Thursday, January 04, 2007

Making a Name for Ourselves

Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scatterd abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:4).

You may remember this story from your early days in Sunday School. I still remember thinking that the point of this story was that these people were trying to build a tower that went into heaven, and that God had to hurry and stop them to keep them from invading. (Just to let you know, the word translated "heavens" is also the word for "sky." They were just building a tower whose top was in the sky.)

Instead of an invasion, these people simply wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted to be "somebodies." They wanted others to marvel at what they had accomplished and to heap glory and honor on them for it. Isn't this the natural tendency of our heart? Isn't this partly why we blog?

The problem with attempting to build a name for ourselves is that it is a malfunction. We were not made to make a name for ourselves. We were made to make much of God. Instead of wishing to have our own egos exalted, we are to labor to exalt the name of Christ. I wonder if we ever do anything completely selflessly for the glory of Christ. I wonder if in every work we do there isn't embedded a seed of sinful pride and vainglory. The root of pride is deep, often subtle, and quite difficult to eradicate.

I used the example of blogging because I find this desire to build a name for myself in my efforts here. I cannot honestly say that I blog for the pure motive of exalting Jesus Christ and for the encouragement of others. Part of me wishes to display my literary genius. (Doesn't everyone with a blog think that they are a genius on any topic that they tackle?) I know that this is true because I feel envy when my work does not match the work of others. And I demonstrate my vanity by ceaselessly checking my site meter for visits. I am not so different from those people at Babel. Are you?

The irony of the story is that God did build a name for one of those early people. He did not honor them for their efforts, but rather for the sake of His promise. That man was Shem. Did you know that Shem's name in Hebrew literally means "Name"? The people of Babel said, "Let us make a "shem" for ourselves." But they failed. God confounded their efforts. Verse ten says, "This is the genealogy of 'Name'." Then it lists Shem's genealogy. Shem was the forefather of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah, the forefather of David, and ultimately, the forefather of the Lord Jesus Christ. Shem inherited the promise of the Messiah, and so he inherited glory based on God's kindness and mercy.

If we wish to be great, the Lord Jesus have given us the formula. We must love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We must love our neighbor as ourselves. We must love one another as Christ loved us. We must humble ourselves like little children, and we must be the slaves of all men. May God build for us a name like He did for Shem and his house, and may we cease our vain and selfish efforts at self-promotion. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7).


Justin Rayburn said...

Major Applewhite quoted 1 Peter 5:6-7 after winning the Holiday Bowl against Washington and the verse has stuck with me ever since. Though the verse is constantly in my mind, it is not always put into practice. Thank you for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Brad, are you on the same reading program I am? I am in Genesis 11 today as well. Uh oh, dueling devotions? Nah, I usually write about Wednesday service, or use previous stuff, but look out for me behind you if you are going to "blog through as you go through", 'cause that seesm like a good idea....I pray for you, hope school is well, and hey, what about the lasik, man, I really want an update...

Sojourner said...


If you are using the Discipleship Journal Book-at-a-Time Plan, then we're on the same one.

As for the LASIK surgery...I can see! I didn't quite get 20/20 in my right eye, but I can still drive without glasses or see well without correction. My friend down the bayou recently got LASIK as well, and he had perfect vision the next day. I highly recommend it.

As for school, it's going great because I'm out for now. I start back in a few weeks. Thanks for your prayers, man!

Lisa said...

Overachiever and approval addict that I am, I must constantly be on guard against comparison that breeds envy and vanity and discontent. Even as I read your "Change in Format" post, I began to wonder if what I do is silly and without purpose; maybe I need a change in format? Self promotion can be a subtle temptation; may we instead be consumed with His name and His renown...