• Deb Gorman

Tower Building or Kingdom Building?

They began saying to each other, 'Come, let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.' (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, 'Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.'

-Genesis 11:3-4

The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed …'

-Genesis 12:1-4a

The people of the Shinar plain in Genesis 11 were seeking a name for themselves. They wanted fame, fortune, and to somehow reach God in His heavens through their own efforts. They depended upon themselves, their abilities, and their own resources to attain their shortsighted, temporal goals.

Contrast their self-efforts with the one man, Abram. He was going about his business one day when his father, Terah, uprooted the family and began a long trek from Ur to Canaan. The Scriptures don’t explain why he did this, but we can certainly rest assured it was in line with the plan of God to get Abram to Canaan. 12:1 tells us “The Lord had said to Abram…” Perhaps Abram heard from the Lord and prevailed upon Terah to go to “the land that I will show you”. In any case, they began the long journey; Terah died during the trip, but Abraham continued on.

Abram was simply doing what God had told him to do. God told him to “leave” and he did. What happened after he took the first step towards Canaan was, in Abram’s book, completely up to God. He just had to take the first step in the right direction and God would do the rest.

It’s interesting to note the contrasting attitudes. The tower-builders were intent on reaching to the sky (or to God, as in some translations), making a name for themselves, and protecting what was theirs. The nation-builder, Abram, was intent on obeying God. He was content to allow God to bless him, make his name great, protect him wherever he was, and to make him a blessing to the whole earth. There was no self-effort, except to put one sandaled foot in front of the other in the direction God led him.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us …

-2 Timothy 3:16

The two contrasting stories of the people of Shinar and Abram are useful for teaching and training in righteousness.

  • Is my life all about me (like the people of Shinar) or all about God?

  • On what or whom am I depending?

  • Am I busy building my tower or am I busy building the Kingdom?

  • Do I want fame and fortune in this life or do I long for heaven?

  • Do I feel the need to protect what’s mine—or am I trusting God to use what’s His to build the Kingdom?

Thank You, Father for the teaching of the Scriptures

to re-order my thinking and to gain an accurate

picture of who You Are.