In the 18th century, there was a Spanish philosopher named Miguel de Unamuno who came up with one of the best questions to illustrate the human condition. This was the question: If you had to choose between creating amazing works of art that would last forever and would make the world a better place, but you would remain anonymous; or you could become a famous, world renown artist and painter but your works would be totally forgotten. Which would you choose?
Insignificant fame or Anonymous blessing?
So this is a series on a small theme in the book of Genesis. Namely, that Genesis cares a lot about names. Apparently the Bible cares a lot about the language we use to describe the world and each other.
Last week I talked about how after the fall in Genesis, Adam and Eve try to find their own names, independent of God. But what happens when that stops just being a problem for a couple of people and starts to be the way the whole world operates?
Just eight chapters later, Genesis tells us about how the how the whole world was speaking the same language. And they all got together because they wanted to build a tower. Which actually sounds like a pretty good idea. I mean we build towers all the time. But Genesis is telling us something here. They are trying to exceed the limitations of being human. They are trying to be gods.
The real reason they wanted to build a tower was because they wanted to “make a name for themselves.” (The actual Hebrew here is Donald Trump).
Now think about this for a second. They aren’t actually concerned about the project they are building. Their real goal is to be important. Their real goal isn’t the tower, but to justify their existence.
And God doesn’t like that goal at all.
So God comes down, and confuses their language, in a little project called “Let’s Stop Talking” God takes back their ability to name each other…Not because God is cruel but because only God can make a name great.
But what’s fascinating about this story to me, is that just a few verses later, God is going to approach an elderly, barren couple and ask them to leave their home and family and scatter (the very thing that people of Babel were afraid of). And then God tells them this:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
The very thing that the people of Babel wanted, God was going to give Abraham and Sarah as an act of grace.
Most of the time when I hear people talking about the Tower of Babel, they are talking about whether it really happened or not. The truth is, the Tower of Babel is a story that happens all the time. Continue reading Names #5: The Towers We Build