Let Us Make Us A Name

Let Us Make Us A Name

Donald L. Norbie

In the days shortly after the flood, some thousands of years before Christ was born, the interesting events of Genesis 11:1-9 took place. It is the familiar story of the tower of Babel. These were the thoughts of the natural heart in that day:

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).

Their aspirations are most interesting and instructive because they have characterized the human heart in every generation. First, they desired the security and unity which the external organization of a city would give them. Secondly, they desired a magnificent, tall monument, possibly to be used for religious purposes, erected to their honour and glory. Security and glory for self—this is the longing of the natural heart.

It is well put by Keil and Delitzsch in their commentary (p.173):

“The real motive therefore was the desire for renown, and the object was to establish a noted central point, which might serve to maintain their unity. The one was just as ungodly as the other.

Pride is a fearful evil, but their centralizing desire was wicked too. It revealed a disobedient heart—they were commanded to fill the earth—and a heart that wanted security and unity based on man’s efforts. True security is to trust the Living God; true unity is maintained by an inward, spiritual kinship, which only God can produce.

God determined to confound man’s grandiose ideas then, and He has repeatedly done so since. Witness the rise and fall of great empires and nations.

Unfortunately, this same natural heart is still in the bosom of the believer and makes its voice heard. It is tragic that so often this seducing voice is heeded.

It had been God’s will that His people Israel should live together in a loose tribal organization with their real unity resulting from their common worship of Jehovah. He would rule over them, instructing and exhorting the people through His servants the judges and prophets. Their ministry would be more or less an itinerant ministry, recognized because of the gift of God (1 Samuel 7:15-17).

Yet to the natural mind this all seemed very weak and ineffective. They had no closely-knit, highly organized government; they had no king to look to as head. True, Jehovah was their King (Zephaniah 3:15), yet they longed for a visible head. The unseen, spiritual realities never satisfy the natural heart. “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). Their pattern was the world and not the Word.

This longing for external unity and security, along with a desire to belong to something big has always plagued God’s people. The history of Christendom repeatedly reveals these tendencies. The Spirit of God does a real work; souls are saved and gathered together in simple, earnest companies. There is a lack of external organization, no denominational machinery, no mission boards, no training schools for preachers, no loaning agencies—all is done in simple faith upon the Living God. Instead of belonging to something they, belong to Someone. Instead of making a name for themselves, they magnify His Matchless Name. There is apparent weakness, but actually virile, spiritual strength. There is apparent disunity outwardly, yet true, inward unity based on a common life.

However, time and again this delightful New Testament simplicity has been broken. Churches are organized into associations and denominations. Mission boards are set up to pass on candidates, to organize their support and to gain government recognition. Churches become large and elaborate. Common laymen dare not address such. Clergy are elevated who do all the preaching and take the leadership. Training schools are established for such and, in time, only graduates of accredited schools can serve as “Missionaries” and “Pastors”. Central loaning agencies are set up to assist local churches in erecting new structures. All of these tend to give external unity, security, and to make a name for the group. Who wants to belong to something small?

Church history flashes the above picture on the screen of time repeatedly. It is a warning for us. The simple, autonomous assembly of the New Testament looks weak, but it has the security of Jehovah God. Assemblies meeting in such simplicity seem disorganized outwardly, but running deep below the surface is the living unity of the Spirit, which unites all true believers into one new man. Through it all, man’s name is nothing and God’s Great Name is extolled. God’s ways are best.

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us;
But unto Thy Name give glory,
For Thy mercy and for Thy truth’s sake. Psalm 115:1