Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thriving in Babylon

In roughly 600 BC Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon whose seat was in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), sought to take full control of the Middle East. In his eye the ultimate prize was
the conquest of Egypt. Egypt had been a storied kingdom for millenia, and Nebuchadnezzar wanted to control that story and etch his name in the history books as the most powerful king who ever lived. However, caught between Babylon and Egypt, lay the kingdom of Judah. Judah was a thorn in Nebuchadnezzar's slide that proved elusive to control. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Judah in 586 BC and took many of its most prominent citizens back home with him as prizes. Nebuchadnezzar is most often painted as a depraved megalomanic who truly thought himself a god. He was a vicious tyrant who had no regard for human life. As goes the reputation of the leader, so goes the reputation of his subjects. Thus existing in Babylon is akin to living in the land of the pagans.

I just finished reading the devotional Thriving in Babylon by Larry Osborne. This work is about how we as Christians should live in our modern Babylon. Note that Osborne's title is "thriving in Babylon", not "existing in Babylon", not "getting by in Babylon", or even "suffering through in Babylon". Osborne's subtitle is "Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture." Osborne uses as his example the Old Testament Hebrew Daniel, who was captured during the seige of Jerusalem and brought back to Babylon. There he was trained to be a servant to Nebuchadnezzar. However, even though he was in the very heart of Babylon, he kept his focus on God. Though he served the king of the pagans and by all accounts served him well and honorably, he never bended his knee to him. Ultimately Daniel's convictions and his spirit brought healing to his own people in exile, but also to the Babylonians.

Osborne's approach is to use David as an example of how we should go about making a difference in our ever increasingly pagan world. It is foolish to think that we can stick our heads in the sand and interact only with other Christians. It is even more foolish to argue and rant with non-Christians about their path to hell. It is about living with hope, humility, and wisdom in a Godless culture, making what gains we can, picking what battles are most sensible, and never losing our focus on our God. A well prepared work to spend some time with. Thanks to my pastor Rob Shepherd for the recommendation.