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Posts Tagged ‘Babylon’


Jeremiah 29:1-15: Letter to the Exiles in Babylon

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A page from The Book of Jeremiah: St. Catherine Monastery Bible, Egypt

We have spent a good deal of time lately thinking about exile and captivity.  Here is a Favorite from August 12, 2007 which we post it today as a letter to all those in captivity of any kind.  It is a reminder that God is constantly sending us love letters . . . we must be willing to open them.

Many believe that our existence here on earth is a Babylon.

We love God, we worship him, we are in a covenant relationship with him, yet we are brought here to live a life physically apart from God, a life which does its best to distract us from God and from the promises we have made to him and him to us.  If we are so loved, why does God not snatch us up immediately and take us to him?  Because he created us to be like him, and we are given the choice to try to behave as he does or to go off on our own.  This Babylon is our classroom, and we are to bloom where we have been planted.  How do we know this?  God has written us a letter, through Jeremiah, to tell us so.

Look at verses 5 through 7: Build houses to dwell in; plant gardens and eat their fruits.  Take wives and beget sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters.  There you must increase in number, not decrease.  Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the Lord, for upon its welfare depends your own. 

And my favorite in this chapter is verse 11:  For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. 

But continue with verses 12 to 15: When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me, you will find me.  Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you, says the Lord, and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.

I remind myself of another Jeremiah citation by which I live: 42:10-22.  When I am most thinking that I need to pull up stakes and move off to begin a whole new life, I remember the words that the Lord God spoke to the remnant:  If you remain quietly in this land I will build you up, and not tear you down; I will plant you, not uproot you; for I regret the evil I have done you . . . If you are determined to go to Egypt [another place – to make a new beginning]; the hunger you dread shall cling to you no less in Egypt, and there you shall die.

And so we pray: Compassionate God, remind me daily that “this vale of tears” is only a pathway to you.  As I build my house and settle into this land, remain near.  As I promote the welfare of my exile city, be my hands and feet.  My only wish is that you increase and not decrease.  Abide with me, your remnant.  Hold me ever close to you.  Amen.


A re-post from April 24, 2012.

For more on the story of the St. Catherine Monastery Bible, or the Monasteryitself, go to: http://theratzingerforum.yuku.com/topic/1092/St-Catherine-s-Bible-2pp-Der-Spiegel-Exclusive and http://www.sinaimonastery.com/en/index.php?lid=3

For more on the prophet Jeremiah go to the Jeremiah – Person and Message page on this blog.

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Jeremiah 25:1-14: Captivity

Easter Saturday, April 27, 2019

Here Jeremiah foretells the continuing conflict between warring nations in the Middle East.  As we have observed before, the political environment has not changed much over the millennia despite the changing of political systems and figures, and the names of sovereign nations and their leaders. Cultures, religions, and peoples continue to clash.  And Jeremiah uses the round number of 70 to say that the present generation may not return – they must die and a newer, perhaps more faithful generation, will renew Hebrew history. Notes from the ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE tell us more (Zondervan 1234).

  • Since the numeric systems in this region of the world at this time were often based on ascending groups of six, the logical maximum number of measurement would be 60.  The amount of 70 indicates a number of major proportion – and importance.  In this case it represents the fact that the present generation must die out before the exile will end.
  • Jeremiah foresees a time when Judah will serve Babylon, and that following this time Babylon herself will serve another nation.  This history plays out as Jeremiah predicted.  Judah became a vassal state of Babylon in 604 B.C.E. and although the arithmetic is inexact, almost 70 years later Babylon was taken over by Persia.  The people of Israel will return home from exile under the Persian king Cyrus as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • Another calculation that may be seen as predicted from this prophecy is the span of time between the physical destruction of the temple in 586 B.C.E. and its re-dedication in 515 B.C.E.
  • In either case, Jeremiah predicts an exile which outlasts the present generation and thus serves as a punishment for the wayward Israelites.  The exile Jeremiah describes does take place.  And exile will occur in each of our lives in some way at some time.

This we can also predict.

I have come to understand that periods of separation and loss in our lives cannot be avoided.  No amount of planning or good behavior exempts us from the sort of exile that Jeremiah forecasts for his people.  The prestige of nations will rise and fall almost whimsically; power will ebb and flow.  This is something we cannot avoid.  Our personal influence and authority will likewise rise and fall.  We may even be held captive for a time by invader ideas; new policies and procedures, new fads and crazes will overtake us.  We have only to stand still for a day in our fast-paced world and the advances of technology fly past us to leave us feeling disconnected.  Some of us self-impose this kind of exile while others are forced into it by economics and talent.

We can never have control over the cataclysmic changes that happen around and to us.  In reality we seldom control much more than the small details of our lives and for some of us even that is a reach.  We have fooled ourselves into thinking that we have made the most of life by choosing the proper career and the proper life partner when our personal and economic status is often chosen for us; our political destiny is driven by many whom we do not even know exist.

So is there anything we can do about who we are and how we live?  Absolutely.  Is there any way we can control nature?  Not much.  What are our options when it comes to our political and civic lives?  Depending on our nation of origin we have various degrees of input.  Some of us live in flourishing democracies while others live in closed societies that stifle any cry for freedom.  What do we do about improving our status and making a difference in the world?  When we join in the struggle to build God’s kingdom . . . all the rest falls into place.

Jeremiah speaks to an ancient nation but he also speaks to us when he describes the coming whirlwind that threatens on the horizon. When we see the impending peril and sense the advent of our own bitter captivity, what are we to do?

We will spend some time during the rest of this Easter Week reflecting on our options.


A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

Image from: http://thephotoexchange.wordpress.com/

“The 70 Years of Captivity.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

For more on the gifts that come out of captivity, go to Ultimate Fulfillment at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/08/09/ultimate-fulfillment/

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Isaiah 46: Little Gods

Monday, March 18, 2019

Baal

Today we read about the effects of living a life of enslavement to the many little gods that appear in our lives.  These tiny dieties may appear suddenly and either announce their arrival or enter our lives to take hold of our habits stealthily.  They come with no warning and have little or no overt manifestation.  If we take a moment to review commentary for Isaiah 46 we understand that this is a familiar theme to Old Testament people who lived among the many tribes of Baal worshipers.  Looking at cross references to the New Testament we see that it is a well-known theme in Jesus’ day.   Even today we daily come upon incidents of little gods holding sway over us and hijacking our decisions.  Many of us carry Bel and Nebo on our shoulders allowing them to govern our spiritual, political, social and family life.  Today we ponder these little gods who demand much of our time . . . and bring us no enduring consolation or lasting hope.

Who are these demons who haunt us and how do we recognize the fact that they govern our lives?

They must be borne up on shoulders, carried as burdens by the weary.  When we find ourselves enslaved to a custom or habit that exhausts and does not edify us, it is time to call out these little gods.

They stoop and bow down together; unable to save those who bear them, they go into captivity.  When we realize that we are drained of energy and that the structure we believed in has abandoned us, it is time to put an end to the demands of the little gods.

Although they cry out it does not answer; it delivers no one from distress.  When all that we relied upon has taken our life force and has disappeared into nothingness, it is time to amend our ways and turn our allegiance to the Living God who saves.

Remember this and be firm, bear it well in mind, you rebels; remember the former things, those long ago . . . And so as we continue in our Lenten journey, what do we do to shed our faith in these little idols?

I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like me.  We turn to God who has loved us despite our folly in abandoning him, and we see that God has always been beside us . . . even when we were blind to him. We hear the voice of God calling to us and we know that this voice has been guiding us . . . even when we could not hear him.  We see the works of God in the many little graces and in the enormous saving actions he has granted us, and we realize God has loved us all through our comings and goings . . . even when we have ignored and even reviled him.

I am bringing on my justice, it is not far off, my salvation will not tarry . . .

We have a clear choice before us today.  We can muddle along with our little gods or we can choose to follow the Living God.  St. Paul writes to the Romans: Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.  Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day.  (Romans 13:11-13)  

Psalm 27 is one of my favorites and it reminds us simply of this: The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink?

If we are too afraid of our little gods to turn them out of the temple of our lives, we turn to God for strength.  If we fear that the Living God has tired of our constant wandering and will not welcome us home, we need only remember the many promises the Living God has kept, and the savior he has sent to redeem us all.


A re-post from March 19, 2012. 

Image from: http://willcookson.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/review-bibles-buried-secrets-did-god-have-a-wife/

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Ezekiel 48:35: The Lord is Here – Part I

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Ezekiel (The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican)

Michelangelo: The Prophet Ezekiel (The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican)

We have looked at the book of Ezekiel perhaps a dozen times but today we focus on the last four words of this prophecy that describes the New Jerusalem in the New Kingdom:  The Lord is here.

Ezekiel’s prophecy tells us that there is hope after judgment.  The prophet, a priest who was carted away to Babylon with the early exiles, uses the sharp contrast between the destruction of the defiled earth-bound temple and the restoration of the purified divine temple – which we now understand through the New Testament story to be Jesus and then ultimately all of us as Jesus’ mystical body. Ezekiel also uses the beautiful imagery of the watchman calling in the darkness to announce the New Jerusalem, along with four visions and five parables.  His story is filled with symmetry, “hammering repetitions and . . . non-traditional prose”.  (ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 1213) And all of this he does to get our attention, and to bring us to focus on the last words of his prophecy: The Lord is Here.  And we ask: where?

In the flurry of international, national and local news, we might well wonder, where is the Lord? In the rush of heavy schedules, hectic days and anxious nights, we might well ask, where is the Lord? In our private and public lives, in our bodies, hearts and minds, we feel the worries and hopes of a waiting world, and we might well voice the question, where is the Lord? And in each circumstance, in every life, Ezekiel reminds us with his compelling verses, the Lord is here.

When we spend time with this prophecy today, we have the opportunity to feel the presence of God as we remember and reflect . . . we are Easter People . . . and the Lord is among us.

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 15, 2007. 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1312. Print.

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Baruch 2: The Road to Destruction or Redemption – Part II

Wednesday, November 25, 2015IMG_4553_20081019_fm3005_destruction

In Isaiah 24 we read about the devastation of all but the faithful remnant.  In Nehemiah 2 we see a heart wrenching return to the destroyed Jerusalem.  In Revelation 18 we witness the fall of Babylon at her own hands and the destruction of those who followed the unholy trinity of beast, harlot and false prophet and their attendant demon spirits.  With the forces of darkness there is always a final end.  With the forces of light there is always ultimate and infinite jubilation.

Baruch reminds us that there are many ways to visit Babylon and drink of her waters poisoned with the blood of the innocent.  Baruch also reminds us that the door to the New Jerusalem is standing open to us.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth as a counterpoint to the closed, dark, silent void.

God knows that he has created a stiff-necked people; but he has also invited us to convert this stubbornness to an intentional devotion to Christ.  In so doing we decide to walk from darkness to light where we will recall the words of the Lord to us: I will bring them back to the land which with my oath I promised to their fathers . . . and they shall rule it.  I will make them increase; they shall not diminish.  And I will establish for them an eternal covenant, that I will be their God and they shall be my people; and I will not again remove my people Israel from the land I give them.

Minolta DSC

Jesus came into the world to release us from darkness and destruction . . . permanently . . . eternally.  Do we choose to reject this covenant offer of love?  Or do we, the chosen bride, decide to follow the groom where he leads us?  As we rise each day, the decision lies before us.  Perdition or redemption, destruction or salvation. The clear choice lies before us and it is time for us to act. So let us invite others to join us in combating dense and heavy darkness with the light and truth of Christ.

Adapted from a favorite from November 8, 2008.

 

 

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Clay Cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar II

British Museum: Clay Cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar II

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Jeremiah 46

Routed Heroes

This oracle against Egypt that we read today is one of Jeremiah’s many. The young Hebrew nation sought refuge in Egypt under the protection of Joseph, they prospered and grew in the land of Goshen and were later enslaved. Led from their enslavement by Moses, they migrated to their promised land where they again prospered and grew. They became a formidable force under the leadership of Saul and David but with Solomon the empire begins to crumble. This young king who had shown so much promise bows to the desires of pagan wives and allows his people to turn to pagan gods. Babylon threatens in the north while Israel and Judah become two kingdoms. Ahead of the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah is swept away and carried off to Egypt; but Babylon follows and Nebuchadnezzar’s forces move swiftly through the Levant to rout the heroes who attempted to stem the force of his advance. Jeremiah had warned his people but they chose to ignore the word of God as delivered by the prophet.

Prepare shield and buckler! March to battle!

The prophet Daniel reminds us that the faithful need not fight, they only need rely on the providence and goodness of God. (Daniel and the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3)

Harness the horses. Mount, charioteers. Fall in with your helmets; polish your spears, put on your breastplates.

Saint Paul reminds us that the only impenetrable armor is Christ himself. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

What do I see? With broken ranks they fall back; their heroes are routed, they flee headlong without making a stand. Terror on every side!

Jesus tells us that we have nothing to fear when we live in him.

The swift cannot flee, nor the hero escape. There in the north, on the Euphrates’ bank, they stumble and fall. Who is this that surges toward the Nile, like rivers of billowing waters?

Jeremiah warns that there is no route of escape, no avoidance of the inevitable end which corruption and arrogance guarantees.

Pack your baggage for exile, Memphis shall become a desert, an empty ruin. The mercenaries are like fatted calves; they too turn and flee together, stand not their ground.

The unthinkable will take place. All who are powerful will be weak. All who are mighty will fall. Heroes and cowards alike will collapse.

I will make an end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make an end. I will chastise you as you deserve, I will not let you go unpunished.

So compassionate is our God that even those who go against him have an opportunity to change their ways.

But you, my servant Jacob, fear not; be not dismayed, O Israel. Behold, I will deliver you from the far off land for I am with you.

So faithful is our persistent God that those who are lost in the wake of routed heroes will be healed, restored and transformed.

So hopeful is our transformative God that those who fall on the banks of the Nile will be reconciled, rebuilt and made new.

So loving is our merciful God that even those who are swept away with the tide of routed heroes will be raised up, resurrected and brought to eternal life.

For information on the Babylonian Culture and Jeremiah’s prophecy, click on the image above or go to: http://www.biblesearchers.com/temples/jeremiah4.shtml 

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Francois Xavier Fabre: Nabuchodonosor Has Zedekiah's Children Killed before his Eyes

Francois Xavier Fabre: Nabuchodonosor Has Zedekiah’s Children Killed before his Eyes

Jeremiah 34

Face to Face

Many of us shrink from speaking openly in conflict or disagreement, or to anyone with whom there is a potential for argument. We avoid situations that may cause us discomfort when we speak or hear truth. Today the Lord foretells Zedekiah’s difficult future. And it is news that the last king of Judah does not want to receive.

I am handing this city [Jerusalem] over to the king of Babylon; he will destroy it with fire. Neither shall you escape his hand; rather you will be captured and fall into his hands. You shall see the king of Babylon and speak to him face to face. Then you shall be taken to Babylon.

How might we react if we were to know the details of the last years of our lives? What might we do differently? What fences might we mend and with whom might we reconcile?

How do feel about confronting a grave illness, a sudden job loss, an unexpected death? We so often put reality aside until we can interact with it . . . face to face.

Zedekiah is given an opportunity to experience exile in a semi-dignified way but he reneges on his part of the bargain. Zedekiah made an agreement with all the people in Jerusalem to issue an edict of emancipation. Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, male and female. All the princes and leaders consented . . . But though they agreed and freed them, afterward they took back their male and female slaves whom they had set free and forced them into service again.

If we want to know about Zedekiah’s last days, we can turn to 2 Kings 25 or click on the image above. The story is horrific, especially when we know that a merciful God had prepared a smoother way. The story is tragic, especially when we see that he suffers a fate he had parsed out to others. The story is cautionary, especially when we come to understand that God wants nothing more than to ease our burden.

Within each of us is the potential to become a new Zedekiah, one who has much and who sacrifices all. Also within is the latent slave who exults in freedom only to be brought back into bondage. Zedekiah retreats from a face to face encounter with the conquering king only to lose his progeny and his sight. Zedekiah plots the oppression of innocents and ends his days suffering in a way he had never imagined.

When the Lord asks us to come face to face with a person or an event that stirs fear within us, when God calls us to someone or some thing for which we feel only dread . . . let us consider the story of Zedekiah, and determine to rely on God’s company as we stand toe to toe with our fears.

For more on Zedekiah’s fate, click on the image above or visit: http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/Book_of_Daniel/commentary/htm/0209030405.htm

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Thursday, September 6, 2012 – Daniel 4 – Nebuchadnezzar

British Museum, London, England: Cuneiform tablet with part of the Babylonian Chronicle

God’s ways are just, and those who walk in pride will be brought low.  Those who humble themselves for and in God will be rewarded.  This is the lesson we read about today.  The great and mighty Nebuchadnezzar realizes that the God of the Jewish nation is more powerful than anything known to humankind, and he wisely bows to the supremacy of this God. 

Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon at the peak of its power, from 605 to 562 B.C.E. and he took pride in the building of temples and city fortifications.  He is mentioned more than any other monarch in the Old Testament.  He led several campaigns against Israel (in 604, in 597 and in 586) and succeeded in capturing Judah, ransacking the temple, and deporting thousands of the Jewish people.  Nebuchadnezzar fought and won battles against the Middle Eastern powers in Egypt, Israel and Judah, and he consolidated this power to form a formidable empire; yet this powerful man bowed to the power of the God esteemed by Daniel, the bright young Jewish man whose God was stronger than any other power on earth,

http://www.biblehistory.net/Nebuchadnezzar.pdf

For an amazing digital reconstruction of Babylon go to http://formerthings.com/nebuchadnezzar.htm

and look for the video link labeled Babylon 612 B.C.  The virtual tours here are fantastic and the music inspiring.  You will first have to play the “Processional Tour” and then fifteen other video clips will be available to you.  I found myself watching for nearly an hour as I imagined the young Jewish men who had been taken captive and carried away to this foreign, exotic and beautiful court.  How difficult it must have been to remain loyal to Yahweh and to not be drawn in by this grandeur and glory . . . and how difficult it must have been for the “madman” Nebuchadnezzar to bow to this unseen God when he controlled all he could see.  This is truly a powerful God.

Written on April 12, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Daniel and his prophecy, go to the Daniel – God Calls the Faithful and Faithless page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/

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