Genesis 11:4 And they said, go, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto the heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
People always endeavor to build the biggest and the best. There are the biggest buildings, swimming pools, Christmas trees and bridges, to name a few. The world will never want for the next biggest jaw-dropping attraction to wow us with its wondrous size. Here in Australia amongst the bizarrest structures we have are the big banana, pineapple, cow and of course the crocodile! How we love to boast about our enormous achievements.
The men and women of ancient times were no different. People will seek to make a name for themselves, no matter what period of history they dwell in. They seek to find significance and immortality in their towers of human pride. The same arrogant pride that inspired rebellious Eve and Adam to challenge God’s knowledge in the Garden of Eden, now inspires ‘the whole earth’ to rebel against their Creator. In a titanic effort the peoples located in the land of Shinar (Babylon), which is around present-day Baghdad, set out to make a name for themselves by disobeying God.
Genesis 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.
The term ‘name’ connotes fame and offspring, so by building a great city and tower the people sought to exalt themselves and increase the influence and expanse of their descendants. But God alone is the One who makes the name of His people great and enlarges their family lines as they follow Him. For the LORD alone, rather than human effort, is the One who will make His people’s name great and bestow lasting blessing upon them as He said to Abram in Genesis 12.
Genesis 11:8-9 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth.
Fearing dislocation from one another, or perhaps fearing the power of each other, the people seek to establish themselves in one vicinity. Yet their strategy was in direct disobedience to the LORD who had commanded in Genesis 9:1 that people should “fill the earth”. In attempting to find significance and immortality in the own achievements, they instead found themselves alienated from one another and dispersed over the land.
The construction of the tower of human pride came to an abrupt halt. Imagine, if we can, the pandemonium and confusion when a people, working together united in a common cause, could not understand one another anymore. Babel means confusion, but interestingly enough in the Greek it means an empty sound. Paul warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20 to “avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.” Truly the people’s idle talk and boasting, fueled by arrogance and pride, would have sounded like babble and empty discussion to the LORD.
Isaiah 2:12 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
Isaiah 2:17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
There is a day coming when the LORD will bring to nothing the pride of men who seek to make a great name for themselves. The LORD laughs at their babble now, knowing that their day of reckoning is not far away. For those of us who boast in our arrogance, may God show us our great sin and our greater need for a Savior. All such boasting is vain, for we do not know what tomorrow brings forth. Our life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. The day of the LORD will bring judgement on those who exalt themselves with great achievements built on human pride. But He gives grace and salvation to those who acknowledge their fallen state and fall down in repentance before Him.
We may not be able to add the credential of building towers and cities to our list of achievements, but there is most likely some claim to fame that we are proud to call our own. There is nothing wrong with reaching for goals and achieving something we have worked long and hard for. It is the intent of our heart that counts here. Are we boastful? Are we relying upon ourselves, and not submitting our goals to the LORD? Are we driven in our ambition with the desire to see our name exalted and not Christ’s? What motivates us? A humble submission to trust Jesus or a yearning to have our way?
Let’s honestly examine our hearts quietly before God and allow His Holy Spirit, who will shine the light in our heart, to reveal what is hidden therein. May God lead us into the truth and into living a humble life wholly surrendered to Him.