Moses wrote the book of Genesis to the nation of Israel who had just been delivered from the oppression of Egypt. In Egypt, they were slaves who made bricks and built buildings for their oppressors. They made bricks day and night to build cities for Pharaoh.
Moses wrote about this when he wrote about the tower of Babel:
Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth (Gen. 11:3–4).
They were building a kingdom to regain what they had lost in Eden. After mankind was exiled from the presence of God, they were scattered. After Noah departed from the Ark, they began to scatter. It didn’t take long for them to organize and seek to build what they had lost.
We will fight the grave. We will make a name for ourselves. We will establish ourselves.
Isaiah later takes this idea and adds to it. Lucifer, by the way, refers to Babylon, not Satan.
Isaiah 14:12–15 (NKJV)
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
13For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
15Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
Notice the echoes of the same themes – the tower reaching to heaven. We will be like the most high. We will exalt our throne. We will sit on the mount of the congregation of the Lord. Read the whole chapter. Isaiah is speaking about the spirit that drives Babylon, and every kingdom of this earth.
In other words, “We will establish the kingdom of God on this earth. We will build cities. We will pass laws. We will deal with evil-doers. We will create a society, a City on the Hill. And there will be no more curse.”
View it from the backdrop of the description of Babel. This is a major theme throughout the Bible, but I only want to focus on one aspect of it.
The Tower was built with bricks and mortar. And the original readers of Genesis would have known exactly what that meant. Someone had to make the bricks and build the buildings.
That would not have been Pharaoh, the one with the grand plan. It would have been the slaves.
And so comes the downfall of every single scheme to build the kingdom of God on this earth. Someone has to make the bricks.
Even the founding of our own country, which many claim is the “City on the Hill”, using the phrase of the puritans. Who did the work?
Dabney complained after the slaves were set free that he hardly had time to write anymore because of all the menial labor that wasn’t getting done.
In our own state, the California Indians were enslaved to harvest the crops and build the cities. The adobe houses weren’t going to build themselves.
The “City on the Hill” is a grand idea, until you think about who is making the bricks. One thing is for sure. The one who says, “Come let us make bricks” is NOT the one who is actually making the bricks. The one who holds the whip is the one giving the commands. The one at the other end of the whip is making the bricks.
At the end of Genesis 11, there is a contrast. We are introduced to a new character. Abraham. God gives Abraham a promise, and Abraham believes it. And he learns to wait for it.
Hebrews 11 tells us this:
Hebrews 11:9–10 (NKJV)
9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Abraham lived in tents his whole life, because he waited for another kind of city. A city where God makes the bricks and builds the city.
Dwell on that for a moment.
There is no oppression, no vanity under the sun, no pain and toil.
And truly no more curse. No curse for anyone, for God will take it on himself.
HE makes the bricks and prepares a place for you. And you can dwell in a tent while you wait, if that is what it takes.
THIS is the kingdom of God.
2 responses to “Nationalism: Who makes the bricks?”
Such beauty. I feel seen in my life and particularly at work. It’s just not easy. I work in a restaurant in back of house and that whole which end of the whip you’re on is absolutely right. 💯 SO many things happen in my short shift. It would do me no good even if management would listen to explain myself for my behavior that looks sus (as the kids say). I do the best I can knowing that in the long run I will need something else…very soon.
Before I became a pastor, I worked in food and beverage for 20 years. I know what you are talking about. The whole system needs to be reformed. It’s brutal.