“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and he will lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
Genesis 11 and 12 present an interesting contrast. Genesis 11 is the tower of Babel story. In this story the people of the world are starting to disperse from one central area out into the whole earth. As they come to the plain of Shinar they decide to build a tower that is going to reach up into the heavens. Part of their reasoning for building this tower is so that they can make a name for themselves. It must have been an impressive sight because God even comments that with one language nothing will be impossible for them however there are some interesting notes. While the people are trying to build a tower that reaches to the heavens, God, who is in Heaven, has to actually come down in order to see the city and the tower. It sounds as if the tower was still so small that God had to actually come down to know it was there. While it may have been impressive it was nothing compared to God and his greatness. It is also important to remember that part of their reasoning for building the tower was to make a name for themselves, and when God sees the tower and their actions and their intentions, he babels their languages and disperses them throughout the world because they have the wrong motives.
Genesis 12 records the call of Abram. The only thing we know about Abram at this point is that he is the son of Terah and that he had migrated with his father from the land of Ur to the city of Haran. The text does not say how long but it is safe to assume he was in Haran for some amount of time when God calls him to leave his country and his family and his father’s house and to go to the land of Canaan. Once there God promises to bless him and make his name great, and to use him to be a blessing to all other peoples of the earth. Nothing else is relayed about the call of Abram except for three simple words, “So Abram went.” And as the story proceeds we discover that God was faithful to his promises including making Abraham’s name great and using him to be a blessing to the rest of the world.
The contrast may be subtle, but is so poignant. At Babel the people try to make a name for themselves and God destroys their plans and scatters them throughout the whole earth. With Abram, God finds a humble obedient servant who in the big scheme of the world is not very important and doesn’t even have a descendent to carry on his family name and God blesses him and exalts him and makes him great. When people try to make a name for themselves God thwarts their plans and humbles them. But, when someone simply answers God’s call on their lives, expecting nothing, God exalts them to the highest place.
It’s interesting how often we fall into this trap. We have plans, we have dreams, we have goals that we want to accomplish, whether in the new year or in life. Often, these are not bad dreams or bad plans. However, far too often it is for our own glory, or our own honor, or maybe just the simple pride of wanting to be recognized for a job well done. God will often thwart these plans because we can not make a name for ourselves. However, when we humble ourselves and obey God’s call on our lives. When we are willing to say “God, it’s not about me, it’s about you.” When we are fulfilling the role that maybe we don’t want to fulfill but it is the role God has placed before us, he will exult us and lift us up.
I don’t think Abraham had any idea what he was getting into when he accepted God’s call and followed, but God did great things through him. We often don’t know what God has in store when he calls us to a task, but may we humbly follow knowing God will take care of us in the end.