Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves… This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the earth.”   – Genesis 11:4 NTV

Experts give us the basic formula for success:

  1. An ambitious goal
  2. A well-conceived plan
  3. Hard work

The builders of Babel set an ambitious goal: “Come let’s build a great city for ourselves” (v. 4). They had perfected their plan: “let’s make bricks and harden them with fire” (v. 3). And they worked diligently to follow through with their plan. According to the experts, they should have succeeded. Instead, despite their ambition, plans and hard work, they failed miserably. Why? Read the passage from the perspective of our missional God.

First, they left God out of their plans. Read the verses again and observe that God is never mentioned. Second, their motives were selfish. They thought only of themselves. “Let us build … for ourselves … this will make us famous and keep us …” Third, they disobeyed the will of God. He said, “Fill the earth.” With their actions, the builders answered, “We will not.” Even with God’s command to spread out sounding in their ears, the people decided to defy God. They started to build a city that would serve as a rallying center for all humanity: This will keep us from being scattered all over the earth. God intervened and put an end to this selfish plan.

For the builders of Babel, the world’s formula for success became a formula for failure. God is continually at work to fulfill his eternal mission. Human ingenuity and impertinence can never substitute for God and his good and perfect will.

Sovereign God, I acknowledge that you have a good and perfect will. I want to align my life with your will. Grant me the grace to choose to obey you.

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