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Monday, October 24, 2016

Why did Babylon fall?

Last week we didn't finish the study, so I've separated the section on true and false prophets from the section on the fall of Babylon. As a result, I find myself looking at Babylon's creation celebration, Jeremiah's prediction of its demise, and Belshazzar's feast in a whole new light. Enjoy.

(32) Babylon Must Fall

Jeremiah has prophesied (see last week) that Babylon is God’s instrument at work within the nations. This might have sounded rather like saying ISIS is God’s instrument. How hard might it have been for the remnant in Jerusalem to believe Jeremiah?

1.       If Babylon is certifiably doing God’s will, should the people in Babylon all behave like Babylonians?

2.       Is there a sense in which Babylon might model what being in the world but not of the world might mean? Read John 17:14-16, Romans 12:2.

Just because Babylon is doing God’s work doesn’t make it good. Jeremiah goes on to prophesy how Babylon will fall.
1.       How does knowing things are temporary help us cope with them?

2.       How might we need to reminded that our “present problems” are temporary – in personal life, in our country, in the world?

Jeremiah goes on to prophesy how Babylon will fall.
1.       What is going to happen to the Babylonian Empire? Read Jeremiah 50:1-3. Which enemy comes from the North? (Read Daniel 5:30-31)

2.       Bel Marduk was the god of the ruling nation, creator and lord. His statue was a symbol of power. What symbols of national greatness do we use? What symbols of spiritual greatness? What do others use?

3.       Read Jeremiah 50:4-6. What time in the past colors this prophecy? And what time in Jeremiah’s future (our past)?

4.       Read Jeremiah 50:11-13. Why will Babylon fall? Is this the reason you expected?
a.      How should we react in victory?

b.      How should we react to success that builds on someone else’s failure?

5.       Read Jeremiah 50:17. How is Israel’s fate tied with Judah’s again?

6.       Read Jeremiah 50:20. Is God really saying they’ll be sinless, or does this message describe the same forgiveness offered in Christianity?

7.       Read Jeremiah 50:32-34. The word for Redeemer is only used in Job (Job 19:25), Psalms (Psalm 19:14, 78:35), Proverbs (Proverbs 23:11), Isaiah (lots) and Jeremiah. What does Redeemer mean to you?

a.      How might redeemer and kinsman redeemer be related? (Read Leviticus 25:25-28, Ruth 3:1-4, Jeremiah 32:6-9)

8.       Read Jeremiah 50:41-43. Do you think verse 43 refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s madness?

9.       Read Jeremiah 51:1-3. Technology was advancing. Archers could now shoot from chariots without stopping. Leather armor was covered with copper scales, providing much greater protection. But the Babylonians thought they had the best of everything.
a.      How tempting is it to think our nation the best of everything and can’t be overthrown?

b.      Is it a temptation for churches? Has it been in history?

c.       Is it a temptation for individuals?

10.   Read Jeremiah 51:7-9. Was the overthrow of Babylon inevitable? How might it compare with Nineveh?

11.   Read Jeremiah 51:11. Jeremiah was probably aware of the Medes as a rising power. Who are we aware of as rising powers in the modern world?

a.      How self-confident are we – personally, spiritually, nationally?

b.      How might we avoid Babylon’s fall?

The Babylonians believed the most powerful god was Marduk, creator of all. Each year they celebrated his continuing creation, bringing gods/idols from captured nations to Marduk’s temple, washing the walls of the temple with water from the (sacred) Euphrates and the Tigris, sacrificing a sheep and throwing its head and body into the river, removing the king’s crown and slapping his face before he falls before the god (symbol of subservience), and finally decapitating two well-decorated wooden images of evil. Jeremiah’s message mirrors the creation celebration in chapter 51.

12.   Read Jeremiah 51:17-19. How does Jeremiah view Marduk?

13.   Read Jeremiah 51:28. In Jeremiah’s version of the story, the nations aren’t gathering to worship. They’re not gathering in Marduk’s name or in God’s name, but they’re doing God’s will.
a.       How hard do we find it to imagine that people who don’t believe might still do God’s will?

b.      How might this apply to art, fiction, etc? (Madeleine L’Engle says “If it’s bad art it’s bad religion” and “We live by revelation, as Christians, as artists…”)

14.   Read Jeremiah 51:30-32. Babylon falls to laziness before it falls to the Medes.
a.       Read Daniel 5:1-4 Could this be the creation celebration?

b.      What tempts us, as individuals, churches and nations, to laziness? How might we fall?

15.   Read Jeremiah 51:34-35. The sheep in Marduk’s temple was supposed to carry away the sins of the nations. How might Jeremiah’s imagery remind readers of Marduk’s festival and God’s greatness? How might it remind them of the scapegoat? (Read Leviticus 16:20-22)

16.   Read Jeremiah 51:36-40. The river’s water was supposed to cleanse the temple. The feast was a celebration of creation. The lamb was the scapegoat. How are these images different in God’s Temple?

17.   Read Jeremiah 51:44-45, 2 Corinthians 6:17, Isaiah 52:11, Revelation 18:4. How does “come out” fit with being “in the world but not of the world”?

Read Jeremiah 51:59-64. Jeremiah sends a quartermaster to carry his prophecy to the Jews in Babylon and to the Babylonians. What image does this give you of society and communication? What’s the importance of throwing the message into the river? Do you imagine the Jews in exile would wait patiently, sorrowfully, angrily…? How good are we at waiting?

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