BABYLON the GOLDEN CITY

Part One

Introduction

The reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

What connection might our fast-paced age of high-tech electronics, super-sonic travel, and global networking have with ancient Babylon?

Now that’s a question much too complex to answer in one sentence except to state simply that the word BABYLON provides an insightful view of our past, and a fast forward of our future.

Countless mysteries still lie hidden in the sands that separate our times from that flourishing ancient empire, but archaeology has, and is still unearthing astounding clues that arouse curiosity and serious thinking. When these discoveries are placed side-by-side with history and the Biblical account, astounding realities stand out.

With my mind still fresh with the research of my last book, I thought to share some fascinating insights surrounding BABYLON and other ancient empires that flourished, for a time, and then faded away. Could they hold clues concerning our own times and destination? I feel that they do.

Though my book, BelkA of BABYLON, essentially spans the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign—605-562 BC—it actually reaches back to the beginning of time—or the Garden of Eden— to find clues to ancient mysteries. I hope you’ll enjoy the excerpts I’ve scattered throughout the post.

Part Two

THE GARDEN OF EDEN

The Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole (1828)

Eden was a beautifull garden home that God prepared for the first couple, where they could have lived happily ever after—had they not disobeyed Him.

Map showing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers

Location of the Garden of Eden

Here’s a clue from Genesis 2:10-14: And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison… the second river is Gihon, the third river is Hiddekel… the fourth river is Euphrates.”

Views vary, but most feel that the garden was located at the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq.

Excerpt: BelkA of BABYLON

Here’s a scene that follows a scary break-in at Jerusalem during the time when royal diplomat BelkA is being held under house arrest:

BelkA and Parto stood looking in disbelief at the heap of scrolls  “Let’s light some lamps and lay out the Writings on the floor,” BelkA suggested.

            When all had been gently lined up against the wall… BelkA grinned. “We could wait until tomorrow morning when the light is better, but I’m curious. How about you?”

            “Enormously so.”

            “If you hold up the lamp I’ll have my hands free to open a scroll.”

            Eagerly Parto took the lamp from the table and held it up as BelkA picked up the scroll nearest him.

            “This one appears fragile and maybe they all are. I’ll need to unroll it carefully. Oh, looks like a smudge right over the title but it appears readable. Here goes.” BelkA began translating as he went: “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth…” p. 256-257:

In the discussion that follows Parto—BelkA’slave—explains, in his own terms, the tragedy of Eden lost through that first sin, that affected us all. Some think too much is made of that first little sin of tasting the apple or whatever fruit it really was. After all Eve was just curious. The point is that she accepted the Serpent’s lie and rebelled against God as did Adam after her.

Adam and Eve were the first to discover the awful consequences of sin. They keenly felt the discomfort of being cut off from the blessed fellowship they’d enjoyed when God would walk and talk with them, and for the first time they felt the shame of their nakedness and guilt. In order to provide clothing for them the first sacrifice of an animal was made. Worst of all they tasted the sting of death, or the curse of death. The Bible clearly states in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.”And since they were the parents of all future generations, their descendants would also bear that horrible curse.

Thankfully, in the bleak darkness, a glimmer of light shines through from a a starling prophecy or promise in a statement addressed to the Serpent.

“… I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:5).

At first glance it sounds like some kind of ancient riddle but we might break it down by touching on  some of its terms in the light of the Bible.

“Enmity between you and the woman, your seed and hers.” Simply put the statement means that the descendants of Eve—the mother of all living souls—would have Satan as their enemy. Satan is indeed the world’s vilain who never tires of trying to trip us up through all sorts of cunning and deceptive devices. This he does through demons, demonic powers, and also his human followers who become his slaves and serve his purposes. These malign or twist his Word as Satan did with Eve, create enmity in families or wars between nations, heartbreak and disease. The seed of the woman also encompasses the Messiah who was born of the virgin Mary, and who is the Great Deliverer from sin and Satan.

“He shall bruise your head… and you shall bruise his heel.”

Hitting a snake on the head is the equivalent of a death-blow. Already back then, or from all eternity,  God had a marvelous plan designed to break Satan’s power and the curse of sin. He would send his own Son Jesus to this earth to make an atonement or pay the penalty for the removal of sin. In Old Testament times it was foreshadowed by the rituals and sacrifices of the tabernacle and the temple—and especially the offering of a sacrificial lamb—while the New Testaments recounts the actual fulfillment of the plan that is summed up in the words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten (or one and only) son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternel life” (John 3:16). Isaiah 53:6 speaks of Christ as being “bruised for our iniquities.” That sacrifice of God’s sinless Son would be the once and for all perfect sacrifice that would give Satan that fatal blow.  And though he’s still at enmity with God and his blood-bought followers, his future total demise is spelled out in Romans 15:20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Christ’s resurrection proved that He was victorious over sin and death, and consequently, we too inherit the promise of life eternal.

Link of an interesting treatment of this subject:

http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/articles/garden.html

Part Three

The World’s Largest Civiliziation

Cain stands out in history as the first murderer, and his victim was none other than that of his own brother Abel. The story goes like this: The two brothers were offering sacrifices to God. Cain placed on his altar the first fruits of his agricultural labor, while Abel chose a lamb from his flock. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. Why? Cain offered products of his own work or efforts. Abel’s lamb was no doubt a precious living animal, or perhaps even a pet as the custom was to keep the lamb in the family household before the sacrifice. Hebrews 11:4 explains it in these terms, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts” Ephesians 2:8 emphatically states, “For by grace we are saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” Cain chose to do things his way—rather than God’s way. He, like his parents, had rebelled against God.” The point is that it’s not what we do that makes us acceptable to God, but rather faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross for us that makes us acceptable to Him. Cain, now overcome by anger and jealousy, slew his brother, forgetting that unlike us, God sees everything. Cain was on a down-hill slide that would bring serious consequences.

 

Matthew Henry, writing way back in the early 18th century, left us the legacy of a helpful commentary. He connects the incident back in Genesis to his own generation and we find in it a link to our own with the following, “Through all ages there have been two sorts of worshippers such as Cain and Abel; namely, proud, hardened despisers of the gospel method of salvation, who attempt to please God in ways of their own devising; and humble believers, who draw near to him in the way he has revealed. Cain indulged malignant anger against Abel, and harbored an evil spirit of discontent and rebellion against God, who notices all our sinful passions and discontents. There is not an angry, envious, or fretful look, that escapes his observing view. “Malice in the heart ends in murder by the hands.”

“The wickedness of the wicked brings a curse upon all they do, and all they have. Cain complains not of his sin, but of his punishment. It shows great hardness of heart to be more concerned about our sufferings than our sins… it tells us the heinous guilt of murder, and warns us to stifle the first risings of wrath… (it) teaches us that persecution must be expected by the righteous. Also, that there is a future state, and an eternal recompense to be enjoyed, through faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice…. Cain slew his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous I John 3:12. In consequence of the enmity put between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the war broke out, which has been waged ever since. In this war we are all concerned, none are neuter; our Captain has declared, He that is not with me is against me. Let us decidedly, yet in meekness, support the cause of truth and righteousness against Satan.”

In looking upon conditions of our own times, we cannot help but notice parallels. Judgment can be delayed only as long as a faithful remnant continues to pray, follow the ordinances of God, and seek to warn evildoers of the risk they face by closing their ears to the Divine call. But, when no one listens and all hands are at work to pull down fences, who can stand in the gap when a flood of deserved wrath is poised let loose.

Cain Builds the First city

This city,” writes Matthew Henry: “was to be the head-quarters of the apostasy,” that will bring upon the world the awful judgment from a righteous God through a catastrophic world-wide flood.”

Part Four

The Flood

An 1846 painting by the American folk painter Edward Hicks, depicting the animals boarding Noah’s Ark in pairs. —Public Domain

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually ” (Genesis 6:5):

So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens…”

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8).

Hebrews 11:7 lists Noah as one of the heroes of faith in the following terms: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.“  2 Peter 2:5 also honors Noah with the following words: God spared not the old (ancient) world, but spared Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.”

Noah Preaches and Builds

Building Ark—The Christian Image Source

For 120 years Noah faithfully preached judgment as he kept building the ark. Albert Barnes comments: “In these verses we are to conceive the 120 years of respite to be at an end. The iniquity of the race is now full, and the determination of the Lord is therefore announced…

“Noah and his family are the only exceptions to this sweeping destruction… Now for the first time grace itself finds a tongue to express its name. Grace has its fountain in the divine breast. The stream has been flowing forth to Adam, Eve, Habel, Henok, and others, we hope, unknown to fame. By the time it reaches Noah it has found a name, by which it is recognized among people to this day.”

The majority mocked. The majority was wrong.

The Christian Image Source

 Noah and His Family Survived the Flood

When the waters had subsided Noah and his family stepped out of the ark. I can only imagine the scene as they stood at the brink of a whole new beginning. The world had gone through a bath and as trees and plants budded they sparkled with new life in the bright sunshine. One of the first things Noah did was to set up an altar in the appointed way with unhewn stones—emphasizing once more that man must not approach God with one’s own merits— but with the proper sacrifice. God met with them and made a promise—or covenant—to all creatures never again to destroy the world through water.

Fountain of Grace

Forest Wander: Fountain and Streams of Grace

Commentator Albert Barnes

How I love the word picture mentioned by Commenter Albert Barnes : “Now for the first time grace itself finds a tongue to express its name.” The statement is especially refreshing in the context of  Old Testament times were it is, as it were, unexpected or just a trickle. So precious it is to realize that the fountain spills out ever more abundantly at Calvary and  by the time it reaches us it surpasses all capacity to measure its depth and boundless capacity.

“O love of God, how rich and pure, how measureless and free.

It shall forever more endure, the saints and angels sing.”

As a closing touch on this segment I thought to add some  more refreshing “grace verses” from the Old Testament.

Psalm 84:11; “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no goodthing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”

Proverbs 3:34: “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.”

Psalm 45:2 “…grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.”

Jonah 4:2 “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

Noah found “grace in the eyes of the Lord,” but the rest of the world, though amply warned, did not.

A link to view as you meditate upon the above verses:

Links: God’s Beautiful World

The Christian Image

Forest Wander

Part Five

Nimrod and Nineveh

Genesis 10:8-10 tells how Noah’s grandson Nimrod founded cities—including Nineveh and Babylon.

The ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh was located 500 miles north-east of Israel, on the fertile east bank of the Tigris River where east-west, north-south trade routes connected.

Sennacherib mentioned in 2 Kings 18:13 —Wikipedia

Many of us have preconceived notions that ancient people were clumsy and stupid, but this is far from true. Archeological findings reveal that ancient Nineveh and Babylon had remarkably advanced civilizations.

It was King Sennacherib, son of Sargon II, who made Nineveh a truly magnificent city. “His building projects started as soon as he was made king. Already in 703 BC he had built a superb palace surrounded by a park and with an artificial irrigating system. Besides his own large gardens, several small gardens were made for the citizens of Nineveh. The narrow alleys and squares of Nineveh were widened and a royal road was lined on both sides with stele. Temples were restored and built during his reign, the most notable being that of the Assur (god) and the new year (Akitu) temples. He also expanded the city’s defenses by adding a moat surrounding the city walls. Some of his city walls have been restored and can still be seen today.”—Wikipedia

One of Nineveh’s Restored Gates—Wikipedia

Assur god of the Assyrians: winged bull with a human head—Wikepedia

According to some accounts, the military rulers, as in many other nations, were brutal. They ruled their empire and subdued nations with absolute terror, as mentioned in the following:  “I destroyed, I demolished, I burned. I took their warriors prisoner and impaled them on stakes before their cities …flayed the nobles, as many as had rebelled, and spread their skins out on the piles (of dead corpses)… many of the captives I burned in a fire. Many I took alive; from some I cut off their hands to the wrist, from other I cut off their noses, ears and fingers; I put out the eyes of many of the soldiers.” (TimeFrame 1500-600 BC by Time-Life Books, Assyrian War Bulletin – 1000 BC)
The zenith of Assyrian power  marked a sharp decline in the religious and moral integrity of the rulers of Judah. Manasseh (678-642 BC), acting the exact opposite of his father who attempted to eliminate idolatry, fostered a syncretization or a blending of idolatry into the worship of Yahweh bringing the country down to an all-time low.

Nineveh and Jonah

Nineveh is also mentioned in the Bible through the story of Jonah who lived about in the book of Jonah about (785-760 BC).

Jonah was ordered by God to go and preach to the wicked and cruel city of Nineveh, telling them to repent within 40 days or expect the total destruction of the city. But Jonah, no doubt petrified at the over the risk of to his own life of such an assignment, frantically boarded a ship going the opposite direction.

The book of Jonah does not describe the city’s wickedness, but the prophet Nahum mentions that Nineveh was guilty of evil plots against God (Nahum 1:9), for exploiting the poor and helpless (2:12), cruelty in war (v. 13), idolatry, prostitution, and witchcraft (Nahum 3:4).

Jonah Thrown Overboard—The Christian Image Source

Jonah found that, without God in your boat sailing is never smooth. A storm broke out and Jonah, now riddled with guilt, and knowing that he’d put the lives of the crew at risk, told the mariners to throw him overboard. So, desperate as they were, they obliged, and the sea immediately calmed down.

The prophet Jonah was learning a harsh lesson: To be a servant of God, one must obey His commands no matter what. The Bible records his anguish in the belly of the fish and his prayer of genuine repentance: “The waters compassed me about, even to the soul…  I remembered the LORD; and mine prayer came in unto thee…  I will sacrifice unto thee in the voice of thanksgiving. I will pay that I have vowed.” In contemporary words we might paraphrase it in terms of, “God, if you get me out of here, I’ll obey you implicitly.”
Jonah Obeys

Jonah Obeys—Christian Image Source

God then made the fish cough Jonah up upon the beach. This time when God repeated the call, Jonah immediately “arose and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.”

The City Repents—The Christian Image Source

Amazingly, the city, including the king and the nobles, covered themselves in sackcloth—a mourning custom of the time—indicating their genuine heart attitude of repentance. “Who can tell,” they exclaimed, ” if God will … turn away from his anger” (Jonah chapters 2 and 3). God, who sees into hearts, saw that they were truly sorry and He relented. The city was spared.

Alas, the change did not last. Gradually Nineveh fell back into sin, and by the time 170 years had passed, it was back to where it had been before—or perhaps even worse. So finally,  in 612 BC, God allowed judgment to fall, by the hand of the armies of Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar II who destroyed the city completely. The event greatly weakened the Assyrian power, prompting Nebuchadnezzar II to take it upon himself to defeat the Assyrians at the battle of Carchemish, on the upper Euphrates, in 605. BC. This accomplished, he hurried home where his father was dying, just in time to secure the throne for himself. In the year 722 BC the ancient and powerful Assyrian Empire fell to the Babylonians.

Exerpt:

Excerpt from BelkA of BABYLON

The scene is where Nineveh is mentioned in connection with the father of protagonist BelkA, a general who fell in the battle at Nineveh.

            Now BelkA,” he (Nebuchadnezzar) said leaning  forward in a way that bounced light off his black curled hair, “I don’t want to lose you so be on your guard. You are to discuss the mission with no one including your mother—especially not your mother. Do you understand?”

            BelkA bowed once again, “I do your majesty. I am indeed honored and will let nothing prevent me from accomplishing my mission.”

            A hint of a smile played on the king’s firm jaw as he leaned back and sized up the young man standing before him, a replica of his stalwart father, the general who had fought valiantly at Nineveh only to lose his life at the peak of conquest. With difficulty he restrained any expression of cordiality…” (p. 10).

Nineveh Destroyed—Wikipedia

When the Assyrian empire came to an end, the Medes and the Babylonians divided its provinces, and until the 1800s, knowledge of the remains of Nineveh—the once great capital of Assyria—were but vague memories. While other cities such as Palmyra, Persepolis, and Thebes have left ruins, all that remains of this magnificent metropolis is but a mound of dirt. From the pen of  the Greek historian Herodotus, who was writing his histories around 400 BC, much was already forgotten by then, and when, in 401-399 BC  Xenophon, a Greek knight from Athens who marched with the famous “Retreat of the 10,000, passed through the area and later commented,” the very memory of the name was lost.”

Every empire, as every human life is limited to a space of time. It is imperative that we regard as transitory the conditions of our own day, and always keep in mind that we are accountable to God. If we choose to rebel against Him and go our own way, sooner or later will meat up with His judgment.

Links: Christian Answers

Jonah

The Christian Image Source

Part Six

Babel Tower—The Christian Image Source

Nimrod and the Founding of Babylon According to the Bible

Nimrod, in spite of his super-intelligence, disobeyed God’s command to “ …fill the earth” (Gen. 2:2). Instead, as Genesis 11:4 points out he and his followers said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

The Christian Image Source

Memories of the Flood

It would seem that some remembered the judgment of the flood, including Nimrod, who actually thought he could outsmart God with a scheme of his own: To build a high tower that would provide a sure refuge—at least for a chosen elite.

As Recorded by Josephus

Photo said to be that of the bust of Jewish historian Josephus——Wikipedia

“Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to reach…”

The Christian Image Source

“Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.

“When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion…” (Ant. 1:14:2).

If we hark back to Eden we see how man has always had a tendency to rebel. It happened with our first parents, and became widespread in the period preceding the flood. Even after that judgment it cropped up anew and continued on down in time when some, obsessed with self-importance, greed, power, and pride, resisted submission to authority in general, but especially toward an all-wise, all-seeing, all-knowing God. Indeed, they asserted their own authority and contended against Him as if they were equal or even superior in importance, knowledge and wisdom to Him. Some, with imaginative minds—or prompted by the Great Deceiver—invented their own gods, often as imitations of the One True God, but with man’s lowest qualities and requiring the basest of rituals. These they enforced upon on the fearful and vulnerable while ensnaring even intelligent minds with deceptive and seductive lures empowered by evil forces.

One might think that the majority would have avoided the deception, but humankind tends to believe the lie of Satan. Let us be warned. Matthew 7:14-15 says, “… The gate is wide and the way broad that leads to destruction… and there are many who enter it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

An interesting link to check out: The Ziggurat of Ur

Part Seven

Wikipedia

Ancient Babylonia and Israel – A Brief Overview

Babylonia is the Greek name of a people who inhabited what was once known as Mat Akkadi, the fertile alluvial plain that Josephus, known to exaggerate, describes as so exceptionally fertile “that the blades of wheat and barley are at least three inches wide” and that the crops normally produced “two hundred fold, and in an exceptional year as much as three-hundredfold.” (Histories 1.193).

Cuneiform Writing—Wikipedia

It was in that land that the first world’s urban centers  emerged along with early attempts at writing, first in pictogram and then in cuneiform. These were clay tablets upon which a wedge-tipped stylus was pushed into the clay that was then dried.

It was here that Hammurabi set up his kingdom with its ancient Sumerian and Akkadian languages, and it’s written code of law.  Many more details could be included but I will mention only that tablets, dating way back to the 24th century BC, indicate that it was a religious and cultural center where they delved into the studies of science, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, literature, and philosophy. According to the Bible  (Hebrews 11:1), the great patriarch Abram, as he was then called, lived in this area and in the town of Ur  (Around 2000 BC).

So far, details regarding the early Mesopotamian era “is very limited. That Ur was an important urban centre already then seems to be indicated by a type of cylinder seal called the City Seals. These seals contain a set of proto-cuneiform signs which appear to be writings or symbols of the name of city-states in ancient Sumer. Many of these seals were found in Ur, and the name of Ur is prominent on them…”—Wikipedia

Abraham of Ur – Bible Revival

God appeared to Abraham in the following terms: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

The implications of this call or command was probably more than Abram could envisage, but he obviously took God seriously, and obeyed implicitly. Leaving his homeland he set out for his long journey of faith accompanied by his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, servants and herds. Since God had promised he would become a great nation, they felt confident that a child and heir would soon brighten their tent.

But no child came. Abraham became concerned and wondered if he might have misunderstood God’s promise. After all, in order to have descendants, one must have offspring.

 Then one day God met with him again and said: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great… your descendants will be as numerous as the stars.”

These were rather strange words. What could they mean?

He failed to understand, at this early era, that God was teaching him an important lesson of faith—that it all hinged upon God rather than himself and circumstances. A lessons we also, in our era, often fail to grasp.

Impatiently he cried out, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will (have to) be my heir… “

God replied, “… a son coming from your own body will be your heir. And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them… So shall your offspring be…”

According to Genesis 15:6, Abraham “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Spiritual light had dawned upon the mind of Abram that penetrated deep within in his soul. Through this important transaction he was made righteous by the only One capable of removing sin.

Abram’s declaration has echoed down through the centuries and remains as vital for us today as when it was first affirmed. He was a changed man. From then on he became known as, “The man of faith.”

Without doubt Abram, now full of renewed hope looked forward to the “Child of Promise.”  Alas! Nothing happened. “Faith,” says Hebrews 11:1, “ is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is confident waiting without any tangible proof of it’s realization. For faith to be faith it must be tested. Often, it seems, the greater the object of faith, the greater the challenge  of confident waiting without even the most minute proof of realization.

Sarah, Hagar & Ishael

Sarah Laughs

At the absurdity of the whole idea Sarah, who was listening inside their tent, barely restrained herself from laughing out loud. How ridiculous, she must have thought. It was no longer possible for a woman of her age to bear a child.

But when God asked, “Why did Sarah laugh?”

Overcome with embarrassment Sarah (whose name had by this time also been changed) denied laughing. God, who knows the heart, rebuked her by insisting she did, but at the same time He graciously reassured her with a statement in the form of a question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” She would no doubt cherish those words for the rest of her life—and live by them.

Nine months later faith became sight when the promised child arrived. Indeed, nothing is impossible to the LORD God Almighty. Life in their tent now resounded with lullabies that were no doubt songs of thanksgiving and praise. This promised child stands out as a preview of another promised Son, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Years passed and just as Isaac was becoming a fine-looking young lad, God asked Abraham to offer him—the child of promise—as a sacrifice! A test of this magnitude would have overcome most of us, and no doubt Abraham’s struggle tore him apart inwardly. He’d waited so long…  and now…  surely not this! Nevertheless he obeyed—in faith, wondering even if God might somehow bring Isaac back to life.

Bravely, and with a determined step, Abraham quietly set out with his son beside him. As they began climbing the Mount Moriah the perplexed young Isaac, knowing they were going to make a sacrifice, asked, “Father, where’s the Lamb?”

With great self-control Abraham answered, “God will himself provide the Lamb my son.”

The Bible Revival

We might imagine Isaac helping to build the altar. The Scriptures give few specifics but it tells how the father bound his son Isaac… placed him upon the altar… and raised the knife… but was stopped in the nick of time by an angel. And then what relief to find a replacement lamb, caught in at nearby thicket.

Christian Image Source

In this scene we see, once more, a picture of unsurpassable wonder as it foreshadows and looks forward to that Perfect Lamb of God who would be sent to this world to offer Himself as the only perfect sacrifice for sin. The Bible calls that sacrifice a substitutionary atonement or payment of a debt none but He could pay. This was the object of Isaiah’s later Messianic prophecy, “He (Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was laid upon him, and by his stripes we are healed (forgiven)” (Isaiah 53:5).

Joseph

Years later Isaac’s son Jacob became the father of twelve sons. One of these sons, Joseph, stood out in the family as a favorite which, of course, created jealousy in the hearts of his siblings who mistreated him, and eventually sold him into slavery. But God had His eye on this young man, and brought about events that resulted in his rise to power in Pharaoh’s court, to become second only to the king.

Time passed. Joseph died and so did Pharaoh. Eventually another king rose who did not know Joseph, and because the tribe had become very numerous, the Egyptian government became mistrustful of this clan called the Hebrews, and enslaved them. Meanwhile alas, the Hebrews gradually forgot the God of Abraham and Joseph, and assimilated the gods and life-style of the Egyptians.

Moses

Moses Interceding – Bible Revival

Then rose Moses who, born of godly parents but under extraordinary circumstances, was raised in the royal palace and educated at the highest level of the whole land of Egypt. Every detail in his life was synchronized by a Sovereign God who realizes his purposes for each of us in time and history. Moses’ role was pivotal and so were all aspects of his preparation.

Further training in the desert taught Moses more valuable lessons, and then one day he heard a voice in the wilderness calling out from a burning bush, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Moses, like Joseph years before him, resisted and among other arguments asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God replied “I am has sent you.” This was a classic term for Yahweh, a name for God that expresses His absolute and unchanging eternal being.” God who lived before, lived then, lives today, and will live forever.

Armed with solid faith Moses obeyed. Israel was delivered through God’s mighty intervention on their behalf, and so the whole clan set out on the long journey through the wilderness—that illustrates our own walk with God as we travel toward the Promised Land. At Mount Sinai Israel learned in striking ways the power and holiness of God through the quaking of the mountain, and punishment for making and worshipping the golden calf. There they received the law—the ten commandments—a document that reveals elements of God’s own perfect character, serves as a blueprint for living on earth in a manner that pleases Him, and also provides a pattern for wholesome leadership and individual well-being.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness—The Christian Image Source

Meanwhile they were also instructed to build a tabernacle where God would meet with them, and teach them about His beautiful plan of redemption, through tangible object lessons where each item and ritual, portrayed the Messiah to come.

As the journey got long and tiresome in the vast wilderness, many began to complain and rebel against God. It went on again and again, until finally, when nearing the promised land and where scouts were sent to spy out the land, all but two returned faithless with the dismal report “there are giants in the land.” It was the spark that lit a revolt against God that went past the limit of His long patience. Faith in the God of the impossible can conquer giants, but the Bible says they chose instead to murmur  against Him. Murmuring is a form of gossip that exaggerates as it spreads from mouth to mouth until it is becomes a lie. It greatly displeases God as it undermines His character. The murmuring ended up becoming a revolt. This was too far. Judgment had to fall. God—the only righteous judge—ordered 40 years of wandering in the desert.

Joshua and His Army—The Bible Revival

Joshua

When Moses died it was his faithful helper Joshua who was chosen by God to take the children of Israel across the Jordan and into the territory they were to conquer for their inheritance.

Gideon

Following Joshua, they were ruled for a time by judges, some of whom were also prophets and priests. But a growing element wanted a style of government resembling the nations around them which was through a king rather than a theocracy. God from the start had claimed to be their king politically and religiously. Now though he resisted their will to have a human king—an obvious rejection of Himself—he allowed it temporarily. The day is coming when the Son of Righteousness shall rule as king of Kings over a righteous people, called out from among many nations.

Anointing of Saul —The Christian Images Source

King Saul

Saul was established on the throne as Israel’s first king. For a time he did right before God, but gradually his heart became hard and disobedient, and jealousy flared up within in toward his son-in-law David who had won the admiration and praise of the people after killing the giant Goliath. With vicious cruelty he harassed and chased and made every attempt possible to do away with him, who was chosen by God to replace him. Finally, in a battle with the Philistines he was killed along with his son Jonathan.

King David

David Anointed King

David was born halfway between Abraham and the Incarnate Messiah. In his youth he tended sheep for his father, defending them from predators—at one time even a bear—another a lion. As a musician, he would often soothe away the fears of his flock by playing his harp and singing songs he skillfully composed to express his devotion to God. We see in his life a type of the “Good Shepherd,” was called “a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14), though he, like us all, was not always perfect in his conduct. But when he sinned he deeply and sincerely repented, and God in his mercy and grace forgave him and restored him, as He does for each and every one of us when we sincerely repent and confess our sin.

King David, with the help of his mighty fighting men, his courageous army, and especially with the intervention of the Almighty God—the God of Hosts— managed to complete the conquest of Canaan whereby he brought the surrounding nations into submission and ruled a vast area extending from the Euphrates to Egypt. His heart’s desire was also to replace the tent-tabernacle by a beautiful temple of brick and stone, but God declined his request and instead promised that his kingly Davidic line would continue forever through the Messiah, the King of kings.

Solomon Anointed King

King Solomon

Upon the death of David, his son Solomon inherited the throne. The Scriptures tell that early in his reign, when he was worshipping at Gibeon, he had a vision at night where God allowed him to ask whatever he wanted, and it would be given him. Instead of choosing riches and honor Solomon chose wisdom. This pleased God’s enormously and in response He gave what he had not asked for: riches and honor.

It was upon his shoulders that the task of planning and building the magnificent temple fell, which he diligently carried out. The dedication of that temple was a moment that stood out magnificently in Israel’s history, especially when the cloud of the glory of the Lord’s presence filled the entire interior (2 Chr. 7:1-4).

Soon after, however, as Solomon gradually departed from his godly spiritual heritage, the kingdom also gradually spiraled downward. One of his first mistakes was to marry an Egyptian Princess who imported idols, and then he took on many other foreign wives who drew his heart away from God in the same way. At the end of his life he had many regrets that he expressed in the book of Ecclesiastes.

When his son Rehoboam came to power the kingdom split wide open—north and south—Israel and Judah. Jereboam (not in David’s kingly line) ruled the 10 tribes of Israel, and Rehoboam ruled Judah. Now Israel’s downward spiral gathered momentum, exceeding that of Judah, and in 722 BC she was taken into captivity by the mighty Assyrians, her neighbors to the North.

But Judah, not learning the lessons of her sister nation’s demise, plunged ever more deeply into idolatry and all manner of abuses, immorality and corruption to the point of exceeding the evils of Israel. Thus, in 586 BC, God’s judgment fell through the hands of the Babylonians, who attacked, destroyed and took most of the populace into exile. The last king of Judah was Zedekiah who was blinded and taken to Babylon where he died.

For centuries prophets had been warning, at the cost of their lives, beginning with Moses, and on through to Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others prophets. But alas, when people fail to listen, they are doomed to reap consequences.

With the disappearance of the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, and the glory of God’s presence, it seemed as though the sun had set on God’s chosen people.

A heavy moanful silence now hung over the cities of Juda and Israel. For seventy long years the voices of throngs that would fill the air with singing as they climbed the steps of Mount Zion leading to the temple, were silenced.

But God was already preparing for the rebuilding of the Temple and ultimately for the reign of the King of kings, called in Revelation, “The Bright and Morning Star.”

Some interesting links:  Royal Tombs of Ur

Ziggurat of Ur, Abraham’s Birthplace

The Bible Revival

The Christian Image Source

Part Eight

Wikipedia

The Neo-Babylonian Empire

The Neo-Babylonian Empire (also called the Chaldean Empire) belongs to the period of Mesopotamian history that began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. In the preceding three centuries Babylonia had been ruled by their neighbors called the Assyrians or Akkadians who shared their history, ethnicity, language, culture and religion, but with whom there were political frictions.

The Assyrians had succeeded in maintaining Babylonian loyalty through the Neo-Assyrian period or until 627 BC when the last leader Assurbanipal died. It was then that Babylonia, under Nabopolassar the Chaldean, rebelled and in alliance with the Medes, attacked and conquered Nineveh in 612 BC as mentioned above.

Nebuchadnezzar II—son of Nabopolssar—was the most powerful king of the Second Babylonian (also called Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean) Empire which would later fall in 539 BC to the Persian King Cyrus.

“An engraving on an eye stone of onyx with an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II

Upon rising to power in 605 BC Nebuchdnezzar II increased his influence by marrying Amyttas, the daughter of Cyaxares, thus uniting the Median and Babylonian dynasties.

“A building Inscription of King Nebuchadnezar II at the Ishtar Gate holds an abridged excerpt: “I (Nebuchadnezzar), laid the foundation of the gates down to the ground water level and had them built out of pure blue stone. Upon the walls in the inner room of the gate are bulls and dragons and thus I magnificently adorned them with luxurious splendour for all mankind to behold in awe.”—Wikipedia

Babylon, had been greatly devastated by various rebellions and battles, but when Nebuchadnezzar rose to power he aimed to follow in the footsteps of his father by reconstructing and beautifying Babylon, sparing neither expense nor effort to make it one of the wonders of the ancient world. Old temples were restored and new ones constructed for Babylon’s many gods. He completed the palace his father had begun, built an underground passage and a stone bridge to connect the two parts of the city that were separated by the Euphrates, and also a port on the Persian gulf.

Strabo Geography Book XVI, Chapter 1  “Babylon, too, lies in a plain; and the circuit of its wall is three hundred and eighty-five stadia. The thickness of its wall is thirty-two feet; the height thereof between the towers is fifty cubits; that of the towers is sixty cubits; and the passage on top of the wall is such that four-horse chariots can easily pass one another; and it is on this account that this and the hanging garden are called one of the Seven Wonders of the World. ”

—Artempires

Another remarkable achievement that stands out in Nebuchadnezzar’s honor is the famous hanging gardens that were the wonder of the ancient world.

Excerpt:

In this scene envoy BelkA is leaving his home to attend a banquet at the hanging gardens of the palace. I hope it will give you the sense of being one of the honored guests.

“…BelkA descended the stairs of his second-flour living quarters. A few wide strides took him through the columned courtyard and past the entry where a chariot stood waiting.

Moments later he stood transfixed in a garden paradise more beautiful than any he’d seen or imagined. While savoring the fragrant air his eyes feasted on the landscape where every tree, shrub and flower stood in perfect arrangement. Here a waterfall surrounded by lush foliage, there a riverbed bordered with orchids and other exotic plants, and above balconies draped in trees and trailing blooms.

Lost as he was, a touch of a hand on his shoulder caused him to whirl around. A whisper near his ear restrained him. “Don’t be so obvious.”

“Oh, it’s you Ira.” BelkA said recognizing the Prime Minister Daniel’s secretary.

“Daniel wants to see you. You’ll find him in the alcove beyond the fountain of the seven palms…

“… he found Daniel, his head hidden behind a vine. 

… Daniel took from his leather girdle, that served as a belt and a satchel, a scroll that he handed to BeLKA. “Quickly tuck this away,” he said… This is the list of scrolls missing here in Babylon…”

The garden was getting crowded now…  As the sun was setting servants lit torches perched in various niches…

BelkA decided to find his reserved place… but he’d barely put a foot on the first step of the wide marble stairway leading to where the banquet tables were set in readiness, when he heard a voice that sent chills up his spine. Under the familiar conical hat of priestess was none other than Adda Guppi.

Quickly he turned the other way. While passing a fish sculpture spewing water in a pond a waiter conveniently put before him a tray of tantalizing delicacies…

BelkA noticed Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meschah and Abednego, sitting opposite him. A ways down on the right sat Adda Guppi looking smug, now with with her son, the great General Nabonidus, sitting beside her.

A swish beside him caught his attention and brought him a vision of rapturous beauty in a young woman attired in a flowing pink gown. She glided gracefully into a chair beside him and turned to BelkA the most beguiling smile…

… The sound of a trumpet announced the arrival of the King and Queen. People rushed to the balcony to catch a glimpse of Nebuchadnezzar with Queen Amyts on his arm, standing regally between the statues of two winged bulls that framed the gate.

“The Queen takes great delight in your presence this evening. She hopes you’ll enjoy breathing with her the atmosphere of her homeland an faraway Media…”

But not all was rosy in Babylon. There were conflicts going on on all levels of society, particularly in the political-religious arena. But first let me introduce you to some characters who are part of my story.

Babylonian god Marduk

A Key Vilain in the Story

One of the characters mentioned above was an old priestess, Adda Guppi, who was well into her nineties. A stele  mentions her birth and her involvements with a series of rulers during the 104 years of her life  (649-547), starting with Assurbanipal, king of Assyria until the 9th year of the reign of her son Nabonidus (555-539, the last monarch of Babylon. In those years she exerted a powerful influence upon her son, and the city itself, by attempting to change Babylon’s national deity from Marduk to Sin, who was the primary deity of Harran and Ur. This did not sit well with the clergy or priests and the populace. Stories floated about that even the god Marduk was displeased with her. Many historians blame her for Babylon’s fall.

Nebuchadnezzar Conquers Judah

Nebuchadnezzar II, one of the most powerful ancient rulers, adopted essentially the same policy of his father, and the Assyrian kings of the eight century BC, that of displacing whole populations. His particular interest in Judah was the acquisition of skilled artisans and crafsmen for his elaborate building projects. Like his predessors he also launched campaigns to increase his power and territory.

The biblical narrative describes three deportations of Judah: one in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim (605 BC), that included Daniel, (Daniel 1:1-4); , a second in 597 BC when the artisans and crafsmen were deported that included Ezekiel (2 Kings 24:14-16), while the final deportation  took place following the destruction of the city in 586 BC. Here is where we pick up a thread of our story:

Excerpt:

The Scene opens as the walls of Jerusalem are crumbling.

BelkA stood beside General Nebuzaradan who was pointing out intricacies of the siege and attack upon the walls of Jerusalem. All around the city ditches had been dug and huge banks of earth piled up, topped with towers equal to the height of the city walls. From these the Babylonian soliders were pitching missiles at the walls where the Judean archers had given up their defense. The general pointed out the cracks, “We should break through by tomorrow. It’s a tough target. The city’s a fortress and the Jews have siege engines that are quite sophisticated, but  now it’s weakened by famine and plaque. It’s over for Jerusalem.

Stoically BelkA kept his dignity as he responded with, “That is clearly evident”… though worries crowded his mid causing him to miss all but Nebuzaradan’s last sentence,

“… in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if we broke through tonight!”

“Tonight?”

“That’s right.”

BelkA winced in spite of himself.

“You show concern. A woman perhaps?

“Forgive me General Nebuzaradan. I have been in the city almost three years and during that time I have formed friendships.”

“Which explains your present assignment of course. But you did not answer my question. What about the woman?”

BelkA flushed much to Nebuzaradan’s delight.

“To be honest, there is indeed a woman…”

Nebuzaradan shook his head in dismay. “My advice is to brace yourself. There’s going to be a lot of ugliness played out before your eyes… Take it from me. The way I survive is with the help of strong drink to deaden the senses…”

Alas! If only Judah had listened. It had been initially announced by the prophets some 150 years before, and since then often repeated even to the very end.

Part Nine

FOUR GREAT PROPHETS

While focusing on Old Testament Times four great prophets in particular have challenged me to get to know them on a deeper level, and to better understand their messages. I begin with Isaiah whom I could not include in my book as a character because he belonged to an earlier period of history. Still, his voice echoes from the past with such powerful impact that it is impossible to ignore him.

Prophet Isaiah: illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (c. 1904)

Isaiah

Isaiah’s Background

Isaiah lived during the time of the ancient Assyrian empire, and according to sources, he was a member of the royal family through his cousin, King Uzziah. Contemporary with him was the prophet Hosea with a message just as strong and clear for his people, but told in a totally different style. Isaiah was enjoying a prestigious career as secretary of state in the royal palace of Jerusalem when God met with him, and turned his life around, by placing upon his shoulders the burden of the prophetic office.

International Intrigue

Growing up and working in the palace, he would have been familiar with international politics and other affairs of state. Thus his voice carries a fine erudite tone, an ease of expression, authority, and depth of wisdom. He was also a man who stood his ground in a world eroding with corruption on all fronts.

Isaiah—The Bible Revival

Isaiah’s Call

He was standing one day in the inner court of the Temple, his eyes directed towards the Holy of Holies, called the Debir, or innermost chamber, with his mind focused on God, when suddenly he was transported by vision of God to the heavenlies where, as he himself writes, “I saw the Lord sitting on a high and lofty throne.”

He goes on to describe the scene where the Seraphim are shouting out in antiphonal emulation, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  At the sound of their mighty voices Isaiah feels the ground trembling under his feet and the place fills with smoke. Gripped with fear he cries out, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Another voice rings out, “Whom will I send and who will go for me?”

Swept up in wonder and worship he responds with abandon , “Here am I, send me.”

When warned that the people he was to prophesy to would not listen, he remained undeterred and committed.

He would exercise  his prophetic office under five kings: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz and Hezekiah, or from 786 to 725 BC, though not without gaps.

Some Highlights of His Life

His initial address

Sacrifice Day—The Bible Revival

He begins his prophetic office with shocking and severe statements: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken. I have nourished and brought up children, and thy have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”

“To what purposes is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me, saith the Lord. I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts: and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or lambs or he goats… bring no vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto me… your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me: I am weary to bear them.”

A Heart-rending Plea

Soon, however, he transitions to an entreating tone, “Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat of the good of the land.”

The Lookout—The Bible Revival

A Man of Prayer

In ancient times people would set up a tower structure in a garden where a watchman would sit and watch for marauders—animal and human—to scare them off or shout an alert. Isaiah considered himself a watchman of prayer, interceding before God on behalf of his people.

The Watchtower—The Bible Revival

“Then the lookout called, “O Lord, I stand continually by day on the watchtower, and I am stationed every night at my guard post” (Isa. 21:8).

Much later our Lord himself would say, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).

The popular 19th century evangelist D. L. Moody liked to say, “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.”

Women at Ease—The Bible Revival

Women at East—The Bible Revival

Rebellious Children

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me” (Isaiah 30:1).

Carless Women

“Rise up, you women who are at ease; give ear unto my speech… for the vintage is ended. And the fruit-gathering will not come” (Isa. 32:9-10). Harsh times were fast approaching. We know, of course, that complacency is not singularly a problem of women. It’s like a plague that affects us all when we choose to remain ignorant rather than face grim realities. The tragedy to avoid is not to wake up too late!

Two Dangerous Allies: The Bible Revival

Fear Not… 

Immanuel Will Come!

Tension rose to a peak level in Jerusalem when Pekah, king of Israel formed an alliance with King Rezin of Syria. The purpose was primarily to form a stronger barrier against the Assyrian aggression, but also to find a way to invade Judah and to depose its uncooperative King Ahaz.

Terrified upon hearing of the alliance, Ahaz considers asking Assyria for assistance against the would-be attackers when Isaiah, who is well-known in the palace, receives a message from the Lord informing him that both Israel and Syria were already doomed to fall. The reassuring news calmed Ahaz—at least momentarily.

At the same time Isaiah received yet another prophecy that beams a bright light clear down to our own times: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”—God with us— (Isaiah 7:14). God was announcing long ahead of time His plan to reveal Himself to the world through the coming of His Son—Jesus the Messiah.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). The God of eternity cares for each and every one of us and has glorious plans for our future.

The Kingdom of God

The prophecy above is repeated in other terms such as: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, (King David’s line) and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

 Like a Shepherd

The Good Shepherd—The Bible Revival

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arms and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11).

Some five centuries later Jesus would say,  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Aleppo Codex

Many prophecies fulfilled in the Suffering Messiah 

“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth’’ (Isa. 53:7).

“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53;5).

Forgiveness of Sin

Jerusalem—Public Domain

Prophecy: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

It echoed in the first century when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and announced: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29).

And when Jesus said regarding himself, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).

Death of Isaiah

According to the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, Isaiah met martyrdom when wicked King Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, had him fastened between two planks that were “sawn asunder.” Without doubt the reference made in Hebrews 11:37 refers to him.

How Beautiful upon the Mountains

“How beautiful upon the mountains (nations) are the feet of him who brings good news, who brings good news of happiness… publishes salvation… (Isa. 52:7).”

Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel… And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Like a Lamb—— lyrics in Chinese, English, Spanish

He Shall Feed His Flock

Link: The Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament

Part Ten

Prophet Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch

 Jeremiah—Prophet to the Nations

Hebrew name means: Exalted of the Eternel

Jeremiah’s Background

Jeremiah was born into a priestly family living in the town of Anathoth, about four miles from Jerusalem. A timid country boy, he felt connected to the animations of plants and creatures that would become basic illustrations for his prophecies.

As typical in priestly families, he was introduced to the sacred laws in his childhood, and accompanied his family to the temple at Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days. No doubt he noticed  discrepancies between the standards of the sacred scrolls and the conduct his keen eyes were observing. For instance, a new altar had been set up where men worshiped the hosts of heaven, and still another where women sacrificed cakes to Tammuz, a prominent Babylonian god who, according to Wikipedia, “Originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.” She had been killed by a wild boar, and though permitted to spend half a year on earth, she had to return to the underworld for the other half. Thus the women would mourn, weep and offer cakes to her. He would have known that this was not in agreement with God’s laws.

Anathoth—Public Domain

Already in his youth Jeremiah’s interests expanded to include international affairs where earth-shaking events, notably the fall of the great Assyrian empire, aroused serious questions of implications.

He would have been keenly aware that Jerusalem stood on the crossroads of the most prominent nations of his time and that this alone posed a risk for the safety and independence of his people. And there was also the puzzling evidence that Judah was recklessly imitating the very behavior that had brought about the fall of her sister-nation Israel. Most troubling of all was the fact that the religious leaders were leading the way in all manner of immorality, deceit and disobedience of God’s commands.

God’s Call and Jeremiah’s Excuses

A special call for a special person: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

Jeremiah’s Response: “Then said I, ‘Ah, Lord GOD!  Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.’” He was indeed young—about twenty—and he was timid.

“But the LORD said unto me, ‘Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee.’”

“Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.’ Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what seest thou?’

—Wikipedia

Jeremiah replied: ‘I see a rod of an almond tree.’

“Then said the LORD unto me, ‘Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.… Thou therefore gird up thy loins, (pick up robes that hinder action) and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee… And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (Jer. 1).

It would seem that Jeremiah’s ministry began in the 13th year of King Josiah, his personal friend and a righteous ruler whom he’d strongly backed in all the reform measures he’d put in place to bring about revival and reformation. The sudden death of this king had  opened the door for a return to careless living and deliberate apostasy, while the incompetent rule of four kings: Jehoahas, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin and Zedekiah, along with their unreliable advisors, would bring about the demise of the nation.

His ministry thus covered the most tragic time of Israel’s history and His messages, though at times harsh, were balanced with promises of mercy, forgiveness, the coming Messiah, the new covenant, and God’s eternal kingdom of righteousness.

Jeremiah’s Personal Life

Forbidden to Marry

Being single he  lived a lonely existence, difficult for a man with as timid and retiring a personality as his own. Yet God enabled him to pour out his tender sensitivities into concern for God and His people.

 The Weeping Prophet

While he felt righteous anger at the apostasy and idolatry, he also felt a profound grief at the obvious callousness of the people who refused to listen or think clearly. He demonstrated such intense disappointment, sorrow and concern about the inevitable judgment hanging in the air that he was given the name, weeping prophet, as if foreshadowing the sufferings of Messiah that are described so poignantly in Isaiah, “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

A man honest with God

There’s an endearing quality of sincerity and honesty in Jeremiah’s writing—faithfully taken down by his scribe Baruch—that at times, sounds like someone furiously pouring out his jumbled frustrations. Some of these are-in the form of questions or confessions, others as warning lectures or public preaching. So genuinely heartfelt, real and universal are his messages that one feels empathy and an urge to root for him. God’s answers his questions with equal honesty, giving readers the sense of being observers at a sports competition where shots are hurled back and forth.

Jeremiah’s Complaints and God Answers

The following are but a few of Jeremiah’s complaints that I put here in contemporary terms:

I’m a nobody—“Before you came out of the womb I knew you” (Jer. 1:5 compare Isaiah 43:4): “… because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” God knew  him in a sense of closeness, concern, honor, trust and deep love.

Why cant’ I live a comfortable life like everyone else? —“Thus saith the LORD. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD Who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23). In other words, “Get your value system straightened out. Lift up your eyes and see what really counts. To know me is man’s highest joy and fulfillment.”

The King destroys the carefully written scroll

The King destroys the carefully written scroll—The Bible Revival

I question your justice or why don’t you do something about the wicked who get by with anything“Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbors… (This is what I plan to do.) I will pluck them out of the land…” (12:14). Discipline them but after… I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them, and not pull them down: and I will plant them and not pluck them up” (Jeremiah 24:6). God delays justice often to give time for evil workers to repent, and for the righteous to be polished in heavenly graces of patience and wisdom. He works “everything for good for them who love Him” (Rom. 8:28).

Life is unjust. “And in that day you shall say, O LORD, I will praise you: though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comforted me…” (Jer. 30:19). Jeremiah couldn’t understand what God was doing at the time, but as he patiently waited, he found that God’s timing is perfect. This knowledge brought him  comfort and assurance.

I’m afraid of the future:  “’I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jer. 29:11).

I’m timid and scared: 

“Today I have made you like a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls…” You will be able to stand up to Judah’s kings, its official, its priests, and (all) the common people as well (Jer. 1:18). Jeremiah learns that God’s power is “made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Some of Jeremiah’s Prophecies and Sermons

Stand in the Gates

“Thus saith the LORD unto me; ‘Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, and say unto them, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates; Take heed to yourselvs and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jersualem… I commanded your fathers and they obeyed not… But if ye will not hearken unto me… then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and it shall not be quenched’” (Jer. 17). Not keeping the sabbath indicated that they had no respect for God or His Word.

The Heart is Deceitful

“Thus saith the Lord; ‘Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh fliesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD… The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it. I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings…’”

Guilty Son—The Bible Revival

Like a Thief Ashamed When Caught

“As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel… Where are thy gods that thou hast made….O generation, see ye the word of the Lord ” (Jer. 2). In other words, “You think I don’t see those idols you’ve been worshipping in secret, but I am omniscient, my eyes see everywhere and everything.”

Proclaim Freedom for Slaves

“This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jersualem, to proclaim liberty unto them, that every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidserant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free, that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.”

But aftrwards they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids.

Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah … saying, ‘the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondmen… At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother (who is) an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me…  And ye… had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neoghbor; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name, but ye turned and polluted my name; and caused every man his servant, and evry man his  handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return…’” The poor slaves were set free, then re-enslaved—and God was not pleased.

“Therefore thus saith the LORD; ‘behold I proclaim a liberty for you… (uncaring evil people) to the pestillence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth’” (Jer. 34).

Humble Yourselves

“Thus saith the LORD, ‘After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah,and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their hearts…Say unto the king and to the queen, ‘Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory. The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them. Judah shall be carried away captive…’” (Jer. 13:1-19).

Woe to the Man who Builds Without Paying Wages

“Woe unto him (context is King Jehoiakim) that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; that saitih, ‘I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows, and it is ceilinged with cedar, and painted with vermillion.’ Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father… (judge) the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him, was not this to know me? saith the LORD. But thine eyes and thine heart …are for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.”

‘”Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah king of Judah; ‘They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother!… Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem… I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not hear’” (Jer. 22). Jehoiakim would be caught by enemy soldiers outside the walls and his body disposed of without kingly ceremonies.

The Boiling Pot

Jeremiah saw a pot of boiling water tipped southward from the North, symbolizing the Babylonian invasion. “Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled. O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved” (Jer. 5).

Jerusalem Destroyed—The Bible Revival

Young Men Shall Die in the Streets!

“Then the Lord said unto me, ‘Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying. ‘Hear ye the words of this covenant… Obey my voice. Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart; therefore… according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal (the Assyrian bull god), therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by the famine…”(Jer. 11).

False Prophets

“The prophets prophesy lies in my name I sent them not neither have I commanded them, neither spake I unto them; they prophesy a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. I sent them not, yet they say, ‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land;’ By the sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword, and they shall have no one to bury them…” (Jer. 15:2).

Prophecies about the Nations

Furbish the Spears—The Bible Revival

 Against Egypt

Seven nations are mentioned by Jeremiah who is prophesying from Jerusalem, but for brevity I choose but one. It’s interesting to note that his contemporary Ezekiel was also prophesying concerning Egypt  from Babylon, while Isaiah—about 200 years prior—had prophesied against them in the same tone.

“The word of the LORD which came … against Egypt, against the army of Pharaoh-Necho king of Egypt which was by the River Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.

“Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle. Harness the horses and get up,  ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets, furbish the spears and put on the brigandines… Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape… Come up, ye horses and rage, ye chariots; and let tthe mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield, and the Lydians that handle and bend the bow. For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversareies… The word of the Lord spake to Jeremiah the prophet; how Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt…Tahapanes… Migdol… Noph.

“Why are thy valiant men swept away? … because the LORD… made many to fall… They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise. He hath passed his appointed time (Jer.46:3-18).” This battle of Carchemish was a momentous battle.

 The Summer is Over

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:20).

Wake up! The sky is foreboding. Winter is upon us. Judgment is pending.

God’s Unfailing Love

“The LORD, hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’” (Jer. 31:3).

Promise of Hope and Restoration

“Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob,” saith the LORD; “neither be dismayed, O Israel, for lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of captivity, and Jacob shall return, and shall be at rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid… and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Jer. 30:10). “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border” (Jer. 31:16).

Sins Forgiven

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of their altars,” (but later he prophesies) “they shall come with weeping and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel” (31:9).

A New Covenant

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant… I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:31).

Jeremiah Persecuted

God had clearly shown Jeremiah that Babylon was his instrument of judgment upon disobedient Judah and that the only way for Jerusalem to be spared would be to surrender. The king and most of the populace of Jerusalem interpreted this as treachery. Even the religious leaders and members of his own family hated him. He was beaten and put in stocks by the chief temple priest Passhur,  almost murdered by a mob, threatened, flogged, put in a musty and filthy dungeon, and finally lowered by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard where he sunk into the mud and would have been buried alive had not a devoted friend, Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian court official, gone to the king to get permission to put a rescue party together. He remained in prison until the city was taken.

In the end when the armies finally did capture the city—just as God had promised—an invitation was extended to him by Babylonians officials to return with them and live in comfort and style in the Golden City. Jeremiah, true to his character, chose rather to live with the remaining poor in the devastated city where Babylonians installed a fine man, Gedaliah, as governor.

Alas, just as the dust of battle was settling, a usurper claiming to royal heritage, assassinated Gedaliah and created chaos in the the whole area. A counter party under the leadership of Johanan, fearing reprisals on the part of the Babylonian officials, consulted with Jeremiah as to the possibility of fleeing to Egyypt. Jeremiah requested time to seek counsel from God in prayer. The answer God gave was “no”, but the restless party insisted on going anyway, and even forced Jeremiah to accompany them. Thus he wound up in Egypt, against his will, and there he died.

His life in many aspects suggests similarities to Joseph, the apostles Peter and Paul, and also to the suffering Savior. Though ignored and mistreated by his countrymen his memory continues in the hearts and minds of many, while other more prominent figures of his day have faded away.

New Every Morning

A verse from Jeremiah’s hand, recorded in a time of great sorrow, beams a bright light on our own pathway.

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, 
for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness (Lam. 3:22-23).

Morning Has Broken

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Part Eleven

Wikipedia

Ezekiel—Prophet to the Exiles

Name Means: God Strengthens

Personal Life

Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, was born into a priestly family in Anathoth, and was trained to be a priest.

At about age twenty-five (597 BC), he was taken into captivity when the Babylonians attacked and carried off some 10,000 exiles to Babylon. There he, along with the other captives who were wrenched from their homeland, suffered from the typical displacement problems such as: fear, anxiety, disorientation, loneliness, culture shock and homesickness. This happened about 11 years before the final conquest and destruction of Jerusalem when many more exiles arrived in Babylon. His prophecies continued for some 14 years after the conquest.

By the Rivers of Babylon

In their loneliness the exiles found comfort in meeting together in small and large groups to commiserate over their problems and sorrows. And since Ezekiel was a priest, they looked to him for spiritual advice and encouragement. Initially Ezekiel found, as many of us have, that there are no words adequate to relieve the impact of trauma and grief. So for a good week he sat and wept with his people by the Chebar River, or other rivers and canals in areas where the exiles were housed.

From old book. Copyright run out

The Psalmist refers to these rivers when he writes in Psalm 13, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.” Being a musically inclined people, the exiles no doubt also sang among themselves in moanful harmony, to the accompaniment of hand-held harps and/or flutes, the songs of their faraway homeland.

Chebar River Today—Wikepedia

It would seem that when overheard by curious Babylonians, who were also music lovers, the Judeans were requested to perform and make merry with them. But this they would not do. The Psalmist records that they hung their harps upon the willows, “For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ How shall we sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

Ezekiel’s Call

The following is a condensed account of Ezekiel’s dramatic call drawn directly from the Bible in the KJ or public domain version. (The quotes and parentheses are mine.)

“Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God…

“And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire unfolding itself, and a brightness… Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures… (cherubim according to the context).

“And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads when they stood, and had let down their wings (to reverently cover themselves).

Photo Joanne Mahar

Like a Rainbow

“And above the firmament… was as the likeness of a throne… of a sapphire stone: … of the bow (rainbow) that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about… the likeness of the glory of the LORD.

“And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake…“Son of man,” stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.” (The name “Son of Man” was an earthy term of endearment that God used to address His faithful messenger, to make a clear distinction with leaders of the time who liked to call themselves gods among gods, and also probably typifying the coming of the Messiah, the Son of GOD in human form who, and at that time of His humiliation, called Himself ‘Son of Man.’”

“And the Spirit entered into me… and set me upon my feet… And he said unto me, ‘Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation… they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; …say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord GOD… whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (not listen) yet shall (they) know that there hath been a prophet among them. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid… But thou, son of man… Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house…”(Ez. 1).

Swallowing a Scroll

Scroll—Wikipedia

“And he said unto me, ‘Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, …this roll that I give thee.’ Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (Ez. 3:2).

Eating the scroll is symbolic of reading and savoring the Holy Scriptures. Before a human voice dare expound God’s Sacred Word, he must be well acquainted with it from a first-hand experiential knowledge. Ezekiel found it to be “sweeter than honey” to his soul. Such is the taste of the “Bread of Life” to those who have acquired a taste for heavenly things  The Psalmist found the same to be true for himself as he too exclaimed, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweater than honey to my mouth” (Ps. 119:103).

“And he said unto me, Son of man, go… unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel… (fellow exiles). But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee;  for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted. But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, (refuses to listen) let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.’”

Watchman—The Christian Image Source

Called to be a Watchman

“Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me (Ez. 3:17).” This renewed call came following news brought by an escapee from Judah who told that Jerusalem had fallen (Ez. 24:26).

Varying Attitudes Among the Earlier Exiles

For those who had been faithful to Yahweh, the collective worship at the temple with all the feasts and joyous celebrations had been intertwined with their life-style and their identify as God’s chosen people. Now cut off from all that was most dear to their hearts, they were finding comfort in the Scriptures and sacred songs.

But among them were also those who were still addicted to pagan gods, and here in Babylon they find themselves surrounded by a huge tempting pantheon of gods, some of whom were the same or similar to those back home. However, many among them now begin to have feelings of revulsion toward all false gods in general. God’s plan was to wean His people away from idols.

Though a good number well understood the cause for their exile;  most thought of themselves as innocent victims. To them the big question was, “Why did this happen to us? We did no wrong.”

Meanwhile conflicting reports were arriving through couriers who traveled the long distance back and forth between Babylon and Jerusalem. False prophets in Judah were writing positive letters assuring the exiles that they’d very soon be released from captivity and be on their way home, while Jeremiah—the true prophet—was advising the people to settle down and build houses because the exile would last 70 years!  Most chose to believe the false prophets and were in for another shock.

One day a group of elders came to Ezekiel saying they wanted to inquire of God through him, when what they really wanted was to  attack him with menacing words. God warned His prophet in advance to head them off by answering emphatically, “I will not be inquired of you.”

Ezekiel’s Personal Life and Ministry

We know that Ezekiel was married, and that he and his wife lived in their own home where their countrymen would drop by for a friendly visit, to receive priestly counsel, or to listen to sermons and prophecies. There’s no mention of  any children in the home, only that his beloved wife died rather young, in the ninth year of exile when Ezekiel was about 34 years of age.

His writings reveal a man driven with a passion for God’s glory and a strong commitment to his God-given task.  He would let nothing deter him. Like Jeremiah, he sometimes suffered from bouts of depression.

Glory Departing from the Temple

“And it came to pass in the sixth year… as I sat in my house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me. Then I beheld, and lo, a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his loins even downward, and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber. And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the Spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the vision of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the imatge of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy (the pagan altar). And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there…

“And he brought me to the court, and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel… with every man his censer in his hand and a thick cloud of incense went up. Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, ‘The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth…’ And he brought me into an inner court of the Lord’s house; and behold the door of the temmple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, and they worshipped the sun… ‘Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here?… Thefore will I also deal in fury; mine eye shall not spare…’

“Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim there appeared over them as it were a sappphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne… and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub and stood over the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightenss of the Lord’s glory. And the sound of the cheruim’s wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh… Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight… and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above…”

A Scene from BelkA of BABYLON

Ezekiel awoke in an agitated stupor that propelled himself to his feet. Reaching blindly for his sandals and cloak, he crept out of the small home walking aimlessly, oblivious to the fog and chill of the morning air. Stumbling on a tree stump he fell to the ground where he lay prostrate and despondent.

From his facedown position on the damp earth he eventually tried to rise, but the mere effort overpowered him. “O Yahweh,” he cried out. “It’s too awful. I can’t bear it.”

Two hours passed as fragments of the last message he’d received played over and over in his anguished mind, though he wished only to erase them: “Woe to the bloody city; they dealt by oppression with the stranger, (they’ve) vexed the fatherless and the widow; greedily gained of neighbors by extortion: despised holy things; committed abominations: forgotten me; (so) I have drawn forth my sword…”

Lying thus in a confused stupor he jumped when a hand touched his shoulder, “Honorable Ezekiel, it’s BelkA here…”

The Purpose of Ezekiel’s Prophecies

The main goal was to bring the exiles to a place of personal accountability for the destruction of Jerusalem and to call them to repentance and a complete life-change. At times he used a parabolic style of prophesying through speaking or acting out situations before his hearers. Some of these were mocked by the skeptics and the most guilty parties.

Parables, Prophecies, and Visions…

Mountains Personified

“The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man set thy face toward the mountains of Israel and prophesy against them, and say… ‘to the mountains, and to the hills… I even I, will bring a sword upon you. And I will destroy your high places; and your altars shall be desolate; and I will cast down your slain men before your idols, and I will lay the dead carcasses of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about the altars’” (Ezek. 6).

People fall beside their idols—The Bible Revival

This was a prophecy that would be taken back to Judah through a messenger. The high places were the places of sacrifice where pagan worship occurred and where people sacrificed their children. Besides these, there was also the valley of Tophet where such sacrifices were also made. No wonder God called it “the bloody city.”

This was not the first warning given by God about this, but one of many reminders that He would carry out His judgment upon them by making these very places the scene of their punishment.

Profiteering

“Thou hast taken gifts to shed blood; Thou has taken usury and increase, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD. Behold, therefore … I will scatter thee among the heathen… “(Ez. 22:12-15).

Two Eagles, a Cypress Tree and a Vine

“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; and say, ‘thus saith the LORD GOD; A great eagle with great wings, long-winged, full of feathers, which had divers colors, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar; …he set it in a city of merchants.

“He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree. And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature… and brought forth branches….

“There was also another geat eagle with great wings and many feathers, and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation. It was planted in a good soil by great waters… that it might bear fruit… Say thou, ‘thus saith the LORD GOD, shall it prosper? Shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? It shall wither in all the leaves of her spring. Even without great power of many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof. Shall it not utterly wither when the east wind toucheth it?’”

In short the eagle with the long feathers was Nebuchadnezzar. According to Eusebius, the  temple of Jerusalem was sometimes called “Lebanon” by the Jews because the woodwork of the original temple came from there. The “mountain” of Jerusalem indicated kingly elevation, the highest being the last king Zedekiah who fell under the fealty of Nebuchadnezzar to whom he owed honor, tribute and loyalty in return for safety—similar to the fiefdoms of the Middle Ages. Because Judah failed to honor the treaty (Nebuchadnezzar) carried the tree—Judah—to the land of waters or canals where heavy commercial traffic sailed back and forth on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The branches were the princes who owed gratitude to Nebuchadnezzar for his protection.

There was also another great eagle (Egypt), not as wide as the first, but like a vine Judah bent her roots toward Egypt for help in throwing off the Babylonian yoke. Egypt’s assistance, however, was the equivalent of leaning on a fragile papyrus reed. To begin with Egypt stalled in coming, so by the time she got under way Nebuchadnezzar’s army was already battering Jerusalem’s walls.  However, when intelligence reached them that the Egyptians were on their way to defend Judah, the Babylonians stopped the siege to face their southern foe in battle—whom they soundly beat. Then they returned to finish up the conquest of Jerusalem.

In that brief interim, however, false prophets were assuring the Jerusalemites that all would go well, the Egyptians would win and life would return to normal. What a shock it must have been then, when the Babylonians returned victorious and with renewed vengeance. Judah fell. King Zedekiah’s sons were killed before his eyes, along with all the disloyal leaders. Zedekiah was then blinded and carried off to Babylon. It was the end of the kingship and of Solomon’s temple.

Prophecies Against Prominent Nations and Cities

The following are among the most prominent:

Against Ammon

“Thus saith the Lord God; ‘Because thou saidst, ‘Aha,’ aganst my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and agains the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity; Behold, therefore I will deliver thee to the men of the east for a possession…”

The Ammonites were the descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. They were pleased when the ten tribes of Israel were carried away to Assyria (Jer. 49:1), and when the temple was destroyed they exulted and mocked. But God was about to judge them for such mean behavior by letting them be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and also to be handed over to the eastern tribes of Arabia.

Against Edom

“‘Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, (Edom) and prophesy against it… I am against thee… and I will make thee most desolate… because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity… because thou has said, ‘These two nations shall be mine… (Israel and Judah)…’ with your mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me: and I have heard them.”

Due to the very ancient episode when Jacob stole the birthright of Esau; the Edomites had ever since retained, not just a dreadful hatred for the descendants of Jacob, but also a deep brooding grudge—this in spite of the fact that Jacob had sincerely tried to make amends by sharing his earnings and inheritance, something they failed to remember or chose to forget. They, like the Ammonites, danced with glee when the Chaldeans destroyed Jerusalem and even helped the enemy by capturing escapees trying to flee. Now they fully intended to swallow up or take over the whole territory of Judah for themselves.

Ruins of Tyre

Against Tyre

“Son of man, because that Tyrus hast said against Jerusalem, … ‘I shall be replenished,’ now she is laid waste:  Behold I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee…

“Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of God, in the mist of the seas;’ Yet thou art a man, and not God…

“O Tyrus, thous hast said, ‘I am of perfect beauty’. Thy borders are in the midst of the seas, thy builders have perfected thy beauty, They have made all thy ship boats of fir trees of Senir; (Shinar)… of the oaks of Bashan (today the Golan Heights) have they made thine oars; the Ashurites (Assyrians) have made thy benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of Chittim (Cyrpus). Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt… to be thy sails…

“Blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was that which covered thee. The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad (island city near Phoenicia) were thy mariners; Thy wise men, O Tyrus… were thy pilots… The ancients of Gebal (Byblos) and the wise men thereof were… thy calkers. All the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to occupy thy merchandise. They of Persia and of Lud, (possibly Thailland) and of Phut were in thine army… And the Gammadinas were in they towers… they hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; They had made thy beauty perfect. Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron tin, and lead they traded in they fairs. Javan, Tubal, and Meschech… were they merchants; They traded the persons of men (slaves) and vessels of brass in thy market. They of the house of Togarmah traded thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules. The men of Dedan (Petra) were thy merhants; Many isles were the merchandise of thine hand: They brought thee for a present horns of ivory and ebony. Syria was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of thy making. They occupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple and broidered work, and fine linen and coral and agat. Judah and the land of Israel, they were thy merhcants: they traded in thy market wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey and oil and balm. and also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs… bright iron, cassia, and calamus   … Dedan was thy merchant in precious clothes for chariots. Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, they ocupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and goats… The merchants of Sheba and Raamah, they were thy merchants. And with all precious stones and gold. Haran and Canneh and Eden (Babylonia). The merhants of Sheba, Assher and Chilmad, were thy merchants in blue clothes, and broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, bound with cords and made of cedar. Among thy merchandte the ships of Tarshis did sing of thee in thy market… ”

The Fall

“The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the thy pilots… And cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall make thmselves utterly bald for thee. Thy merchandise and all thy company in the midst of thee shall fall. All th inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at thee. And their kings shall be sore afraid. They shall be troubled in their countenance. Thou shalt be a terror, and never shall be any more” (Ez. 26-27).

Lament over Tyre

“Thus saith the Lord GOD to Tyrus; ‘Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, When the wounded cry—when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee? Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay away their robes, and put off their broidered garments: They shall clothe themselves with trembling; They shall sit upon the ground… and they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, ‘The renowned city, which was strong in the sea—she and her inhabitants, which cause the terror… Now shall the isles tremble in the day of thy fall… When I shall make thee a desolate city… bring up the deep upon thee, and great waters shall cover thee… and thou shalt be no more.’”

After a siege of 13 years Nebuchadnezzar was unable to conquer totally the mighty Phoenician city, but it would eventually happen under Alexander the Great some 200 years later.

 Against Egypt

“In the tenth year… the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, ‘Son of man, set thy face against Egypt; speak and say, “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt; the Great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers. Which hath said, ‘My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.’ But I will put hooks in thy jaws… and I will bring thee out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the alll the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales.’”

Pharaoh was a common name for all the kings of Egypt and the dragon or crocodile was a national emblem; the rivers were the Nile, that along with the canals, provided Egypt’s fertility, and the fish were the nations who were either dependent upon or fearful of Egypt’s military might. It is not easy for man to catch and put hooks into a crocodile, but God has no human limitations.

“I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate… and scatter the Egyptians among the nations…. At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered; and I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, ino the land of their habitation; and they shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself anuy more above the nations.”

The prophecies in the book are more extensive, of course, because “Egypt was the oldest enemy of Israel, and her perpetual seducer to idolatry and creature confidences. Israel had been warned to abstain from the gods of Egypt, but she’d disobeyed. The judgment on Egypt is an earnest of the world-wide judgment which shall ultimately fall upon all …enemies of God… As sinners perversely refuse to know God as a God of love, they shall know Him as a God that hates sin” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown). “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; For why will ye die?”

Messages of Hope

False Shepherds Replaced by the Good Shepherd

“The Word of the LORD came… ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds (leaders) of Israel… Woe to th shepherds of Israel that feed themselves! Should they not feed the flocks? … Ye eat the fat and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them… The deceased have ye not strengthed, neither have ye healed that which was sick neither have ye bound up that which was broken… neither have ye sought that which was lost…  my flock became a prey…”

“‘Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep and seek out my sheep… that have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will gather them from the countries, and will brng them tot heir own land… I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick… Thus shall they know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people… and I am your GOD’” (Ez. 34).

God was making a double promise, to gather and bring back his scattered people to their homeland, and also announcing the approaching advent of the Messiah, the true Shepherd who promises not only to take care of the needs of His sheep, but to give His life for them (Ps. 23: Jer. 23:5; John 10:11).

Link: Good Shepherd

Valley of Dry Bones

 Dead Bones

“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones … and lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, “Son of man, can these bones live?’”

“Again he said unto me, ‘Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, ‘O ye dry bones, hear the word of teh LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto you, and ye shall live; and I will lay sinews upon you and wil bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shal live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD…’”

Again He promised that Israel would come back to her homeland, while at the same time predicting a new kingdom of righteousness that would be established. Peronally, I also like to think in terms of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, ending the curse of death. He is alive today and ”because He lives, we too shall live.”

Links: Dry Bones

We Shall rise

 New Heart, New Spirit and New Covenant

“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you—and a new Spirit will I put within you; And I will take away the stony heart… and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues, and ye shall keep my jdugments an do them… Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant… and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore (Ez. 36; 25-27; 37:26-27).

The heart is the seat of our affections, will, and aspirations. God is more than willing to wash clean the heart stained with sin. The blood of Jesus is that pure water that cleanses our filthy hearts. It’s somewhat like a heart transplant. He replaces our cold stony hearts that are lifeless toward heavenly things, with a new warm heart with entirely different attachments and desires. His Spirit comes to live within us to comfort, teach, refine, correct, guide, restore, make us like Him, and fill us with joy “that passes understanding.”

The new covenant is the covenant of peace. Our sins separate us from Him and make us His enemies. When we repent and surrender to Him in faith, our sins no longer stand in the way. They are dropped from our record completely, never to be remembered again. We have peace with God. Not only that, we also become heirs, or princes and princesses of His Eternal Kingdom.

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ to whom be glory for ever and ever” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Comparing our Times with Ezekiel’s

In Ezekiel’s time great empires were vying greedily to absorb each other, or to use each other for selfish manipulative purposes of wealth, power, prestige and oppression. People did most anything to climb the ladder of success and to amass material things such as chariots and horses, gold, elaborate homes filled with rich carpets, mosaic floors, works of art, treasures chests ,and to boast of their impressive temples and statues. They loved to dress in the fashion of the day with expensive embroidered silks, flamboyant turbans, exotic jewelry, to indulge fanciful spiced food and exotic wines and other mixed drinks. The popular trend was to mix religion with entertainment in a such a way as to arouse the passions that included mysterious superstitious and demonic rituals. The One True God was either not known or ignored in preference for trendy syncretism—a blending of any and all.

Ezekiel was given the most unpopular task of warning his own people how far they’d departed from the God of their fathers, and to remind them to take their own true God seriously.

In comparing their life-styles with those of our day the differences appear quite minimal, in fact we may not have chariots, silk robes and turbans,and glorious temples with an array of gods in wood, precious metals or stone, but we love our entertaining religious events that blend various styles to suit political views, relativism or the absence of absolutes and anything that restricts us. Thankfully there are still today some Ezekiels who dare to sound the alarms as God’s faithful watchmen.

Double Alaskan Rainbow—Wikepedia

Showers of Blessing

As Ezekiel comes to the end of his book he encourages his fellow exiles with assurances of God’s intended blessings: “And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing… there shall be showers of blessing.

“There shall be showers of blessing;”
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Refrain
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.
—Words Daniel W. Whittle, 1883, Music James McGranahan

 Part Twelve

Daniel and the Golden City

Here I touch briefly on one of the characters highlighted in my book: BelkA of Babylon.

In the year 606 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar was still acting as co-regent with his father and serving as general of the Babylonian army, he managed to threaten Judah to such an extent as to place her under tribute. During the operation he took a few of the temple treasures as tokens of lordship and also a body of hostages that were put under a palace superintendent called Ashpenaz. Daniel 1:3-4 states: “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the governor of the king’s palace, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children (youth) in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans…” (Babylonians).

Among the chosen were Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego and, from the statement above, we conclude they were probably among Judah’s elite if not actually princes.

The Scriptures record: “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine.” Daniel’s character stands out strikingly in this refusal of the king’s prescribed food, and causes a frightful panic to come over poor Ashpenaz, who exclaims, “If you look sickly they’ll blame me and chop off my head.” Never-the-less he bravely agreed to a ten day trial period. As it turned out, at the end of that agreed-upon time, these four young fellows appeared not only healthier than the other exiles, but when questioned, showed themselves to be more intelligent than even the wisest of the all the Babylonian wise men!

Daniel the Prophet

The Secret Is—The Bible Revival

King Nebuchadnezzar himself would be surprised to discover that Daniel was also gifted at interpreting visions or dreams, yet Daniel always exemplified a humble attitude by giving credit to His God. His prophecies—that compliment those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Revelation—cover a span of some 70 years or from 605-636. His main theme is God’s sovereignty as he rules over the kingdoms of men.

Three Young Fellows Defy Royal Orders

A prominent event recorded by Daniel involved his three friends when their lives were at risk of being thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow before a gigantic golden image set up to proclaim King Nebuchadnezzar as God. These men believed that the only true God was YAHWEH. The King was so angry that he ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter before throwing the young men into it. However, as Nebuchadnezzar watched the procedure, he must have thought he was having hallucinations because, instead of three figures in the fire, he saw four—who were not reduced to ashes but were walking about as if enjoying an animated conversation. The fourth person in the furnace was none other than God Himself—in human form.

The result of this episode, of course, was the realization that the God of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego was indeed the Most Hight God, and far greater, higher and more powerful than any earthly god.

The Golden City

 The Golden City

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPswAa_i9o Map

Archeological excavations in Babylon reveal that the homes and lifestyles of the nobles of that time were extravagantly magnificent. It seems that these newly arrived exiles, who were under the King’s care, were treated royally in that city of dazzling beauty.

Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests and plunder had enriched the nation’s coffers and much was spent on the beautification of the city that spread out over the plains bordering the Euphrates River. Four massive walls, each fifteen miles in length, enclosed twenty-four streets each running on a grid, north-south and east-west, with each terminating at a gate in the wall making up more than six hundred square blocks, and with a garden at each crossing.

 Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream one night, that by morning, he could not remember. So he brought in his most gifted diviners and wise men and demanded they tell him both the dream and its interpretation. The wise men looked at each other in stunned silence.”There’s no one who can reveal a forgotten dream” they insisted.

The answer made the distraught king so angry that he ordered the execution of all the wise men—a classification that included Daniel and his three friends. When the executioner came to get Daniel, however, an attitude of compassion on the part of the executioner must have been prompted by God because he agreed to Daniel’s plea for time, though of course, it dare not be long! During that night God revealed to Daniel both the dream and its meaning and the next morning he was rushed into the presence of the King where he revealed—to the amazement of all—the dream with its prophetic significance.

Nebuchadnezzar’s vision was of a gold statue with a gold head, silver chest and arms, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and feet partly iron and partly clay. According to Matthew Henry and many other Bible commentators the parts represented empires starting with the head of gold that implied the Babylonian empire, the breast and arms, the Medio-Persian empire, the belly and thigh, the Grecian empire, and the legs, the Roman Empire (Dan. 2:31-45). There are various views regarding the feet and toes partly of iron and clay such as a renewed Roman empire, the Arabs, or a union of nations that—like iron and clay do not mix well—will have trouble getting along.

 Jeremiah’s Vision of a Golden Cup

Nebuchadnezzarl was not the only one to have a prophetic vision of this type. Daniel and Ezekiel both had similar dreams, while Jeremiah prophesied in terms of “a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, making all …the nations drunk of her wine; therefore the nations went mad” (Jer. 51:7).

John’s Vision of a Woman with a Golden Cup

“And he (the angel) carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly” (Rev. 3:3-6).

The woman typifies a prostitute seated on a scarlet beast—the color scarlet implying sin—and she rides a multi-headed beast with ten horns—indicating nations and power. She was full of blasphemous names—ridiculing God and His Word. She’s clothed in purple and scarlet—worn only by wealthy people in ancient times. In her hands is a gold cup full of abominations or wages of a prostitute and all forms of immorality, superstitions and evil including witchcraft, divination, gambling, greed, abuse of power, and crime.  She wears on her head an inscription that describes her as she brazenly lures humanity into her net. Last, she stands openly opposed to Christians, but knows that she is unable to deceive those who belong to Christ though she persecutes them.

In these last two visions or prophecies we find two cups, one full of the abominations of the nations, the other filled with the wrath of a righteous God. “The wages of sin is death” says the Bible (Rom.6:23). The cup of sin is filling up—and when it does—judgment must fall. The world is warned.

By stepping back and allowing our minds to take in the great panorama of world history, as recorded in the Bible, we see a thread that runs from creation, all the way down to our own times.

In Eden we saw how our first parents were enticed by the scheming, cunning deceptions of Satan, resulting in the horrible consequences of God’s judgment upon their sin that entailed toil, pain, sickness and death, not to mention the destruction of empires. Such  judgments can be traced all through the pages of history and show up in archaeological findings going back to far distant times.

The question we might ask ourselves is: “What might all this evidence reveal about ourselves, our times, our governments? Are we somehow above all those great empires of the past? Will we somehow be exempt from the sort of consequences that fell upon them? One thing is particularly noticeable, and that is the evidence of accelerating evil in the world that is reaching alarming proportions. Would it not seem wise, in view of what’s at stake, to investigate the issues and make amends. In Jeremiah’s day, few paid any attention to his warnings. They were too busy living the good life to be bothered with such dismal thoughts, but oh how they paid for such willful ignorance. Today we have John’s first century revelation that compliments all the other Old Testament prophecies. All prophecies—Old and New Testament alike—wave red flags of approaching judgment and disaster. God is going to shake the nations. So how should we respond?

There are but two alternatives: “Live eat and drink for tomorrow we die,” or “flee to the refuge” provided for us by a God of love who implores, “Why will you die?”

Noah was warned and his family heeded God’s warning and went into the ark while all the rest drowned. Lot headed the warning and fled from Sodom just in time. Today there is no need for anyone to go through the awful judgment described in the book of Revelation. God graciously made a way for sinners—of whom we are all—to make peace with God, and in so doing, find eternal safety. He stands knocking today at the heart’s door of every person and He asks to be invited in. “Today,” He says,  if you hear my voice, harden not your heart” (Heb. 3:15).  Ezekiel also uses the appropriate words Repent and live” (1:18-32).”

“O turn ye, O turn ye, for why will ye die,
When God, in great mercy, is coming so nigh?
Now Jesus invites you, the Spirit says, ‘Come!’
And angels are waiting to welcome you home.”— Sam­son Oc­com (1723-1792).

God’s arms are wide open. He longs to show mercy to all who repent and turn to Him, while angels in heaven bend listening ears to catch the words, “Jesus I come.” Even if spoken in only a faint whisper the angels eagerly make the happy announcement that reverberates throughout the heavens with shouts of praise and glorious music (Luke 15:10).

All who come to Him in faith are transferred from the Kingdom of Satan to the Eternel Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). We might well ask ourselves what is God’s Kingdom? The Kingdom of God is in existence today, though not in its total fullness. It is interesting to note that the great Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful ruler of his day, exclaimed upon the return of sanity following seven years of dementia,”I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth” (Dan. 2:31-45).

Regarding the future, in the case of those who have made peace with God, there is no need to fear, “Eye hath not seen,” says the Bible, “nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

We may not be able to conceive what this kingdom will be like, but we do know from Revelation that there will praise and worship from all who love Him with words such as,”Glory and honor and power, unto the Lord our God… praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great… “Alleluja: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev. 19:5 -6).

Hallelujah Chorus—by Saint Severin Choir at Church Saint Jean-Baptiste de Grenelle (Paris).

 

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