There is a rather humorous aspect of the story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis. You likely know the basic story, which begins with the men of that early time saying, Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves (Gen 11:4). The tower was an image of pride and grandiosity. The funny thing is that when the “great” tower is finally complete, with its top reaching to the skies, it’s actually so puny that God has to come down from Heaven in order to be able to see it! The text says, And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built (Gen 11:5).
Now of course God sees everything. The humor in the text is not in some primitive notion of a God who cannot. Rather, it is in the fact that man’s greatest, tallest, most prominent, most glorious work, which is seen as reaching Heaven itself, is in fact so inconsequential that God has to stoop down in order to “see” it. He has to descend to even get a glimpse of it. What ultimately does alarm God is how colossal man’s pride is. He responds by humbling us, by confusing our language and scattering us about the planet.
I recalled this story when I saw the video below. It shows wonderful footage of Earth, taken from the Space Shuttle. There is some accompanying commentary by one of the shuttle astronauts, who explains/identifies the images as they pass by. While the view is quite remarkable, what is even more remarkable is what we do not see: us!
Even though the shuttle is passing over well-populated areas, there is no visual evidence that we even exist. No cities or buildings are visible; no planes streak through the skies; even large-scale agricultural features seem lacking. There is only one mention of a color difference (across the Great Salt Lake) and that is due to a railroad bridge preventing lake circulation. The bridge itself is not visible, only its effect.
We think of ourselves as so big, so important, and so impressive. And yet even from the low Earth orbit of the shuttle, we cannot be seen. At night, our cities light the view, but during the day there is little evidence that we are even here. Even with the images magnified on my 30″ computer screen, there is no indication of our presence.
Viewing the video brought this Psalm to mind:
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens … When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Yet, You made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)
We are so powerful (by God’s gift) and yet at the same time so tiny as to be nearly invisible from just a short distance into space. Our mighty buildings rise, but they rise on a speck of space dust called Earth. And Earth revolves around a fiery point of light called the Sun, which is but one of more than 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. And the Milky Way galaxy, so huge to us as to be nearly unfathomable, is but one of an estimated 200 billion galaxies.
Yes, What is man that you are mindful of him …? (Psalm 8:5) Jesus says this of us: And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Matt 10:30). God, who numbers all the stars and calls them by name also knows the number of hairs on each of our heads. Nothing escapes Him.
There’s old preacher’s saying, “We serve a God who sits high, yet looks low!” Indeed, never forget how tiny you are. Never cease to marvel that God knit you together in your mother’s womb and sustains every fiber of your being. We cannot even be seen from a low Earth orbit, but God, who sees all, looks into each of our hearts. Always remember that although we are tiny, you and I are wonderfully, fearfully made (Psalm 139), and that He has put all things under our feet.