The Tower of Babel
Genesis chapter 11. For those of you that have been a part of our new series together, we’re on the kingdom come, what the picture is of, really, the totality of Scripture. It’s all about God’s kingdom, creating His kingdom for us to enjoy His presence for all of eternity. We’re showing the theme of the Bible all together. And if you would like to understand the theme of Scripture, honestly what I would encourage you to do is consider buying this book. It’s called The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is a great Bible to take your kids through, if you got elementary-age children. This is a great book if you’re an adult and you’re going through the Bible for the first time, you’re like… Maybe you’ve been a Christian for years, and you’re like, “I still don’t have a grasp of Scripture.” The Jesus Storybook Bible, I’m telling you, is a beautiful place to grab an understanding of God’s Word.
In fact, if you own this, you would know that so far, we’ve followed the story in The Jesus Storybook Bible together to see the themes of Scripture. And so you think, you look at it and you think, “How silly that this church would be going through stories of a kids’ Bible book.” And it just reminds me, really, of a quote I once heard Charles Ryrie say. He said, “If you can’t teach what God’s Word says to children, truth is, you don’t really know it yourself.” Like, if you can’t understand these concepts of Scripture to explain it to a child, you haven’t really wrestled with the concepts of Scripture enough to understand it in your own life.
And so, I don’t pull out The Jesus Storybook Bible really to say that we need to dumb down God’s truth. I really pull it out to say, when you’re teaching God’s Word to your children, being able to explain these stories to them, it’s important for you to understand the themes of Scripture, and so this is what we’re looking at together.
And all of God’s Scripture is really about God’s kingdom. When you start in Genesis, we saw that with God’s Creation, He created all things for His purpose, rests on the seventh day with His Creation so Creation can enjoy His presence for all of eternity. And what happens is man rebels, and what the rest of the Bible explains to us is God’s pursuit for your soul. God promises in Genesis 3:15 a redeemer to restore all things, who is Jesus, and He pursues us by giving His life to us, and when you get to the end of Revelation, you see that God restores all things.
And in Genesis chapter 11, we’re going to see a piece of that story fitting together. If you remember the theme of Genesis, Genesis is written to a group of Hebrew slaves. Imagine Moses is writing this book, having led Israel out of the exodus in Egypt. They are slaves. He’s writing this to slaves whose parents were slaves, whose children are slaves, and they’re finding their identity in God. You think your whole life, the trauma that you would experience having gone through slavery is being taught you’re less than anyone else around you. And now God is shaping them an identity and purpose and worth and value and meaning in life.
And then he gets to this weird story of the Tower of Babel. What in the world does Babel have anything to do with you, and what does Babel have anything to do with Israel, right? Well, I think what God is doing is He’s taking the story of Babel, and He’s comparing and contrasting this idea of Babel to this new people group of Israel, which God is going to bring His Messiah through. And He’s really answering or asking this question: What kind of people do you want to be? Every generation lives out that answer, right? Every people group. What kind of people do you want to be? In Israel right now, God is doing something new, and He’s using the illustration of Babylon to sort of ask them that question: What kind of people do you want to be?
I think it’s an important question for us to pose as we look at this text of Scripture, because when we read the Bible, sometimes we can become intellectual in the understanding of Scripture, but I think God wants more than you to just simply understand the story, but to apply it to your life, to not be educated beyond your obedience, right? What kind of people do you want to be?
And so, in Genesis chapter 11, I got to turn around and face this this morning because I don’t have a prompter, but Genesis 11, verse 1, it says, “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about ask they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.'” Let me say this real quick as I continue in this passage of Scripture. If you remember where we left off last week, it was the Noahic flood, right? From the Noahic flood, then it’s beginning to explain to us how the people of the earth came together in one location.
Now, if you read through Scripture, if you go through the chapters of Genesis, you’ll see Genesis chapter 9’s really where the flood ends, and God explains to the people what He wants them to do from here. Genesis chapter 10, it starts to share with us all of the people groups throughout the world, and then in Genesis chapter 11, it’s kind of weird, because it goes back to one people group. So, I would tell you this, as you read through the Bible, you get to Genesis chapter 11, I think it’s important to see Genesis 11 as a parenthetical story or narrative that fits into the context of Genesis chapter 10, meaning it’s not chronological from 9, 10, and 11. Because 10 shows us the people groups spread throughout the world, and then all of a sudden, chapter 11, it comes back to one people group again.
But chapter 11, rather, is the beginning of understanding how chapter 10 creates all of these people groups. You can remember, if you’re a Hebrew slave, you’d be asking the question, “God, if you created all people under you, Adam and Eve, from the beginning, and then we even have a Noahic flood, and it comes down to eight people again, how did we get all of these nations?” And God’s really explaining that to them in Genesis 10 and 11.
And so, they settle in this land, in Shinar. “They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks,'” in verse 3, “‘and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used bricks for stone, and they used tar for mortar, and 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.'”
At first glance of this story, you might ask yourself, “Well, what’s wrong with this?” Right? All these people are just settling in this nice area they’ve found, their little paradise, and they’re building a nice little place, and they want to make a name for themselves. What God is illustrating for us is that they’re making a name for themselves apart from Him. In verse 2, when they began this journey to the land of Shinar, it tells us that they travel east. Something interesting, when you read the Old Testament, almost every time it says someone is traveling east, what it’s identifying for us is not that they’re simply traveling east, but what they’re doing, rather, is leaving the presence of God. Any time anyone travels east in the Old Testament, it was never for a godly purpose. And so, what it’s saying to us is it’s beginning to identify for Israel, for us, that when you leave God’s presence, you’re leaving God’s blessing.
And as they’re beginning to leave God’s presence, it says that they want to build a great building and to make their name great. Now, what’s wrong with that? Well, in Genesis chapter 9, verse 1, after the flood, this is what God said to them. He said, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'” God’s desire for mankind in Genesis chapter 1 is repeated again, in Genesis 1, verse 26-27, repeated again in Genesis 9:1 as God hit the reset button through the Noahic flood, and God says the same thing to them. “The reason I created you is in response to your relationship with God, that you would then be a conduit to His blessing in this world.” God created everything for His glory, and being made in the image of God as we come to worship Him, Creator God, we ourselves are creative. And in that creativity, as God in His love has created us to bless us through the relationship with Him, so He created us to reflect that and bless others through our relationship to God.
And so, in Genesis chapter 9, God says, “Look, this world created for His glory, be a conduit of His glory to this world and make the glory of God made known by how, in your authority as you rule with God, you serve to bless the world around you.” But instead, what do they do? They live for their glory, and they build a building for their great name. Verse 4 said to us, “Rather than living for God’s glory, let’s make a name for ourselves, our greatness.”
Name has relevance in Scripture. They don’t want God’s name, because they don’t want God’s authority. Rather, they want their name. You think in terms of the New Testament, this idea, this title of Christian. The word Christian’s really only used three times in the New Testament. I think the more Biblical term’s probably disciple. But Christian has this identity, and the identity in that name is us under a particular authority, and that authority is Christ, because our life is to be lived for His glory. That’s why we take that name. Name has relevance.
And in this passage of Scripture, what you find is they want their own name, meaning it’s not about God’s glory, but about self-glory. And what God wants us to recognize, and what God is really saying in this passage of Scripture, He’s saying, “You want to live in my world and use my resources for your name?” They’re building this city for their glory, to rule their own lives and think they are great.
Any time we as people see ourselves as a source of greatness, and we worship ourselves in order to elevate ourselves for that greatness, what inevitably ends up happening is we rob others. I mean, you think, in Genesis chapter 5, when it talks about the fruit of the Spirit, it also talks about the lust of the flesh, and every term that’s listed in lust of the flesh, whether covetousness, or greed, or lust, or anger, or pride, or idolatry, it’s about making your name great. And what happens when you make your name great, you pillage and rape and harm the earth in order to make your name great, because life is about you, you use the tools of life around you for your greatness, and you diminish the glory of other things around you in order to make your name great.
And here’s the crazy part. When they build these towers in verse 4, some translations will identify exactly what these towers are, and in this time period, there were ziggurats, the religious towers, towers that would build staircases to heaven. And so, they’re living for their own glory by really creating religion to demonstrate how great they are. They’re telling heaven to reorder itself based on their authority. They’re doting their superiority. They’re making their religion about their performance, and rather than listening to what God has to say, they’re telling God what they expect Him to do, and they’re using this religious superiority to dominate over the rest of the world.
Can I just tell you, when it comes to religion, Hebrews chapter 4, verse 16 reminds us as believers, you don’t need religion, but rather, you can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence because of Jesus. It’s not because of man’s performance, but it’s because of what Christ has done. What kind of people do you want to be? Your glory, God’s glory. When you live for your glory, truth is, it’s not a blessing to life around you, because you take from others in order to elevate yourself. But when you live for God’s glory, it is a blessing to the people around you, because you use the gifts that God has given you to help others become who God has called them to be. What kind of people do you want to be?
I think God uses this story, He doesn’t just pull some random historical story just to share this because this is how life went. He wants Israel to identify who they are in light of who God is, and He uses throughout Genesis both positive and negative examples. By the way, in chapter 11, you’ll see juxtaposed to this chapter 12. I think these two chapters, chapter 11 and 12 in Genesis, need to go together, because God’s going to position a different identity for us in chapter 12 in order to live out the way that He’s called us to. But in verse 5, He then helps us think through inevitably what comes through us living for our glory. He says something interesting in verse 5, He says, “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.”
Now, this is a play on words in the Hebrew, but what’s being explained here is, in the first four verses, man’s building this tower, and they’re saying, “Look, we’re going to make our name great. Aren’t we great? Look how great this tower is. All the way up to the heavens we’ll go. We’ll reorder the heavens, and we’ll tell the heavens what to do because of us. I mean, who does God think He is? How in the world did God make it before us? Good thing God made us. I don’t know how He survived until I walked this earth.” I mean, that’s the kind of thing that they’re communicating to God by doing everything according to their purposes, for their great name.
And then in verse 5, this is what it says to us. God had to come down. And when it’s explaining this to us, it’s not just just saying, “And then God came down.” What it’s saying to us is God had to come way down. Here’s man thinking they’re so great, and God’s in heaven like, “Oh my Word, let me… Let’s go all the way down there to remind these people once again where their greatness even comes from.” Right? And so God comes all the way down to show God, but really, He’s communicating to us, all the way from Genesis, what makes Christianity so beautiful. It’s not about us reaching up to God. It’s about God reaching down to us.
And in verse 6, He goes on further and explains this. Now, He says, “The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel,” which means confusion, “because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Here’s what God’s saying. He’s saying, “What is it you’re building that you think God can’t stop? What is it you’re building apart from God that you think God can’t stop?” You look at this passage, and what does God do? He scatters. God’s original command, Genesis 9, verse 1 was to scatter. Man tells God to take a hike; God comes down and He scatters. And what He’s saying to us is God will do it with you or without you, but God is going to do it. What are you building that you think God can’t stop?
Listened to a theologian this week, he was talking about what it’s going to be like to see God face to face, how in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, there they were bare, all things exposed. And one day, we’re going to meet God face to face, and there we will be bare, all things exposed. And then he said this: “And we’re going to be surprised what we find out.” Things hidden, revealed. What are you building that you think God can’t stop? Whether it happen now or when you meet God face to face, it will. It will stop. And what are you building apart from God that will ever endure? God created us to make a difference, to reflect His glory in a way that would endure through all of eternity. What are we building apart from God that will ever endure?
It tells us in this story what God creates as this confusion, and you find within the context of this story multiple languages, which creates people groups. I think it’s important to recognize, when the Bible talks about different people groups in the world, the Bible honestly only ever mentions one race, and it’s the human race. But it talks about multiple ethnicities, and Genesis gives us that picture of where different people groups come from, and God creates this confusion in language. And by the way, I think even before this happened that there were different people groups predating Noah’s flood, but you see this developing through language.
Here’s the question when we consider in this moment what God’s doing. Theologically, we could ask ourselves, was God confusing this language, was this act of God, was it an act of judgment, or was it an act of mercy? God comes down, and he confuses His people, who had built this entire structure. And honestly, you think about what’s happening here, this structure just goes to waste. All of that work, all of that effort. And when God comes down, and He confuses the people, is what God… What He’s doing, is this judgment, or is it mercy?
The truth is, it’s both. It’s really a little bit of judgment with a lot of mercy. Little bit of judgment when God brings down, and I would say this: Any judgment that God brings to us before we meet Him face to face is always an act of mercy, because God’s intentions behind this judgment isn’t to destroy the people of Babel, but to give them opportunity to recognize, “What am I doing?” Sometimes we struggle with this as people, where I can’t say that everything that happens to us is God’s judgment on you, right? But sometimes, when things aren’t working the way that we want to, we’re thinking, “God, why are you holding me from this thing that looks so good?” The answer is because on the back end, He has something that’s far better.
The people at the time, this Tower of Babel, when they see this happening, you can think how frustrated they would be. “All this labor, all this sacrifice, all this effort. God, what are you doing? Do you not see how great this building is? We can change, we can fix, we can do whatever.” God brings His judgment. Why? Because God wants to pour out His mercy. What God has for them is so much better than just the temporal things of this world. He’s teaching them that we can’t get anywhere independent of God, and to think so is to fool ourselves, no matter how great of a structure we make.
What God says in this passage is, “Look, there’s no stop to man. They’re separating themselves from me, and they’re living for their glory, and they’re making life about them. And the reality is, no matter how much they fool themselves, you can’t get anywhere apart from me.” Because He is life itself. God is life. To separate yourself from Him is to separate yourself from life, and what will that ultimately lead to? No matter how great mankind thinks there is, there is one thing we will never conquer, and that is death. Only one can.
You think about the idea of Babel and culture today. When culture separates itself from God, how does it orchestrate itself? Well, it defines right from wrong, and inevitably, might makes right. Whoever shouts the loudest, the longest, they get to win the argument at the end of the day, right? And then they get to determine the trajectory of humanity. God’s saying this should not be so.
Now, you look at this story and you say, “Okay, so God is identifying for Israel, ‘Look, you want to live for my glory. What kind of people do you want to be?'” And you say to yourself, “Okay, I don’t want my life to be wasted. I want my life to count. How can my life count? Do you know who I am? Do you know where I’ve been? Do you know, I’m…” Every excuse in the world you give. “I’m too old, I’m too broke, I don’t have talent, I don’t have giftedness.”
Well, the story then transitions for us in Genesis chapter 12, and I think God wants us to contrast here Genesis 11, man living in his strength for his glory, inevitably what that would lead to, to the story we now find in Genesis chapter 12. And I only want to look at the first few verses here. If you want to live for God’s glory rather than your glory, how can you do it? Feel like too much of life has passed you by? Maybe you don’t have the resources, or maybe you don’t have the talent you feel like would be necessary.
Genesis chapter 12, this passage of Scripture, I should tell you, is a very significant passage of Scripture. It’s maybe even one of the most, if not the most important sections of the Bible, because this thought in Genesis 12 colors the way the New Testament communicates truth to us. The New Testament builds its foundation on the statement of this verse. If you read the book of Genesis, what you’re going to find is, first 11 chapters, God goes through human history very quickly, and all of a sudden, He comes to Abraham, and the last 2000 years of Scripture are contained from Genesis chapter 12 to the time of Jesus. Abraham comes in the 1800s, I should say, 1800s BC. And God really slows down the timeline from Genesis chapter 12 on, because of this verse. This verse becomes the place to color the rest of Scripture.
And this is what He says. He says, “Now the Lord said to Abram,” who becomes Abraham a little later, “‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your house.'” Remember, they come to Babel, they’re all together. God says, “Scatter.” The only one that listens willingly, Abraham. He said, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all of the families of the earth will be blessed.”
“So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” By the way, geographically, this is modern-day Iraq. Babel’s in Babylon, modern-day Iraq. Abraham is from Ur, land of the Chaldeans, modern-day Iraq, the cradle of civilization. Look at this Bible verse. This passage is important because what God is doing in this section of Scripture, Genesis chapter 12, is ultimately He’s showing us where God’s hand is going to be working to bring about the Messiah, to bring about Jesus, to reveal His redemption in this world. God’s pursuing us with His life.
This is why why the Bible slows down in chapter 12. It’s showing us where the promise of Genesis 3’s coming from, that the Messiah would come, He would crush the head of the serpent from the seed of the woman, and He would be a blessing to the world. And it’s coming through the blessing of Abraham, through him, through one seed, through one child, there would become one that would bless all people groups, all nations. So this passage reveals to us the place from which Jesus would come. Two, it shows us that God cares for all people groups. God’s heart is for the nations. Three, it shows us when someone gives their life to Him, everyone else is better off for it. Abraham listens to God, and through him, the world is blessed. Not because of your name, but because of His name.
Well, just think about this for a minute. You ask, “How can I bless the world? How can God use me to bless the world?” And you consider verse 4, what God says. Out of all the people God could pick, He picks Abraham. Why Abraham? Abraham’s 75 years old. What do you want to do at 75 years old? What’s your 20-year plan? God picks Abraham. Why? And not only does He pick Abraham, He tells Abraham that through him would come one that would bless the world. Abraham’s sterile. Why would God pick a 75-year-old sterile man to change the world?
Because I think it’s an illustration about His great name. It’s not about what you can do, it’s about what He can do through a heart that’s surrendered to Him. Do you see that? What excuse do you want to throw at God? “God, I’m too old. God, I’m not capable. God, I’m not the talented one.” I mean, Moses tried that, right? “God, I’m not the one with the elegant speech.” Why would God pick Abraham out of everybody? To make that point to us, right?
You think about changing the whole world. I’m not going to change the whole world. I mean, look what Abraham did. Abraham, what did he have? He had one kid, one kid. What did it do? Bless the world. It’s not about your power, it’s not about your greatness. It’s about God’s. 75, why would you pack up and go? Why would he give his life to something for which he personally would face more earthly discomfort than earthly benefit? I mean, why didn’t he just say to God, “God, I got a nephew who’s half my age, go with him”? Right? Why would Abraham do that?
Hebrews 11 tells us, He says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.” Abraham wasn’t focused on his glory, but rather on an unfading reward. The best way to bless this world, Abraham is teaching us, is to live for the next.
You know what’s really interesting about this, when God calls Abraham at 75, he had to be thinking, “God, you’re a little crazy, but you said it, I’ll do it,” right? Well, the Bible tells us in Genesis 21 that he didn’t have the child that would become the lineage to bless the world until he was a hundred. A hundred. Like I said, what is your plan when you’re 75? What is your plan when you’re a hundred, right? Like, if God can use someone at this age to do the changing of this world, the blessing of this world, God can use anything. And what God does for Abraham is He eliminates from his vocabulary the idea of “It can’t happen.” “Too old, I’m settled, I’m retiring, infertile,” right? Sure, you can’t, but God can. Babel was all about their ability. Abraham is all about the Lord’s ability. And now today, where we sit, we’re blessed because of Abraham.
Now, to make application, let me just ask you, what does Babel have to do with you? Right? Nice little Bible story, but what does Babel have to do with you? You go all the way back to Genesis chapter 11, how in the world could you ever find relevance to these two chapters? Well, let me say it like this. In Galatians chapter 3, the New Testament, remember, colors itself in the section of Scripture in Genesis chapter 12. This is the lens through which the Bible wants us to find our identity. In fact, in Galatians chapter 3, this is what Paul writes about Abraham: “Just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” He trusted in what God had promised him, and just as he trusted in God, it was counted as righteousness.
“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.'” So it’s identifying for us, yes, Abraham was from Hebrew descent, Jewish descent, right? He started the whole thing. But God’s favor wasn’t just to the Jews. It was to the Gentiles too, which is everyone not a Jew. And through Abraham, all nations are blessed. “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
“So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” What’s He saying? We all belong to Abraham, because what made Abraham Abraham was faith. And when you trust in the same God who promises to us, you become a child of Abraham, and the blessing continues. And just as it worked through Abraham, now it works through your life.
Jesus illustrated this for us, very interesting. In Luke chapter 9, “Jesus called the Twelve together, and He gave them power and authority over all the demons to cure diseases, and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” Look, kingdom come, right? And Jesus calls the Twelve, and He sends them out. Now, why would Jesus pick 12? That’s a strange number, but why did Jesus just… Did He just wake up and, “You know what the perfect number is, guys? I think it’s 12. Do you agree with me it’s 12? Let’s just call it 12.” Do you think that’s how Jesus made this decision? Why would Jesus pick 12? It’s because there’s 12 tribes of Israel. So by picking 12, what’s Jesus saying to the Twelve? The Messiah has come for Israel. Jesus has come. The kingdom’s here. He draws people to Himself.
You know what’s interesting? The very next chapter, first verse: “After this the Lord appointed seventy, and He sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come, saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into this harvest field.'” 12 I get, but how’d Jesus pick 70? Why 70? Jesus just wake up one day, and He’s like, “You know what the perfect number is, guys? I feel like my number, you know what my number is? My number’s 70. We should just have 70. Every time I go, when I wake up, I just see… I buy something, the receipt, it seems like it always comes up to 70. Let’s just do 70. That’s my number, right?”
Why did Jesus pick 70? Al Mohler says this: “We ought to notice, Genesis 10 ends with the table of the nations, with the notation that there were 70 nations that came from Babel.” Genesis 10, if you go back and count the people groups that come out, 70. Why does Jesus pick 70? It’s a proclamation to the world that He’s here for the nations. It’s the statement that Jesus is here for you. His kingdom is come. And the same God that invited Abraham to move through Him for an eternal destiny that would be a blessing to the world has extended His invitation to you.
I don’t think it’s any mistake, when you read the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew chapter 4, verse 17, the first thing Jesus says: “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.” And the very next statement He says to His followers is in verse 19: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus’s invitation was one of transformation of this world. What kind of life do you want to live? What kind of difference do you want to make? Look, we can come to God with all the excuses in the world, right? “I’m too old to do it now. God, do you know how many mistakes I’ve made? God, do you really even know me? I don’t have giftedness, I don’t have talent.”
What Jesus is saying, between Babel and Abraham, “I don’t need any of that. All I need is you. It’s not about your glory and power, but about mine. That’s exactly why I used a hundred-year-old sterile man. And I’m coming for the nations, and whether you want to be with me or not, I’m going to do it.” But He gives you the invitation.
If I want to connect this story, let me just end with this illustration for us. 1800s, there was a man by the name of William Booth. William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. Whether you know that or not doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, but it’s a major movement that’s made difference in the lives of people. But William Booth at 14 years old, he grew up poor, 14 years old, his father was not considered a very good father, but his father passed away. He ends up working to pay, help his family pay the bills. At 15 years old, he gets invited to a church gathering, and he gives us life to Christ. He wanted his life to matter. And in his journal that day, William Booth wrote, “God shall have all of William Booth.” He grew up poor, and he spent his entire life ministering to the poor. When William Booth passed away, 150,000 people walked by his casket. 40,000 people attended his funeral, including the Queen of England. A man who grew up poor, and all he did was minister to the poor, the broken. His life made a difference.
I found this quote interesting about him. He said this: “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Spirit.” You know what I hear there? Babel building ziggurats. Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration. Politics without God, and heaven without hell. It’s a godless people. I think he’s writing about modern-day Babel, or Babylon, really, is what comes out of Babel, thinking about the next generation, but the difference can be made in one way. How? Not by their power, but by giving themselves to the Lord.
Now, when I say all this about William Booth, and you think, “150,000 people, I’m never going to have that at my funeral,” I’m not telling you to have that. I’m not telling you to be William Booth. Look, we can’t make a difference all over the world. But here’s what we can do: Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. I think about the life of Abraham. All he did, he just had one kid, Isaac. He ended up having more kids than Isaac, but one kid that the blessing came through, Isaac. All William Booth did, he saw someone in need, and he loved him, and step by step, God used that to transform lives around him.
We talk about making a difference for Jesus, it’s not about waking up tomorrow and doing the overwhelming task of changing all of society. It happens like this. Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. And a heart of faith, it’s not about you making the transformation anyway, but about Jesus using you to make that transformation in the world. Not your strength, His strength. And the reason Babel becomes so important for us, just as all the way back in Genesis chapter 11, God’s heart is still for the nations, and He’s called all of us to make fishers of men. You want to make your life matter. Very simplistically, it happens like this: determining in your heart for whose glory you will live. And when you surrender your heart to God’s glory, the Lord makes the transformation.