Genesis 11: Making a Name for Ourselves

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)

If the story of Nimrod suggests that the pre-flood, willful state of man was beginning to once more rear its ugly head, the events of chapter 11 move us from suggestion to unquestionable, established confirmation. Chapter 11 seems to paint a picture of mankind perhaps only a few generations away from the flood. They are still together, having journeyed to the “land of Shinar” (likely what would later be Babylon and today is Iraq). They purpose to build a city and specifically a “tower whose top is in the heavens.” God, however, viewed this as a dangerous turn of events and acted accordingly.

The problem with man’s actions here is not that of being industrious. God expects and applauds hard work from His creation (Ecclesiastes 9:10). No, the problem was threefold. One, they sought to “make a name” for themselves (4), rather than live as the image of God. Two, they were “one” and determined to remain together (6), while God obviously desired they fulfill the creation command to populate the earth (Genesis 3:28). And three, they were misusing their powerful abilities for their own and not for God’s glory (6). The results? God confused their language, creating many from the one. The linguistic chaos that ensued caused all mankind to cease expending their considerable energies on the monument to themselves and reluctantly get back to God’s purpose for them—repopulation.

These problems have been and continue to be ones that still haunt us. We still want to make a name for ourselves. We want to be heard, seen, noticed, marveled at, and remembered. We need to learn life is not about ourselves and working toward selfish ends. It is about being useful to God for His purposes for us— not our own. Secondly, though the earth has been populated physically, it has not spiritually, and what do we do? We gather together as “one” in our own plains of Shinar we call churches and rarely take the gospel out to spiritually replenish the earth. Being fruitful and multiplying is still needed today. Finally, we take the considerable and powerful talents God has blessed each of us with for usefulness in His service and use them for ourselves or bury them to be wasted. Beloved, these are no more purposes fit for the children of God today than they were for the early descendant of Noah. And, God will be no more pleased with us today than He was with them.

Let’s apply this to our lives.