Are You Building Your Own Tower of Babel?


Welcome to story time! Have you ever heard of Gilgamesh and Huwawa? This story was written in Sumerian roughly 4,000 years ago and it tells the story of Gilgamesh’s search for fame. He is confronted with the fact that he is mortal and will one day die. He reasons that if he can figure out a way to establish a name for himself, then he will have achieved a sort of immortality.

When Enough isn’t Enough

The irony here is that Gilgamesh is already a man of renown. He is the king of his people; they love him and view him as their shepherd. He single-handedly built the city defenses to protect them from their enemies. In short, he’s got it all.

But it’s not enough. Gilgamesh strains his neck over the city wall—that he built—and laments that his past accomplishments are not enough. He wants to live a life of meaning and significance; he needs a new adventure to secure his spot in history. He will travel to the east to defeat the mighty monster Huwawa. Before embarking on his journey, Gilgamesh seeks out and receives the blessing of the sun god.

You May Have Heard This Story Before

There’s a similar story in the Bible. In Genesis 11 we read about a group of people who, just like Gilgamesh, wanted to make a name for themselves. They sensed their mortality, so they chose to build a tower that would reach into the heavens.

The big difference between these two stories is that God responds negatively to the undertaking. Why? Why did the sun god bless Gilgamesh in his search for fame but God thwarts the people in Genesis? Because God refuses to be manipulated.

You see the people weren’t building just any tower. They were building a ziggurat, a tower to serve as the home for a deity. They figured that if they could build God a home then they could contain him and manipulate him. After all, if they build a nice home for God, shouldn’t God bless them in return?

Stop Trying to Impress God So He’ll Act

Maybe we don’t build towers to house God anymore, but we do sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if we perform—go to church, give to missionaries, read the Bible, serve in the youth group—then God is somehow obligated to bless us. And he might. He might choose to bless us, but he’s not obligated. In fact, sometimes the ‘reward’ for our faithfulness is suffering. Remember Job? Job’s very righteousness and obedience qualified him for his suffering. And Job was faithful even through his suffering. He had questions and appropriate emotions, but he was faithful to a God he knew would pull through. What about you? Do you have what it takes? Will you serve God, knowing that you may earn yourself some distress as a result of your obedience? I can promise you this: God’s blessings for you will far surpass your wildest dreams, if you’re willing to participate in the entire journey.

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