Scripture: Genesis 11:1-9
Key verse: (4) “‘Come, . . . Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth’”
Reflection: There is something I missed in all the years I have heard, read, even preached on this familiar story of the Tower of Babel. It is the underlying meaning of that word scatter. The human community was afraid of being scattered upon the face of the earth. So, out of their fear they decided to “make a name for ourselves” — to be the center of attention themselves. They determined to become powerful, build a city and a tower. It was a fortress mentality to defend themselves against any threat, particularly the threat of being scattered.
Yet, what had God said to the human community in the Garden? “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28). It was a commission to “have dominion,” govern, to be God’s caretakers of the whole earth for God purposes — by filling the earth.
My discovery this week is that the Hebrew word translated as scatter is the same word that is often rendered in the Bible as spread abroad (see Genesis 10:18). Had not God called the human community to spread abroad — fill the earth —for God’s purposes? So was effort to make a name for themselves, put themselves at the center of life and build a fortress and tower, really a defense against God’s calling?
Ponder today ways in which you put up defenses to God’s calling to be spread abroad for God’s purposes in the world rather than for your own self interests. What fortress — tower — do you build to defend yourself against God’s call?
“My family, God! I have to first take care of my family.”
“My retirement, God. I have to prepare for my retirement.”
“My parents, God. How can I be spread abroad with elderly parents to care for?”
In the next chapter of Genesis, God calls a person who is very settled, very established, frankly very rich, and says, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you . . . so that . . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3). That person, Abram, went. He was scattered — spread abroad.
What about you? Are you open to being spread abroad for God? Or are you going to continue to try to make a name for yourselves and build your fortress against God’s call
Prayer: Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me. Amen
(From “Will You Come and Follow Me,” Hymn 726, Glory to God.)
Author: Pete Peery
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].