Summary: I wonder how we would feel if we were standing in the shoes of those exiles, those ancient Jews? What do you think God would have told us to do, if we had been His people taken by force to live in a pagan society? (Powerpoints available - #278)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(Powerpoints used with this message are available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #278.)
ILL. In 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian army attacked Jerusalem. The invaders took the King prisoner, plundered the temple, & carried off 10,000 captives to spend the rest of their lives in a foreign land along with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego who had been taken in an earlier invasion.
Three months later, following a 600 mile journey past the Arabian Desert, the Jewish captives entered Babylon, the largest & most magnificent city in the ancient world.
Its walls were so thick that 4 chariots could race side by side around its top. 365 guard towers & a moat fed by the River Euphrates made the city seemingly impregnable.
Entering through the Ishtar Gate, the Jewish captives were led down Processional Street, flanked by light blue ceramic brick walls displaying 120 large white enameled lions with manes of yellow & red.
That street led to Nebuchadnezzar's palace & the Temple of Marduk, which stood taller than the pyramids, on what some scholars believe was the ancient site of the Tower of Babel.
Babylon was a cultural & architectural wonder. But in the 6th Century B.C., it was no place for a devout Jew. It was foreign, idolatrous, & the capitol of the pagan empire which had plundered Jerusalem & taken them captive.
A. I wonder how we would feel if we were standing in the shoes of those exiles, those ancient Jews? What do you think God would have told us to do, if we had been His people taken by force to live in a pagan society?
Well, those Jews had false prophets who told them what to do, who wrongly assured them that they would soon be going home. So some of the exiles tried to withdraw from society, avoiding contact with the pagan Babylonians around them.
But that wasn't what God wanted them to do, & through the Prophet Jeremiah, God gave these instructions to His people, as recorded in Jeremiah 29:5 7.
God told them, "Build houses & settle down; plant gardens & eat what they produce. Marry & have sons & daughters; find wives for your sons & give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons & daughters.
“Increase in numbers there, do not decrease. Also, seek the peace & 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."
Did you hear that? God was telling them to care about Babylon, to pray for, get involved in, & seek to influence the nation in which they now lived, even though they were unwilling captives having to live in a very pagan society.
B. Now, how does God's command to them apply to us?
Like the Jews in Babylon, we Christians have been told to be salt & light in our nation, too. But unlike them, we have a far greater opportunity to influence & set the moral direction of our nation & its government.
No Jew ever had the opportunity to vote on Nebuchadnezzar. No 1st Century Christian ever cast a primary ballot to select his party's nominee for Caesar.
As citizens, we choose the national & local legislators who make our laws. We select the presidents, governors, & mayors who administer those laws. We set the course of our judicial system by electing judges or those who appoint them.
Look around the world & you will see that no other group of Christians has the opportunity to influence their country as much as we here in the United States.
Yet too often we Christians are truly a "silent majority." Oh yes, we complain about what some of our politicians are doing, & about decisions that are being made by the courts.
But when it comes time to cast our votes some don't even bother to learn very much about the candidates - about the core values & beliefs of those who'll be making decisions that will affect our lives & the lives of our children after us.
Sometimes we complain about those who don't bother to vote. But I'm convinced that voting blindly, selfishly, ignorantly can be just as bad.
C. Now, why have I mentioned all this? It is because I'm convinced that God hasn't changed His expectations. He still expects His people to concern themselves with the affairs of the society in which they live.
It is as much a part of our stewardship to Him as is the management of our time, our talents, or our money.
It's not difficult to figure out whether God has anything to say about abortion, pornography, homosexual "marriage," paying people who won't work, & an educational system that supplies condoms to children but won't allow a Bible in school, or a prayer on the football field.