On Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit once again with my friends at Jacob's Well in Arizona. I was in town for WordCamp Phoenix, and this is the second year I've been able to join the congregation for worship and teaching on the weekend.
This weekend, we talked about the Tower of Babel.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used bricks instead of stone, and tar instead of mortar. They then said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the earth."
- Genesis 11:1-4
Earlier in the Genesis story, God's people were given a very clear command: "As for you, be fruitful and increase in umber; multiply on the earth and increase upon it."[ref]Genesis 9:7 was a command to Noah and his descendants to scatter across the earth and fill it.[/ref] This was a restatement of God's original mandate during the creation story for the people to "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it."[ref]Genesis 1:28[/ref]
But the people weren't doing what they were told.
Instead of filling the earth, they had gathered together. They had one language. One culture. They built a city, and they intended to build a huge tower to make a name for themselves - to call glory on man rather than glory on God.
God's solution: to confuse their language and forcibly scatter them across the globe.
Fast forward several hundred years and several books and we see the second part of the story.
Jesus had come to earth to reconcile mankind to the Father. He taught of the Father's love through his ministry and, through his death and resurrection, unbound the chains of sin from the world. Though man had turned away from God from the very beginning, God returned to earth to turn man back to him in the end.
The relationship between God and man reversed, as does the story:
When the day of Pentecost came, they[ref]Jesus' disciples[/ref] were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
- Acts 2:1-4
In Genesis, the people rebelled against God. The sinned and, in their pride, sought to glorify themselves over their creator. In Acts, the disciples had returned to God and, through the redeeming sacrifice of the Son, were reconciled to him. God sent his spirit and, rather than confusing their language, bestowed upon them the miraculous gift of speaking in tongues - that is, across all languages.
Through this reversal, God is glorified instead of man. In fact, God is glorified through the men and women in which His spirit dwells.
It's very easy to get caught up in a little temporary success and lose perspective. It's easy to glorify ourselves rather than God when things are going well. It's also very easy for this train of thought to devolve into refusing to obey the convictions God placed on our hearts through movements of His Spirit.
What towers are you building in your life? Do your accomplishments serve to make a name for yourself, or to glorify your creator?