As a city, Babylon is found in the Bible in Genesis and in Revelation.
It first appeared in Genesis 10 and represents human systems and strategies in rebellion against God (babel literally means confusion). Instead of bringing glory to God, this spirit reflects man’s vain desire to “let’s make a name for ourselves.” It builds for man’s glory to the exclusion of God’s will (see Genesis 11:4 and Psalm 127:1). Revelation 14:8 says Babylon is “fallen!” Her total destruction is imminent!
Go back with me to 605 BC. The Babylonian army surrounded the city of Jerusalem, and King Jehoiakim surrendered without a fight. God’s people came under enemy control. Nebuchadnezzar carried the most favored nobles back to Babylon. Among these exiles was a godly young man named Daniel. Let’s take our first reading (Daniel 1:1-8). The Babylonians returned about 8 years later to take more captives. And finally, 11 years later, they destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple and exiled the entire nation into slavery. The people became generally dejected and hopeless.
The psalmist laments their distressful situation in Psalm 137 (verses 1-6). In this Psalm, do not make the mistake of likening Jerusalem to America. The better type is the Kingdom of God.
Throughout Scripture, Babylon symbolizes the anti-God and anti-Christ spirit. Alas, that worldly spirit of Babylon is still alive.
When we survey our post-Christian world-at-large, we should feel something like those ancient exiled Israelites. We ought to be asking, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). How can we live as the covenant people of God in such an ungodly world?
We live in a culture where sometimes evil is called good, and good is called evil (Isaiah 5:20). In these last days, many people are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” “Deceiving and being deceived” is the world’s pastime (2 Timothy 3:2-5, 13).
Daniel is the best Old Testament example of courageous leadership. His life illustrates the 3 most important lessons we need to heed to live blessed in Babylon.
Remember who you are. This is the identity issue.
The Babylonians changed the nobles’ names. Daniel was called Belteshazzar, which literally means Bel protects his life. Why was this done?
Nebuchadnezzar wanted God’s people to conform to their culture. Changing their name was the first step of their forced assimilation. They were encouraged to forget God and their homeland and become conformed to the ways of Babylon. But the Bible says, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
It doesn’t matter what the world calls you if you know who you really are. Daniel knew his given name meant, God is my judge. About 70 times, he refers to himself as Daniel in this book. He maintained his godly identity.
The most significant crisis in anyone’s life is the identity crisis. Our natural identity develops from birth to 18 years of age. We’re dependent upon the adult authorities in our childhood to give us righteous training to establish our identity. But if they fail us by wrong training and warped answers, we stay in crisis mode until we receive the healing our souls need from God.
If this speaks to you and you’re thinking you might be experiencing an identity crisis, please get some help. Find yourself a Christian counselor. Get some therapeutic help from someone with a Christian perspective and a biblical worldview. I can’t stress how important it is to get the healing hand of Christ in your psyche.
Christian, we all have a personal identity, a family identity, but most importantly, we have a spiritual identity! Who are we? We are sons and daughters of God (John 1:12). We are heirs and joint-heirs of Christ (Romans 8:15, 16). We are overcomers because the Greater One lives inside us (1 John 4:4).
Friend, let others call you what they want. But you are accountable to God for what you answer to. Your identity is what determines your destiny.
Remember Who you represent. This is the image issue.
The main image Daniel projected was as a “servant of the living God” (Daniel 6:20). I’m not sure today’s Christian fully understands our representation. We should be reflecting Jesus Christ’s image as we represent His Kingdom.
Servants of Christ have been given authority to represent Christ. “We are ambassadors of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors are pilgrims in a foreign land who uphold the image of the King they represent. They speak on behalf of their native country. They are commissioned with great responsibility. They represent the King’s name and power, metaphorically as keyholders and gatekeepers. An ambassador is a mature individual, having had a personal experience with King Jesus. Commissioned to bring hostiles into the Kingdom, an ambassador is not ashamed to beg. “As though God were pleading through us we implore” others to “be reconciled to God.”
Acts 11:26 records “they were first called Christians” in Antioch. They represented His image so well that the unconverted described them as “little Christs.” If we allow ourselves to be called Christian, let us live up to the dignity of the His name and represent His image. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Since in Him is no sin, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). Remember Who you represent and bear His image well.
Remember why you are here. This is the influence issue.
If you can settle the identity and image issues, you’re prepared to use your influence the way God designed. Influence is given to be His witness.
This was the plan of God for His servant Israel. His peculiar nation was told, “You are My witnesses” (Isaiah 43:10, 12). The Gentile nations around them who knew not the one true God of Israel were supposed to be influenced by their continuous light (Isaiah 60:3). Daniel and many other Hebrews held onto that conviction despite living in a strange land. They shifted policies and influenced governments despite the oppressive hand of their enemies. Because they never forgot who they were and Whom they represented, they were able to use their influence as God’s witnesses.
Let us never forget that as servants of Jesus Christ, we are called to be His witnesses. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). He insists that “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
We’re not called to whine and chide our ungodly culture but to lovingly influence them to look to God’s saving grace. We don’t have to run and hide but live as salt and light in this world. Remember why you’re here, servant of God. Use your influence to advance the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
I’ve made up my mind that I will live blessed in Babylon.
Have you? I’ve never read that Daniel started a riot or led a protest. But he lived blessed in Babylon for 75 years. You can resolve to let his righteous tools of remembrance help you. Remember who you are (identity). Remember Who you represent (image). Remember why you are here (influence). Even if you start slow or start late, you can finish strong in the race of faith.
We will pass through many hardships between here and Heaven’s finish line (Acts 14:22). But God gives grace for healing and strength to endure each mile of the journey. You can live blessed in Babylon if you refuse to give up.
Ask God for help today and resolve to live blessed in Babylon.