The Tower of Babel was a tribute to humans’ own arrogance. But instead of honoring ourselves, we need to work together to make a name for Christ.
Samuel C. Degner
They intended it to be the original skyscraper, “a tower that reaches to the heavens” (Genesis 11:4). Engineered with the latest technology—bricks and tar instead of stones—it would showcase their skill and ingenuity.
A monument to humankind
That didn’t sit well with the One who had formed man from the same earth they used to form those bricks. Their stated goal was to make a name for themselves, not for God. They were planning a city where they could all stay together instead of spreading out and filling the earth as God had commanded. This structure stretching heavenward was a giant fist in God’s face.
Understand how potent pride is. It sets us up against God. It seeks our glory at his expense. It convinces us that we can defy God’s commands. Yet when we build and improve and accumulate with the purpose of making a name for ourselves, these things become tributes to our own arrogance.
Want to know where that leads? Travel to the Middle East and look for the tower our ancestors undertook at Shinar. You won’t find it. Perhaps a few rows of bricks are there somewhere, buried under centuries of sand. Maybe they were scavenged long ago for another purpose.
What you will find there are people you probably don’t understand. Like anywhere else in this world, you’ll find human beings whose differences put them in constant conflict with each other—a reminder that here we have no perfect society and no enduring city (Hebrews 13:14).
A continual reminder of God’s judgment
“If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (Genesis 11:6,7). The Lord saw humankind’s prideful defiance. He came down and put an end to their vain ambitions.
Yet even in this act of judgment, we see God’s mercy. United by one language around one sinful purpose, what would have become of humanity? By frustrating their purposes, the Lord granted them an opportunity for repentance. Moreover, he had a gracious plan to fulfill. He had a Savior to send, who wasn’t going to be born in Babel. Humans could defy God to their own peril, but they could not thwart his loving blueprint for this world.
Centuries later, with humans still busy exalting themselves, the Lord came down again. Only this time, he came not to judge but to save, not to scatter but to gather.
“And I,” Jesus said, “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). This was the fulfillment of the Lord’s plan for all people. Human efforts could never reach heaven, so God’s Son came down to us. He humbled himself to die for our pride and disobedience. He rose to guarantee us a place with all his people in the eternal city built by God himself.
Now we have a new purpose. We work together to make a name for him, not for ourselves, to highlight his accomplishments, not our own. We strive to raise up the cross of Christ for all peoples and languages.
A monument to our Savior God.
Contributing editor Samuel Degner is pastor at Bethel, Menasha, Wisconsin.
This is the second article in a nine-part series on Old Testament monuments and what they mean to us today.
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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017
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