Let us make a name for ourselves

Pentecost – Genesis 11:1-9

Take a moment, and think of someone, doesn’t matter who it is, who lived during the 1900’s.

Now think of someone who lived during the 1800’s.

Now think of someone who lived during the 1700’s.

Now the 1600’s.

Now the 1500’s.

Now the 1400’s.

Now the 1300’s.

Now the 1200’s.

Now the 1100’s.

Now prior to the year 1000.

How far back did you get?

Perhaps some of you were able to name at least one person for each century; now what if I asked you to name a second, or even a third?

There were certainly a lot of people living at the time; but all but a few of those names have been forgotten to history.

In fact, I would be willing to bet, that unless the name you thought of was a family member, the names that came to mind were most likely of some historical significance, such as George Washington, Martin Luther, and Christopher Columbus.  And that if we kept going back through the centuries, it would be harder and harder to think of someone other than those few historical names.

Such is the plight of living in this world – the world forgets you, sooner rather than later.

And so what is the solution?  Do something that will cause people to know your name and remember it long after you are gone.

That is the goal at the Tower of Babel; build something so incredible that the whole world would want to know who did it and how and when can they do it for them as well.

The people who were building the tower were smart, they knew the way the world was going: the more people there were, the less likely their names were going to be known, let alone remembered outside the walls of their own home.

And so they decide to build a tower; a landmark that people from all around will come to see, a monument to themselves that will last forever.

Sound familiar?

It should, for it is the same sin that is always being committed throughout the Scriptures and down to today.

After all, there really is only one sin in the world; what varies is the ways in which we commit that sin.  Take Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; they desired to be like God; they desired that their names should be on the top line, not God’s.  Or take Cain, he desired that his name, not Abel’s or anyone else’s be the name associated with most worthy sacrifice.  Or take the Flood, people fell in love with the sound of their own names, as opposed to the name of God.

And so what would one expect to find at the Tower of Babel but the same?  The people desire that the whole world should stand in awe and admiration of their names, not the name of the Lord.

It’s the same sin over and over; it just varies in how it is committed.

And that is what you want, is it not?  That your name should be the name at which people bow and confess; that your name is the one that strikes fear in the hearts of those who hear it; that your name is the one on the lips of everyone as they admire your accomplishments, as they sing your praises.

Is that not the theme of every graduation speech?  Go out and make a name for yourself.  Is that not the dream on the hearts of every aspiring athlete, or musician, or politician?  That their name will be the name in bright lights; that their name will be the one announced over the loud speaker as thousands cheer.

Is that not the dream of every parent; that their child will become noteworthy; that their child will be famous; that their child will achieve great and fantastic goals that none of the other children can?

Is that not the dream of every grandparent, to hear their grandchild’s name spoken of in the most glowing of terms when they gather with friends, or when they read the newspaper?

Is that not all of our dreams, that our names are the names people speak, not the name of others?

And yet, what is the success rate of that?

Who was at the Tower of Babel?

How many names from the 1100’s do you remember?  How about the 1200’s or the 1300’s or the 1400’s?  How about the 1900’s?

How many names from today do you think will be remembered in 100 years?  Or 200 years?

No matter; Satan knows that you will be different; your name has a certain ring to it that no one else has.  Your name will be the one that is remembered for all time.

But in order for that to happen, first you need to do some work.  Before people can remember your name for all time, first you must become rich and famous; first you must achieve that which no one else has; first you must stand tall in front of all others, maybe even at the expense of all others.

In order for your name to be remembered, first you must build a tower that reaches into the heavens.

 

If allowed to finish, Babel would have celebrated and milked tourists for their money for a while; but eventually the allure would have faded, and the tower would have been trumped by a new tower that was just a little bit taller; and a few years after that there would be another new tower, that was taller still.

And the names of the people of Babel who built the Tower would soon have been forgotten; replaced by the names of those who built the newer and taller towers.

Satan does that.  He lies to you, tells you that you can make your name great; that people will remember your name forever if you just achieve this goal.  But that goal is always a moving target; because for as much as Satan is pushing you toward that goal, so too is he pushing someone else toward that goal as well.  And eventually, one, and likely both of your names, will be forgotten.

Someone else will always get louder applause; someone else will always make a faster car; someone else will always do a little better; someone else will always build a taller tower.

And that means you have to start over; all in an effort to get your name back on top.

And while you strive to push your name higher, whose name gets pushed lower?  Not yours; but God’s.

There is no room at the top for both your name and God’s, so one of those names has to go; and you are certainly not about to sacrifice your name, so it is God’s name that is kicked off the top, and allowed to float to the absolute bottom of your tower, where it is trampled on, spit upon, and left for trash.

Lying in the rubble, is the name of Jesus.  Lying in the trash and filth and death is the name of Jesus.

And soon to be found next to it, will be your name as well.  There were a lot of lonely and dejected people who walked away from the Tower of Babel; a lot of lonely and dejected people today, who have discovered that there name can only get them so far and so high, before you too are kicked off to the side.  When Satan sees how little your name can do, and how little you can make of it, he tosses you aside; allows your name to float to the bottom of the trash heap where it lands alongside all the other names, including the name of Jesus, that have likewise been tossed aside; all in the name of progress.

But the name of Jesus does not stay down for long.

For there is one name that has stood the test of time; one name that is remembered by every generation; one name at which every knee in heaven and on earth should bow and every tongue confess; and that is the name of Jesus.

Jesus rises from the trash heap of the grave and ascends into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father in glory for all time.

And because the name of Jesus is remembered, so too will your name be remembered.

For at your baptism, your name was been written in the Lamb’s book of life.  Your name is known by your Father in heaven.  Your name is marked as one for whom Christ Jesus came into the world, suffered and died for.  Your name is remembered as one who has been granted the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Your name may not be written in history books, or carved in granite, or be emblazoned on t-shirts.  Your name may not be the name that comes to mind when people 100 years from now are asked to recall someone who lived in the year 2016.  Your name may well be long forgotten, just as so many names that came before have been forgotten.

But your name will be remembered; it will be known; it will be forever recalled in the one place where it cannot be erased or forgotten.

For your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Your name is known by your Father in heaven.  Your name is one for which Christ Jesus died and rose for.

And that will be remembered, when all other names are not.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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