Beauty in Babel: Our Merciful Fatherby Kristi Dalnoky
The Beauty in Babel
Have you ever worked so hard, had such good plans set in motion, or felt that all of your choices were in line with God’s plans for your life…only to have everything crumble at your feet? A door, that you longed to swing open, slam shut just as you’re about to take an eager step across the threshold? You know that you know that you know that your course seems like a good idea, but then suddenly things seem to involuntarily shut down? Have you ever felt like that? Moving full-steam ahead only to be blindsided by a derailment?
As I was listening to a sermon of Pastor Johnny Miller’s back in February, I recall him talking about humility (as in being humble), and I felt as though the Lord began to unfold a tender, beautiful truth, which led me to the story of Babel in the eleventh chapter of Genesis. I know. Seems strange, right? Babel – beautiful? Absolutely, and here’s why…
It tells the story of a merciful father.
God interrupted the building of the tower of Babel before it’s completion, and therein lies the mercy. He didn’t wait for his people to fully exert themselves in vain. He came down, saw that their end goal was not meant to be and destroyed their efforts before it was too late. I noticed that, although he could have very easily, he didn’t destroy the tower, but rather, caused confusion and division, so that their attention would be turned elsewhere.
I have read the story of Babel many times, and each time, I saw the same thing – a haughty, disobedient, and prideful group of people that God had punished for their selfish and conceited ways, but when I read the account this time, it was as if the Lord had given me fresh eyes to see a whole new side to the story. As I carefully read verses 3 through 6, I saw many things that, as a church body, would seem pleasing…
3 They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” 5 The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have [d]the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be [e]impossible for them.
Unity of the people… Vision… Teamwork… Big, bold dreams and plans… Even God himself admitted that nothing they proposed to do would be impossible for them now. Nothing. When God says it, it must be true. These people could do anything they set their minds to and succeed… It was seemingly the perfect scenario.
The Mind of A Man
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
So often, I think I know best. The way seems good enough, and in my impatience, I go after things that I know are not meant to be. I want big things right now. I want to see dreams fulfilled this year. I don’t like having to wait and put in the work without feeling in control and in charge of my life. That’s difficult, isn’t it? To let go… To trust that God knows better and has a different blueprint prepared for us, especially when things are going so smoothly. Don’t mistake ease for his best. Sometimes, your promise is fulfilled on the other side of a desert…in the wake of a storm…following a trusting sacrifice. Even if our own plans and processes seem perfect, he assures us in Isaiah that his are higher and better, and consequently, more lasting.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
It is in his mercy, as our Father, that he would redirect the energies, efforts, and resources of his children well before they have been squandered or exhausted. Are you feeling confused? Exhausted? Maybe this is a good time to take a breather, refocus, and re-calibrate?
A Different Kind of Plan
As I was thinking more on this subject and asking the Lord to clarify the point he was making to me, I was reminded of a different kind of building – Solomon and the temple. I reread the accounts of the temple in 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles and sat in total awe of the details and care that unfolded in those chapters. Our Father is a god of details. Even down to the length and weight of a cherubim’s wing…down to the directive that each stone was to be perfected at the quarry and no tool was to be heard at the site of the building…he had thought of it all. He gave us such a detailed account, that nothing needed to be second-guessed. No one had to “wing-it.” He was prepared, he was intentional, and he was faithful in providing everything that was needed for the job to be done well and according to his plans. And it took seven years. (I smiled there.) Seven years is a looong time to wait for the fulfillment of a promise, especially when you know that you have what you need and are certain that it’s God’s plan in the first place. There are no time limits constraining the perfect plans of God.
God Knows the Heart
I compared the two stories, and saw the similarities…the unity of the people (all of the precious treasures given towards the adornment of temple were gifts from the people, who gave willingly and wholeheartedly), the vision, the teamwork, the grand plan… To an outsider, much of the process itself may look the same. So what was different? One was man’s idea, the other, the Lord’s. One was dedicated to making a name for man, the other, to establish praise unto God. One was born of the flesh, the other, the spirit…
Where are your good plans born?
I can say that I have many good plans. The Lord has blessed me with a creative mind and entrepreneurial drive that never seem to rest, but I know when I am pursuing a plan that is not his. Furthermore, I know, and feel, that tug in my spirit when I take a plan that he has planted and hijack it with my hasty agenda. I don’t want to wait the seven years. Sometimes, I don’t want to even wait seven hours. We must remember, though, that if the Lord has called us to complete something, he will also direct us with his spirit to see it through. Sometimes, he says, “Go.” Sometimes, he says “Wait.” And sometimes, he tenderly says, “Stop.”
A City on a Hill
In the story of Babel, the people desired to “make a name” for themselves. I found myself thinking of that – the desire to be seen, to be known, to let your light shine. When you have gifts and talents and amazing ideas, it can be tempting to seek praise and recognition. When you are co-laboring with the Lord, you don’t need to make a name for yourself – you already bear his name, and it is higher than any name. You already shine before men. You radiate the beauty of Christ, he affirms us in Matthew chapter 5 that we are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (v.14). I don’t think it was the Lord wanting to keep the builders of Babel lowly, unknown. It wasn’t about not wanting them to reach the heavens or to be seen by all men from miles away. His desire is for his children to shine.
Don’t Be Distracted by Destiny
Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain