Genesis 11:1-2, 4-6a, 7-8 - Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. ... Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, ... "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
My city sells "naming rights" to the local convention center. Pretty much anyone who wants to name the center can do so, provided he or she plunks down an enormous pile of cash for the privilege. This means that every few years the convention center gets a new name, usually that of a local company—and we all get confused about what we're supposed to call it now!
The people after the flood had a similar desire to "make a name for themselves." They said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." Notice what they're afraid of. They wanted to stick together in one place. Why? Probably because this would make them stronger and more powerful as a people. The city-with-a-tower would say to everybody, "This is our territory. See what we are capable of!"
But this wasn't what God wanted. In Genesis 9:1 God said to Noah's family, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." He wanted them to spread out—to fill the world full of humanity—so that ultimately there would be people from every tribe and nation, a world of variety and beauty.
But human fears and desires led them to disobey God. The people were short-sighted, frightened, unadventurous, power-hungry. So God took steps to force the issue. Boom! Suddenly everyone was speaking different languages. The false dream was over. They had no choice but to spread out and move away.
Sadly, our ancestors aren't the only ones who fall into this trap. We do it too, don't we? We do it every time we take the safe, comfortable, self-glorifying option instead of doing what, in our heart of hearts, we know God would prefer. Every time we prioritize buildings over people, programs over care, "building a legacy" over meeting the practical (and unattractive) needs that are right before us at this moment, we want to make a name for ourselves, and preferably in the safest, most obvious way possible.
Today God still calls us away from our dreams of power and safety through His Holy Spirit. He reminds us that He has already given us a name—that He has put Jesus' Name upon us, and that is a name better than any other. We belong to Jesus, the One who conquered the powers of evil on the cross, and who broke the power of death when He rose from the grave. With such a powerful Savior, we don't have to be afraid or play it safe. We can follow Him out into the world to care for our neighbors, even when it makes us feel uncomfortable or nervous. He will not leave us—He will be with us. And the result of His work through us will be glorious.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to choose Your will rather than my own safety or glory. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Is seeking recognition or the praise of others a bad thing? Why or why not?
2. What do you think was the driving motivation of the people in today's main verse?
3. Does seeking to do everything for God's glory help simplify our lives or make them more complicated?
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