Two major things happen in these chapters: Babel and the introduction of Abram. One quick thought on Babel before we dive into the story of the Father of faith.
“They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 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.’” (11:3-4)
There’s something interesting and important about the invention of bricks and tar. Bricks are building blocks formed by man, using cheap substitutes. They are weaker than stones but more malleable. They become the size and shape you want them to be. Tar shares a similar contrast with mortar.
Whenever someone makes an alter to the LORD (like Abram in 12:7 and 8, but more explicitly later), note the usage of existing stones–never bricks. I find it interesting that offerings to the LORD are founded on a collecting and utilizing of the resources He puts around them. The alter, itself, is obedient to the shapes the LORD made the stones in that area.
This city and tower in Babel was a multi-level act of defiance. A name of ourselves. All to often the easiest idol is me. I can make whatever I want, but it will most certainly be weaker than something the LORD directs me to build (or be a part of) for Him.
Look at the wording the LORD uses as He calls Abram, and especially note the contrast:
“And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so 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 the families of the earth will be blessed.” (12:2-3)
It’s not that God hates it when people are famous. It’s about partnering and recognizing the source as well as the purpose.
When God builds something from you, others are blessed. This reminds me of 1 Peter 2:5 where he says, “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Pretty cool to think that concept could be anchored all the way back here. I love it.
Now, let’s get to know this seemingly random guy the LORD picked to be the conduit of blessing for the whole world. What a unlikely plan!