Genesis 11:1-9 // Calling on the Name of the Lord

The big idea today is that we are meant to call upon the name of the Lord – not to make a name for ourselves. In this digital age, we are constantly tempted to make a name for ourselves. Social media offers ample opportunities for us to monitor our personal brand and cultivate a self-image.

We are perpetually being tempted to rally around other names instead of God’s name. This is not a new problem, and the futility and frustration that comes from that kind of lifestyle is not new either.

In Genesis 11:1-9, the Bible points us to the freedom from these pressures that is found in Jesus Christ.

Human Agenda vs. God’s Agenda

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 make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 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.”

– vv. 1-4

At face value, this doesn’t seem like such a bad thing going on here. Everyone speaks the same language and they’re settling together. They’re being really industrious and are trying to cultivate a city. So what’s the problem?

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Up to this point, God has an agenda with humanity. After He created Adam and Eve, God told them to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). And He told Noah to do the exact same thing (Genesis 9:1). Clearly it was God’s plan for people to spread out across the world – but here we see that they resisted God’s will. They thought, “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed” (v. 4).

The alternative to being dispersed across the earth, in their minds, was to make a name for themselves. God wanted a world full of people calling on His name – not one cluster of people making a name for themselves.

God Gets Involved

God sees what’s going on and decides to get involved (v. 5). In verse 6, He says:

“Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. …”

God’s concern was that these people would spend the rest of their lives pursuing their own glory. They’d have gone on trying to make a name for themselves instead of spreading out and calling upon His name. So God gives them a limit in verses 7-8:

“… 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.

Unable to communicate with each other, these people stopped building their city. They were dispersed as God had intended and that place was called “Babel” (v. 9).

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God’s Desire for Humanity is Still the Same

This is the very familiar story of the tower of Babel. And if you’re honest, you might be thinking it’s a completely irrelevant fairy tale. But remember: Genesis forms our worldview of reality. It teaches us the foundational truths about who God is and what humans are supposed to do.

Our purpose in life is still to call upon the name of the Lord – not to make a name for ourselves. God wants people all over the world who will call on Him. And He wants us to make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in His name (Matthew 28:19). This is still the mission.

Questions for Us

In light of this, the question to ask yourself is: “Is my aim aligned with God’s aim? Am I more passionate about making a name for myself than for God?”

And this leads to another question: “How? How do I make myself care more about God’s name than mine or someone else’s?”

The answer is Jesus Christ. Through believing in Him we find freedom from this pressure of trying to make a name for ourselves. It’s by His grace that we are transformed to love the right things and see God for His glory.

If you’ve spent your whole life devoted to some lesser cause or trying to build a name for yourself, don’t feel condemned – feel relieved. You can call on Christ Jesus right now to be forgiven, freed and transformed. As Christians, we can have freedom and peace because we call on the name of the Lord.

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Discussion Starters

  • Why was it wrong for people to build the tower of Babel?
  • What does this tell you about God’s desire for humanity? Has this changed?
  • Are your aims aligned with God’s aims? Are you more passionate about making a name for yourself than you are for Him?
  • How can we change?

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