Posts Tagged ‘babylon’

 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.  Proverbs 25:2

People throw out the best stuff. 

Vacation Bible School (VBS) season is upon us and for me that can only mean one thing: time to do kingdom rocksome serious garbage picking. Last year’s VBS theme was focused in and around Babylon, so my wife and I set out to recover ever-so-slightly used items that might represent that Chaldean dynasty look the church was going for. We recovered many lovely Persian-esque rugs, pillows, lamps, and vases to decorate the classrooms and craft tents.

This years theme is similar. It’s called Kingdom Rock, and although not Babylonian, were going to need much of the same type of items. At this point you might be wondering,

Why didn’t you just save the stuff you collected last year?”

There are a few reasons. First, where’s the fun in that? Do you know how much fun dumpster diving is? Second, at the end of the day most of the stuff is still junk and not worthy of holding onto (you get the picture). But then there is a third reason . Every once-and-awhile you find something like this…


Can you believe someone actually threw this out? Solid, vintage oak, without a scratch worthy of mentioning! They discarded the hurricane lamp too! And it was buried in someone’s trash. Sadly, (wink, wink) this treasure isn’t going to make it to VBS.

I have found and redeemed it and it is mine!

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

This all kind of reminds me of how Jesus often operates. It is my testimony that the Messiah found me at the curb amongst the rubbish, brought me home, cleaned me up, and redeemed me — all at a great cost. Jesus took the time to seek me out and restore me to what He had always intended me to be and today, I am back with my rightful owner! He didn’t have to go garbage picking, He wanted to go. Our Lord takes great pleasure and delight in these finds. Fact is, the angels rejoice and celebrate with Him in Heaven when He brings home one of His treasures.

…When (Jesus) had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” John 9:35-39

The truth be told, I pulled a few other treasures from this curbside heap. I felt for sure that these people didn’t know what they were doing, so I knocked on the door and spoke with the lady of the house. I even offered to give her some money. This woman was so gracious, she simply told me that she was aware of its value, but she was quickly moving and it all had to go. She would not take my money, but assured me that she was grateful the items were going to a good home. Her grace reminded me of our Savior who taught us that we cannot repay Him [either] for the things He provided; priceless things that we do not merit.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 

If you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, it is not a coincidence that you have read this far — Jesus has found you and led you here by His Holy Spirit. As kooky as it all may seem, it is true. The choice that you now have is to follow the One who found you. My recommendation would be to stop reading and pray right now, asking Jesus into your heart. Jesus went to the cross for all our sins and He is the only way to Heaven. Believe it (no one said you have to fully understand it) and pray right now.

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Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Corinthians 3:16

Today I am in the Book of Ezra and I am soaking in the rich history and the modern-day applications; the parallels are stimulating, varied, and most significantly they are pertinent to the born-again believer. I am reminded that we must appreciate this reality, lest we only capture the historical portion of the ever-expansive tapestry God is creating. Seek Jesus as you go through these narratives.

Observe that Babylon was a brutal place and is likened to our sinful condition. Israel was led off into Babylonian captivity and we were once held captive to sin. Israel’s temple lie in ruins (as did ours) and like Israel, our temple would be rebuilt. See the similarities–every Old Testament account points us to a New Testament promise we have discovered in Christ Jesus.

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad. . Psalm 126:1-3

Chapter four of Ezra begins with the rebuilding of the temple and wouldn’t you know it, satan shows up. Isn’t that always the case; as we’re committed and submitted to Christian service, the next thing you know the enemy throws a curve ball, creates an obstacle, and seemingly wins the battle. Check out the story:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” Ezra 4:1-2

Now at first glance we might suppose that the enemy was seeking to make reconciliation.

“Let us help you,” they say, “our god is your God.”

We worship the same god,’ ever heard that before? Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the leaders of Israel were not fooled. Oh, they weren’t being rude; they were just adhering to the word of the Lord that they had received. We could say that in their obedience they were given discernment. Good thing, because the adversary would soon reveal his true colors.

Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. Ezra 4:4-6

As a result, the temple building mission was stalled for ten years.

If this was the enemy’s reaction to not being able to help Israel, what can we imagine would have been the result if they had helped? We know it would have been disastrous because the Old Testament provides us with countless stories of calamity; of what occurs when believers ally themselves with non-believers in order to serve the Lord. And in case we missed it in the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul warns us again in the New Testament…

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

There are a few things I wanted to point out in the narrative that have profound relevance to our Christian walk. The first two are covered in these NT passages:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

For the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night… Revelation 12:10b

Be Inedible

It’s true; the devil is doggedly on the prowl for those he can gobble up. Who does he go after? The weak in faith; those who don’t know the word, those who hang out on the perimeters of the church, the disobedient, the partially committed and moderately submitted; these are his easy pickins. The key is to become inedible. Those in the Word are foul-tasting to satan. Those in the center-of-the-action (as opposed to those on the fringes) are inaccessible. The obedient are unappetizing. These will still be attacked, but they will never be consumed.

Also know that satan currently has heavenly access; he is up there right now accusing some Christian; maybe you or me, of some vile act. What do we do? We concur with him, that’s what; we do so because Jesus told us to.

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Matthew 5:25

What’s the alternative, lie to God?

“God,” I might protest, “satan is lying. I didn’t sin.”

The enemy might not be telling the whole truth to God, but we can rest assured he likely has the sinning part down. Our best rejoinder is to acknowledge our sin and claim the blood of Christ Jesus. To do anything else is pointless and ineffectual. It’s always a good thing to confess and freely receive His mercy and unmerited favor.

I would also like to point out that despite the fact God told Zerubbabel and the other leaders to rebuild the temple themselves, He allowed the adversary to thwart their efforts. Why would God allow such a thing; wouldn’t that be considered counterproductive?

We’re reminded that our Father is a multi-tasker; He is able to create the masterpieces He does by operating and orchestrating outside the box in which everyone strives to contain Him. God’s methodology resulted in at least three things: Israel’s leadership being proven faithful, the enemy being identified, and the temple being financed. I find it incredibly satisfying that although satan won a small victory initially, ultimately he wound up paying for the entire project!

Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king’s expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. Ezra 6:6-8

Bringing it Home

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

We are being built into God’s holy temple, to be joined with Him forever and ever. We know in this life we are promised tribulations; our Father in Heaven will allow satan a short rope to operate in order that we might be moved towards perfection. All the chiseling, all the hammering, all the chipping away, is occurring this side of Heaven so there will not be one sound of construction once we have arrived home. Let us endeavor in our obedience to God, our awareness of a lurking enemy, and in fully trusting in God’s sovereignty in every situation.

And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built. 1 Kings 6:7

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These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:1-3

Israel has been held in brutal captivity for 70 years and the Lord had raised up a leader to set her free. Miraculously, 150 years earlier, the Lord through the prophet Isaiah foretold of these events. Cyrus, this non-Jewish liberator, had no idea these prophesies existed until Daniel had pointed them out to him

Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid…Thus says the Lord to His anointed, To Cyrus…I have raised him up in righteousness, And I will direct all his ways; He shall build My city And let My exiles go free, Not for price nor reward,” Says the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 44:28; 45:1a + 13

Wow. If Cyrus wasn’t mentioned by name in this passage from Isaiah, I would swear it was about Jesus Christ! God’s ‘shepherd’, His ‘anointed,’ His temple re-builder; sure sounds like Jesus to me. Well it isn’t Jesus, but in Cyrus we do have a representation of the One to come, for Cyrus, in the typology is a picture of Jesus. Oh yes, and the rebuilding of the temple is a picture of us!

Who Wants to Go HOME?

The Babylonians were an atrocious people. At this juncture Cyrus no doubt figured that when he asked, “Who wants to go back to Jerusalem,” all of the two million or so Jews would have caused a stampede. The fact is only about forty two thousand; less than four percent of them, responded to the invitation to go home. The others, well they had become comfortable in their situation and decided to stay put. How about you; are you comfortable in your situation; are you ready to go home?

Like these Jews, most of America is comfortable in their circumstances. Sure, we might have uttered a salvation prayer a few years back, but now we see church as a legalistic inconvenience. “After all,” we might say, “it’s not about religion; it’s about a relationship…and I choose to relate to Jesus as I watch the football game.” Second Timothy 3:1-4 provides a stark revelation on the issue:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.

Form of godliness

I suppose the question is, “Are you a born again believer or a reasonable facsimile; are you in fact just a poser?” Look at the 2nd Timothy list—which of those components apply to your situation—in which of those things are you finding comfort? The good news is that the invitation Cyrus gave to Israel is the same invitation Jesus gives to us today, “Do you want to go home?”

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Will L. Thomson

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These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:3-4

70 Years Earlier

Israel was taken into captivity by the Babylonians and after 70 years, King Cyrus comes on the scene and is moved to release the two million or so Jews. Interestingly, it was Daniel (who we recall was also in Babylon), who brings Cyrus to the Bible and points out in Isaiah how 170 earlier the Lord through His prophet spoke of Cyrus releasing the Jews from captivity! Cyrus, apparently floored by seeing his name prophetically mentioned in the Bible, was moved to be obedient to the prophesy. I guess so.

“Who Wants to Go Home…”

Cyrus asks. Incredibly, at least to me, only about 49,000 or so desired to make the 900 mile trek back to Jerusalem. The truth is that during the 70 year exile in Babylon, most of these Jews had settled in and were now comfortable with their circumstances. Cyrus recognized the situation, which is why he proclaimed, “And if you don’t want to go back, then help out financially those who do.” (paraphrase mine)

Left Behind-ers

At this point we might think that those who chose to stay behind and support those who were going might somehow be lessed-blessed then those who went. I suppose this is how some might feel about those who today support missionaries in the field, but are either unable or unwilling to go themselves. This is simply not the case. We have as one example an admonition from King David found in 1 Samuel 30:24b

But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.

In this situation, some of the king’s men were to weary to continue in battle, so they were directed to stay behind and guard the camp and it’s supplies. After the battle was won, there were those who felt the spoils of the victory should be denied those who did not physically participate in the battle. King David set them straight—everyone gets an equal share; those who fought and those who support!

An Important Attribute

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Whatever we give, our Father wants us to give it willingly and cheerfully. Why? Because everything belongs to God, that’s why. Is it not a silly notion to begrudgingly give away that which does not belong to you to begin with? If you loaned me your car and then told me to give it to someone else, it would be absurd for me to object or bemoan the request—wouldn’t it? The fact of the matter is that when we give willingly and cheerfully, God lovingly appreciates that we recognize this spiritual principle—He loves that we understand that we’re giving away His stuff and not ours. That’s what Jesus was looking for as He sat opposite the treasury in the account from Mark’s Gospel. He wasn’t looking to see what was given, but how they gave it—the quality and quantity were irrelevant.

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:41-44

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Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore. The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” Revelation 18:21-24Is Babylon New York City

Reading the passage above a person could certainly make a case that New York City will be the Babylon that is ultimately destroyed at the end of the Tribulation period. I will not be dogmatic about the assertion; I just am fascinated by the notion that Babylon could be in the United States. The truth is that Babylon might be anywhere. While others have made a case for it being the Babylon of Iraq, Rome, or even China–I just happen to see New York City as the best fit.

Why NYC?

New York is currently the financial epicenter of the world (ground-zero as it were) and arguably the wealthiest site on the planet. Sorcery in this case, as defined in the original Greek, really pertains to illicit drug use and needless to say, New York City surely holds it own in that arena. As for New York being the literal martyring-capitol of the world, that is yet to be seen, but one could make a pretty good figurative case for it being so. What do the prophets says?

Isaiah 18:1-2

Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!

The United States can relate to wings (as long as they are eagle’s wings), we are west of Ethiopia, nations do send their ambassadors to the United Nations, we are a nation that has conquered it’s rightful inhabitants, and oh yes, our rivers are fairly tainted.

Jeremiah 50:12 + 37

Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert… A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people…
I believe that England (our mother) is baffled by our behavior to the point of being ashamed. As for being a mingled people, no one could argue. Who though would say that Iraq or China are mingled?

Jeremiah 51:12a-13, 49, 53

…The LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon. O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness…As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth…Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD.

The United States is the only modern-day kingdom that possess all these distinctives ~and~ ‘dwellest upon many waters.’ Whether or not the United States will stand with Israel to the bitter end is yet to be seen. Finally, and as far as you and I know, we are the only nation with the short-term capacity to mount an attack from the heavens with our moth-balled ‘Star Wars’ technology.

Who Cares

I suppose if the church is going to be plucked-off the planet before any of this takes place, it really does not matter much (to us) who, what, and where Babylon ends up. However God knows and He has established some road signs, and although seemingly vague, they serve to direct each sojourner to a place inside themselves; a place in need of some radical house cleaning—the Babylon of our very own hearts. James warns of this Babylon within.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:1-8

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