Babel: on obedience


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


Five Minute Friday: relief


The door opens and I turn to see who it is: a man who mumbles an apology: “Hey, sorry about the noise.”

Only three students were in attendance when my eight o’clock class was to begin — they increased to ten before the end.

My ten o’clock was full, but the students were rain-drenched, having run through a downpour to reach me in that dry library corner.

Days like today, when my alarm was not quite enough to force me awake in the early darkness, the routine itself is a relief: tasks and the clock in alignment, so that I need only obey, not initiate.

Even teaching is a form of obedience: this is my job and I do it, sandwiched in a hierarchy, so that I feel safely between this and that.

This is the relief of Isaiah 30, the grace of the Teacher who promises we shall weep no more:
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.


Today I join Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, relief. The button above will take you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

May: learnings

Joining Emily P. Freeman and friends today, sharing things we learned in May. 

photo credit to LHE

photo by LHE

1. I learned how to make these paper pinwheels while decorating for a wedding reception. Real people taught me how, but, if you want to find out online, I can google that for you.

2. I learned that in the New Testament, the word for “servant,” “bondservant,” or “slave” is the Greek word “doulos,” which looks like this in Greek characters: δοῦλος. I think this is something that I’d heard before — minus the Greek characters — but I had it from a few different sources this month, and now it’s going to stick — minus again, perhaps, the Greek characters.

3. I learned that Elizabeth Goudge’s novel The Scent of Water is a book I like. I wanted to read a novel, and chose that over a few others because it had an epigraph from the book of Job:
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;  Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
The epigraph mentions hope, and the book itself is about hope, in hard ways. I could share any number of pithy quotes, but here’s just one: “I had not known before that love is obedience . . . love is not some marvelous thing that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God’s help you can command your will when you can’t command your feelings. With us, feelings seem to be important, but He doesn’t appear to agree with us.”

4. I learned that being glad to see my students is one of the Important Things I can do on the way to being a good teacher. Because it’s much pleasanter to go to class to teacher who is glad to see you, even if the subject isn’t your favorite. (And because, in the words of one of my students, “it is not fun to sit in a class with a teacher who has a bad day every day.”) Being glad to see them is a matter of obedient love, and the beautiful thing about it is that God seems to allow the feelings to follow the obedience. (I AM glad!)

5. I learned that my first brother’s GPS likes to go straight through cities, instead of around them on the highway bypasses. Thanks to this, I got to see different parts of St. Louis and Indianapolis, and learned about

6. Reversible lanes, “in which traffic may travel in either direction, depending on certain conditions.” I thought they were neat, but I like the fact that I don’t have to drive on them usually.

7. I learned that my baby brother is going to get married, because he proposed to his girlfriend this month. But it wasn’t a surprise to me, since I decided several years ago — when she was fourteen or so? — that she would be right for said brother. (But it also was a surprise to me, because, how often do the things I decide would be right happen?)

8. I learned this song from my Bible study friends, and have been singing it for the last week or more: “What an amazing mystery / That your grace has come to me.” (Also, I love it when there are free piano score for the songs I look up!)

It’s been a month of grace, tasted often through the obedience, grace which helps me to obey. I learned many more things than made this list.

What did you learn in May?

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): Willing

When David Copperfield carried to Peggotty the message that “Barkis is willing,” it was certainly not the most romantical proposal in the world. But romantical-ness, perhaps, is less essential than good, solid comfort, and Peggotty also being willing, she became Mrs. Barkis.

Generally, I tend to put “willingness” on the scale somewhere below actual desire. To say you are willing is to leave unsaid that you’d rather not. I don’t tend to think that that willing person is also eager and glad.

And so, when I pronounce myself willing to do whatever it is God wants of me, it isn’t that I’m jumping out of my seat, hastening pell-mell toward obedience. In actuality, my willingness often looks a great deal more like passivity: if you take my hands and drag me, I won’t resist, but you won’t find me deciding to walk of my own volition. It’s going to require the dragging.

When God calls us to Him, He calls to more than this. He calls us to a joyful willingness; He calls us to drop our nets and follow, to volunteer our possessions, to count all things as rubbish for the sake of this upward call.

And, oh! I cannot walk, cannot follow, apart from His enlivening power, but, Father, I pray You’ll make me eager and glad, enlivened by that power, to walk: wherever, however, so long as it is to You.

Thanks, Lisa-Jo!

Joining Lisa-Jo and her Five-Minute Friday writers to write on the prompt “willing” today. Learn how to participate and read other posts using the button above.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

obedience where it hurts

I’ve begun to read the book of Ezekiel. The last time I read it was nearly four years ago. It was summer then, but now it is spring — the Mississippi spring which alternates glory with terror, alternates days of delicate blossom and growth with massive storms which leave tracks of desolation sprawling across the new spring mud. And Ezekiel ate the scroll which the Lord fed him, and it was sweet as honey on his tongue, but the words it contained were bitter words.

Returning to Ezekiel reminded me of a post I wrote last time I read Ezekiel, and I decided to share it again here, because the story it contains is to me a powerful reminder both of the costliness of obedience and of the grace which I so often take for granted in my life.

An apocalyptic picture, though not from Ezekiel

An apocalyptic picture, though not from Ezekiel

And the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn; and you shall not weep; and your tears shall not come.’. . . So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning I did as I was commanded.Ezekiel 24:15, 16, 18

What say you now, Ezekiel, prophet of the Most High God? Were you now allowed to go back to the river Chebar, to that day when you first heard the voice of the LORD, what would you do? Since that day, you have uttered woe, destruction, and lamentations for all of Israel, but did you not think the LORD would withhold from you this private woe? Did you not expect, in exchange for your devotion, you might keep your wife?

What sort of woman was she, this wife of the man who heard God’s voice? Wife of the man who lay on his side for days on end, who ate bread baked over dung, who was caught up to heaven by his hair, who packed his bags and dug through walls.

No doubt many had advised she leave him: “No one would take it amiss. This is no sort of life for you, my dear. He is almost mad. He may be dangerous. Who can say what he may do next?” But she remained, and remained, not as a weight and a grief, but as “the delight of [his] eyes.” He spent his days proclaiming woe; he knew the destruction of much that he held dear; but she was his comfort, his rest from wrathful revelations.

“Behold, I am about to take from you the delight of your eyes with a blow.”

And Ezekiel knew, too well, that the LORD does not utter lies. Did he plead for mercy? Did he ask also to be taken? Did he say, “LORD, it is too hard a thing. Will you punish my obedience?” [He] spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening [his] wife died. And in the morning, [he] did as he was commanded.

Did he warn her of the blow that was to come? Was she angry, frightened, resigned? Did they try to comfort one another?

“God did not take Isaac; He provided a sacrifice. But first He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Perhaps, if I am willing to lose you, if I obey the LORD today, He will spare you to me.”

“But, Ezekiel, He took from Job all he had.”

“But not his wife.”

“But not his wife . . . and did not the LORD soften His commandment to you when you plead with Him about the defiled bread? Perhaps, if you plead with Him now, He will again relent.”

“But I fear, for He has declared His wrath. He has said that [He] shall not relent, and [He] shall not pity, and [He] shall not be sorry. And how, when He speaks thus to a whole nation, shall He relent toward one man?”

“Why, Ezekiel, why must you be His spokesman? Tell Him you are finished. If you are not His prophet, He will get no benefit from my death. We can go away, live quietly, be at rest.”

“You know what sort of a God He is. You cannot think that, when He will not spare you for my obedience, He would spare you if I disobey. If quitting were an option, you know I could not have remained His prophet this long. But He is the LORD. I must obey.”

“He is the LORD. You must obey.”

… and in the evening [his] wife died. And in the morning [he] did as [he] was commanded. And the people said to [him], “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?”

“… you will know that I am the Lord GOD.” -Ezekiel 24:18, 19, 24


©2013 by Stacy Nott