The local church I serve at recently started a new Sunday School “cycle.” This cycle is a three-year curriculum which will take all the Sunday School classes (from 3 year-olds to adults) through the whole Bible. Three years sounds like a long time, but really that is only about 150 classes, give or take a few per holidays or extreme Minnesotan weather.
So, having just started this new cycle the church is naturally in the book of Genesis. We have made it through 7 lessons and by the time we close Genesis out there will have been 16 lessons taught from it! My wife and I have the privilege of teaching these lessons! My wife teaches the 3rd to 6th graders, while I co-teach the teens (7th to 12th graders usually). I have found this experience so far to be edifying! I teach with one of the elders on a rotating schedule of 2 weeks at a time. The past two weeks I was able to teach the teens the second half of the Flood account and the Tower of Babel account. I look forward to resting a little while my compatriot heads up the next two weeks!
Meanwhile, my wife teaches every Sunday. As she teaches a younger group of kids than I do she always has some interesting stories from her students. This week takes the cake, I think.
Yesterday, the lesson from Genesis was from Genesis 11:1–9, the Tower of Babel. I thought the teen class went fairly well. I was looking forward to teaching this passage and was well prepared. If you are familiar with the story you should note that verse 4, “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth,’” is the key verse to this section. Overall, there are four things that mankind aims to do in this passage and it is all found in verse 4 (I found this from a John Piper sermon):
1. They aim to build a city.
2. They aim to build a tower that reaches to the heavens.
3. They aim to make a name for themselves.
4. They aim not to be dispersed over the whole earth.
Numbers 3 and 4 are really the key points. They are just the outward expressions of numbers 1 and 2. They build a city so as not to be dispersed over the whole earth and they build a tower to make a name for themselves.
By the end of the story, we know that the LORD saw this as sin and he responded to it. As creatures made in the image of God, mankind was and is not made to make a name for themselves. Rather, mankind is the visible representatives of the invisible God and are to make His name great. Secondly, God gave mankind a commission, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the whole earth and subdue it.” What do we see the people at Babel doing? Desiring to make a name for themselves and not the One they were created to make a name for. Desiring to stay in one play lest they be dispersed and in so doing they reject God’s word. Man wants their own glory and believes the lie of the Serpent, “You will be like God.” Yet, God will not share his glory with another we read later in the Old Testament. God created us to worship him, honor him, and glorify him, not to steal the glory due to his name.
Anyways, back to my wife’s silly story. Apparently, as my wife was teaching her class about the tower the people made which was to reach into the heavens, a young girl made a hilarious comment. “They tried to build a tower to Heaven, but really they were building a tower to Hell!” What a profound statement by this girl! It may sound silly, but really when you think about it that is what these people were doing. They aimed to build a great city for themselves and they aimed to build a tower to Heaven for the sake of their own name. God was out, they were in.
We do the same things today. So often our plans exclude God. So often our thoughts, words, and actions reveal that we desire to make a name for ourselves rather than make a name for the Lord. So often we disobey God’s Word for the sake of our own achievements.
These things ought not to be so! When Christ gave his great commission to his followers, what was he doing? Essentially, what we learn is that his followers, known as Christians, are supposed to be like Christ. Christians are supposed to be conforming to the image of Christ. Then, as Christ’s image bearers, Christians are to be making disciples for Christ! Really, all a Christian is commanded from the Great Commission echoes what was said in the Garden, what was said to Noah after the flood, and what God desired the people at Babel to do. Make a name for God since you are made in his image. Obey his word by being fruitful and multiplying. Christian, make a name for Christ. Obey his words, make disciples, teach them to obey his words, and be fruitful and multiply!