Summary: What would we do if our country ever came under siege by a foreign nation that did not believe in God? How could we practice our faith, and how could we live according to biblical principles?
I have entitled our message this morning “Serving in Captivity,” as we’ll be examining the events surrounding the Babylonian captivity of 587 B.C. What would we, as believers, do if our country ever came under siege by a foreign nation that did not believe in God or His Son, Jesus Christ? How could we practice our Christian faith, and how could we live according to biblical principles? What would the Lord have us to do under such unspeakable circumstances? These are questions we seriously need to consider as our nation continues to move further away from God, and is in danger of judgment.
Even if our country never falls, we still need to ask these questions in knowing how to live under a Godless and corrupt government; and the Bible actually answers the question of how we are to conduct ourselves while residing under immoral or oppressive leadership. These answers can be found by looking at the events which led to the Babylonian captivity; by viewing God’s advice to His captive people; and by examining the behavior of the Lord’s faithful servants Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. We are going to begin our message this morning with a quick overview of why the Israelites fell under captivity by Babylon.
Falling and Coming Under Subjection
The Israelites had an ongoing problem. They often became distracted with worshipping false gods and idols; and they chose to practice sin instead of walking in the commands of the Lord. In 2 Kings chapter 20, verses 16-18, the prophet Isaiah shared with King Hezekiah the fate that would later befall the Israelites. Isaiah declared, “Hear the word of the Lord: ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon’.”
Skipping a few generations; in 2 Kings chapter 21, verses 1-3 and verse 9, we are told about the ungodly leadership of King Manasseh: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem . . . And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them . . . But [the Israelites] paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.”
The Israelites “paid no attention” (21:9) to the Lord, or to the direction that King Manasseh was leading them; and, therefore, the nation entered the slippery slope of sin and came under God’s judgment. The sins perpetrated by Manasseh and perpetuated by the people continued through the generations into the reign of King Jehoiakim; and in 2 Kings chapter 24, verses 1 and 3, we read this: “In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his vassal . . . Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done.” Jehoiakim and all of Judah were carried off into Babylon for seventy long years, because they forsook the Lord.
Psalm 137 portrays the harsh reality that the captives experienced upon arrival in Babylon. The Scripture declares, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4). In this question about singing God’s song in a foreign land, the captives were asking, “How do we live under such conditions, and how do we continue serving the Lord?”
God answered their question; for in Jeremiah chapter 29, verses 4-6 and verse 10, we read, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters – that you may be increased there, and not diminished . . . After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”