Thursday, September 2, 2010

Building Babel

"For His glory in global worship, God purposes to redeem a people from all peoples and rule a Kingdom over all kingdoms."

This is what God is doing all throughout Scripture, all throughout history. We see that God is a missionary God throughout the whole Bible. Contrary to popular belief, the Great Commission is not a single random verse that pops up as an afterthought. We see it, first revealed as the Cultural Mandate, from the very first verses of Genesis.

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. - Genesis 1:28

After the Fall and after the Flood, God gives the same command to Noah and his sons - twice (Genesis 9:1,7). We've now seen this commanded three times, and this brings us to the next major scene in the Story, the Tower of Babel.

There is an interesting dynamic at work here. The whole world speaks a single language, and there is, in essence, one culture. They decide to build a city, a tower, their own kingdom, rather than obeying the oft-emphasized command of God to take possession and fill the whole earth. "We may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

God intervenes. He confuses their language. "So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city." The last phrase just strikes me as funny. Perhaps it did to God, too. Here they've gone to all this trouble to build a massive zigguart or the like, to make a name for themselves so they won't have to obey God. Then he creates new languages and throws them all over the place. Construction screeches to a halt.

It's a nice Sunday school Bible story, but the conviction hits close to home in a couple of ways.

There have been many times in the past three years I've seen my plans crumble to pieces. I've often questioned why, with little response. But I'm beginning to see that in most, if not all of these situations, I was building my plans, my goals, my kingdom. Even if it was "work for God," it wasn't ultimately God's work, His call and plan for my life. Time and again, I've seen everything from career choices to small opportunities crash and be scattered to the four winds.

In some of these things, I've already begun to see God's redemption and creation of His plan in my life, and I find His plan is infinitely greater than my grandest dreams. In others, I don't really see why they weren't what God wanted, and I probably won't. That's not the point, though. The point of Babel is that God will accomplish what He commands, with or without my consent. I have to be willing to obey, regardless of the consequences it has on my plans.

I also felt convicted as a member of the American Church. We build beautiful huge buildings that sit vacant most of the week. We pour millions of dollars into programs that attract seekers and keep up with the latest technology. We don't invest heavily in the Global Church. We don't focus on obeying the command of Jesus to take the Gospel to all nations. We seem much more interested in building our own individual kingdoms. Is this true universally? No, of course not. But we have tremendous resources, more than enough to see the evangelization of every people group. Yet we don't.

The good news is this: God is actively working to redeem every culture and people that come out of the dispersion at Babel. People from every tribe and nation and tongue will stand and worship before the throne of God. The Lamb will receive the reward of His suffering.

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