My first year out of college, I got a job working for a musician I had idolized since I was in high school. I was thrilled to become his assistant, but being fresh out of school with little work experience, I often created more work for him than I relieved. After a short season, he firmly but graciously let me go.
I was so proud when I got that job, and so crushed when I lost it.
That was half my life ago. From where I sit today, I thank God for that incredibly difficult season of loss because I can see now that was God’s gracious way of not letting me find my identity in that job. God, in His kindness, thwarted me. Has God ever thwarted you?
The story of the Tower of Babylon, or Babel as it is often called, is the story of people who set out to make a name for themselves by building a tower to heaven. The metaphor is plain: if they could build for themselves a tower to God, they’d have no need of Him. So they got to work.
What did God do? He thwarted them. He took away their common language so they would no longer be able to work together to build their autonomy. And as a result, they put down their tools, walked away, and scattered over the face of the earth.
It is just like God to thwart people who attempt to make a name for themselves apart from Him. But when God scatters His people, it is not for the purpose of leaving us lost. The end of Genesis 11 shows us that God used this dispersal to spin His people forward. As the people scattered, a man named Terah took his family, including his son Abram, from Ur to Haran, where Abram would later hear God’s call to set out for the Promised Land.
Notice the arc of the story here. God scatters people who conspire to obtain autonomy from Him, and then He leads them back to a place where He will be their God and they will be His people. This is the Gospel in a nutshell.
There was a greater, glorious undoing of the scattering of Babel in Acts 2, where, during Pentecost, the people of God came together from every tribe and nation, and understood one another in a common tongue. What united them? Their dependence upon the finished work of Christ.
When God thwarts our attempts to gain independence from Him, it is always a mercy. Where in your life have you seen God thwart you for the sake of saving you from yourself?
Written By Russ Ramsey