Genesis 11: Living Up or Living Down
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. (Gen. 11:1-5 NIV)
This city, Babel (Gen. 11:9), is infamous in Scripture. It’s the place where people tried to bring earth to heaven.
Here, the descendants of Noah’s family attempt to build a tower, probably a ziggurat, so monumental it reached into heaven itself. Eventually the city would become known as the “gate of God” because of its temple ziggurat, with foundations believed to be in the underworld and its apex believed to be touching heaven. But, humorously, here, the tower is so tiny that God has to “come down” from heaven just to see it. The city came to symbolize godlessness with its persecutions (Dan. 3), sinful pleasures (Is. 47), and disdain for God (Rev 17-18, 21-24).
In the end, the only thing from Babel that reaches heaven is its sin (Rev. 18:5).
It’s a stark reminder that what God desires is not for us to bring earth to heaven. What he desires is to bring heaven to earth.
It’s what we pray for:
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 5:10 NIV)
It’s what Jesus’ ministry was about:
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:14-15 NIV)
God desires to expand the borders of heaven onto earth, through each of us.
Are you living up? Or down?
Father, help me to abandon all efforts to bring earth to heaven, to make a name for myself, to exalt myself, to build up myself. Rather, help me to join you in your efforts to bring heaven down to earth.
Choose one area of your life today to make a little more heavenly. Do one thing in that area to join God in making that area heavenly. What is heavenly? Consider Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Chris is a spiritual director, the author of seven books, a father to Jordan and Jacob, a husband to Kendra, and has preached for the Highland Church of Christ since 1998.