Revelation 18 brings us to the destruction of Babylon. Again, I know that many people disagree over the nature of what Babylon is exactly in context, but when it does fall, notice who is upset.
Rev 18:15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
Rev 18:16 And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
Rev 18:17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
Rev 18:18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
Rev 18:19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.
Rev 18:20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
It doesn’t necessarily surprise me. Particularly in modern society, it seems that greed is one of the biggest downfalls of those who are powerful. They might be well-off, but they always want a little bit more, and sometimes people will cut corners or hurt other people to get what they want. Financial sector scandals come to mind immediately, but even if we think about smaller things in our own lives, don’t we sometimes fall into this trap? We use other people as means to achieve a certain end, and often times we are motivated by greed on some level.
The thing about wealth is that it can go away so quickly. That is what we see here in Revelation. These merchants had become incredibly wealthy, but now the network had fallen, so business was going to die. They had nothing left without the business. That is the beauty of the Christian worldview incidentally. Certainly, it would not be easy for any of us to lose everything we have, and I don’t want to say this somewhat flippantly. I understand that would be incredibly difficult for any of us. However, I also know that because we are Christians, our two most valuable possessions are things that we did not buy. We have our lives which are gifts from God, and we have the gift of salvation. Even if we lose our money, we certainly have things to be thankful for.
Obviously then, this chapter makes me think about how God really wants to show the consequences of putting your faith in money. The money is not a sure foundation.
We often times wonder how much trouble people have to go through. We wonder why there are so many hard times on earth that push people to the limit. We see people who are oppressed, and we wonder if God even notices this entirely unjust situation.
The people of Babylon are going to be judged in Habakkuk 2, and even though they had done a lot of terrible things without being slowed down, they were not going to get away with it.
Hab 2:10 Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
Hab 2:11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
Hab 2:12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!
I think about this, and it makes me think about how we can certainly do things the wrong way. We can build the town with blood. We can trample people on our way to the top, and we can pretty much do exactly what Babylon did on a much smaller scale.
God notices that. Even though we might wonder where God is at the time, it is not like He has gone anywhere. We might not understand why the judgment is not coming immediately, but it is not like there is some kind of special pass that these oppressors are receiving. God is just, and He will set it right even if we do not understand the timing. We are never promised a time, but we are promised justice.
Their deeds will testify to what they have done.
Nebuchadnezzar was an interesting guy. His relationship with God was kind of like a roller coaster. We began with him invading the people of God and taking them prisoner. Then, he heard from Daniel, and he thought that Daniel’s God was great because He gave Daniel the power to interpret dreams. You would think that that would do it, but relatively soon after, he put three men into a furnace for not bowing to his statue and therefore violating the law of that same God that he admired in Daniel. However, it seems that everything came full circle for Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. This chapter is a proclamation that Nebuchadnezzar made quite a bit later in his life, and he had had one more experience with God that really made him a true believer.
Dan 4:29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
Dan 4:30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
Dan 4:31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
Dan 4:32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
For seven years, Nebuchadnezzar literally lost his mind. After that length of time, he came back to normal, and no one he had no doubt that God was everything He said He was.
Dan 4:37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
This is a major life change. He went from a guy who was burning people who worship God to at least someone who is able to acknowledge the amazing power of the God of the Bible. Did he ultimately renounce all of his Babylonian gods? We don’t know, but at the very least he seemed to have a pretty dramatic change in perspective.
God has the power to do that. Whether or not Nebuchadnezzar ultimately turned away from idolatry is kind of beside the point. What is important is that God changes lives. Think about the apostle Paul. When he met Jesus Christ, he went from being a killer to a missionary. No one is ever beyond hope.
Welcome to Daniel! Right away, we discovered that Daniel was a man of principle. When Jerusalem was invaded by the Babylonians, they decided that for bright young men like Daniel, there was more value in using them to serve the King rather than throwing them in jail. There was a problem though.
Dan 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
It is interesting. Sustenance is a very important thing, but Daniel was not willing to violate the law of God by eating meat and drinking wine that was presumably offered to idols. His conscience would not allow him to do that.
I wonder how many of us would be willing to make a similar stand. I would like to say that I would be able to. I would like to say that I would be bold enough to even tell those who had the power of life and death over me that I would not violate the law God for anything, but I don’t know. It is one of those things that is kind of hard to tell until you are in that situation.
However, if we do end up in that situation, the story of Daniel is an encouragement. If you finish the chapter, you clearly see God’s hand at work. Daniel asked for a modification to his diet, and that request is granted because they were allowed to prove that they could eat the way they wanted and still be healthy enough to serve the King.
There is hope here. It may not be easy, and I am sure that Daniel was a little bit nervous making requests of basically his captors, but despite all of that, he was still willing to elevate the law of God over whatever might happen to him.
We all know the story of Daniel, and we know that he was not always the most popular guy because of the stand, but he is a great example of one who stood up for his faith in a hostile situation. We can learn from him.
I’ve been interested about the question as to why God would use Babylon to fulfill such a large part of His plan in Ezekiel 30 and really the entire book.
Eze 30:22 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and will break his arms, the strong, and that which was broken; and I will cause the sword to fall out of his hand.
Eze 30:23 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.
Eze 30:24 And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break Pharaoh’s arms, and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man.
Eze 30:25 But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt.
Eze 30:26 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
I point this out because the Babylonians were clearly not the people of God. They were polytheistic idolaters. They had a rather developed society, but it is interesting that God would use something like that country to fulfill His purpose in the world.
However, I then think about why God uses any of us to fulfill His purposes. We are all fallen people, so I don’t know why God uses us. I also don’t know why God occasionally uses difficult times to advance His purposes. I imagine that most of us have come through a difficult time where our faith was strengthened.
My point is that there are a lot of things that God chooses to use that I might not choose. I might not think that Babylon was a good choice, but it is important to remember as well that the thoughts of God are not the thoughts of humans. We cannot constrain what God can do by our own sense of what God should do. God has a purpose for choosing Babylon because He is first of all a purposeful being. He is the source of purpose.
I like how Jeremiah had a commitment to preserving his prophecies. In Jeremiah 51, we hear the conclusion of all the judgments that are going to come on Babylon, and here is what Jeremiah did when he finished hearing the word of God.
Jer 51:60 So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon.
Jer 51:61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;
Jer 51:62 Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever.
Jer 51:63 And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates:
Jer 51:64 And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah made sure that his friend read all that he had prophesied, but he also obviously wanted to get rid of the incriminating evidence since his friend was going to Babylon. However, the main point is that he wanted to make sure that this word got out to other people. God gave him knowledge, and he wanted people to know.
I kind of think about that with the Bible today. We have knowledge that has come to us from God, so why don’t we have a similar commitment to telling people about that knowledge? Jeremiah clearly did what he could to make sure that his message got out in Babylon even though he was not going to Babylon himself.
I don’t know your personal evangelism style. For me, I like to write this because I am better in print than I am in person. I feel like it is a small piece of what I can do to bring the Bible to people. However, maybe you have a different preferred method. That’s fine as well, but the point is that we ought to have a commitment to trying to do what we can to get the word of God out. The Holy Spirit moves in people, but God does use people to spread the word.
If you think way back to the beginning of this issue between Babylon and the people of Judah, God has always been telling them that everything would be fine if they would humble themselves and submit to the imminent captivity. However, they didn’t like that, and yesterday we saw the people taken captive and largely hauled off to Babylon.
Today, in Jeremiah 41, you would think that the people would have learned by now that this captivity had to be the amount of time as prophesied by Jeremiah. It was not that easy, and they continued to try to rebel from under the plan that God had laid out.
Jer 41:2 Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.
Jer 41:3 Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.
Jer 41:4 And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,
It almost seems like Ishmael, who was a distant relative of Zedekiah, thought that the way he get back his power was by simply murdering the person who was put in charge for the time. Maybe he thought that the people would rally behind him and overthrow Babylonian rule.
I only bring this up because we know that it was prophesied that the Babylonians were going to rule. Jeremiah already said that earlier in the book, and it is not as if God would not have seen this coming. It is not as if God was surprised that Ishmael what do this.
I guess my main point is simply that we need to pay attention to the word of God as we go through our everyday lives. For example, if the Bible distinctly tells us something is wrong, we don’t get to go and change it because we want to. Now, there is always the possibility that we were previously interpreting something incorrectly, so I understand that that kind of thing can change. However, it is never a good idea to go explicitly against something that God has laid out. It is not as if our rebellion is justified simply because it is a rebellion that we feel is justified.
In Jeremiah 40, we have the fallout from the Babylonian invasion. Jeremiah had decided to remain with the remnant of poor people who the Babylonians had left behind to occupy the land of Judah while the rest of the nation was taken away. Gedaliah was the man who was chosen to be the governor over Judah, and he made it rather simple for the people.
Jer 40:9 And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.
Jer 40:10 As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken.
Basically, as long as everyone did their jobs, there would be no problem from the higher levels of government. In my mind, this seems reasonable. If I was one of those who was commanded to remain in Judah, I would not have been thrilled of course to be under foreign rule, but in terms of oppression, this was a lot better than it could have been without a doubt.
It is interesting how even in this rather tame situation, it seemed as if discord was only one rumor away.
Jer 40:15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?
Gedaliah did not seem to be worried about this plot, but he should have been as we will find out tomorrow (my apologies for the spoiler).
I bring up this story because it is important to remember that our position on earth is precarious. Gedaliah seemed to be doing some decent things. He was trying to make life as good as he could for the people in Judah, but people were nevertheless beginning to spread rumors and eventually acted on those rumors.
If we put all of our trust in the world (I am not saying that Gedaliah necessarily was; I don’t know an awful lot about his spiritual life), it very well might turn on us even if we are doing good things for the people. How much better is it to make sure that we put our trust in God? We certainly still can and should do good things for the world, but it is done with the recognition that we are now working for a higher authority who is not going to betray us regardless of what the world does.
Jeremiah 39 is a tragic story. All of the prophecy of Jeremiah came true. The army of Babylon moved in and ransacked Jerusalem. However, amidst all this tragedy, there was still the provision of God at work. Jeremiah had been faithful the entire time and continually tried to communicate the message of God to a people who did not want to listen.
Jer 39:11 Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,
Jer 39:12 Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.
The captain of the guard was a relatively important person, and it does not seem that Nebuchadnezzar would really have any logical reason for valuing the life of Jeremiah so specifically. At this time, Jeremiah was locked up in prison, so I imagine that if I had been Nebuchadnezzar, I would have thought that he was just another prisoner.
However, Jeremiah received special treatment that Babylon probably did not give to very many people. He did not share in the punishment that was being doled out to the people of Judah at large. Why? He was faithful, and God was not done with him yet.
God spared his life and provided him with provision even when everything around him was literally going up in flames.
Even though the world seemed to be going crazy around him, God obviously had a plan, and the death of Jeremiah was not meant to be in that plan yet. Jeremiah died eventually like all humans, but this was not the time.
I think that we can extend this to our lives in the sense that there are times when we might have no idea what is going on around us. It really doesn’t matter if the circumstance is as extreme as the one that Jeremiah found himself in. There are plenty of trials in all of our lives, and we can be unsettled by any of them.
However, we can take comfort that God is still there, and God doesn’t have to play by the percentages of probability. Certainly, I would be willing to bet that if you look at all of the conquests that the people of Babylon went on, a very small percentage of prisoners survived. However, the death of Jeremiah was not in God’s plan at this point, so the probabilities didn’t matter. Even if Jeremiah had died, it would not have meant that God was not there, but I only framed this account in terms of him living because that is what actually happened.
I know that it is easy for us to complain about where God has put us. We might wish that we were born in different place, were born in a different time, were born into a different family situation, or talented in different ways or so many other things that might not be ideal in our lives.
In Jeremiah 29, the people of Judah are in the similar situation. They obviously are not happy about going to Babylon. They don’t like where God has put them, but God had surprisingly practical advice for the people as they departed.
Jer 29:4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Jer 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
Jer 29:6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
God is pretty much telling them to settle down and become established because they are exactly where He wants them. Basically, God is reestablishing the fact that He is in control of the situation. It is not like the Babylonian captivity was the end of the chosen people.
I think that this relates to my introduction quite a bit. God puts us somewhere in life. For example, we don’t choose the talents that we have. Sure, we can work on developing or cultivating different talents, but we are all naturally predisposed to be better at certain things.
We can worry that we don’t have other talent, or we can build a house where we are at. We can use what we have to do what we can for God. This is more about being content and willing to do what God has designed us to do.
God was going to bring the people back from Babylon, and He told them that. However, they had to live a long time in Babylon, so it makes a lot of sense for them to get settled in on some level. Similarly, we are not going to get a different life in the sense that we have one right now on earth. The one we have is the one we are traveling through. Therefore, we ought to get settled in and work on using what we have been given to glorify God.