There are two major building projects undertaken in the story of Scripture — they both continue today. In our study of 1 Peter we discover that each believer is called to be a part of God’s “spiritual temple” He is building.
In the OT era, God’s healing, forgiving presence dwelled in the physical temple in Jerusalem. People came from far and wide to worship God, offer sacrifices and receive forgiveness and healing.
Jesus the Messiah came and announced the Jerusalem Temple was now going out of business and being replaced the Messiah’s people — scattered far and wide across the earth — who are being built into a spiritual temple where God promises to dwell by His Spirit. God’s global, multiethnic, transnational family called “the church” is now where believers are to encounter God, offer spiritual sacrifices, and shine forth the light of God’s rescuing reign on earth.
Thus, Peter says:
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
We have each been given breath for limited years on this earth and are invited to make our lives a “building block” in the grand thing God is building on earth. This means we exist to worship him, offer our lives as a living sacrifice by offering our vocational callings in service of God. Godly teachers. Godly parents. Godly doctors. Godly software engineers. Godly taxi drivers.
Peter says we are placed on earth with a divine purpose to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2:9).
We are part of a building project that aims to make God’s name great, to glorify Him, to advance His cause, to manifest his goodness and grace. This requires putting our own self-ambitions to rest, and giving our lives away in the service of His spiritual temple-in-the-making.
We can either fit into his plans, or reject his project and spend our lives building our own thing.
Thus, we come to the other major building story in the scriptures: the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 11 we read about a community of people who decided they’d rather build something for themselves than for God.
“They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world” (Gen. 11:3-4).
We are created in God’s image to make him famous and elevate his reputation and serve His grand purposes for his eternal glory. The sin of idolatry happens when we choose to glorify ourselves with our life’s work and spend our lives making our name great.
God mercifully judges such self-destructive egotism by scattering the people — these divine image-bearing building blocks — across the globe and confusing their languages.
“But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united [in their godless self-aggrandizement], and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.” In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city” (Gen. 11:6-8).
Why is this judgment merciful? By scattering people by creating a language barrier, he slows down their self-aggrandizing enterprise that will eventually lead to greater ruin and idolatry.
No longer able to communicate effectively with other ego-driven idolaters, people are forced to re-evaluate what their trying to accomplish by human ingenuity. With languages confused, they are all (hopefully) forced to find unity in a different commonality — their common human limitations and dependence on the Creator God.
Which building project do you choose?
Today, thousands of years later, we are still invited to choose for ourselves which building project we want to be part of.
Do we want to join in the Babel project of building our own empires, advancing our own careers, living to make a name for ourselves, climbing the ladder of success and living to impress others with our accomplishments?
Or, do we want to be a small but significant building block in God’s holy project to build up a holy people who shine forth his divine wisdom, holy presence, saving grace and redeeming love to the world around us?
Do we want to offer our lives as sacrifices on the altars of fleeting fame, worldly pleasures, projects that will someday be eaten by rust and moths?
Or, do we want to be holy priests offering our gifts, talents, time and treasure as a sacrifice to God and help build a legacy that will last for all eternity?
The choice us ours. The consequences are eternal. Build wisely.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).