Living in Babylon
When I look around at where we are as a society and compare it to where we were 30 years ago, it scares me. So much of our Judeo-Christian norms and standards have been dramatically changed; this is a different place.
Our Christian values are under severe attack as committed believers are being viewed as enemies rather than model citizens. Attitudes about traditional marriage, homosexuality, and even gender have served to turn our world upside down and away from the traditions and Biblical standards that have defined our country since before its founding.
Add to that the radical movements to control free speech, protect criminal illegals, and accept abortion even up to birth, and our world becomes unrecognizable. I look around and realize that I no longer live in Jerusalem, but instead Babylon.
The book of Daniel opens up for us the approach that, as boys, he and three of his friends took in learning how to live in a world far different from the places of their births. When Judah was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and many brought to Babylon, they had to make certain decisions about how they would incorporate their faith in light of a new culture and the new reality of being servants in the royal court.
One of those decisions involved their diet. In Daniel 1:8-9,
“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials”.
The Babylonian menu was not consistent with the normal Jewish diet and Daniel stood by his convictions and was able to gain approval from the leadership. Since Judaism provides strict guidelines about what was acceptable, Daniel decided to honor those restrictions and God favored him.
The biggest challenge came in the Babylonian requirement to worship the golden image of the king in Daniel 3. This practice is clearly idolatry and a direct assault on the foundation of the Jewish faith.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before Me’”. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. “You shall not worship them or serve them” Exodus 20:2-5).
If their Jewish faith meant anything, they would need to make serious decisions about how much they would allow this new culture to compromise that faith. Daniel and the three Hebrew boys were challenged to place their lives on the line for their faith in God. In Daniel 3, it was the fiery furnace and in Daniel 6, the lions’ den.
Idolatry takes on many forms
In this society, idolatry can take on at least four different forms: materialism, individual pride or egotism (i.e. obsession with jobs, etc.), humanity’s generic abilities (i.e. naturalism, power of science), and reliance on self and self-exaltation.
These present ongoing opportunities to compromise individual faith in God by placing faith in man’s ability over God. Are we committed to our faith entirely or are there areas we are willing to negotiate? It affects not only the things we value but the way we vote in elections and those we support in the public square. For example, if a Christian believes that pro-life issues are important to his faith in God, then he should vote accordingly.
The Church of Laodicea had some of the same issues America faces today in Revelation 3:14-22. The level of prosperity we have experienced as a nation challenges the convictions we may or may not have as believers. In verse 17,
“Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked”.
Jesus addressed the issue of being rich as a major obstacle in walking closely with God. In fact, He said that you cannot serve two masters in Matthew 6:24,
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth [mammon – god of materialism].”
Our spiritual service of worship
Living faith in God must include a willingness to serve Him. This service can take on many different forms, but it is the heart of our worship of Him. In Romans 12:1-2,
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect”.
Since idolatry is inherent in our current society, it becomes all the more important that the expression of our service to and worship of God must include being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” and not allow the atmosphere to conform us to worldly priorities.
Ultimately, these realities are forcing each of us to make important decisions about the importance of our Biblical faith. It is no longer easy to sit on the fence, being wishy-washy about life decisions that present challenges to our faith in God. As God spoke to Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19-20,
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live”.
Ordained in 1994, planted a church in Northeast Ohio in 1998, spent 12 years as its pastor, have had a ministry to nursing homes for 15 years until Covid hit in March 2020, spent 3 years ministering to recovering men at Salvation Army. With all the Covid restrictions, God has led me to write blogs, a brand new way to communicate the messages He gives me.