Summary: Where do you need to "draw the line" in your life?
Singing the Songs of The Lord in a Strange Land. October 17, 2004
Faithfulness in a Strange Land
A few years ago, a good friend invited me to join his corporation’s team for a charity 24-hour relay run. As I hung out with him and his colleagues for the day, I realized what a different world I lived in than the world of business. I also realized what a challenge it must be to live as a Christian out there in the working world.
This is part of the reason that I want to start a series in the book of Daniel – to use Daniel as a model for how to live in the marketplace.
Read Daniel 1
Background & the Story.
On the outside, Judah and its kings seem to be little boats in a big sea of political turmoil. Egypt had expended it’s rule in the region, and had set its own king on the throne in Judah – Neco of Egypt had even changed the Judean king’s name to suit his own purposes. Maybe he had trouble pronouncing Eliakim’s name, so he changed it to Jehoiakim. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon say the need to push Egypt’s power back, so he went to war against Neco. On his way, he crossed through this little vassal state of Judah and put his own mark on it by defeating Jehoiakim, and demonstrating his defeat of Judah’s God by taking some of the temple treasures back to Babylon for his own god’s temple. (2 Chronicles 36)
Along with the temple treasures, he also took some of the young men as captives. This would be the first and smallest of three exiles from Judah to Babylon.
In the end, the majority of people from Judah would be deported. These were the people who Isaiah and Jeremiah wrote to, these would be the people that Ezra and Nehemiah brought back to restore Jerusalem and Judea.
This is where the Israelites wrote Psalm 137
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
- this is the question I hope we can answer together
If you were studying the politics of the day – you would be hard pressed to see the hand of God in what was going on. God’s chosen people were being walked all over, first by Egypt and then by Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar did his best to declare that he and his gods had defeated the God of Judah and Israel. God’s chosen people were in danger of disappearing as a race and culture because of deportation and assimilation.
Where is God in that?
But… there is this little statement at the beginning of verse 2, “And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into (Nebuchadnezzar’s) hand. God was following up on a promise that he made back in Deuteronomy 28:
1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:
3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out…
…15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.
18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out….
…64 Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods-gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, "If only it were evening!" and in the evening, "If only it were morning!"-because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 68 The LORD will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.