Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A MESSAGE TO BABYLON: A CHILLING DECREE



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah, son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. Then say, ‘Lord, You have said You will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’”

The words of Jeremiah end here.

Jeremiah 51:59-64

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

In today’s devotion, we not only looking at the final words in Jeremiah 51 but as we see in our scripture passage, the final words of the prophet Jeremiah as well. Look again at his last message:

This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah, son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. Then say, ‘Lord, You have said You will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’”

The words of Jeremiah end here.  Jeremiah 51:59-64

At the heart of these verses, we find the theme that has dominated Jeremiah, Chapters 50 and 51. Babylon, the once mighty, dominant empire was about to see its reign end in a big way as God’s judgment came upon them. The news came in the form of a chilling decree that Jeremiah had written on a scroll and sent to Babylon with Seraiah, a staff officer who traveled to Babylon with King Zedekiah of Judah.

What made the decree chilling?

The scroll contained words that detailed the punishment God was sending, punishment that included:

 1. A series of disasters.

“Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon.”

God’s consequences were not going to be mild. They were going to be epic and not even the mighty Babylonian forces were going to be able to defend the empire against the disasters God was sending, disasters that would culminate in complete annihilation. And that leads to the second outcome of God’s punishment.

2. Destruction and desolation.

“Then say, ‘Lord, You have said You will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’”

How bad would the devastation of God’s disaster be?

So bad that the entire empire would be laid to waste and left in ruins. Scripture tells us that the demolition would be so harsh that the once rich and fertile land would be left uninhabitable and desolate, not just in the short term but forever.

3. Lost power and prominence.

“When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’”

Once mighty and on a steady upward trajectory as the world’s superpower, Babylon would fall and fall hard, sinking into the depths of world significance just like the scroll with its recorded judgment would sink into the Euphrates after being read to the Babylonians.

Of course, we know now that God’s prophecy spoken through His prophet came to absolute fruition through the work of the attacking Persians who overthrew the Babylonians and took over all that they possessed. Babylon had chosen to unrepentantly sin against God by worshiping false gods and as a result they faced the same penalty that other nations had suffered for the same offense, nations which included the Israelite’s own Judah. God has sent a clear message that any nation that opts for wickedness over His righteousness can expect judgment and that judgment can include utter destruction.

It applied to the nations in Jeremiah’s day, it applies today, and it will apply until God decides He has had enough and sends Jesus back to judge the world. We know our future has this in store because God has given us our own chilling decree which reads as follows:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’”

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’”

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’”

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’”

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’”

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’”

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46

A day of reckoning is coming for us all, the day when Jesus returns in all His glory. Heaven and earth as we know it will be destroyed on that day but not before there is a sorting of people into two distinct groups: a group who did accept Jesus as Savior and a group who did not.

The first group are labeled as righteous by Jesus because they not only received and acknowledged Jesus as Savior but also reflected His life attitudes in the way they lived, namely caring for the most vulnerable people in society like the hungry and thirsty, the stranger who had no place to stay, the person in need of clothes, those who were afflicted in some way, and those who were incarcerated. Jesus made it His mission to care for the needs of others and those who truly followed Him would do the same. Because of all they were in Jesus, Christians are referred to as blessed in this passage as they prepared to receive their inheritance and inhabit the new heaven and earth with God and Jesus forever.

Now for the chilling part of the decree.

For those who chose to reject Jesus and not care for the needy as the Christians did were called cursed by Jesus for their future included being cast into a fire fashioned for the devil himself and the angels that served him. Their destiny was eternal destruction, an obliteration that was even worse than the one Babylon faced in today’s scripture passage.

The bottom line then for all of us here in the 21st century is that God has already told us what the future will hold. We all know how the story of creation is going to end. The question is, “Will we perish or be saved when it comes?”

God gave us a chilling decree to help us make the right decision, a decision that leads to the outcome of eternal life. We just need to follow His guidance, accept Jesus as Savior, and in doing so, claim our part of His blessed everlasting kingdom where we’ll abide with Him forever.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A MESSAGE TO BABYLON: THE LORD OF RETRIBUTION



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“The sound of a cry comes from Babylon, the sound of great destruction from the land of the Babylonians.”

“The Lord will destroy Babylon; He will silence her noisy din. Waves of enemies will rage like great waters; the roar of their voices will resound. A destroyer will come against Babylon; her warriors will be captured, and their bows will be broken.”

“For the Lord is a God of retribution; He will repay in full. I will make her officials and wise men drunk, her governors, officers and warriors as well; they will sleep forever and not awake,” declares the King, whose name is the Lord Almighty.

This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Babylon’s thick wall will be leveled and her high gates set on fire; the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing, the nations’ labor is only fuel for the flames.”

Jeremiah 51:54-58

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

“For the Lord is a God of retribution; He will repay in full.”

It’s a bold statement of truth that we find in today’s passage as we near the end of our study of Jeremiah 51 and one that should lead us to a place of apprehension and caution.

This is because of the very nature of the Lord and the very nature of retribution. Let’s look at both.

First, the very nature of the Lord is that He is our God Almighty, that last word affirming that He is all powerful. Omnipotent is a similar word used to describe the Lord because His might has no boundaries and thus there is nothing beyond the work of His hands, hands that hold the power to love, hands that hold the power to redeem and save, and hands that have the power to judge and hold His people accountable.

It’s that latter power that we find the Lord leveraging against the Babylonians in today’s scripture as He vows to destroy the once mighty empire of Babylon. That destruction would be carried out by the Persians who the Lord would use as an instrument of His punishment just as He had used the Babylonians before them. Babylon’s warriors would be subdued and captured as the nation was laid to waste and left desolate and uninhabited.

In the end translation, Babylon had decided to worship and adore false gods like Bel over the Lord God Almighty and so He had to show them just how powerless those false gods were as they were as lifeless as the faith of the Babylonians. They had earned the Lord’s retribution and the details of how Babylon would fall show the very nature of the word and how it’s something no one should want to experience from God.

In its very root definition, retribution simply means:

“Punishment administered in return for a wrong committed.”

In the case of the Babylonians, they had sinned against God in the worst way possible, disrespecting and dishonoring Him by worshiping gods outside of Him. That was their wrong committed and the punishment received was destruction. And don’t think this was just something minor demolition. The vast expanse of what was the world’s mightiest empire was completely annihilated by the Lord. No other power could have accomplished that but His power.

So where does that leave us before the Lord God Almighty today?

In a very precarious situation to say the least.

For we all have sinned against the Lord, over and over and over again. Even after repenting and promising to not fail again, even after knowing that the Lord hates sin and will bring consequences on anyone who commits it.

In fact, no person on earth can stand before Him on their own and avoid His destruction. We are all deserving of His fiercest retribution.

That’s what makes the Lord’s amazing grace so amazing because you see, God was not willing to see all His people perish because of their sins. He did not and He does not wish anyone to have to experience His retribution and so He gave up His only Son Jesus to suffer the consequences for us. God’s retribution for sin fell on His Son, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world and as He was resurrected to life after dying on the cross of Calvary, He stepped into a new role of intercessor for all of God’s people who would choose to place their faith, hope, and trust in Him as Savior.

Therefore, although the Lord God Almighty is a Lord of retribution, when the day of ultimate judgment comes, that retribution will not fall on those who are in Christ Jesus. Those who rejected Him will not be as fortunate.

So to sum up what God wants us to know today, He is indeed the Lord of retribution but He is also the Author of the salvation that will cancel His retribution, saving us from destruction through Jesus, His Son

Rejoice and be glad in that truth if you are in Christ. If you’re not, do yourself a favor and ensure you’ll pass up annihilation for eternal life by accepting Jesus as your Savior today. You’ll never ever regret that decision, trust me.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Monday, May 2, 2016

A MESSAGE TO BABYLON: REDEMPTION



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon. You who have escaped the sword, leave and do not linger! Remember the Lord in a distant land, and call to mind Jerusalem.”

“We are disgraced, for we have been insulted and shame covers our faces, because foreigners have entered the holy places of the Lord’s house.”

“But days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish her idols, and throughout her land the wounded will groan. Even if Babylon ascends to the heavens and fortifies her lofty stronghold, I will send destroyers against her,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 51:49-53

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

The Israelites could not have suffered a greater shame. They had been given a rich gift by God, a land He gave them after a promise made to Abraham, the man who many credited as being the very father of the Jewish nation. It was their land exclusively and all God asked in return is that His people remain faithful and obedient to Him just as Abraham was. If they did, then they would be His people and He would be their God. If they didn’t then God would bring His judgment upon them and the outcome would not be pretty.

Unfortunately, the Israelites failed in keeping their end of the bargain and so God brought heavy consequences upon them which included sending the Babylonians to them to destroy all they had built, leaving the nation in ruins before hauling off many of the Israelites into seventy years of exile.

A once blessed and mighty nation had fallen, fallen in world stature and fallen before God because of their sinfulness. But the God who sent punishment upon His people to teach them a lesson about worshiping false gods and idols was still the God of mercy, grace, and love and God would show that side of Himself after the exile was over.

It might have been a long hard seventy years but God would show His people that He was still the God of redemption. Look at His words as we continue our study of Jeremiah 51:

“Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon. You who have escaped the sword, leave and do not linger! Remember the Lord in a distant land, and call to mind Jerusalem.”

“We are disgraced, for we have been insulted and shame covers our faces, because foreigners have entered the holy places of the Lord’s house.”

“But days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish her idols, and throughout her land the wounded will groan. Even if Babylon ascends to the heavens and fortifies her lofty stronghold, I will send destroyers against her,” declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 51:49-53

Israel had been wiped out at the hands of the Babylonians with some slain in the process. Babylon had been used by God as an instrument of judgment on other nations as well and again death resulted. War rarely happens without casualties.

But note the Lord’s promise for in His own words, a day was coming when Babylon was going to be punished as well. Once used as the hammer by God to bring His consequences on the wicked nations and cities who had chose to oppose Him, He now would turn the hammer on Babylon, bringing the Persians to destroy the nation’s idols and leave the nation in ruins. God’s word earlier in this chapter states that the once formidable empire would be reduced to nothing, desolate and demolished.   

It would be the Babylonians turn to experience shame. But as for the Israelites, it was a different age, the age of redemption. Their days of judgment were ending and they would be permitted to return home to rebuild their homes, their lives, and their relationship with God. And they would want to do that because to stick around Babylon would mean experiencing judgment and its associated shame all over again.

So the Israelites did just that. They went home and were restored to God’s favor while Babylon was taken down. All that God asked of His people was that they not return to their sinful ways, that they would remember Him, and that they would call to mind how holy Jerusalem was before the Babylonian assault so they could make it that way once again.

My friends, yes we serve a God who holds His people accountable for their actions. There is no doubt in that and the scriptures validate it. But likewise, we serve a God who forgives and redeems His people and He does so over and over and over again.

Today and every day, we should all rejoice and be glad for the gift of His love and mercy and grace, a gift that He freely gives to all His children.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

A MESSAGE TO BABYLON: RUN INTO THE ARMS OF THE LORD



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Come out of her, My people! Run for your lives! Run from the fierce anger of the Lord. Do not lose heart or be afraid when rumors are heard in the land; one rumor comes this year, another the next, rumors of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler.”

“For the time will surely come when I will punish the idols of Babylon; her whole land will be disgraced and her slain will all lie fallen within her. Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon, for out of the north destroyers will attack her,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 51:45-48

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Seventy years.

That’s how long the Israelites had to live in oppression within a foreign country after their land had been attacked and laid to waste by the Babylonian forces under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Seventy years of punishment. Seventy years of living outside of God’s favor. Seventy years of hardship.

It would be enough for anyone to beg and plead for freedom, to be able to run back into the arms of the Lord where there would be safety and protection, love and provision.

Well, we continue to look at the words spoken by the Lord in Jeremiah 51, we find Him giving the Israelites plenty of room for hope. For a day was coming soon when their weeping would turn to joy, a day when they would be liberated and able to return home to rebuild their homes, their lives, and their relationship with the Lord. Look at these verses again:

“Come out of her, My people! Run for your lives! Run from the fierce anger of the Lord. Do not lose heart or be afraid when rumors are heard in the land; one rumor comes this year, another the next, rumors of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler.”

“For the time will surely come when I will punish the idols of Babylon; her whole land will be disgraced and her slain will all lie fallen within her. Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon, for out of the north destroyers will attack her,” declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 51:45-48

The Israelites would have well remembered the horrific attacks and the destruction that followed as they came under siege by the Babylonians who now held them captive. But note the words of the Lord and how they conveyed to the people that a storm of judgment was brewing once again but this time against their captors in Babylon.

God was no happier with Babylon for the way they sinned against Him and worshiped false idols than He had been for His own people. The Israelites had received the fullest brunt of the Lord’s punishment and now it was the Babylonian’s turn to face His “fierce anger”, an anger that would bring utter destruction and desolation on what was once a mighty empire. In the aftermath of God’s consequences carried out by the Persians who would come from the north, Babylon would see her people slain and her honor lost. The whole land which was once proud would end up disgraced and other nations would actually end up rejoicing in the nation’s misfortune.

So what would come of the Israelites who were within Babylon? Would they get caught up in a second round of God’s judgment?

Not if they listened to God for look again at the commands He gave to them:

“Come out of her, My people! Run for your lives! Run from the fierce anger of the Lord. Do not lose heart or be afraid when rumors are heard in the land; one rumor comes this year, another the next, rumors of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler.”

The Lord did not wish for the Israelites to perish in the land He was about to obliterate and devastate. Instead, He ordered them to come out and run for their lives back into His arms to escape the wrath He was bringing on Babylon. He had promised them liberation after they had paid His prescribed seventy year penalty and, as we know, the Lord always keeps His promises. If you want to read all about what happened after the Israelites escaped Babylon and returned home, read the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Both are excellent reads that show how the Israelites took advantage of their fresh start after returning to the Promised Land.

Ok, so how can we connect this to our lives today here in the 21st century?

It’s easy. For you see a future day of judgment is coming that will go way beyond just a nation being destroyed. We know about it because the scriptures tell us it will happen. It’s not a matter of if but only a matter of when.

On that judgment day, Jesus will return, sent by God the Father to judge the world as we know it. When He departs from that visit, the heavens and earth will be destroyed. No one will survive unless they had done one thing prior and that’s believed and trusted in Jesus as Savior. For those who did that and willingly sought the salvation offer God gave them through His Son, they will run into the arms of the Lord that day and be whisked away safely to a new heaven and earth as God hits the reset button on His original creation and starts fresh.

Of course, this leads us to one final question, a fitting question to end today’s devotion:

Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?

If so, rejoice in the promise that you will never perish but rather have eternal life and look forward to the day when Jesus returns and you run into His arms to abide with Him and God the Father forever.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com