Carried Off to Babylon

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.

Panorama of partially restored Babylon ruins and Former Saddam Hussein Palace, Babylon, Hillah, Iraq

“Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 39:6 ESV)

This is a follow up blog piece to Here Today Gone Tomorrow. The story of King Hezekiah, and especially Isaiah Chapter 39, is, illustrative of our tendency to hold on to things in this world in this life contrary to what God intends for us. Jesus was clear in his urging for us to lay up our treasures in heaven, and not to focus on accumulating treasures on earth.

Hezekiah was a pretty good king as kings of Judah go. Many of those kings turned away from God to idol worship and other behaviors influenced by the pagan culture of the nations around them. These were the people who were never completely driven out of the Promised Land as God instructed. The people of God and even their kings became corrupted by those influences and succumbed to them.

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob split into two camps early on after the people rejected the rule of judges and wanted kings like the nations around them.  They split into the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah. By the time King Hezekiah came around, the nation of Israel had been overrun, captured and exiled to Babylon. During Hezekiah’s reign the people were hanging on by a thread, with the threat of Babylonian exile dangling like the sword of Damocles over the remnant, Judah, that remained.

Hezekiah turned to God when circumstances were dire, and when his death was imminent. Like most of us, though, the King was ultimately very short-sighted. He focused on the immediate and on what he could protect in this short life. He didn’t appreciate the bigger picture.

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When Your King is a Child

Was the election of Donald Trump a blessing from God? Or a curse?


“And I will make boys their princes, and infants [caprice] shall rule over them.” (Isaiah 3:4)

The 2nd chapter of Isaiah starts out with a futuristic vision. Isaiah 2 provides a picture of God and his law and order being exalted above all other things. In this vision, God settles disputes, people beat their swords into plow shares, and everyone learns from God and worships God in harmony. Nations cease to war against nations. (Is. 2:3-4)  It sounds like an utopian dream.

When I was young in the 1960’s, I remember “flower children” protesting the Vietnam war and urging the world to live in peace. They were advocating for a similar dream. It seemed so pure and simple. All we need is love.

Except, the 1960’s was also a tumultuous and chaotic time.  Drugs, violence, and free sex were the order of the day. Young people were challenging and throwing off moral and religious convictions. Unlike the Isaiah’s vision, the 1960’s dream was a secular one.

I have seen the consequences of that societal upheaval throughout my life. Drugs have taken their toll in lives lost and wasted. The opiate and heroin epidemic of our current times is partially a product of opening Pandora’s pillbox in the 1960’s.

Violence is as much or more a part of our world today than it was in the 1960’s. We don’t live in peace with each other. Wars continue to rage. Neighbors continue to fight with neighbors. More Americans are killed in the City of Chicago each year, alone, than in foreign wars.

Of course, Chicago is only a drop in the bucket. Multiply all the other crime-ridden cities in the US, and number is astronomically higher. Killings in the US don’t even begin to compare to what is happening in other parts of the world.

Free sex has also taken its toll as well. More children live in single family households today than ever before. The scourge of AIDs has taken God knows how many lives in the US and around the world. Pornography threatens to undo the fabric of our society, warping the minds and hearts of children at young ages, objectifying women and sex and feeding a ruthless and insatiable underworld industry that preys on vulnerable people in our communities.

After describing the utopian vision in chapter 2, Isaiah comes back to reality. Jerusalem and greater Judah in Isaiah’s day were far from the utopian ideal he envisioned. Isaiah’s description of the people in his time could be aptly applied to the people today:

“Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots.

“Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.”

We live in a land “filled with silver and gold”. We have plenty in the US like never before. Even the poor among us have computers in their hands and Nikes on their feet. We have leisure time, and things, and pleasure, and comfort like no civilization has ever experienced. The things we own, the pleasures we seek, the wealth that we covet, the entertainment and diversions that fill our time have become gods to us that dominate our attention, our energies and our hearts.

At the same time, suicide rates have risen precipitously over the last 20 years, and school shootings that were unheard of before 1966 have become routine. Wars rage around the world, and violence rages in our city streets.

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Hearing the Voice of God for Today

Our focus should be on God, and our direction should be inspired by scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit to discern God’s heart, intention and direction for us in these modern times.


I recall a sermon preached back in the 1980’s in the church I attended at the time in New Hampshire. I don’t remember the scriptural passage or references, but I remember the gist of the message, and it has stuck with me ever since.

The gist goes something like this: As God’s people, we need to be informed and take our direction primarily from God and God’s will as revealed to us in the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are in the world, but we are not of the world, and we should be careful not to be influenced by the world in our thinking.

The key point that I remember, however, is that we can focus so much on trying not to be influenced by the world that we become reactionary to it. If the world goes right, we go left. If the world goes left, we go right. If all we are doing is being reactionary to the world, we lose our focus on God. In the process of trying not to be like the world, we allow ourselves to be defined by the world nevertheless.

If our direction is dictated by nothing more than going in the opposite direction of the world, we are no more directed by God than if we are going in exactly the same direction of the world. Either way, we are focusing on the world and allowing the world to influence our direction.

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Archaeology Continues to Confirm Bible Stories

While many people remain skeptical of the Bible, modern archaeological discoveries favor the historicity of the biblical record.

Depositphotos Photography ID: 25083325 Copyright: lucidwaters QUMRAN, ISR – DEC 14

I recently listened to an interview of Dr. Craig Evans, who wrote the book, Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture. The book is described as a collection of articles demonstrating how archaeological evidence “enlightens our understanding of the life and death of Jesus and the culture in which he lived”. The interview focused on archaeology, generally, and especially on the way archaeology sheds light on the New Testament.

In this piece, I am following up on the more general discussion. When asked if he was aware of any finds that have failed to support the biblical record, Dr. Evans could not think of any. Rather, he commented that archaeological evidence is found every year that confirms the biblical record. Of particular note are the people mentioned in the Bible that archaeology has affirmed.

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Remembering Jesus on Good Friday

The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) • Qumran Cave 1 • 1st century BCE • Parchment • H: 22-25, L: 734 cm • Government of Israel • Accession number: HU 95.57/27

These words where written by a man named Isaiah[1], considered a prophet, about 700 BC, before Christ Continue reading “Remembering Jesus on Good Friday”