not based on merits or works, but on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
3) Sovereignty – God is all powerful. He is limitless. He has no needs. He is self sufficient. He is holy. Romans 11:36 states, “For from him, through him and to him are all things…” Everything is because of God. Nothing is out of his control and nothing can shake him. A person in relationship with Jesus trusts him because he is trustworthy.
Religion is man based and focused. What is God going to do for me? Relationship is centered on the Gospel and rooted in the God of all creation. It is about what Jesus has already done for humanity… We can attempt to build our own tower of Babel in our own power just to end up frustrated and falling short. God does not need a tower built for him; He sent Jesus instead. In closing I’d like to read a quote from Tim Keller that sums it up pretty well, “The purpose of religious efforts is to get access to God so that (we) can get God to do what (we) want. The goal of true faith is to give God access to our heart so that he can get (us) to do what he wants. Religions true purpose is to get God to serve (us); gospel faith’s purpose is to get (Our) heart to serve him.”
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 1: Genesis 1–15. Word Biblical Commentary (240). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.