Bricks & Living Stones

A few days ago I was reading a description of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) during my morning prayer time. Following the Great Flood, Noah’s descendants, who all spoke the same language, began to build a tower as an act of rebellion against God. Genesis 11: 1-4 states:

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortarThen they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’”

In Verse 3, “brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar” stood out to me and I kept hearing it over and over in my mind, so much so, that I wrote it in my journal and began to question why? At first thought do you think the Tower of Babel could be construed as a symbol of secular society?  I certainly do. By “secular society” I mean a world that sets itself in arrogant opposition to the will of God.  The verse above states that the Tower of Babel was constructed of bricks.  Bricks? Really? It seems too long ago for that? I started thinking about the characteristics of bricks and how they might apply to this God story.  First of all, they are unnatural and artificial.  You won’t find a brick occurring in nature. They are man-made. Secondly, they are identical and uniform.  It’s not easy to distinguish one brick from another.  Thirdly, they are functionally undifferentiated and interchangeable. A brick can serve equally well anywhere in a wall.  And finally, in a sense, they are all but worthless.  What if you do lose a brick, aren’t there hundreds more just like it? Think of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt. The death and loss of one slave was of no account to the Egyptians. After all, that one slave was simply replaced by another. What could be more unnatural and artificial than a society that rejects God?  In such a state, citizens are made to conform to uniform standards thus losing their individuality. Their work is reduced to interchangeable roles.  And, because they have lost all their uniqueness, they become utterly worthless.

In opposition to the Tower of Babel,  “If then any man is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and furthermore, 1 Peter 2:4-5 states “As you come to him (Christ), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house (church as body of Christ) to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

 The Tower of Babel, was being built of bricks, a man-made construction, where rebellious people were attempting to reach the heavens to be like God, to “make a name for themselves”. Yet, Jesus made a new creation, the Church (the body of Christ), a temple built of living stones. Living stones have distinguishable characteristics:  First, living stones are not just natural, but supernatural. What could be more supernatural than a society in which Christ dwells? Secondly, they are utterly unique.  No two are exactly alike. In the eyes of Jesus, every human being is utterly unique and unrepeatable.  After all, what two human beings are exactly alike?  Thirdly, they are irreplaceable. A stone that occupies a particular place in a wall can fit nowhere else but in that unique space. In the Church, every person is irreplaceable, because each one of us has a mission no one else can fulfill. We have unique gifting and purposes that only God defines. And finally, living stones are extremely precious. “You are precious in my (God’s) sight and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4) To Christ every human being is precious, because every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God.  Each one of us, therefore, has infinite value.

            So my friends, which would you rather be… a brick in secular society or a living stone in the body of Christ, His church?  As a brick, we would ultimately lose our identity.  As a living stone, we can become all, through Christ, that we are meant to be.  C.S. Lewis puts it this way when referring to the plan of God’s people: “God sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of us.  When He talks of us losing ourselves, He means only abandoning the clamor of self-will; once we have done that, He really gives us back all our personality, and boasts…that when we are wholly His, we will be more ourselves than ever.  [Letter XIII]

            In a secular society, men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, are able to be exchanged with each other without making any difference or without being noticed. They are interchangeable. Only in such a society can same-sex marriage and multiple genders be even remotely considered as possibilities.  In God’s Church, men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, are irreplaceable. In fact marriage, as anything other than one man and one woman for life, is inconceivable.

            So there you have it… Unnatural bricks versus supernatural stones? Secular society versus the Kingdom of God? Man-made bricks or living stones? Just think for a minute! Jesus was totally unique and definitely distinctive. There aren’t enough words to describe Him. He said and did things that no one before Him and no one after Him has ever said or done. He was completely different from all other religious leaders before or after Him.  He was born of a virgin, He turned water into wine, He healed the sick, He raised the dead, He walked on the water, He fed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, He stilled storms, He died on Calvary, He rose from the dead! He ascended to the right hand of God. Jesus was the greatest of all living Stones (1Peter 2:4). As the Psalm says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (Ps. 118:22) As believers we are the living stones, made alive in the Lord Jesus and through Him built up as a spiritual house. Today no longer do we need a temple of physical stones. We are the living temple, united in Christ Jesus!

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