Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Who … What … Where is Babylon?

Commentary On Sabbath School Lesson

The first time we read of Babylon in the Bible, is in Genesis 11:9. The
inhabitants of the world thought they could build a tower to overtake God’s throne and make a name for themselves right after the flood. In thus doing they rebelled against God’s will. God had instructed them to spread themselves and their families over the earth, but they decided to stay put and build this tower. The name of this place was Bab-ilu, which means “gate of God.” By confounding the builder's ability to communicate their plans to one another, God frustrated their objective. Incommunicado, the builders became angry, and were forced to separate and go their own way. Needless to say, individuals assembled themselves together in groups according to their common language. Ever since that fateful day, Babylon has symbolized humanity’s folly. Now, the term Babylon represents at its most elemental level, confusion.

Used in prophecy, the term Babylon refers to a rival city who through its earthly customs, traditions and expectations, binds its inhabitants to itself. Symbolically, it rivals the New Jerusalem ( Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). Both cities are diametrically opposed to one another in principles. Babylon's citizens are selfish and self centered. Their entire civilization is built on the foundation of sand -- false doctrines, false ideas or concepts and
false systems of belief. In contrast, New Jerusalem's citizens love others as their redeemer has loved them. His indwelling presence with its inherent power enables these citizens to build their homes on the Rock of Ages, where the Chief Corner Stone stands. In the time of trouble, those who have their hearts and minds secured through faith on the foundation of the Word -- God's
doctrines, His ideas, and His principles of government -- will stand.

In the past, we have typically identified Babylon as Papal Rome, the Papacy, or the institution of Catholicism. Because the Roman Catholic Church considers all protestant churches as her errant off-spring, we have also considered all Christian Sunday keeping churches as daughters of Babylon. For although, these churches call themselves Protestants, we say they are confused for they follow the traditional day of worship established by Papal Rome. We thus believe that if we are Seventh-Day Adventists we are not Babylon. But, what if we start believing, thinking, speaking, and behaving as Babylon, while remaining Sabbath Keepers in the Seventh Day Adventist Church? Would we not become Babylonish? Would we not be citizens of Babylon living abroad? To be in
Babylon means to adhere to and engage in false doctrines, false ideas and false systems of belief. Oh what a shame to be found living abroad with the Saints, while we're really more at home in Babylon. God gave His children His angel to guide them in the desert where they wandered so long, He has given us Christ, His Holy Spirit and His Word to keep us from evil. Shall we not avail ourselves of them? Were not the children of Israel and Judah punished by God for adopting idolatry and paganism while living in the very land He promised and gave them? While the Seventh Day Adventist Church is not Babylon,
sometimes its citizens refuse to live as free citizens of the new kingdom.

After years of warnings to the people of Judah, God finally allowed “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and (he) besieged it” (Daniel 1:1). The Lord used the Babylonians to correct Judah, because the inhabitants had transgressed and sinned, 'till as a nation, their iniquity was worse than that of the pagan nations which surrounded them. Some individuals in Judah were taken captive to Babylon, and out of these came a remnant, who were to turn back to Judah after so many years. Not all in Judah were part of this group.
But spiritually, they could have been, had they chosen to be. Daniel and his three friends, by their fidelity to God, were a part of this group. God intended that although youthful captives, they would be witnesses to the
leaders of His character, in Babylon. No sooner had these captives arrived in the palace, they started stirring things up by refusing to eat the King’s food (Daniel 1:8). According to Sister White, the parents of these four young men taught them that strict adherence to the principles of temperance is a part of true religion. So although they were held captive in a powerful nation which was seemingly hostile to God, they were by faith, able to resist the
temptation to succumb to the pressure of conformity. They asked instead for healthy and wholesome foods. In answer to their request of faith, and their adherence to His principles concerning appetite, God blessed the four youth with physical, intellectual, and spiritual gifts.

You know, when foods are bad for our health and we don't like them, its easy to resist them. After all we don't like them. Where is the temptation in that? Its probable that Babylon’s menu was full of unclean meats, and clean meats prepared improperly. Its also likely that all of the food was offered to idols as well. Yet, to someone taught from childhood that such fare is bad for you, resisting is not difficult. The greater difficulty would be resisting the pressure to conform to the customs, traditions and expectations of Babylon under the threat of death. How many of us are threatened to eat the way we do? More often than not, if we were taught better, our poor eating habits were formed through some sort of pressure. Either we experienced that pressure through curiosity fueled by the desire to conform, directly from peer pressure or from anxiety regarding some deadline we have to meet. The bottom line is we usually eat the way we were taught to, in some cases, its what we've conscientiously chosen to do, and typically it meets some felt and unfelt needs.

As Seventh-Day Adventists, we understand that our denomination represents the remnant church, and the remnant people. We have been taught that God gave us a message about health, and that it is tied to the Three Angel's Message. We understand that we are God's conduit to take this message to the world. And yet what do we as individuals, part of the remnant, eat? We often go against prophetic counsel which reminds us that we are to eat and drink in a wholesome and healthy way. We even go against scripture, because "I can't see the harm in it, and besides, studies say... ." We choose to partake of and even enjoy Babylon’s menu--and the results speak for themselves.

The Loma Linda Health Study, recently conducted, reveals that "two-thirds of Seventh Day Adventists are overweight." Wow, isn't that astonishing? We have been given a message to promote health, and prevent just such physical, emotional, financial and spiritual trap. Christ even fasted 40 days and nights to overcome in this area on our behalf, so it wouldn't be a trap. But, just visit the various churches and look at those luscious and lavish meals prepared for potlucks. Its so tempting to eat everything, which of course means our stomachs will be over working. "And look, did you see the meat dishes, and the table laden with deserts???" The sad part is that we take pride in this. We feel that there's nothing like a good program, and a good fellowship meal to bond
together. Yet, we're ignoring the fact that the foods we eat, and the poor habits we establish, negatively affect our relationship with God. It becomes almost impossible to hear Him -- He speaks so softly. How it must disappoint
Him to see us burdened down with sinful habits and diseases that could have been prevented, had we listened to Him. Unfortunately, these habits, customs traditions and beliefs, unless left on the burning altar of sacrifice, will keep us
from entering our beautiful city to be with our king.

So, how do we leave Babylon? the first thing to do is to admit that we have been Babylonians. God will forgive us. 1 John 1:8 – 9 says,

1 John 1: 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let us believe and accept His forgiveness. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all
should come to repentance.” These are gifts from God. If we accept them and invite the Comforter to help us, He will. As the song says, "It is not in trying, but in trusting, its not in running, but in resting, its not in wondering but in praying, that we find the strength of the Lord." God will give you the strength -- the power--to overcome if you but ask. "Ask and receive, that your joy may be full."

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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