Thursday: Babylon ~The Center of Idolatry
Here is another clue in clearly identifying the “mystery of Babylon the great.” Idolatry was at the heart of Babylonian worship.
Read Jeremiah 50:33-38 and Jeremiah 51:17, Jeremiah 51:47. What do you discover in these verses about ancient Babylon’s worship of images and God’s response to it?
Jeremiah 50:1-46 and 51 predict Babylon’s destruction by the Medes and Persians.
One of the reasons for Babylon’s demise was their idolatry. The Babylonians believed that these images were representations of their deities. In Babylonian religion, the ritual care and worship of the statues of deities was considered sacred; the gods lived simultaneously in their statues in temples and in the natural forces they embodied. The pillaging or destruction of idols was considered to be loss of divine patronage. For example, the Chaldean prince Marduk-apla-iddina II fled into the southern marshes of Mesopotamia with the statues of Babylon’s gods to save them from the armies of Sennacherib of Assyria. (Jane R. McIntosh, Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives, ABC-CLIO, Inc., [Santa Barbara, CA, 2005], p. 203).
The Bible prophets contrasted the worship of these lifeless images with the Creator God, who was both alive and lifegiving (Jeremiah 51:15-16, Jeremiah 51:19).
Read Exodus 20:4-6 and Psalms 115:4-8. What do they teach about idolatry?
Though the issues of the idolatry of spiritual Babylon go deeper than just bowing before images of wood and stone, spiritual Babylon does parallel ancient Babylon with the images introduced into its worship service. The use of images as objects of worship, or so-called “veneration,” is a violation of the second commandment because it limits the ability of the Holy Spirit to impress upon our minds the things of eternity and reduces the majesty of God to a lifeless statue. These images were introduced into Christianity in the fourth century to make Christianity more acceptable to the pagan populace. Unfortunately, these images are often given the sacredness and homage that belongs to God alone, which makes the whole thing spiritually degrading.
All too often our discussion about Babylon has bordered on conspiracy theory. We have created a "them and us" divide and have spent a lot of time identifying "them". Perhaps if we had spent a little more time finding "them" in "us" and seeing "us in "them" we may have a much better understanding of both salvation and the battle between good and evil.
In today's lesson, the focus has been on idols and the clear implication is the veneration of images and sacred objects. All of us have seen statues of Mary carried through the streets, and so on, that make idolatry clearly identifiable to us. Such events reinforce our idea of who the "them" is.
It is worth noting that the Jews have also had ceremonies and events associated with the Torah. The installation of a new Torah in a synagogue was often accompanied by processions and chanting, homilies and readings; and then it was locked away in a special cabinet. The physical Torah had become a venerated object. And often, they ignored the spirit of the Torah in their daily lives.
The real idolatry is when we come to think that the box is more important than its contents. And in that respect idol worship is much more than just identifying an organisation. There is an important spiritual application to our own lives too.
The text you quoted is probably one of most misquoted texts in the Bible. I'm not saying that you are doing so, but there should be some clarification. We are not to judge the heart and motives of an individual. Paul clearly instructs us to judge righteously. There is a time and place for judgement. By their fruits shall you know them.
Long time no chat! I have lately been attending a PCA church and have been a welcome visitor. I truly love this Church-and its teachings. However, I am still perplexed by the Sabbath Day. I had originally been baptized as Catholic if you recall, been Lutheran, and studied in Synagogue with Reform Judaism, but still fall back with the Seventh-day Adventists on the Sabbath. This always seems to grab my thoughts-and tug at my heart. Not as idol-but as truth. It always gets me as one of the things which the Sanhedrin always pointed at Jesus was "working on the Sabbath." Jesus as noted in Scripture-attended Synagogue/Sabbath as was custom. If Jesus did such-isn't that still in effect to this day? Just my observations....any thoughts?
Good to see you commenting again John.
I think that one of the problems we have with the Sabbath is that we go overboard in defending it. Some of the language we use sounds awfully legalistic and we love to stack up the verses to support it. However, I think the best answer is that we look forward to the Sabbath as God's special gift to us. Once we get the relationship right then Sabbath becomes meaningful I used to think that "proving the Sabbath" was important but I am more inclined to say, "Come and share some of this with me," nowadays.
I love this Maurice
"Once we get the relationship right then Sabbath becomes meaningful I used to think that "proving the Sabbath" was important but I am more inclined to say, "Come and share some of this with me," nowadays.
Thanks for welcoming me back to the discussions! Maurice-I think you really are spot on with the "Come and share"...I will surely keep that comment in mind! Thanks all!john mack
Hi John, I had concerns about the Sabbath as well but I found some interesting statements about it in the book "Conversations about God" by Graham Maxwell. The chapter titled "The reminder of the evidence" p 191-208 gives some wonderful thoughts on the subject.
I hope this helps.
The book is free of cost and also downloadable here http://www.pineknoll.org/
Also, I would say that if we took the counsel of Jesus found in Matthew 18:15-17 and followed it more closely we would not alienate anyone that finds their way from Babylon into our ranks and then lead them to leave because we went on to form committees to condemn them rather than to go on a one on one first with them and then on a second step of one or two witnesses with us and with them etc. before we go on to form committees to then condemn them within our ranks and then they leave us because we are just too legalistic or too theologically correct for them and find us also too cold, formal, and lacking of true brotherly love for them.
Certainly, there is an inherent warning to the subject of our lesson today regarding idolatry in different aspects.
We read in Jer. 51:45, 47
However, we usually associate idolatry with bowing down to images & figures. In fact, we all know that there are modern day idols such as our possessions, physical appearance, our jobs, entertainment and so on that maintain a high value in our lives. This happens in a subtle way, that we don‘t even realize we‘re slipping into the modus of Babylon.
In each of the listed things, there is nothing evil about having a good job, being successful, or being healthy and looking good. The thing is that our society, culture and the media play a big role in impressing upon us exaggerated and false ideals to render us happy and fulfilled.
I think God wants us to prayerfully evaluate our lives to make sure nothing becomes more important than He, whether it has to do with self, time or money.
And I would say that "He" (Jesus) said to "Love God with our whole souls and our neighbor as ourselves." We can sure deceive ourselves into thinking that because we keep the fourth commandment (Saturday) as the Sabbath and are members of the SDA Church, that somehow we are fully in line with having no idols in our lives. Yet, the fact that we do not bless our neighbor as ourselves makes us fall very short of being in line with what God says to do with loving our neighbor.
As we have seen in this lesson, we have seen that Babylon is the center of idols.idolatry in spiritual bablon go deeper than just bowing before images of wood and ston
My question How is the consistent with Matthew 7:1-3? we have something in common with Babylon in social life? So how can we live ?
The Scriptures are clear about worshiping anything other than God. Whom do I worship today? I can love what I do, but it can't be more relevant than my worship of God. I can love what I have but take nothing when I die. No power on this planet can give or maintain life, other than the Creator. Thus, I must worship the Only One, the true God, always remembering the description of Who He is, LOVE!
The only "True Example" of how to "Worship" the true God and creator was given to us in "The Son of God" (Jesus.) It is in living like Jesus lived and blessed others that we can then know that we have no "Idols" in our lives. And we can do that with the help of the Third Person of the Godhead "The Holy Spirit." And how do we do that? By doing what Jesus said to do in Luke 11:13 and "ask for The Holy Spirit" to God the Father in the name of His Son Jesus, etc.
If we honor the gods of this world above the God of the universe we'll start seeing the curses found in Deuteronomy 28. It's a wake up call! Let's seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
When I was a child, church members freely gave of their time, talent and money to ensure the smooth running of the church. Today, some churches have to pay members (and some non-members) to do similar functions. This can also be seen with some members of the clergy. If we are so busy working, eating, studying, taking care of our families, playing, vacationing, etc., (all good acts), it is puzzling, in some cases, how some individuals suddenly find time to do church activities only when being paid to do so. In today's world, money could be considered to be the biggest idol.
The word of God does not say: "Money is the root of all evil."
It is written in the Bible:
I suppose that talisman/charms/amulets/mascots are included in this group of symbols representing special ‘powers’. I wonder what else we might find in our lives used to subtly contribute to our ‘safety’ and ‘happiness’. Any form of a physical, senses-based dependency on ‘things’ to influence one’s worship could also potentially be a ‘false source/idol’ used to help with coming ‘closer’ to God - music could be considered as one of these 'influencers'.
What about the image of the crucified Christ used as the focus of worship/veneration at the front of churches or as shrines along the way? Or, what about a cross with or without the image of Christ hanging as an amulet on a chain around the neck? Is it for protection or to show that one is a believer? I have seen some people kiss their amulet or touch or kiss feet or faces of statues.
Idol worship is much more subtle than the outright worship of an ancient image like that of bulls with wings, or the devil depicted having horns and hooves. Any – ‘thing’ has the potential to be designated as having powers to influence one’s ‘wellbeing’! How much one elevates this ‘thing’, how much power one ascribes to it, is left to the individual’s dependency/need on the physical to represent the spiritual. Is there anything in one's life which secretly holds this type of influence?
I consider the real danger of idol worship to lie in this need/desire to have something tangible represent God’s spiritual attributes and powers – whatever ‘influence’ is ascribed to it. One’s attachment to this influence, generated by that which is physical, then becomes the stumbling block for meeting the Lord of Hosts through loving communication/prayer alone.
Our heavenly Father can only be found/reached/worshipped through loving Him with all our heart and to love our fellow man; to worship Him in/by/through His Spirit and Truth, and to engage in life in the spirit of Christ as a new creation – Eph. 2:10.
The Idolatry of Babylon. What is Idolatry?
Paul tells us that covetousness is idolatry -- see Colossians 3:5
Babylon as the harlot of Revelation 18 is symbolic and not an actual woman. To understand more about what this harlotry entails we look to other Bible passages which use this symbolism elsewhere in scripture.
Revelation depicts her harlotry with linking up with the kings of the earth. Worshipping power and control, rather than depending on and following Christ. Enjoying wealth and sensual pleasure instead of delighting to do God's will. (e.g. Revelation 18:7,9)
But we see more precisely in other Bible passages that harlotry almost always stands as a symbol for idolatry. In the Old Testament, we see that when Israel engaged in idolatry, she was depicted as a harlot or an adulteress (e.g. Ex 34:15, 16, Lev 20:6, Numbers 25:1, Judges 8:33, Psalm 106:39, Jer 3:1, Hosea 4:12).
So exactly what is Idolatry?
We see it in its raw form when people venerate images, kiss the toes of statues, pray to images thinking they are praying to God. Substituting things in the place of God.
Israel did that with the golden calf at Sinai. Exodus chapter 32, the Israelites brought gold, and Aaron formed it into a golden calf and announced To morrow is a feast to the LORD."
Did they really think they were worshipping THE LORD JEHOVAH when they offered sacrifice, danced and played around that golden calf?
God didn't think so.
But idolatry goes far deeper than mere image worship. It is worship, but it is not in line with true worship of our Creator God. It is worshipping something of our own making instead of worshipping the Creator.
The person engaged in idolatrous worship may even be deceived into thinking they are worshipping THE LORD when in fact they are worshipping something else. When the Christians substitute a sabbath of their own making for that which God commanded, they too worship that which humans of themselves have made.
Very poignant. Is it possible for Seventh-day Adventists today to make an image of God as well? Is this a subject we can discuss with members in the Sabbath school class, or do we get too uncomfortable and project it only on others?
Two contrasting systems. True church and apostate church. We have already identified these two churches. Rev 18:4 confirms that there are many of God's people in this apostate church. But most of us are forgetting also that there are many of Satan's people in God's church. That' s why two things will happen concurrently. A mega shaking in God's church to remove the tares and a coming out from apostate church. We need to put our stands on the solid Rock. We should not be complacent and think because we can identify and explain issues of Babylon, then we are safe. Let's not forget of a huge idol called money which most of our church members worship but we don't carry to bow down before it. Idolatry of sports which has consumed our church . How many can't even go back for afternoon on Sabbath church for church programmes because Man City vs Liverpool? Idolatry in the church of God's people . Too deep but we need to make scripture our safeguard and Christ our solid foundation .
I'm not going to dispute that idolatry is a key part of Babylon, but the reality is that Israel's neighbors were all idolaters. Yes, Media Persia overthrew Babylon but they weren't exactly monotheists. So the key characteristic of Babylon must go beyond idolatry.
Yes, the key characteristics of Babylon go beyond idolatry but we need to know the idolatry is the major issue in the camp hidden and we pretend we are not doing it that's why some want to divert the idea of idolatry . When Israel did it, I don't know whether they knew it was idolatry. It's a concern . Yes, Babylon has other characteristics like.
1. Salvation is earned by works/ merit/ effort . Yet Jesus says salvation is free through perfect life of Jesus. 1 John 1:7. Our works don't save us.
2. Sabbath rest is on Sunday. Bible teaches Sabbath of the seventh day has the sanctity from God. Ex 20:8-11
3. Immortality of the soul. That the soul continues to live when we are ready. Bible teaches that the dead know nothing. Ecc 9:5-6
4. Images are to be venerated and worshipped. This is where the main focus has been. Bible condemns this. Ex 20:4-6
5. The priest/ mediator is there between God and man. That we need a person to be between us and God who stands in place of God and we confess our sons to them. Bible condemns this. We need to go directly to Jesus and confess our sons. 1 Tim 2:5 , Heb 9:15
6. Transubantiation . You may correct the spelling . But a belief that if you partake the communion, the grape juice and bread will change into the literal blood and body of Jesus. May 26:29. Jesus was not referring to Himself .
7 Immaculate Conception of Mary. A belief that Mary was free from original sin. Therefore Jesus somehow Hasan advantage over us because Mary was without sin. Bible teaches that Jesus was born with the body like us yet He did not sin . Heb 4: 15.
The list is long but are we also trapped and duped in these wine or not?
There are many of God's people in Babylon and they will come out in a loud cry message while many devil's in God's church also will be shaken out . The straight testimony will cause the shaking . The same massage will have the effects in Babylon and in God's church. So we need to anchor in Jesus. Are we not repeating the foot steps of Israelites crying that we are Abraham's seeds yet not doing the works of Abraham? It's time for the practical religion bcz the world is fed up with lips religion. We comments a lot and our lives are not showing that we are God's people. We move from sea to sea converting people but when they are converted,we turn them twice fold the children of hell.
I was intrigued to read this from SN Haskell: "The history of the city of Babylon is put on record because it is God’s object lesson to the world of to-day. The book of Revelation, which is the complement of the book of Daniel, frequently uses the name, applying it to the modern churches. The relation of the Jews to the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar is the same as that sustained by the remnant church, the true Israel, to the churches which, having known the truth, have rejected it." - SDP 37.2
Much of Babylon's activities are seen to be "out there". However, Haskell here applies this warning to modern churches. May we all take heed lest we think we are immune to falling.