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. And they said to one another, “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.” (Gen. 11:1-4)

Within memory of some of those still alive, God had destroyed the entire earth with a flood, saving only one faithful man and his family, because “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). After an entire calendar year shut up in a boat full of animals while every other living creature on earth was destroyed, Noah and his family emerged onto dry land and received the Lord’s blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1).

Fill. The. Earth.

So Noah’s children had children who had children who had children, who migrated to Shinar and settled there and built a city and a tower, and I’ve always understood their sin to be in the effort to touch heaven with their tower. But why were they stretching to such great heights? Ah. “Lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

God said, “Fill the earth.”

People said, “We don’t want to.”

(Because they were comfortable and with their favorite people had all the needful supplies and were doing good work there?)

You can see it in God’s answer to this problem: “there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:9).

We’re reading Genesis together as a family, and I wasn’t expecting the Lord to deal out conviction through the story of the glory-hungry builders of Babel. (I, after all, have no ego-driven construction dreams.) But He convicted me anyway.

Because that command to Noah to fill the earth? Well, the earth is physically full, yes, but Christ transposed it to the spiritual realm for us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . .” (Matt. 28:19). Fill the earth with Christ-followers.

And my answer, more often than not, is “I don’t want to.”

(Because I’m comfortable and with my favorite people and have all needful supplies and can do good work here?)

And it isn’t necessarily that He’s called me to go anywhere but where I am, but is my heart ready to obey if He does issue that call? And am I here to make disciples, whether here is my comfy house in America or somewhere less comfortable on the other side of the world?

To see myself in the story of Babel was never my ambition. But I’ve seen myself there now. And I pray for grace to leave off my futile tower-building on earth and seek “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:16).


©2018 by Stacy Crouch


2 thoughts on “Babel: on obedience

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