The Bible Insights Weekly e-letter is freely available upon request.

Yes! Please Subscribe Me

Bible Insights Weekly

Enrich your spiritual thinking.

UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 30 2024

How to live in Babylon

In Revelation 18:4-5 God pleads with Christians concerning Babylon the Great :” ... Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.”

God uses Babylon as an example of everything to be rejected if we are striving to live a godly life. It is an archetype of a civilization in opposition to God, and is referred to throughout the Bible, from Genesis 10 when mankind set out to create his own governments and culture to the history of Israel’s kings. Then we read about Babylon again in Revelation, the last book of the Bible, where God decrees Babylon and all she stands for will ultimately be destroyed.

Ancient Babylon was an actual city on the banks of the Euphrates river, established about 100 years after the flood by Nimrod, the son of Cush and grandson of Noah. It was situated in Shinar, which corresponds to the location of Iraq today. Nimrod was a mighty warrior, who fought with others for rulership and supremacy. He is the first human recorded in the Bible to be a king — one who ruled over others. Some have speculated the name ‘Nimrod’ could mean ‘rebellious’ and is more a description of the person than a name. Others have suggested Nimrod may have been Sargon the great king of the Sumerians, but we don’t really know.

In Genesis 10:9 Nimrod is described as a ‘mighty hunter before the Lord’. An alternate rendering of this phrase could be ‘against the Lord’. Under Nimrod’s leadership what the Babylonians wrote, taught and believed seriously contradicted the Bible. In Genesis 11 we are also told the people of that time disobeyed God’s instructions to spread out and colonize after the flood. Instead they gathered together in one place and attempted to build the tower of Babel in rebellion against God.

The spirit of Babylon was the spirit dominating the whole world when Abraham was called out of the idolatry and confusion to learn and teach about the true God. He was not called because he was righteous, but to become righteous and be the father of a nation to whom God would reveal His true character and law. That nation was ancient Israel, but Israel and Judah failed to keep their covenant with God and rebelled — symbolically returning to Babylon. God therefore allowed them to be conquered and enslaved. In 721-22 B.C. the Assyrians captured the northern kingdom of Israel and took the ten tribes into captivity. Then Judah was conquered by the Babylonian empire when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem in 596 BC.

The ten tribes of Israel and Judah had not resisted and overcome the “world” around them but had been overcome by it. Their story has been recorded as an example for us today. If we don’t overcome we will be overcome. Coming out of Babylon — overcoming the world — is not a matter of where we are, it’s a matter of what we do and how we think.

The prophet Daniel lived in Babylon, but he was not of Babylon. The opening verses of the book of Daniel give the historical setting, which includes the first siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 605 B.C. (There were to be two more invasions by the Babylonian empire in the next 18 years). King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon demanded tribute, along with certain Jewish men to be trained to serve in his court. These young men were carried off to the city of Babylon, a center of idolatry and one of the most wicked cities in the ancient world. Among these young men were Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were all renamed with Babylonian names—Daniel as Belteshazzar and his three friends as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Daniel 1:1-7).

Daniel set us an example of not being overcome by Babylon’s ways and holding fast to the truth. Besides being a prophet, with his book containing the most comprehensive and sweeping prophecies in the Old Testament, Daniel also worked as a government official and scholar.The way he lived his life, and set an example of God’s way of life, was groundbreaking in his time.

The prophet Jeremiah lived at the same time as Daniel, although he was around 20 years older. Jeremiah wrote from Jerusalem to Daniel and the other captives in Babylon: “Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem…to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon…Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel……Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters…that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace…Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you….” (Jeremiah 29:1 and 4-8).

God, through the prophet Jeremiah, instructs the Jews in Babylonian exile to live and work for the good of the pagan society in which they were immersed—yet without compromising on God’s way. The Babylonian bureaucracy was hostile to the God of Daniel and his countrymen, but they would be setting a godly example and having a positive influence on the society and those they came into contact with.

The Bible gives us solid, moral examples and instruction as to how we should live faithfully in a religiously hostile world, and be a peaceful contributor to society. Daniel was a faithful witness of God’s way, whether he was ruling in the king’s court, or in the king’s prison. We should follow his courageous example and stand for and live according to the truth even when doing so is hard, instead of letting our friends and the media determine our outlook and opinions. God’s desire is that we overcome the world (John 17:12-19) and set the right example, as Daniel did.