Are you building a tower of Babel?

"Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.' They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, '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 scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:1-4).

But the Lord confused their language and scattered them over all the earth, and they stopped building the city (Genesis 11:7-9). Babel means confusion. In the rest of the Bible, Babel (also called Babylon) symbolizes rebellion against God.

Notice how arrogant and self-centered the people of Babel were: "Come, let US build OURSELVES a city," ... "let US make a name for OURSELVES." They were building for their own glory, rather than for the glory of God.

What about us? Are we building for our own glory, or for the glory of God? Are we building a tower of Babel or the temple of God?

"Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

The people of Babel had big plans, but God was not included. We must avoid such arrogance: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil" (James 4:13-16).

Rather than building a tower in Babel, the temporal city of confusion, we ought to build the eternal temple of God. Rather than being arrogant and self-centered, we ought to be humble and God-centered.

Jesus said: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26).

Followers of Jesus do not strive to "make a name" for themselves. They do not build a monument to their own glory. They build a temple for the glory of God.

What is this temple?

A temple is a place where some deity is presumed to dwell. The one true God does not dwell in a building of stone. When Solomon built the temple at Jerusalem, he understood this: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27). "For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite'" (Isaiah 57:15 RSV).

God dwells in His people. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). We are God's temple, individually and collectively as the church of Christ.

To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote: "For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).

Christ is the foundation, the cornerstone of God's temple. On the basis of His teaching, recorded in Scripture by the apostles and prophets, we are built into a dwelling-place for God: "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habituation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Our first task in building the temple of God is to build ourselves up spiritually. "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6,7). "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 1:20,21).

The temple of God consists of living stones built on Christ: "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.' They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:4-12).

Rather than building a tower of Babel to our own glory, let us be living stones in the temple of God.

Roy Davison

Unless indicated otherwise, the Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive