“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2 ESV)
Read and ponder Genesis 12:2 for a moment. It should be a passage that stops us in our usually-always cursory habits of Scripture reading. Whether we’ve read it for the first time or a thousand, it is unlike anything God has said to any human in Genesis until now. Certainly, it is in utter and stark contrast to our story of Babel. Let’s back up a moment to compare a passage in Genesis 11 with Genesis 12:2.
We often associate the story of Babel with a tower, but if we look closely, something else should be our focus here. In Genesis 11, People were building a city and invented this new and amazing technology called a brick. Check it out:
And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar (Genesis 11:3).
Can you feel their excitement? They invented something pretty amazing. And that invention of man led to something quite sinister because through it, they wanted to make a name for themselves.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
These two verses are connected with the word ‘then.’ First they invent the brick then they plan to do something great with it to make themselves famous and known; admired and honored. As mentioned in our introduction, God spoiled Babel’s plans. He did not allow them to become great and He indeed dispersed them. So, when we get to Genesis 12:2, we suddenly find that God not only promises to give Abram a land and make him a great nation, He also promises to make his name great. God said:
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)
Uncanny, isn’t it? What we see in Genesis 12:2 is God laying out a vision through Abram that’s remarkably bigger than Abram. What’s more, Abram didn’t have to invent anything or impress anyone to receive that distinction. He was simply chosen by God. We do not see this vision in our story of Babel because it did not originate with God, it originated with a brick and man’s desire to make his own name great through it.
Stop here a moment and think of the impact brick invention had on Babel. Clearly, the brick itself wasn’t wrong. What made it wrong? How does our culture use “bricks” in a way that elevates man over God and diminishes Godly vision? How might the people of Babel have used the brick to honor God over themselves?
It takes an incredible amount of humility to set aside our own worldly cravings so that we can allow God to use us for His desires. When God made Abram’s name great (later as Abraham), He did it for a single purpose: so that Abraham would be a blessing. Only the faithful and humble are called to step into the promise of Abraham by being blessed and becoming a blessing.
Bricks are futile and they decay over time, and they certainly aren’t the source of blessing. As we’ll see in our next post, Abraham’s blessing is both enduring and permanent. It stands the test of time and persists through God’s amazing and timeless promise as laid out in Genesis 12:1-3 and beyond.