Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Two Contrasting Peoples

Genesis chapters 11 to 13 give us an insight into two contrasting peoples and two visions for humanity.

The first is of a people who highly self-organise. They build: a city, and with it a tower that 'reaches to the heavens'. This is about being self-sufficient, of setting themselves up despite (or even in spite of) God. It is all about them and what they can do.

Note there is nothing necessarily wrong with organising or building: people will form community and will organise themselves - that is okay. Yet the tower is the give-away: they think they can reach themselves for the heavens, i.e. that sense of more, of something greater, of perfection. They instinctively know that there is more to life, but they are mistaken in thinking they can achieve it for themselves. Their attitude betrays the intrinsic problems of self-organisation of fallen humans - it has a capacity for becoming a greater evil than the sum of the individuals.

The intervention by God, and the ensuing confusion, is called in Hebrew 'Babel'. Or another name: 'Babylon' - symbolic for that which stands against God. It is a name that then echoes through the grand arc of the Bible story right through to the book of Revelation.

The second is Abram and the long-range promises of God. Through him God will make a people, who themselves will be blessed and will be a blessing to others. They will range far and wide, such that they can be salt and light to the whole world.

This is a vision of people walking rightly with God. It is through these people that blessing comes, that proper connection between 'the heavens' and the earth. Note how these people do not always have to cling to certain land or territory: Abram is initially commissioned as something of a nomad. He is also prepared to give up land (see chapter 13 verses 8 to 10), for he already understands something of God's abundant provision wherever he might have to go.

Ironically there is a sense of Abram's descendants being scattered, through which wide ranging blessing will come. This is in contrast to the first set of people who were forcibly scattered to thwart their efforts. Scattering in itself can be blessing or it can be a curse!

Into the lineage of Abram eventually comes Jesus. And he too is of the 'scattering will lead to worldwide blessing' kind of mindset!

So now, for us Jesus-followers in our churches, who stand in the line traced from Jesus and in fact all the way back from Abram: which vision are we called to sign up to? The highly self-organised one in which we build fantastic structures that appear to reach up to the heavens ... or the confidence in being scattered as those who walk rightly with God through which blessing to many may come?

No comments:

Post a Comment