Saturday, November 28, 2020

Babylon In Retrospect



Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Like many nations in today’s world, God was left out of daily life among the Jews for an extended period of time. The Sabbaths of the land that had been ignored added up to a seventy (70) year time period for the soil to rest during the Babylonian captivity. But the Israelites would have to be removed from their land for that length of time. Being driven into captivity by the Chaldeans accomplished that task. God used a pagan foreign power to do His will.

Fresh in the bravado of being victorious in two world wars, the United States entered The Korean Conflict and could only win a compromised victory, splitting Korea into two nations. Then about the time of that infamous Supreme Court decision outlawing public prayers, followed by a ban on prayers in public schools, we went to war in Viet Nam. For many reasons, we lost that war after losing nearly 58,000 American lives. The USA had become the target of every enemy nation around the world, and though we win occasional battles, our enemies continue to fight against us.

And now because of a lack in upholding our own immigration laws, our enemies now reside within our borders, living next door to patriots. Such foolishness will undermine any nation’s sovereignty.

I liken it not to bad political policies, but to the Nation of Israel when they went to war against their enemies, but without God. Israel had enjoyed a string of victories with their leaders entering wars at Jehovah’s direction, and fighting with them to victories guided by God. But full of pride, they entered several skirmishes without God, and with only their own bravado. And without God, the Israelites lost every time.

Battling demons on a personal level, or fighting a political war is fruitless unless the Lord is directing both the battle and us. Bravado is nothing more than pride run-amuck, and tooting our own horn. It is a thing that the Lord hates according to Proverbs 6. It takes away the glory due to God and redirects it to man.

"The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD." ~ Proverbs 21:31 NIV


Today's Audio Message: "Babylon In Retrospect"

In this final chapter of Jeremiah we are given a summary of the events which have occurred, with a few additional details of the judgement that fell upon the Israelites because of their disbelief and disobedience. Jeremiah was chosen by God to speak to the people of Judah on the Lord’s behalf, even though they would not listen. He was a man of undeniable courage and of great sorrow over the plight of God’s people. He found himself addressing a nation hurtling headlong toward judgment from God because of their pride and refusal to repent.

The book of Jeremiah also provides us the clearest glimpse of the new covenant God intended to make with His people once Christ came to earth. In God’s promise of restoration He would put His law within them, writing it on hearts of flesh rather than tables of stone. God’s promise is that His people would know Him directly through the person of His Son Jesus Christ.

Because Jeremiah prophesied in the final years of Judah before God’s people were exiled to Babylon, it makes sense that the book’s overarching theme is judgment. Indeed, the first forty-five chapters focus primarily on the judgment coming to Judah because of its disbelief and disobedience. However, an element of grace is also present in these events. The fall of Jerusalem comes nearly nine hundred years after the original covenant between God and the Israelites in the Sinai desert (Exodus 24:1–18). Such an extended period of time witnesses to God’s great patience and mercy, allowing His people the opportunity to turn from their sinful ways—a lifestyle they began not long after they struck the original covenant with God (32:1–35).

Seeing God’s patience with His people in the Old Testament reminds us that God has always been and continues to be merciful. That His chosen people routinely ignored the covenant they made with Him for the better part of a millennia without immediate death and destruction should give us hope in our own struggles with living well for God. Though we fail Him, He is patient with us, working in us to bring about the best for our lives.

But the book of Jeremiah also reminds us that an end will certainly come.  This is a truth that should spur our hearts to follow after God.  Will we kick against His authority, refuse His Word and reject Him; or will we surrender, turning our hearts and lives back to God and follow Him? 

God is faithful to His Word.  If there is anything we have learned, it is that His Word is true, and every word will be fulfilled.  




Saturday, November 21, 2020

I Will Plead Thy Cause


Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Our reading this morning is a reminder of the difference between a true prophet, and a false one, the false one speaking presumptuously, without the authority of God. We read Jeremiah and we find instead that even secular history proves him to be a true prophet of God.

The Persian Gulf is the depository for the waters of many rivers, the grandest of which are the Tigris, and the Euphrates. The land between these two ancient rivers is transformed into a fertile “island” in an otherwise desert region. Near modern Baghdad, Iraq, the Tigris joins the Euphrates, the headwaters of the latter which are in the highlands of central/eastern Turkey.

The great City of Babylon, 12 miles square, was a formidable fortress in the area of this fertile island in the desert, with walls 40 feet high, and wide enough to accommodate Chariot Races atop the walls! I can’t help but think of what God says about building a house on a foundation of sand. It’s unstable, and in the case of Babylon, the mighty Euphrates flowed through the city. The entire city was built on shifting sand!

Jeremiah prophecies in 595 BC that Babylon would sink! And history records that Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated the City of Babylon by diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, and making Babylon vulnerable to the Persian Army in 539 BC, causing Babylon to sink less than 60 years after Jeremiah reiterated God’s Words to encourage His people.

Jehovah has His words recorded by the Prophets, and the His people saw His word fulfilled as truth. But it does not end there. We know this because another “Babylon” rises up in the Book of Revelation.

From the hymn “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less” :
“On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”

Today's Audio Message: "I Will Plead Thy Cause"

As I look over the book of Jeremiah and see now how the final judgment of Babylon plays out, it’s pretty amazing to think about all that Jeremiah had been through in over 40 years of prophetic ministry. God had provided for him and kept him alive through it all. From the beginning when God asked Jeremiah to run with the horses, through the destruction of Judah, and Jerusalem and into captivity, God stayed true to His Word and faithful to His people and to His prophet. Jeremiah was a true prophet, and history confirms it. Every word that God spoke through His prophet is confirmed by it’s certain fulfillment.

Now in these last few verses of chapter 51, Jeremiah closes with these final prophetic words against Babylon as he asks to have the scroll read publicly and then tossed to the bottom of the Euphrates river with a stone tied to it. The symbolism, of course, is that Babylon will be no more. It would be shocking to see this powerful kingdom reduced to nothing but rubble as God brings judgement for the cruel persecution of His people, and the desecration of His temple.

At its pinnacle in 560 BC, Babylon had conquered the Assyrian Empire along with Judah and Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar ruled the entire fertile crescent of land including Arabia. Though it seemed impossible by human standards, it would all come crashing down through the hand of God.

These last few chapters have been difficult to go through, reading through the accounts of God’s judgement against those who have made themselves His enemy. Yet even so, God is faithful to address his own children with a message of hope, of mercy, of love, of restoration, and of promise of a bright future.

God is always faithful and true to His Word. He was faithful to Jeremiah, and faithful to bring his people back to Zion restoring them once again. He was faithful in bringing judgment to their enemies. He will plead their cause, and He will plead our cause as well.

As we see our own country in upheaval, the power struggle, the deception, the infighting, the division, ruler against ruler, clashing ideologies, and worldviews we must remember that  God is in control of all things. He's got this, and He’s got us and He will not let us go. No one can pluck us out of His hand!

The apostle Paul wrote,

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  - Romans 8:38-39

If we are a child of God we can have confidence in even the toughest of times, and rest in the assurance that God is in control.  "A
nd we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28 

He will plead our cause, He will save us and will bring us safely home.  Trust Him!






Saturday, November 14, 2020

Babylon Is Fallen



Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We read in three different places in the scripture that Babylon is fallen. We find it here today in Jeremiah 51, but Isaiah wrote the same more than 100 years before, and the Apostle John writes of it again at the end of the first century AD in Revelation 14 and 18. (Is. 21:9 and Revelation 14:8 & 18:2)

Egypt became a euphemism for sin, and looking back to a time when we were comfortable and at ease. Babylon has become a euphemism for sin’s pervasive quality, and its tenacity, always seeming to come back, never quite being wiped out or obliterated. Though Babylon itself lies in ruins, sin is alive and well, for it lives on in the hearts of mankind.

The Babylon mentioned in the Book of Revelation is said to be built on seven hills, and there are more than a dozen cities around the world that can lay claim to that description. But according to the Bible, there are other qualifications to meet for the Babylon of prophecy to be identified. Namely, that the prophetic Babylon is as a prostitute, and that she has caused the Kingdoms of the world to drink of her cup of fornication. Physically, on Earth, that reduces the possibilities to only two cities: Jerusalem or Rome.

But spiritually, it goes far beyond those two cities, for we each have our own “high places” to where we escape and worship at that altar from time to time. To put it simply, it is our comfort zone; where we can escape the stresses and the pressures of everyday life.

If you can identify that place, and it’s not with Jesus, then you have identified your idol. Idolatry brought judgment on God’s Chosen People. And then it brought judgment upon those sent as judgment against Jerusalem.
It’s a vicious and destructive cycle, building all the time. Believers have an escape, and His name is Jesus.
"There hath no temptation taken you except as is common to man: but God is faithful , Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will, with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13
Come out from among them, come home to Jesus, and find your rest.


Today's Audio Message: "Babylon Is Fallen"

We are drawing to a dramatic end to the prophecies of Jeremiah where God’s final words were spoken against Babylon, and in great detail of what He would do this nation. Although chapters 50 and 51 were directed against the Babylonian empire of the 6th century BC, they are also directed against “Mystery Babylon” of the end-times in Revelation 14; 18.

In Jewish tradition, Babylon symbolizes a cruel oppressor against which God's people must struggle. In Christianity, Babylon symbolizes worldliness, evil and sin. In the book of Revelation, chapters 17-18, Babylon is the source of all godless economy, government and religion.

Jeremiah pictures Babylon being winnowed by a strong destructive wind that blows away the chaff. Babylon’s whole army will be suddenly destroyed. She has been a gold cup in the Lord’s hand, making the nations drink the wine of wrath. The evil influence of Babylon extends far beyond the time of Nebuchadnezzar, all the way back to its founder, Nimrod (Gen. 10:9-10). As a result, Babylon is called "The Mother Of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth" (Rev. 17:5). Jeremiah saw this cup of God’s wrath in chapter 25, Jerusalem had to drink it first, then all the nations, and lastly, Mystery Babylon.

God will denounce all of her idolatry, her rebellion, her wickedness and cruelty and bring it to an end. There is no doubt that God allows evil to inundate this world, the headlines affirm it, politicians make it law, and the people relish in it. Yet the Lord will at some point rise up in righteous judgement, and will pour out His holy wrath upon those who have rebelled against Him.

The good news is that God WILL NOT forsake His own! He chastens and disciplines His children, but in His mercy will also relent when the truth of repentance takes place.



Saturday, November 7, 2020

Weapons of His Indignation



Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In our first verse today, Jeremiah 50:25, the Word tells us that God is bringing forth the weapons of His indignation against Babylon.

Indignation: anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.
“Unfair treatment” is an understatement for what Babylon did to Israel as they carted the Jews off to bondage. Their cruelty, and then the destruction of Jerusalem and God’s holy Temple was not called for. Babylon had sinned against the Lord. But then, they only knew one way to invade another homeland: decimate it!

The Babylonians did not worship Jehovah God, in spite of the fact that at one time, they were all descendants of Noah, who acted on faith to believe God’s warnings of a flood, and His directions for building a large boat. The Ancient Mesopotamians ignored the God of all Creation and worshiped seven other deities, all of them devised by man, and they took on the attributes of mankind, both good and evil. Later on, the national god of the Babylonians was Marduk, a deity whose popularity increased paralleling the spread of Babylonian power and influence.

According to Romans 1:21-23, this is the first step in a relationship with God that is spiraling away from the one true God, and spiraling downward towards the idol worship of gods conceived by the human mind. The rest of that chapter describes the continuing trend away from God, and it’s inevitable conclusion of uncleanness, immorality, and final full rejection of God.

Sadly, not much has changed spiritually in that part of the world. But the Persian Gulf region cannot be singled out in that regard. These things remain a temptation for the whole world, ALL of God’s creation.

God, in His fairness has given all mankind a way out of these sinful worship practices, through His Son Jesus Christ. I would personally never want to come face-to-face with God’s 
'weapons of indignation." Such weapons cut through the soul and could lead to being turned over to Satan and his hordes.

But repentance and confessing our sin(s) sets us aright with God and His Son Jesus the Christ. (1 John 1:9)

“Thou shalt have none other gods before me.”  -  Deuteronomy 5:7

Today's Audio Message: "Weapons Of Indignation"

We are almost to the end of the section in Jeremiah where God has been declaring judgement on the unrepentant nations of Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah devotes two long chapters of divinely given messages to Babylon declaring God’s judgment upon them for their cruelty to His people, and their wicked pride.

The LORD makes a renewed call for Babylon and its armies to be destroyed and summons all who draw the bow. The LORD has opened His armory, a mighty army, well equipped, brought by the powerful providence of God. The whole world is his armory, at His disposal, and he can raise up instruments to do his will at pleasure. All her soldiers will be killed.  Babylon's refugees will declare that God is taking revenge for what Babylon did to God's temple and Babylon will be burned and humble.

A mighty nation and many kings will come together against Babylon from the north, and the king of Babylon will be paralyzed with fear when he hears about it. (See insert: Map)

Just as Israel was scattered like sheep by the lion of Babylon, so now God’s lion will rise up and scatter the Babylonians. In its historic context, this lion was Cyrus the Persian, but in its end-time context this Lion is Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.




Saturday, October 31, 2020

Past And Future Judgment



Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As we think of all the judgment that has been prophesied against the enemies of Israel, and what we begin to read of today in Jeremiah 50, One cannot help but think of a lioness that goes after a prey, and kills it for her cubs, she must also chase away the scavengers that come to steal bits and pieces for themselves. Hyenas and buzzards invariably gather for the feat, and must be chased away for their numbers will consume all the prey unless they are kept at bay.

In many ways, Babylon is that lioness that has set her eyes on Israel as prey. And the tribes surrounding Israel geographically are like the scavenger hyenas and buzzards. They are opportunists that saw Israel “on the ropes” and were willing to kick her while she was down in captivity, and divided: Egypt, Philistia, Tyre, Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, Damascus, and Elam. (circa 600 BC).

In judging them all, God has chased the scavengers away while they were vying for position at the carcass. As God Himself had sent Babylon (Chaldeans) as judgment upon the Israelites, it is now Babylon who will suffer loss because of their excessive cruelty against God’s Chosen.

Historically, the Chaldeans were of the same blood line as the Israelites. The Tower of Babel (Babylon) was built during chapter 11 of Genesis. It is in the previous chapter (10) that we begin read of Noah’s descendants and all their names and the places they established as mankind again spread across the known world in the days after the great flood (circa 2350 BC).

It is with irony that we read that Abram (Abraham) came from Ur of the Chaldeas. This is the Persian Gulf region from which Abram moved away, directed by an inspired message from God (Genesis 11:26-29) to a new land.

In Genesis 10, the sons of Noah moved out from Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey and found their way to the fertile Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys. Your Bible maps reveal the proximity of the two regions. There they established a base, and they were all of one tongue, until God confused their language. Babylon is named for the languages that suddenly sounded like babble to one another. But all these were Noahites, descended from Noah after the flood.

“These are the generations of Shem"  Genesis 11:10-26 ~ Abram’s ancestry.

Today's Audio Message: "Past And Future Judgment"

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

With just a few chapters left in the book of Jeremiah, we continue to read the historical account of the judgments declared on the unrepentant nations of Jeremiah’s day. God speaks of the judgment against Babylon. From their inception it is clear they turned away from God to build a kingdom that pleases the desires of their own flesh. How interesting that God would use this pagan nation to execute His judgment against His rebellious people. Yet God does not turn a blind eye to the sins of this enemy, they would be judged for their pride, their wickedness, and particularly for their cruelty to God’s people, the Jews. Jeremiah devotes two long chapters of divine message to Babylon. It is a prophecy of judgment for this mighty world conqueror, but of restoration for an exiled Israel. The pride of men’s hearts sets God against them. Those who oppose God's presence and His purposes in their lives, and in this world, have made themselves His enemy.  They are weighed in the balances and found wanting, and God Himself has numbered their days.




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