[Day 5 is finally here. It always creeps up on you quicker than you expect. The first day is all fun, settling in, and getting to know people over lunch, dinner, and late-night Maccas. By day 5 you feel like you’ve run a marathon. Prayerfully we’re exhausted, but also excited by what we’ve learned, how we’ve been equipped, and renewed to serve in our churches in the year to come.]
Day 5 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: What’s In A Name [Genesis 11]
What’s in a name?
The self-help industry is massive. Derek googled and stumbled upon a way for people to love you:
- follow your bliss
- lead with your heart
- look the part
- score facetime
- celebrate yourself
- get your swagger on
- tell your greatest story
- amplify your voice – make sure your website, linked-in, social media reflect your authentic voice and mastery of your area of business – write blogs, curate your voice, retweet people and no doubt you’ll grow your influence.
What happens when every single person is about building a name for themselves? When you get 1000 people together in community all about themselves? What if my way of building myself up is about tearing you down?
People want to be loved and admired, to leave a mark – as opposed to what the world put forward in building your own name the Bible says there is a better, more significant, more eternal way you can get a name for yourself.
In Genesis 11 you have a narrative sandwiched between two genealogies (records of families). Since the Garden of Eden you’ll notice that mankind has been heading steadily eastward – away from the Garden, away from God. And their movement now stops – and they settle in around the area probably of Babylon. What will happen?
Brilliance & Rebellion (v.1-4)
Genesis 11 probably happened before chapter 10 – in chapter 10 we read of other languages and spreading out, here in Genesis 11 we have the precursor to that (a chiastic structure).
11:1-4 – their plan. They combine their brilliance and creativity, and technological advancement to do three things:
- v3 – Build with bricks and bitumen – there is some advancement in technology – society harnessing creation working together for a cause. Which at first appears to be good.
- v4 – they use the technological advancement to build a city – and in the heart of the city is this massive landmark. They build a tower (perhaps a ziggurat) – but it’s a landmark with a twist. The function of ziggurats at the time was to provide access for the gods to come down or provide access for man to go up to heaven.
- And notice the ‘let us build’ – which echoes God’s creation ‘let us make’ – just as God created, so shall we. But what are they building? ‘A name for ourselves’ – they are building a tower, but their real target is to build a name for themselves. This tower is for them to ascend to heaven and take their rightful place. This tower is about their glory.And when you think about it, this is how our society operates. We do all that we do not for the glory of God, but for the glory of man. We land on the moon for the glory of man. We invent the quantum computer for the glory of my bank account. We legislate the NDIS for the glory of our government. Does society ever do anything for the glory of God – it is ever committed to him?
And yet – even in church – how much of our conversations are about building a name for God, or for building a name for ourselves? Have we mapped out our own lives in the steps that we want to take to achieve our career or life? This is our default setting… and we’re not good at asking questions of each other to penetrate this thinking. What would it look like to sit down after this conference to map out our lives – the next month, year, decade… etc – based solely on the question of how to grow the name of God in my life. This is a map which would have eternal consequences.
Judgement & Mercy (v.5-9)
So what does God do with this name building people? v5 – God comes down. What an irony. Mankind is so busy building their way up, so impressed with themselves at the scale of their construction – and God has to come down, squinting at this little building project. And what he sees doesn’t impress him in any way.
But what he sees does concern him in v6. But he’s not concerned about competition – as though they really will come up to heaven. What he’s concerned about is where this is all heading – it’s not like they are going to finish it and look upon it humbly, realise it wasn’t fulfilling, and then turn back to God. That there is the problem – this is God’s concern. As one people they have crossed a threshold – they have set up a society in direct opposition to God. They have removed the good and proper boundaries that God has put in place for mankind. And now that God is out of the picture, and without external restraint for what they should do, their creativity and ingenuity has led them into places where they should not go. Where life is destroyed and not nurtured.
And that’s what we see in our world today as well. We have pills over the counter to abort unwanted pregnancies. We have developed nuclear technology to cure cancer… and use that same tech to build weapons capable of wiping out cities. We build a server to provide heaps of information at our fingertips… and we adapt it to upload photos and videos for our sexual gratification.
God is not threatened by all this. He is grieved by it.
So in v7 he comes down to judge – by confusing and dividing people. The word ‘Babel’ is a wordplay with ‘Babylon’ which also sounds like the word for ‘confusion’. Throughout the Bible Babylon is set in opposition to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the City of God, Babylon is set in opposition to God, the city of Satan. That’s why it appears so much in the book of Revelation as the picture of human rebellion against God.
And then he scatters them.
As this story closes, and as we walk through the next genealogy, it appears that humanity is just lost.
But then… in Genesis 12, we open up with some extraordinary promises and work of God. The promises to Abraham, which are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus – the reversal of this terrible moment in Genesis 11 takes place.
Then in Acts 2 we read:
 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,  both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (ESV)
Note those final words – many tongues are heard. Sounds like babel. Those people who were scattered at Babel are now gathered here, hearing together the news of Jesus Christ. They hear about God’s new king and kingdom – and how God is gathering his people back – and how sin is going to be done away with in the future, and how people can come into this kingdom by faith (not works).
And then finally we see the final place where God is taking this world:
 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (ESV)
 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (ESV)
Here is the new place where God and his people will live. No longer will they try to claw their way up to heaven. No more pain in Genesis 3, it is done away with. The pain of life – gone. Death, gone. Grief, crying, pain, has no place in this new creation – they are things of the old creation.
 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (ESV)
The city is beautiful, the leaves of the tree for healing – and notice the name written on God’s people: God’s name.
Reflections for us…
So whose future are you going to build? Whose name are we going to bear, and going to proclaim?
This past week we’ve heard from people who are going to Japan to preach the gospel – learn the language, learn the culture, uproot themselves. We’ve heard from people going to university ministry so that students on campus can hear the gospel. Why? Because they believe that there is no other name than Jesus by which people must be saved.
There’s been a shift in thinking in the past decade regarding the work. We’ve shifted away from the idea of vocational gospel work to now just vocational work as redemptive. The pendulum swing has been helpful in some ways but unhelpful in other ways. But we must remember the uniqueness of gospel ministry – it is still special, and only the gospel redeems.
And even if we’re not great at teaching or discipling others – we are a part of a body where we can do it together. We partner financially with each other to pursue the work of the gospel. We take the skills we employ in the workplace and we don’t give second best to the church. We use the skills we use at work and work out how we can use them for the glory of the gospel.
When we think about the common denominator for the heroes of our faith is rarely brilliance. God doesn’t move people from darkness to light through brilliance. The common denominator is the gospel. It’s that which God takes to renew hearts.
So will this be our future? Will it be the Name that we glorify?
[What an end! A big call to give our lives over to gospel ministry, in whatever capacity, in community together, because Jesus has reversed the curse of Genesis 11. Stunning.
Well that’s it folks. Strand groups are left and we’re done with Ignite for another year. Heaps of great conversations. Lots of great books sold. Lots of encouragement and prayer through the week. Keep praying that the effects of this week will last a lifetime in joyful service of God’s kingdom.]