EarthBasic. Take care. Bless many.
I was privileged to have been raised in a stable home environment. The home of my youth was one in which I experienced parental love, safety and peace. Christian values were modelled and I was expected to embody them. In my home God was lifted high. And for as long as I can remember, I believed in the God of my Christian parents.
When I was 16, I left the shelter of my home and stepped into a strange land, as I was sent away to school in a different country. I was shocked at what was out there! But after time, transitioning from secondary to tertiary institutions, I began to assimilate. What was strange and shocking, lost its edge. And though, I never completely forsook my home, nor let go of the cord of faith of my heritage, I certainly became adept at living in “Babylon” in ways that risked my life and compromised my faith.
In the midst of my rebellion I was constantly reminded of my Heavenly Father’s continued mercy, grace and love towards me. And then there was the witness of my home, in which God was lifted high. I praise God that He doesn’t abandon his children when they falter, even though He may not entirely remove the earthly consequences of their missteps.
What is old is new and what is new is old, as the struggles I experienced as a Christian youth living in a foreign land were also commonplace amongst the people of Israel, who endured exile in a land founded on ideals directly in conflict with their faith. In 587BC, the City of Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonian Empire and thereafter plundered and raided of its best treasure and people. The King of Babylon decided that the most educated, wise, healthy and handsome young men should serve the royal family, and so ordered his highest palace official to find them among the leading Jewish families.
The King of Babylon made an asserted effort to conform the selected men to Babylonian culture. However, he did not make use of the traditional tools of subjugation - shackles, branding irons and torture. Instead, he fed and schooled them according to Babylonian ideals. They were fed the food and wine of Babylon’s elite and instructed in the language, literature and customs of their captor’s land. They were even called by new names. The sinister was packaged attractively. As a consequence of this concerted effort, many would come to forget the one true living God of their fathers and come to worship or esteem the means, ways and gods of the Babylonians.
Yet, in the midst of all this, the book of Daniel sets the spotlight on four young men who refused to forget. Though sitting before the same tables, instructed in the same ways and called by foreign names, they stood firm by holding fast to He who is true. They did not forget God, and held before them an eternal perspective, all whilst working and earning respectable positions in the strange land of Babylon.
These four Hebrew boys set their minds on God. In their sight God was highly lifted up: to be honored above even the king of Babylon. They entrusted themselves to God in all things: from what they ate, to how they were to faithfully endure in light of dangerous edicts. They did not elevate the precepts of man above that of God, such that they would subject God’s commands to human approval. Instead, they wholeheartedly accepted the Word of God as true and applied their minds, hearts and all their vigor, to obeying it. Though called by foreign names, which called them to be conformed to the world, they drew near to God through a cultivated prayer life. They clung to the One who formed them and knew their true names. And when their reasonable service to God was criminalized, they chose death over dishonoring the One they knew to be high and lifted up. They knew that Babylon was not their home. They had an eternal expectation. For them, hope was set before them.
Beloved, this broken world is not our home. In fact, God purposed our home to be a place of astounding beauty, complete provision, balance and perfect relationship. A place where He would be high and lifted up and we would, as effective image bearers, cultivate the earth in agreement with His heart and by the power of His Spirit. He purposed us to live forever at the intersection of heaven and earth’s kiss. (Genesis 1 - 2).
But, while in Eden, we lost sight of God. The enemy entered and we succumbed. In God’s wisdom we were expelled from our home - a home for which we were no longer fit. (Genesis 3). Ever since, we have been in exile: our earthly existence occurring within a type of Babylon. The world we live in is a place of war and danger - bloody and terrifying; a place where we can be literally and figuratively shackled as captives into slavery, abuse or addiction; it is a place of disease, sickness and death; environmentally a place of imbalance - of storms, floods and fires; a place where children starve with their bellies distended; a place where our captivity is packaged attractively and we are assimilated into a culture of materialism, gluttony and lust; a place where we are constantly tempted to turn from our one true God to serve idols and even the devil himself.
But thank God, there is hope! The hope revealed at the Fall, when we were told there would be one, who would enter our disordered world and trample [utterly destroy] the “King of Babylon” and restore Eden. (Genesis 3: 15 and Revelation 22). It is the hope that has already come to us in Jesus Christ, who restores those who believe in Him to the dignity of effective bearers of His image! (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Jesus Christ empowers us, as He did the four Hebrew boys, to entrust ourselves to Him in all things: from what we eat, to how we are to faithfully endure in light of dangerous edicts. He makes us able to wholeheartedly accept His Word as true and apply our minds, hearts and all our vigor, to obeying it. And He grants us uninhibited access to the throne of grace and mercy, so that we may draw near to Him through a cultivated prayer life. (Hebrews 4:16).
Beloved, may we cling to the One who formed us and knows our true names. (Psalm 139, Romans 8:28 - 30 and Ephesians 2:8 - 10). And when our reasonable service to God is criminalized, choose death over dishonoring the One we know to be high and lifted up. (2 Corinthians 4: 7 - 11 and Philippians 1:21) Babylon is not our home. Let our eyes be set on the hope before us. (Hebrews 13:14).
As Be-Held Women we believe that true self-care is accomplished in a lifestyle of intimacy with Jesus Christ. We take care by drawing near to God through seeking and living the truth of God’s Word, by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. We are confident that in living the truth by His Holy Spirit we will be transformed into women who bear the image of Jesus Christ in spirit, soul and body-women who are empowered to bless many. Dear Be-Held Woman, seeking, living and being transformed by the truth of God's Word, we offer you this Bible study guide to support you in your endeavors! Apply it to this week's Scripture readings.
For Further Study:
Carolyn Sinclair McCalla is a daughter of God, with a passion for encouraging women to embrace the fullness of God's love for them in Jesus Christ. She leads the Be-Held Community: a group of women seeking, living and being transformed by the truth of God’s Word together.