Living in Babylon

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But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine… Daniel 1v8

In the year 605 BC the city of Jerusalem fell to the might of the Babylonian empire. Many of the inhabitants of Judah were subsequently deported, and found themselves living as exiles in Babylon.

Among these were four young men: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. In the first chapter of Daniel we learn of how these four, along with others showing aptitude and potential, were put through a program of assimilation and indoctrination: they were trained in the Babylonian language and literature, and were even re-named after Babylonian gods.

There is a real sense in which the Christian life and identity mirrors the experience of these four young men. According to the New Testament, Christians are citizens of heaven: aliens and exiles in this world, which is not our true home. We belong to the New Jerusalem, the city of God, and yet for now we find ourselves in “Babylon” – a place that has rejected God and is opposed to His values and standards.

Daniel and his four friends were, to a large extent, willing to embrace their new environment. They received their Babylonian education, and even excelled and rose to prominence in Babylonian society. In this they were exemplary: God’s people are called to be good citizens and engage with the world where God has placed us. Nevertheless, when it came to eating from the royal table Daniel drew a line in the sand, making it plain that his ultimate allegiance was not to the King of Babylon, but to the King of kings.

The same principle holds true for God’s people today: because we are “in the world but not of the world”, we ought to be distinct in terms of our conduct, speech, values and attitudes. Our lives are to demonstrate that we do not belong to this world, and we do not worship its gods of money, sex and power. Instead, we’re to serve King Jesus and thus show that we belong to the everlasting Kingdom over which He reigns.

Bryan Marx
Grahamstown Baptist Church

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