In preparation of the construction of the Tower of Babel, the people declared, “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” (Gen. 11:4). This people had departed from God’s original command for humanity. God commanded Adam to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). This command involved a spreading of the glory of God by means of procreation and productivity. This was to be done to the glory of God. After Noah left the Ark, this command was repeated (Genesis 9:1). Sadly, the descendants of Noah did not heed to this command. By the time we come to Genesis 11 the people were not submitting to and spreading the glory of God. Instead, they assembled in one place. The people had a three-fold plan: build a city, build a tower, and make themselves great (Gen. 11:1-9). This is a portrait of a godless society. They wanted to be great apart from the Lord. The problem with the pursuit of seeking such “greatness” is that it is passing. Power, prominence and pleasure may be the goals of many, but they are like vapour – here one moment and gone the next.
As the people of God, we are in the world. Though this world is passing, we have a responsibility to be faithful servants of God. Our faithfulness to Him is to show the greatness of His glory. How do we do this? The Lord Jesus Christ calls for His people to be witnesses. In the Sermon on the Mount He used the two metaphors of salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16) to describe what such a lifestyle looks like. The metaphors of salt and light in this passage presuppose the reality of the world’s corruption and darkness. As salt, the Christian’s witness functions as both a preservation against corruption and a seasoning of the delight of Christ (cf. Col. 4:5-6). As light, the Christian’s witness exposes society’s sin and reflects the holiness of Christ. God’s people are not to be perusing their greatness, but instead, are to be portraying God’s glory.
This world is passing and our greatness ought not to be our concern. God’s glory is what is important and this ought to be our longing. The day is coming in which there will be a new heaven and new earth (2 Pet. 3:12-13; Rev. 21:1), the glory of God will be seen everywhere (Hab. 2:14). This is the longing of God’s people, and such a reality ought to drive us to be reflecting God’s greatness in our our lives now (2 Pet. 3:11).