BABYLON…COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE Many Christians think Old Testament subjects are just history and don't apply to us anymore. We need this timely lesson warning us that the physical and spiritual presence of the infamous biblical Babylon still exists.To this very day, its hold on us greatly affects the outcome of our spiritual and physical future.
Genesis 10:9-10 records that Babylon, one of the first cities in the entire world, was founded by Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah. It is still remembered for its self-aggrandizing Tower of Babylon (possibly the biblical location of the Tower of Babel), the opulent Hanging Gardens of Babylon, (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), and its immortalized rulers Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar. The civilization was so advanced that more than a thousand years before Galileo, considered the father of modern astronomy, astronomers in Babylon were using pre-calculus to track the movement of the planet Jupiter, which they revered as a god.
These people not only knew about God, their parents, grandparents and great grandparents had shared first-hand accounts of His strength and might. They were the 3rd generation of descendants from the survivors of the flood. No doubt they worshipped and identified with God on an intimacy level we can only imagine. Yet, God's Word in Genesis 11: 4 reveals they were driven by two fundamental human concerns we still have in common with them to this very day: pride, revealed in their human desire to “make a name for ourselves”, and fear that they would end up "scattered over the whole earth".
It's a God-thing that after Jerusalem fell 1500 years later, God's chosen people were exiled back to the very place their ancestors feared leaving. Could it be that God was going to continue to teach them a much-needed lesson about the pitfalls of their pride and fear? Could it be the very same lesson we need to learn today?
The biblical list of those captured and sent to Babylon, or were later born there while in exile, reads like the “Who’s Who” of the Old Testament prophets. Included are many of the major prophets of the Old Testament, including Daniel, with his company of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and the well-known Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Two of the three minor prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, were also part of the Babylonian diaspora of Judah. Also, Esther and Mordecai, as well as Nehemiah can be found there, too.
Many generations remained under Babylonian influence and appeared to thrive. They had their own blossoming communities and established business systems. Some, like Daniel, were even elevated to positions of authority in the government. Though they were not given permission to worship publicly as they had before in Jerusalem, they continued to meet privately and celebrate God’s Holy Days. Slowly over the years, even though the remnant nation had been set apart as a people called by the name of Almighty God, Babylon became their home, and their aspirations to return home to Jerusalem diminished.
Today, we Christians are more like the ancient people of Judah than we care to admit. We now thrive in this land we pridefully call "the home of the brave". We have slowly taken on its ever-changing mindset, character, and influence, attaching priority to its governing powers instead of the rule of the Almighty through His Word. We no longer see ourselves as the "called out" of God Almighty, the "ekklesia", the church, but as Christians who have pledged allegiance to the place we never want to leave. Our choices have become knee-jerk reactions based on our national pride and our greatest fear that like the ancient Babylonians, we will be scattered across the face of the earth, and also lose our national identity.
That can cause us to completely overlook some important things. For instance, during the Gulf War, right under our nose, the rebuilding of the physical ancient city of Babylon was being carried on in earnest. Located in the Babylonian Province of Iraq, only 50-60 miles south of the infamous city of Bagdad, the inscription on the bricks used in the new construction said it all. "This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq.” It's hard to miss the pride in that statement.
Today, part of the site is open to tourists. The World Monuments Fund and the US Department of State Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation have been working with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage since 2004 to develop a site management plan. We might also accurately predict that there are plans in the works for restoration of the ancient city of Babylon. One can only wonder how it will fit into the end times of this world. Remember, the ancients never wanted to leave there in the first place. They wanted a one-world government rule that reached straight to heaven from exactly that place.
Amidst it all, the exiled prophet Zechariah is interrupting mankind's 21st century plans with the same stern warning from the Almighty he delivered to Judah 26 centuries ago. He begins by noting the date on the Hebrew calendar. “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet:” Zechariah 1:7.
Because of God's calendar that He established with the people of Israel, we know that the 31st day of January on our 2019 Gregorian calendar, is actually the 24th day of Shebat on His calendar. It was about that time that the ancient prophet Zechariah began to receive eight visions from God concerning the future of His chosen people.
It’s impossible to read these chapters in Zechariah without seeing them as promises from God for all His people, for all time. We can see that Israel, and Babylon, indeed all nations, fit into the scope of these visions. “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world…'Go throughout the earth!'” Zechariah 6:5, 7b.
In our last lesson, we received God's wisdom through Zechariah’s third vision in chapter 2. This is the only vision given to His people to prepare them for the Lord’s final coming. His vision of the surveyor with a measuring line attempting to measure New Jerusalem, gives keen insight into how little we understand the Lord's plans, and how bent with pride we are to accomplish things our way. "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’" Zechariah 2:4-5 www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/1983316798415166
The vision ends with these commanding prophetic words in 2:7-9 “'Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!' For this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.'"
Revelation 17:5 tells us exactly who Babylon is. “And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: 'Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.'" The word “Babylon” comes from the 4000-year-old Akkadian word "babilani" which means "the Gate of the Gods".
At the time of the Judah exile, the Babylonians had added a false Messiah of their own making, named Tammuz. He, too, was conceived thru immaculate conception and raised from the dead. Their worship of Tammuz included male and female prostitution, making Babylon literally the “Mother of Harlots”. She is a product of man’s wandering lust to be God-like by being intimate with another deity in addition to the Almighty. She is the true source of all manmade worship and religions.
In Revelation 18, Babylon is identified as an adulteress, making those connected with her whoring ways rich in things of the world. As we take in this sickening scenario, remember that an adulteress always has a bridegroom. Can't she be a Bride to her Bridegroom and still participate in the satisfying and luxurious agenda of the world? “‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins'...Woe! Woe! O great city. O Babylon, city of power! In one hour, your doom has come.”
Is it possible that the mindset or "offspring", called "daughter" of Babylon in our focal scripture passage, is alive and well and residing in our concept of the word “church”? Remember the Tower of Babel and the 2nd generation of God-worshippers from Noah, driven by pride and fear? “Come, let us build.” “Let us reach to heaven.”
And how did God address these pride-filled, fearful ancient worshippers? He confounded their unified understanding through their language. Today, there are 41,000 denominations and organizations in the world which say they are Christian churches. And each and every one of them seem to be speaking a different language.
Could the confounding of our denominations be God’s way of correcting our prideful religious aspirations? As we build more and more church buildings and complexes, and spend endless hours perfecting our "programed" worship and lesson times so that the heights of heaven's luxuries may be reached, could the Bride be headed down the road of adultery?
Yes, the spiritual mindset of Babylon is alive and thriving today. A “program” is defined as “A plan of action to accomplish a specified end.” This is a good place for all of us to be reminded that Jesus didn’t say WE would build the true church through all our planning and programs. In Matthew 16:18 He says, “...And on this rock I will build my church… and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.”
Today, we have literally been “programed” to think that we are supposed to go TO church, instead of realizing we ARE the church, called out by Jesus Christ Himself!
And what is it we are called out of? Could it be the same Babylonian mindset of pride and fear that caused the language of God's people to be confounded in the first place?
“Escape, you who live in the daughter of Babylon!...Come out of her my people...”