“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4
I read the story of the Tower of Babel and I can’t help but wonder “who amongst these people thought this would be a good idea?!” Just a few generations down from the great flood in which humanity was essentially wiped out and given a new start, here they are again, eyeball deep in idolatry, rejecting God, and building their castles in the sky.
Verse 5 is a little cheeky sounding to me, it says that God had to “come down” to see what they were up to. Even man’s biggest tower was still an anthill to Him.
There are worse things than wanting to make a name for yourself and not be scattered all over the earth, aren’t there? Possibly. However, these folks, the descendants of Noah, were given a very specific command: Go and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). They were doing the opposite of what they were told to do.
And the Lord said, “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 now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. v.6-8
God knows, better than we know ourselves, what we are capable of when left to our own devices. This was just the beginning. Interesting that the flood did not and could not wipe out the stain of Adam’s sins. Humanity continues in it’s pride and desire to be it’s own boss.
The disease of sin has been passed down to us, it’s in our very genes. Ephesians 2:2 says we are born “the children of disobedience.” Instead of filling the earth with the Good News, we are busy building our own little kingdoms. Jesus came to undo what the first Adam had done. He came to break the sin-curse that plagues us and root it out once and for all. Have you ever pulled a giant weed up by the roots? It’s remarkably satisfying. If you get it at the roots, it’s not coming back. Too often, we pull and tug at what we can see of our sin but fail to deal with things at the root. Trimming a weed to make it look better doesn’t get rid of the weed problem. Jesus restores us to our original place in the story… free from the curse and free to live a life of obedience to God.
We don’t always respond to the word obedience with open, welcoming arms.
Ever tried to correct a teenager? “I’m doing the best I can! I’m not perfect!”
Ever been comfy enough with sin that you really just don’t even want to give it up? “Don’t be so legalistic! Jesus came to free us from the law! We aren’t supposed to be earning our salvation!”
If talking about living in obedience makes you feel more condemned than free… if it brings up more excuses than solutions… well, you’re not alone. We mess up, then give up, making all kinds of excuses as we go. This isn’t God’s plan at all, thankfully. Salvation isn’t earned, it’s worked out (Philippians 2:12). Our obedience, our love toward others, it’s just the evidence of a real faith working inside us.
How confident are we in Jesus? Do we go all-in with Him regardless of what people will think? In spite of our discomfort? Or do we obey when it’s convenient and take to building our own little cities when we think we can do it better? It’s so easy to start piling up our bricks isn’t it? They keep us sheltered and together. But God isn’t all that concerned with ‘safe and in place’.
James tells us pointedly that faith without works is dead… our obedience (or disobedience) is a natural outflow of our faith. We aren’t meant to struggle along like beggars, we actually get to go “from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7). He gives us strength to obey, a desire to obey, and a heart to obey. One strong choice leads to another, and before you know it, obedience is more natural than disobedience. Our default becomes not what our flesh wants, but what God wants. Not always the easiest choice, but for sure the best choice.
God wants us to honor Him by putting Him first. I don’t think we are created to handle “big” very well. Making a name for ourselves shouldn’t be on our to-do list. Making His name known should.