Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 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.4 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.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confusedthe language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9
The story of the Tower of Babel makes one thing perfectly clear: none of our best attempts and none of our self-righteous strivings (and that is exactly what they are) can get us up to God. In fact, as the tower builders are making their tower that is supposed to reach the heavens, God has to come down to even see what they’re doing. All that work, and they’re not even close!
But can’t you understand the desire to build the tower in the first place? We are like the tower builders—addicted to a ladder-climbing life. We think that a life of ladder climbing is a life of freedom—free to move at our own pace, up or down depending on our decisions, responsible for our own progress. We climb our ladders for the same reasons that the people of the world built their tower—to make a name for ourselves, to ensure our own legacy, to secure our own value. We love to imagine that we’re on a higher rung than someone else, a better father than someone else, a more accomplished follower of Christ than someone else. But ladder climbing actually and inevitably leads to slavery.
But there is good news: our towers of Babel don’t remain standing.
God loves us too much to leave us in the hell of unhappiness that comes from trying to do His job. Into the slavish misery of our ladder-defined lives, God condescends. His first act with the builders of the Tower of Babel is an act of judgment. He scatters and disorganizes them, literally. God takes away their faith in themselves, the very misplaced faith that enslaves them. When everyone in the world spoke the same language, God came down in judgment, breaking the world apart. But at just the right time, He descended the ladder again, this time to reconcile that sinful world to Himself. He replaces our ladder with His cross. His final descent was to save us, and to set us free.
God is not at the top of a ladder shouting, “Climb!” He is at the bottom on a cross whispering, “It is finished.”
– This devotional is taken from Tullian Tchividjian’s book It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News.