January 18th, 2014| Topic: RaMbLeS | 12


A couple of months ago, I was in Dubai to visit relatives, preach some, and sight-see.

One of the main sights to see there is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. 2722 feet. The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt, had taken the honors for almost 4,000 years, until the Lincoln Cathedral in England overtook it in the fourteenth century. The Middle East has taken back the record … for now.

But that’s not the only record held by the Burj Khalifa. It is also the building with the most floors (163), with the world’s highest elevator installation that travels the greatest distance (1650 feet), the highest nightclub (on the 144th floor), the highest restaurant, aptly named Atmosphere (on the 122nd floor), one of the highest observation decks and highest swimming pools, etc., etc.

Dubai’s is not an oil-based economy. Rather it is driven by service and tourism. And the powers that be decided that constructing the world’s tallest building would bring the international fame and name to channel investment. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai, and the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE, apparently “wanted to put Dubai on the map with something really sensational,” declared an executive with a major real-estate developer in Dubai.

While watching the rest of the world way down below, from the observation deck in the Burj Khalifa way up high—and while in the process of reading the proofs of my soon-coming commentary on Genesis—I was reminded of another tower, in Genesis 11, built by the folks in Shinar/Babylon.

They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower
whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name,
otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Genesis 11:4

This was a concerted action by “all the earth” (Gen 11:1) to prevent scattering, directly contradicting the command of God to fill the earth (Gen 1:28; 9:1, 7). Interestingly, the word “make,” until Genesis 11, had only been used with God as the subject, and “name,” thus far, had only been used of proper names.

Now “name” is used differently, and humans are “making” it for themselves. The Babelites’ intention was the self-manufacture of a great name, by their own resources, for their own glory, apart from God—human hubris and megalomaniacal self-sufficiency.

The LORD came down to see the city
and the tower which the sons of men had built.
Genesis 11:5

The irony! The human “makers” are building the world’s tallest building to reach the heavens, but the divine Maker has actually got to come down to see it!

What have those pint-sized earthlings done, now? What’s this little whisker they’ve put up with their puny plans? I can hardly see it. Better get my glasses.”

Nope, God wasn’t impressed at all. And he confuses their language and scatters them, accomplishing his original intent.

Notice what God says to Abram in the very next chapter.

And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing.
Genesis 12:2

God would make the patriarch’s name great, not he himself. What a stark contrast with the crowd at Babel.

What are we trying to do? All of us sinners, with god-complexes, afflicted by hubris and egocentricity, want to build our own towers and names.

But God’s blessings come only as we let him work out his purposes.

The Burj K. is terrific. Just don’t try to build one for yourself.


  1. Lukw February 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve never read such an interesting and humbling inspection of that famous story from my Sunday School classes! Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  2. Ted January 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Just amazing, but no cattle in sight to put on the grill. We need to do that! Ted

  3. Stan Pierce January 19, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Fantastic as usual, Abe. Isn’t there somewhere in the Word about building your house on the sand. Hee Hee! It would make a great headline when it falls, eh! SP

    • Abe Kuruvilla January 19, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks, Stan.

      I hope the Burj stays solid and unshakeable.

      It’s those metaphorical towers that we build for ourselves that I worry about. Those, I’m quite sure, will crumble.

  4. Caroline January 19, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Wow, Just Wow! But funny that the Lord had to put on glasses to see it.:0 I would not want to ever be on the top floor when the elevator breaks. That is the problem with man-made structures. C.

    • Abe Kuruvilla January 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      Well, alright, maybe not glasses!

      I suppose if the elevators broke, they’d supply us with parachutes. You OK with that?

      Thanks, Caroline!

  5. Matt January 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I read your new posts weekly and appreciate your dedication to keeping the blog up.

  6. Aju January 19, 2014 at 1:59 am

    Beautiful thought.
    just wondering if the tilt of the photograph was intentional to the message…..

    • Abe Kuruvilla January 19, 2014 at 7:06 am


      The photo with me happened to be tilted, just so that the huge structure could fit into the photo. No other intent. But now that you mention it ….



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