Thursday, July 2, 2015
Living in Babylon part four
This is the last installment of a series looking at 7 lessons for believers who find themselves living in a type of Babylon. It is continued from Living in Babylon part three.
6. Your life fits into a bigger picture than just you and your family. Submit to the whole.
Independence is a core value of Americans. We don't want a queen or a king. We celebrate our independence as a nation and rightly so. That spirit produced countless great achievements in our country and led to American exceptionalism, a value underrated by some in our society.
However, the same quality that makes for a great citizen can make for a lousy Christian. The spirit that created a strong country may result in a weak church. While each of us is individually accountable to God, the Bible talks more about interdependence among believers than it does independence.
The apostle Paul's longest symbolic description of the church is that of a human body. We call it the body of Christ. He wrote, "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:12,27).
Believers need other believers. The Bible does not call for lone ranger Christians who sit at home without real fellowship and simply watch churches or preaching online or on television. The New Testament exhorts us over and over with the "one-anothers." Pray for one another. Meet together. Serve one another. Encourage one another. Carry each other's burdens. And on and on it goes.
There is, however, a negative aspect of this interdependence.
A large group of people may experience the negative consequences of the bad choices, judgments, or sins of a smaller group of people. In the book of Joshua, the entire army suffered a significant battle loss because of the sins of one man (chapter 7). In King David's day, the entire nation suffered a plague as a punishment for David's sin (1 Samuel 24). Earlier in David's reign, a famine occurred for three years - a delayed punishment due to the sins of King Saul, David's predecessor.
History records the raw reality that life is not always fair, and at times a group of people suffer consequences because of the wrong choices of another.
God warned his people for several generations in the Old Testament that if they did not repent of their sins and return to His Word, He would judge them severely. The prophet Isaiah walked naked through Jerusalem as a picture of what was to come. More than 100 years later the prophecies were fulfilled as Babylon conquered Jerusalem and many new slaves marched naked from their homeland.
Many of these people now exiled into Babylon reaped the fruit of the sins of their forefathers. Daniel and his three friends, for example, shine as brilliant examples of godliness. Yet they experienced exile, and likely experienced the pain and shame of being made eunuchs, as a result of the punishment on their people. Those four men could have spent their life bitterly despairing, "This is not fair! This is not the life we planned." Instead, they submitted to a Sovereign God who reigned over even Nebuchadnezzar. They in essence said, "God, though I may not understand what is happening and I may not like it, I trust You to fulfill Your purpose for me."
God was not surprised by the exile, and He still had a plan for their lives.
These lessons lead us to the seventh one of trusting God in Babylon:
7. God will fulfill His promises and His Word. He will not leave you undone (10,14).
Exile did not take God by surprise. He planned it, and He planned for the day it ended. He promised, through Jeremiah, that "when seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place" (Jeremiah 29:10).
Fulfill that promise He did, when in 538 B.C. Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and issued an edict allowing the Jewish people to return home.
The Lord is saying, "I will not leave you undone." As the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion" (Philippians 1:6).
He who sees the end from the beginning will see his people through the exile.
This trial you currently experience, as painful and shocking as it may be to you, did not surprise your God. He knew. He saw. As you seek Him and submit to Him, trusting your days to the Omniscient One, He will see you through. Your end may not be the one you planned or of which you dreamed. But dear one, the God who knew every one of your days before even one came into being saw this season. And He planned for it. He will not leave you undone.
As American culture continues to drift further from her Judeo-Christian roots, believers can still trust God.
Dorothy said, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore." Nevertheless, her life seemed to still be guided by a greater force. And so is ours.
Today, God knows, and He still has a plan for His people.
Living in Babylon challenges you and me to learn to trust God in new ways.
Eugene Peterson aptly shares, All of us are given moments, days, months, years of exile. What will we do with them? Wish we were somewhere else? Complain? Escape into fantasies? Drug ourselves? Or build and plant and marry and seek the shalom of the place we inhabit and the people we are with? Exile reveals what really matters and frees us to pursue what really matters, which is to seek the Lord with all our hearts. Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best