Genesis 11.1-9 relates the fascinating story of the Tower of Babel. You are probably familiar with it: in those days, everyone spoke the same language, and people settled in a plain in the land of Shinar. There they decide to build a city with a tower that would stretch into the heavens. God does not approve of these plans, and so He confuses the language of the people so they cannot understand one another, with the end result that the building project is suspended and the people are dispersed throughout the earth.
Part of God’s strong negative reaction to the Tower of Babel was certainly located in the disobedience of the people: in Genesis 9, God had instructed Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and Genesis 11 makes it clear that the people did not want to carry out that command, as v. 4 indicates that they wanted to establish a city “lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” It seems that they no longer wanted to obey God’s command to disperse and instead decided to try it their own way instead.
But there was also a significant amount of pride in the tower project, and God would have taken exception to this attitude as well. Again in verse 4, the people say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…” Did you catch that? Part of the motivation to build a tower to heaven was self-glorification, as the people wanted to make a name for themselves.
People have been wanting to make a name for themselves ever since. The ambition of making yourself into something impressive and praiseworthy isn’t even looked down upon in our society; you could argue that it’s a significant aspect of the American Dream: “Make a name for yourself! Accomplish something that others will admire you for! Turn yourself into something special!”
As someone who has lived his entire life in the United States, I cannot help but drink deeply from my culture, and I wonder if, in this particular aspect, it has been harmful to my Christian life. After all, as far as I can tell, the Bible teaches that I shouldn’t worry about magnifying my name at all.
In Romans 15.20-21, Paul says something interesting: “And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’”
These verses display Paul’s keen missionary mindset, as he desired to preach to those who did not know about Jesus, but they also show something about the task of preaching itself: preaching the gospel is about proclaiming and magnifying the name of Jesus Christ. It is about making Him known to those who do not know Him.
And, incidentally, that is what I want to do in this space. I want to focus my thoughts on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Hopefully, this will help us to see Him more clearly, so that He can be exalted and His name can be magnified.
May God be praised and glorified, and may the name of Jesus be known.
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