Saturday, June 9, 2012

Living In Babylon Part 1

This is part one in a three part message. I hope you are blessed by it.

We all face trails and troubles. We have all had problems in our life, in our family and at work. Sometimes those troubles only last for a little while. Sometimes they are just a testing period that the Lord sends our way and once we have been tested and passed the test our life is basically back to normal. We’re stronger because of the testing and we’re wiser.
But what happens when we find ourselves living in Babylon? When the trouble has no end in sight? When every day is full of misery no matter how hard we pray, no matter how right we are living? What then? Sometimes God tells us that we are staying in this situation and that He is not going to get us out of it.  When that happens we have only one choice to make: will we trust God or not? It’s as simple as that. Do you trust God, even when things aren’t going good?
The Babylonians had invaded Israel and carried off all the scholars and learned people, the young men and many from the royal family. Daniel and his friends were among the people taken. Jeremiah, the true prophet of God, wasn’t taken and remained in Jerusalem.
The Israelites were only in Babylon a short time when certain men started to say they had heard from God and that God was going to rescue them right away. They told the people what they wanted to hear. They were false prophets who were trying to set themselves up as God’s messengers but God won’t let false prophets get away with supposedly speaking on His behalf. So He gave Jeremiah a message to send in a letter to the exiles.
Just imagine the excitement there must have been when it was announced that there was a letter from the prophet Jeremiah back home! The word probably spread like wildfire. Everyone gathered together in anticipation of what the letter would say.

Jeremiah 29 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
What a shock it must have been to a people who were looking forward to God getting them out of this mess right away. God told them to settle down, build houses, marry and have sons and daughters and have them marry too. They wouldn’t be rescued in a few weeks, instead it would be generations! Sometimes God leaves us in our Babylon because some things can’t be changed.
My sister has lost a son to cancer. She now belongs to the group of people who have lost a child. There is nothing she can do about the situation. She can’t change it. She has to live with it. That is her Babylon. I have friends who have suffered the loss of a marriage. They’ve been divorced and know its pain. That’s their Babylon. I know of women who are stuck in a loveless marriage and see no end in sight. Babylon.
Many mothers have children who are doing life time sentences in prison. They deal with that stigma, that fear, that worry, every day. They live in Babylon. They never planned for their child to grow up and do something that put them behind bars and it’s not what they would have chosen, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are now in a place they don’t want to be.
I have friends who are in ministry and are living in Babylon. Like all parents they had great plans for their son. They hoped he would grow up and marry and maybe, since he loved music, he would be involved in their ministry. But at fourteen their son started sniffing glue and doing drugs and drinking. They have lived in Babylon ever since then. Their son can’t keep a job or a relationship. He regularly verbally abuses them. He has had a child and legally disowned that child so our friends can never have a grandparent relationship with him. They hurt every day, they live in Babylon. They’d rather be in Jerusalem where their plans would have taken them but instead they are in Babylon and they keep on ministering even though they hurt.
Notice what God told His people though. He told them He was leaving them in Babylon, in captivity, but He told them to build houses and settle down. He told them to be busy while they were there and to plant gardens and have marriages. In other words, He told them to continue living. That’s what we have to do when we find ourselves in Babylon, away from Jerusalem where we want to be, we have to keep on living, keep on doing the things that need to be done. If we do, we will prosper even though we are in a strange land that we wouldn’t have chosen to be in, if we had the choice.
God doesn’t leave us in Babylon to harm us. God wants to do good to us. But as I said before, sometimes things can’t be changed and God’s ways are not our ways. He has His reasons but those reasons are never to harm us. Let’s continue reading in verse 10:
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Now that’s a promise! He wasn’t leaving the children of Israel with no hope. He had plans for them as He does us.
28 He has sent this message to us in Babylon: It will be a long time. Therefore build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.’”

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