Rescue From Babylon
Moses, as he was leading the tribes of Jacob (Israel) out of Egypt, warned them from God that the land he was leading them to was to be theirs only so long as they honored God. If they strayed from their faith and began worshipping gods alien to the Almighty of the universe, God intended to strip them out of the land and send them into world exile.
God appeared to Moses and informed him that the Israelites would, indeed, disobey His commandments and that the exile was inevitable.
"God said to Moses, 'And now you will soon be sleeping with your fathers. This people will start playing the harlot, following the alien gods of the land they are invading. They will desert me and break this covenant of mine that I have made with them. On that day my anger shall blaze against them; I will forsake them and hide my face from them. A host of disasters and misfortunes will overtake them to devour them..." (Dt.31:16-17).
"Now write down this song which you must use; teach it to the sons of Israel, put it into their mouths that it may be a witness on my behalf against the sons of Israel..." (Dt. 31:19).
Moses wrote down the words of God into a book which he gave to the Levites, telling them,
"Take this Book of the Law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, Let it lie there as a witness against you. for I know how defiant you are and how stubborn. If today while I am still alive and with you, you defy the Lord, how much more will you defy him after my death!" (Dt.31:26-27)
Moses then called to all the Israelites and said to them:
"Gather round me all the elders of your tribes, and your scribes, so that I may let them hear these words and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you are sure to act perversely; you will leave the way I have marked out for you; in days to come disaster will fall on you for doing what is displeasing to God, provoking him by your behavior." (Dt.31:28-29).
"Jacob...dishonored the God who made him, dishonored the Rock, his salvation. They roused him to jealousy with alien gods, with things detestable they angered him. they sacrificed to demons who are not God, to gods they did not know, newcomers of yesterday whom their fathers had never feared. (You forgot the Rock who begot you, unmindful now of the God who fathered you.). God has seen all this, and in his anger cast off his sons and daughters."
That 'casting off' had little meaning to the Israelites until the prophet Micah appeared and told them,
"To Babylon you must go and there you will be rescued; there the Lord will ransom you out of the power of your enemies." (Micah 4:10).
The Rock that was God the Israelites had turned into a savage stone of blood sacrifice, repeating the demon actions of the neighboring countries. The prophets warned that this was a great error in the sight of God:
"When I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I said nothing to them, gave them no orders about sacrifice. These were my orders: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper." (Jer.7:22-23).
"This is why I have torn them to pieces by the prophets, why I slaughtered them with the words from my mouth, since what I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts." (Hos.6:5-6).
"I hate and despise your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals. When you offer me holocausts...I reject your oblations, and refuse to look at your sacrifices of fattened cattle. Let me have no more of the din of your chanting, no more of your strumming on harps. But let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream." (Amos 5:21-24).
"What is my beloved doing in my house? She is playing the hypocrite! Can vows and consecrated meat rid you of your guilt? Am I to make you clean because of this?" (Jer.11:15).
"You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, 'God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will'." (Ps.40:6-8)
Moses to told the Israelites that the Rock of God was not the rock they had proclaimed it to be:
"But their rock is not like our Rock...where are their gods? he will ask then, the rock where they thought to take refuge, the rock who ate the fat of your sacrifices and drank the wine of your libations? Let these arise and help you, let these be the shelter above you!" (Dt.32:31-38).
Focused intently on the rock of Abraham and the blood sacrifices that copiously poured down its crevices, the Israelites had no intention of leaving the false religion they had erected in place of the Ten Commandments. They adamantly refused to hear the offer of reconciliation with God brought to them by Jesus. That refusal made the exile inevitable.
The theme of the exile to Babylon was picked up by a great many of the prophets and the engine which drove this preoccupation was the overthrow of Judea by Nebuchaddnezzar about 600 years before the birth of Christ. Yet that brief interlude was only a foretaste of an exile to come that far overshadowed all the circumstances of the past.
God Leaves Jerusalem and Joins the Exiles
The exile to Babylon was presaged not only by Nebuchaddnezzar, but by the captivity in Egypt. And when it took place, it was architected by an act of God, promulgated between God and the king of Babylon through a treaty marked in blood -- the blood of God's Son on the cross.
With that action, everyone had to go to Babylon. God and the salvation He offered had left Jerusalem and were no longer in that city.
"The churubs then spread their wings and the wheels began to move with them, while the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them. And the glory of God rose to leave the city (of Jerusalem) and paused on the mountain to the east of the city. The spirit lifted me up in vision, in the spirit of God, and took me to the Chaldaeans (Babylon), away to the exiles..." (Ez.11:23-24).
Once God left the city and joined the exiles, everyone had to join Him. Anyone who remained behind would die.
"And you are to say to this people, "The Lord says this: Look, I now set in front of you the way of life and the way of death. Those who stay in this city (Jerusalem) will die by sword, by famine, or by plague; but anyone who leaves it and surrenders to the Chaldaeans now besieging it will live; he shall escape with his life. For I have turned my face against this city for its ruin, not for its prosperity. It is to be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down."' (Jer.21:8-10).
God's true Jerusalem was shown to be in heaven, not on earth.
"There is no eternal city for us in this life, but we look for one in the life to come." (Heb.13:14). "What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a 'first-born son' and a citizen of heaven." (Heb.12:22-23).
The rescue of God that would lead the Israelites out of Babylon and back to Jerusalem, then, could take them to no earthly city. Jerusalem, the city of God, was in heaven and that is where the journey had to lead.
"Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind." (Jn.18:36)
We have been called to leave Babylon by leaving its ways; by converting our lives into the righteousness of the Gospel Jesus preached. That is the only way we can make the journey to the Jerusalem of heaven.
'Go away, go away, leave that place, touch nothing unclean. Get out of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. But you are not to hurry away, you are not to leave like fugitives. No the Lord will go in front of you, and the God of Israel will be your rear-guard." (Is.52:11-12).
"Those he led through the deserts never went thirsty; he made water spring for them from the rock, he split the rock and water flowed." (Is.48:21).
"Thus speaks the Lord God Almighty, I beckon to the nations and hoist my signal for the peoples. They will bring back our sons in the cloak, they will take your daughters on their shoulders. Kings will be your fosterfathers, their queens your nursing mothers. They will fall prostrate before you on the ground, and lick the dust at your feet. You shall then know that I am God; and that those who hope in me will not be put to shame." (Is.49:22-23).
1. 'The Clock of God', Chapter 9, 'Return from the North'
2. History of Jerusalem
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