God Came Down
As we seek to follow God during the rise of the urban generation, we need God to come down. No matter what empire we build, what careers we embark on, what seas we sail, what people we love, nothing will raise us into the heavens and out of this world. Only the gospel, meeting the city’s greatest need, does that. The Son of God left the eternal city to call us, just as God called Abraham. To the urban generation Jesus says, “Follow!”
Since the time of Babel, countless more proud monuments to human ambition have been raised—not just edifices and municipalities, but also organizations and systems and social networks and scientific inventions and works of art, and much more. A great many of these have already disintegrated into dust and disarray, long ago forgotten; the rest will ultimately follow.
Whether we’re building ourselves, our portfolios, our careers, or our relationships, the story of Babel points a finger to our heart and ambition and says, Why? Where is our real sense of security and safety, our meaning and fulfillment? What is our protection? Where is our power and confidence and strength? Only in ourselves?
In his great and majestic hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Martin Luther says,
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
The Man of God’s own choosing, according to Luther and God’s Word, is not Abraham, but Christ. To strive while trusting in our own strength ultimately brings only failure, never success.
God Is Involved
The Babel story confirms for us that God is not disengaged from the work of this world or from our cities or from human ambition. While we attempt to reach up, he comes down. He sees all and controls all, and he intervenes whenever and wherever and however he chooses. He “came down” decisively in the permanent, everlasting person of Jesus. He still comes down with unlimited ability to disperse and scatter whatever we try to construct apart from him. Yet he also remains above—seated in the heavens, all-powerful and all-knowing—and with steadfast love that endures forever.
Man reaches up, in vain; but God, in his grace, reaches down.
No spire, no city is ultimately safe, but “the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Prov. 18:10). The tower we long for, that structure which can reach the heavens, is already built.
Man reaches up, in vain; but God, in his grace, reaches down. The Bible teaches that heaven has come down to us most wonderfully and assuredly in the person of Jesus Christ, to bring us back up to heaven. That is what the gospel tells us. And that, in fact, is what Revelation 21 is all about. Because of what Christ has done on the cross—paying the penalty for our sin, for our prideful ambition and our willful ignoring of God—we have open access to the very throne of God in the heavens. Because the human city reaching up will always fail, therefore in Christ the new city comes down.
And so we discover a truly worthy name to lift up, for “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). The name of Jesus Christ is worthy of all glory, since “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The cross of Christ towers infinitely higher than Babel ever could.
This article is adapted from Christ + City: Why the Need of the City Is the Greatest News of All by Jon Dennis.
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