Nehemiah

Nehemiah

Scripture: Nehemiah 1:4-5, Deuteronomy 7:9, Numbers 23:19
Date: 10/12/2019  Lesson: 2
'Nehemiah doesn’t begin with a cry for help, but rather first states the truth about who God is, Great and Awesome. He also points out that God keeps His covenant and has mercy on those who love Him, as if to remind God that He has always been faithful and cannot now be any other way.'

Teach Us to Pray - Paper or PDF Download

Teach Us to Pray - Paper or PDF Download
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Luccas Rodor: Hi, friends, and welcome to our "Sabbath School Study Hour." It's so good to have you all here. It's good to be back home. I was traveling for a while so it's good to be home. And I'd like to welcome you here to our Granite Bay Seventh Day Adventist Church in partnership with Amazing Facts Ministries. We have people here in our local audience so I'd like to welcome you and I'd also like to welcome those who are coming--who are watching from afar, be that on the Internet or on Facebook. God bless you and I'm sure that you're going to have a great study today here with us. Today we're going to be studying the second lesson of this new quarterly and the lesson title is "Nehemiah." If you don't have the quarterly at home and you'd like to read along with us, you can find it at lesson.aftv.org. But before we go into the lesson per se I'd like to give you our special offer of the day and that is this book--this booklet, "Teach Us to Pray." And so if you want--this is a very important lesson. If you want to have this booklet and you'd like to learn more about how to pray, you can text "SH065" to the number "40544." Of course, that's if you're in North America so the United States and in Canada and its territories. If not, you can go online to study.aftv.org/SH065 and you can also find this booklet over there. Today we have this interesting lesson. Pastor Shawn is going to be teaching for us and I'm sure that we're going to have a blessed study today. Pastor Shawn, may God bless you. But before Pastor Shawn comes up, I'd like to call our song--our music ministry, and they're going to be singing for us a beautiful song. May God bless you as you study the Bible today.

♪ Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; ♪

♪ abide in Him always, and feed on His Word. ♪

♪ Make friends of God’s children, ♪

♪ help those who are weak, ♪

♪ forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek. ♪

♪ Take time to be holy, the world rushes on; ♪

♪ spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone. ♪

♪ By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be; ♪

♪ thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see. ♪

♪ Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide; ♪

♪ and run not before Him, whatever betide. ♪

♪ In joy or in sorrow, still follow thy Lord, ♪

♪ and, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word. ♪

♪ Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul, ♪

♪ each thought and each motive beneath His control. ♪

♪ Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love, ♪

♪ thou soon shalt be fitted for service above. ♪

Shawn Brummund: Father in heaven, we are just so thankful to be able to find ourselves here in this church worshiping You, glorifying You, God, coming close to You, drawing towards You, Lord, even as we know and pray and trust that You will draw towards us. God, we want to pray that Your Holy Spirit will guide us and that You will lead us as we open Your Word, as we look at some of the grand themes in which Ezra and Nehemiah is found in. Father, we want to pray that You will help us to be able to establish our faith that much more, to understand Your workings and Your plan of salvation. In Jesus's name I pray these things, amen. Well, we are looking at lesson number 2 in a very exciting and very milestone study in two of the milestone books, really. It's a turning stone or a turn in the history of God's people of ancient Israel and so these are no small books. They're small in number, as far as chapters and size, but they are not small in regards to their historical importance. These books are absolutely vital. We're going to look at the bigger picture but before we do that, I want to go to lesson number 2 which is where we're at this week and look at our memory verse which is found in Nehemiah chapter 1 and verses 4 through 5. It says: "So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: 'I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments.'" And so here we have this beautiful response, these beautiful, powerful words of the second important figure in the second book which we're studying this quarter. And so last week we kind of had an intro to Ezra. This week we're going to have a very brief intro to Nehemiah and then next week we're going to actually look at the call of both of them again and so, really, the first three weeks are intros to these key figures and these two key books. Now, because next week we're going to look and intro Nehemiah again and also because as I look through the whole quarterly there's one theme that just did really pop out for me that I just--the Lord has just cried out through me and wants me to be able to share. And so we're going to come back to Nehemiah. We're going to look at some of the highlights of what the quarterly actually points out. But I want to spend the bulk of our time actually looking at the bigger picture in Israel's history, looking at the bigger picture in the light of prophecy in concern to the time and the events that surround the two figures of Ezra and Nehemiah. Now, last week, of course, Pastor Doug as he intro'd this particular study, these two books, he talked about the 70-year prophecy that God had given through Jeremiah. Now, Jeremiah was the one that was living for the few decades up to the captivity and the conquering of Israel by Babylon. And he lived a few years beyond and stayed in Israel. And he's the one that God had actually called to give hope to the Israelites, to give hope to those of Israel. And so when we pick up in Ezra and Nehemiah, we find that 70 long years had now passed between the time that Israel lost its sovereignty, lost its holy capital, lost its holy temple, and they are finding themselves for decades now in an ancient far-off pagan land, really. And so it's been a long time since Judah and Jerusalem had been conquered and destroyed. Several thousand of the Jews were taken captive into Babylon, the ones that were lucky enough to survive, if some of them counted themselves lucky and weren't slain by the Babylonians when they came in. And so we're looking at the bigger picture. How did that all take place? Well, we have to back up just a little bit, even further than that. We find that, indeed, from the time of David in about 1000 AD, the beginning of the first faithful king at least, until the time that Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient Babylonian king and his armies came in from Babylon and conquered Israel, there was about a 400-year period and so from 1000 BC, I should say, until about--and I'm talking in round numbers, 600 BC, we find that there was 400 years that, for the most part, Israel had enjoyed not only autonomy, sovereignty as a nation, independence as a nation, but they also kept the ceremonial services going, the feasts, the daily sacrifices that surrounded the holy temple of God that was a 3D proclamation of the message of God's plan of salvation, bringing hope not only to their generations but all those who were going through the crossroads of the known world back then which Israel was the crossroads. And so many other nations and peoples were exposed to this holy temple of the Jews in Jerusalem and they were exposed to the sacrificial system and the guilt that could be transferred symbolically from the sinner to the innocent lamb or to the innocent sacrificial animal. And so we have this great period, this 400-year period, in which Israel had enjoyed its sovereignty. Sadly, history tells us both in the Bible and outside that after Babylon came in and conquered them, Israel would never enjoy its sovereignty again. Not until at least modern times in which Israel now, of course, is a sovereign nation in the Middle East today. And so that's a long time, isn't it? Hundreds and hundreds, in fact, thousands of years, I think, if we add it up, that Israel had lost its sovereignty. And so looking at the bigger picture again, what led up to the captivity? Well, of course, as God had pointed out through his first prophet that led the Israelites into the Promised Land, is that if they were faithful God would bless them, God would prosper them, God would protect them, and they would be the light to the world, to the Gentiles, to the non-Jewish world, and draw all peoples to Jesus and to the temple as a house of prayer for all nations. And sometimes they fulfilled that but, sadly, when we look at the history of Israel, we find that more times than not, they were not so faithful. And so, because of that, they kept declining more and more morally and, even though a couple of good kings came in in the last few decades just before Babylon came in, we have some real wicked kings that find themselves on the throne doing evil in the sight of the Lord and they're listening to all the wrong voices including false prophets and such and--'til finally, the Bible tells us that even though God had compassion on them, He did everything He possibly could to be able to prevent this captivity, He was left with no other choice. And so we find that history tells us, the Bible tells us, that God used not a righteous nation, but another wicked nation. So Israel had become wicked and God uses another wicked nation to come in and discipline His people Israel. And so He draws in a people. He opens the door and removes His protection. The Babylonian army comes in. They take away captive many of the Jews, all the royal family and such, and Daniel, of course, is one of the most outstanding famous individuals that was found in those numbers of the captives. And so here we find that, starting at about 605 BC, the first time that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians came in and conquered Israel, conquered Jerusalem, took its captive, we find that Israel now, for 70 years, is captive to the most notorious, most known enemy of God and His truth: Babylon. Babylon is the arch-enemy, the historical arch-enemy of God. Is it the only city that was an enemy of God, the only one rebellious against God? No, we have Nineveh, we have a number of other cities: Tyre, Sidon, there's all kinds of ancient cities that were also in rebellion but Babylon was kind of the mother of harlots. Babylon was the ultimate rebellious city and symbolic enemy of God and His people. Now, sometimes, we can assume, wrongfully and it's naturally that the original founders of the city of Babylon kind of sat down, you know, the mayor and his city council, and said, "What are we going to name our city?" And they said, "Well, let's name it 'Confusion'," which Babylon means, doesn't it? Confusion is actually a Greek word that means to confuse or confusion. Now, that really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? That's what the Bible prophets called that city but that's not what its originators and its leaders and Nebuchadnezzar referred it to. It actually is called and referred to as Bab-ilu. We see it on the screen here, Bab-ilu. And so this was an ancient term that actually literally meant, most scholars agree, it means "Gate of the gods." And this is a fitting title in the eyes of its founders, in the eyes of its leaders, because as Babylon established itself and grew more and more powerful and more and more notorious as a city of not only of religion but in rebellion to the true God, we find that it was the center of religion in its day. And so in the heyday when it conquered Israel, it was the--it was the center of the known world in regards to religion. If you were a study and a scholar religion the ultimate place to go and study religion would be Babylon, or Bab-ilu as they would call it. The Gate of the gods, all these gods. They had more gods, more idols, more priests and so on than any other city in ancient times. And so it was the golden city, not only of power and prosperity, but also of false religion. And then, of course, for many of us that have read Genesis and some of the earlier chapters of the Bible, we have discovered that indeed Babylon has a very long heritage that stretches far back further than the time in which Nebuchadnezzar lived and Israel was taken captive. In fact, Babylon finds its heritage in the very first years right after the flood in Noah's day. Noah is still alive. God had said after the flood: "Be fruitful and go and multiply." And when He said that, He wanted the people to spread out to the different parts of the planet and of the known world. But did they do that? No, the Bible record tells us that instead, they find themselves all congregated into one spot. They produced this great city and at the centerpiece of that city was the Tower of Babel, okay? Many of you know the story. Now, it was called Babel which is the Hebrew term that means confusion, and rightly so. Why? Because as they were making this great project to glorify not God but to glorify themselves and to glorify false religion and rebellion and independence from God, we find that God stymied their languages and that's--we find the origins of multi languages in nations around the world. And that stymied the project, the Tower of Babylon and its project was come to its completion but when we come to Genesis 10 we find that that city was not complete in regards to Satan's work because we find that there is a individual--we find that there is a individual by the name of Nimrod. Now many of you have heard the term "Nimrod" before. Now, Nimrod is the great-grandson of--anybody know? The great-grandson of Noah, yeah. So Noah had Ham, Ham had Cush, and then Cush gave birth to Nimrod. And was Ham the rebellious son of Nebuchadnezzar? Yes, he was, wasn't he? And so Ham we found is--kind of becomes the new Cain of the new generations that developed through Noah and his wife after the flood. And so, sadly, we find that Nimrod leads this city and he founds this city and he continues to carry it forward and establish its many different false religious practices and beliefs and rebellion against God. And so that's the heritage of the city. And now in the empire that extends from that city, that was really that part of the world when Nebuchadnezzar came in, it was establishing this new-found world empire with Babylon as its capital. And so Satan was busy at work back in those ancient days. God understood everything that was taking place but He had a problem even while Satan was doing his work through Babylon and that is that God's city, Jerusalem, which representative was to--intended to represent everything the opposite of which Babylon was to represent and was founding itself on, was actually starting to represent more the beliefs and practices of ancient Babylon than what God intended for Jerusalem. And so God had to do something about it. He brought in the Babylonians and He conquered--had Israel and Jerusalem conquered, destroyed, many of its captives were taken over to a long, faraway place and so that's the bigger picture, historically, of Ezra and Nehemiah. Israel is now found captive to this powerful longstanding enemy of God, but does God leave him without hope? No, He doesn't leave him without hope at all, does He? No, in fact, He gives some very powerful prophecies through the prophet that was living in Jerusalem and appealing to the leadership and the people of Israel when Babylon came in and took them captive. Now, we have a volunteer here this morning that's going to read Jeremiah chapter 29 and verses 10 through 11, and so if you have your Bibles, let's open to Jeremiah chapter 29, verses 10 through 11, and we'll invite her down. Thank you.

female: "Thus says the Lord: After 70 years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Shawn: Okay, thank you. So there we find one of the times. Now, Jeremiah two or three times, actually, wrote in his book and gave that prophecy, that 70-year prophecy. Why? Because it was vital for God to be able to give the Israelites hope that even when the whole world was falling apart, that there was an end that was to come, that this was not the final end of Jerusalem and God's plan of salvation through it. That the Messiah still would arrive in a nation that would be able to receive Him in the city of Jerusalem. And so we find that God gave hope even while their world was falling apart. And so that's a powerful thing and I'd--you know, the second verse is actually more famous, isn't it? The one that was just read which is verse 11: "For I know the thoughts that I have towards you, plans, you know, thoughts to prosper you and give you peace and such," you know, and we apply that to our lives. And that principle does apply to us, doesn't it, if we have faith in God. But even while Israel was in rebellion during their worst point in their lives and in their existence, we find here that God says, "I know the thoughts that I have towards you." And so even when we're in a bad state of mind, even if--and one of us might be in rebellion against God right now, and God is using this message and this study to be able to appeal to you. And He is saying, "Listen, even though you may not be in the right mindset, in the right mindframe right now, I know the thoughts that I have towards you, thoughts to prosper you and give you peace and a future." And so that's the God we serve, amen? Even when we're rebelling against God, God has a plan and He has a great desire to give us a better future and to help our lives and turn them around and so that's a powerful thing. I hope you're still in Jeremiah. I want to go to Jeremiah chapter 50 and verses 18 through 19, and read that together. So we're going just a few chapters ahead now to Jeremiah chapter 50, verse 18. It says: "Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. But I will bring back Israel to his--to his home--'" and so here we find it repeated again and so through the prophecies of judgment that is the predominant words of the prophet Jeremiah, because of the decisions of the Israelites, God is still giving seeds of hope not only to that generation as they are pulled out from their homeland, but to the further generations that find themselves growing up in a foreign land, needing to learn a new language, a new culture, a new people, a new way of doing things, and all these other things that were in this ancient Babylon--Babylonian empire. And so that's the greater context as the Israelites find themselves pulled out of Israel and planted in this foreign land. Now, I want to share something that is one of the most fascinating faith-building prophecies that we can find in all the Bible, and I am just so glad that I may have the time and the opportunity here to be able to bring us through it 'cause it relates directly to our study of Ezra and Nehemiah and the context there. Let's go to Isaiah chapter 44 and verse 24, okay? We're going to go to Isaiah chapter 44 and start reading in verse 24. Now, here we have Isaiah. Now, let's put the context--even before I start to read it, this is just so exciting. When we get to the book of Isaiah, Isaiah is living and prophesied up until about 700 BC. Now, he prophesied for several decades but he ends his ministry at 700 BC. So the very latest that these words were written would be 700 BC and so let's keep that in mind as we read it, okay? Now, of course, this is 100 years before Babylon came in and took Israel away captive. Hundred years before. It says: "Thus says the Lord your God, your Redeemer, and He who has formed you from the womb: 'I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; who frustrates the signs of the babblers, and drives diviners mad; who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolishness,'" I just love this context, you know, this passage here because it talks about how God stymies and frustrates and puzzles those who believe in these different channels that the devil develops that he was supposed to give us connected to the higher powers of the universe and so on. And He says, "Listen, I drive them crazy." In verse 26 He says, "Who confirms the word of His servant." Now, He's contrasting those who are working through Satan's channels and now those who are working with God as their channel. Verse 26, it says: "Who confirms the word of His servant," that would be His prophet, in this case Isaiah, "And performs the counsel of His messengers; who says to Jerusalem," now, that's God's city, not Babylon, "'You shall be inhabited,' to the cities of Judah, 'You shall be built,' and I will raise up her waste places." Now, the irony is that Jerusalem was up and doing--it was alive and well, that city, when he prophesied this. And so at first the Babyl--I mean, the Israelites must have scratched their head and said, "What do you mean, 'He's going to rebuild Jerusalem and lift up its walls again,' and such? We're doing well," okay? But Isaiah is prophetically looking far into the future, isn't he? He's looking over 100 years into the future when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians come in. And then verse 27, it says: "Who says to the deep, 'Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers'; who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," and to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid."'" And so again, God is giving some of the details, even historically, 100 years before, and we're going to touch on that a little bit, on how Babylon was conquered and how Israel was delivered. Then we come into verse--chapter 25. Verse 1, it says: "For thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held--to subdue nations before him." Now, isn't this fascinating? There's only one person, one individual, in all of Scripture, outside of Christ, that God refers to in His Scriptures as the anointed one. Now, some of you already have learned in past times in Sabbath School, other times, that Messiah is the Hebrew term that literally means the anointed one. If you didn't know that, you should know it, okay? So the Hebrew term for Messiah literally means the anointed one. What does "Christ" mean? It's a trick question. Same thing. It means the anointed one. Christ is the Heb--I mean, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew title "Messiah." And so both of them literally mean the anointed one, okay? Jesus is the ultimate anointed one, isn't He? Here we have Cyrus who is also the only individual that is referred to as the anointed one. Now, this is big when it comes to studying the prophecies of Revelation, in particular, to be able to understand this, all right? So Cyrus is going to be God's deliverer for ancient Israel and its people. Okay, so we pick it up again: "To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held--to subdue nations before him. And to loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: 'I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I am the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have called you by your name; and have named you, though you have not known Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me--'" and that's powerful stuff, isn't it? Let's go just a little bit further to verse 13. Again, it's on the same subject: "'I have raised him,'" that's Cyrus, "'up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; he shall build My city and let My exiles go free, not for price nor reward,' says the Lord of hosts." Now, one of the fascinating--there's two fascinating points on this particular prophecy. Number one, God wrote it 100 years before Cyrus was even conceived in the womb of his mother, okay? So God names this Persian king far before he ever came to exist. And so this is one of God's prime exhibit A as He says more often in the book of Isaiah than anywhere else that "I am God and one of the greatest, most powerful ways that I demonstrate that I am God of the universe is that I declare the end from the beginning. That I declare to you things that have not yet taken place." He says, "Here's one prime example, boom, Cyrus, 100 years before he ever comes along. He's going to be the Persian king that will conquer the unconquerable city of Babylon," and did history actually fulfill that? Yes, it did. It perfectly fulfilled that even as God had prophesied it so long beforehand. And so this is a powerful thing. Now, listen to this. After Cyrus had actually conquered Babylon, we're going to back up a little bit to that. But after he had conquered it, Josephus, one of the most reliable ancient Jewish historians that lived during the time of Christ, actually writes in his books of history that the Israelites that were living in Babylonian captivity and in the city of Babylon, came and approached this newfound conquering King Cyrus and presented to him the scrolls of Isaiah. And as they presented the scrolls of Isaiah, he said, "This prophet Isaiah lived 100 years before you were ever born, and this is what he wrote." And he showed--they showed Cyrus, word for word, this message that God had written to Cyrus 100 years beforehand, over 100 years beforehand. Is that powerful, friends? This is exciting stuff, friends. This is the stuff that really builds our faith and understands that we are serving the true God. And it is said that this is the number one influence that God had used to be able to convince Cyrus to let His people go. And he didn't do it for reward, as verse 13 says or for price, for money. In fact, it was the opposite. He actually contributed to the cause, and he was one of the ones that actually contributed to a fundraising methodology that took place across the land of Babylon, to be able to fund this exile and return of God's people. And so, exciting stuff. Faith-building, powerful stuff that God gives to us. Now, in addition to the Jeremiah 70-year prophecy, God gives them a very strong, clear call to get out of Babylon. He says, "Okay, now you're in Babylon and this is the reason why. Jeremiah told you beforehand, Ezekiel and Daniel are telling you afterhand, and such, so you know why you're here but don't get too comfortable because this is not your home. Israel is your home. Jerusalem is your capital. Babylon is not your capital. Babylon is the capital of Satan, okay? So you need to be able to get out as soon as you can, asap." Very clear. God makes it very clear that Babylon is not a safe place to say--to stay and if you have any kind of opportunity, the first opportunity that rises up before you to get out, get out immediately. And we find that in Jeremiah's writings. Jeremiah chapter 51. Let's go to it. Okay, so we're in Isaiah, if you still have your Bibles open or your tablets, phones, we're going to Jeremiah chapter 51. Okay, and we have a volunteer that's going to read verses 6 through 7. Jeremiah 6 through 7--51. Jeremiah chapter 51, verses 6 through 7.

male: Yes. "Flee from the midst of Babylon, and every one saves his life! Do not be cut off in her iniquity, for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; He shall recompense her. Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged."

Shawn: Right, thank you. So what's the message to God's people even before they find themselves in Babylon, as they're being taken captive? "Flee. Flee from the midst of Babylon, every one save his life!" And so even as they're on the way over, he says, "Listen, you need to flee as soon as possible once you get there. So don't get comfortable." Don't get comfortable. You know, you need to be able to provide for your family and obviously have a house and so on, 70 years is a long time. And by the way, there were some very faithful Jews in that company that heard the words of Jeremiah and read them when they were first penned that were still alive at the end of the 70-year period. Now, friends, we don't have to do math for very long to be able to find out that these are very elderly people, okay? Because they were in Babylon for 70 years so let's say that some of them were 10 years old when they were taken captive. Now they're 80 years old. Friends, there were some 80-plus-year-old Jerusalem--Israelites in Babylon that took this to heart, "Flee from Babylon," and they did not get too comfortable and they fled at the very first opportunity that they had under Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel. As Pastor Doug had said last week, it's hard to pronounce. Zerubbabel. And so we find that there's some that are 80-plus years old when they go. How do I know that? Because the historical records in the Scriptures tell us that once they had laid the foundation under--in Jerusalem once again, it was nothing compared to that of Solomon's temple and it tells us that there was this great cacophony of sound and noise that rose up that day when they dedicated the temple's foundation to the Lord because there was this mix of those who were with--full of joy and praise and shouting before the Lord and it was mixed with those who were wailing and crying and mourning before the Lord. Why? Because the generation that was taken captive and knew and saw with their eyes the former temple, knew that the new temple didn't even compare to the glory of the first one. And so, friends, that tells us that there were some that were faithful for 70 years and at 80-plus years of age made that multi-month journey, thousands of miles by foot and camel and donkey to make their way to the Promised Land. Amazing history. Amazing history. Now, we read Jeremiah chapter 51, didn't we? Yeah, okay, so let's go to verse 45. I'm going to read verse 45 here as well because we're in the chapter already, and by the way, when you came to Jeremiah 51, verse 7, did that sound familiar if you've been a student of Revelation? Do you see where Revelation's picking up the language in modern spiritual Babylon, in Revelation? Isaiah and Jeremiah's just jam-packed with the language that Revelation then uses for spiritual modern Babylon and modern Israel. And so we're looking at verse 45. Again, God says, "My people." Whose people? "My people," that's God speaking, "go out of the midst of her!" Again, God speaks very clearly, "Get out as soon as you can. This is not your home." This is not your home. Well, the first wholesale opportunity for any and all of the Jews to be able to find themselves leaving Babylon to fulfill that call that God get--said, "Get out," is when Babylon itself is conquered and it falls as, not only as a city, but also as an empire. And so we go back to the book of Isaiah. Isaiah chapter 13. Let's go back to Isaiah chapter 13, verse 19. Isaiah 13, okay, and verse 19 through 20 and we have a volunteer that's going to kindly read that for us.

female: "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there."

Shawn: Thank you. So here we have Isaiah proclaiming that, "Hey, listen, Babylon will be the arch-enemy of God, rebelling against God. It will be the captors of God's people in Judah and Jerusalem, but it will have its end." God declares its end and He said the end will be so sure and so complete and so fulfilled that, indeed, no one will ever live there again. Now, this particular view that you see on the screen here today, is actually from the porch of Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein had built a palace right beside what the archeologists call a tel or what we would call the archeological site of ancient Babylon. And so he built this extravagant multi-million-dollar palace right next to it because he had this delusioned dream of rebuilding the ancient city of Babylon and recapturing the glory of Nebuchadnezzar and becoming a world emperor and, of course, it was all just a big delusion as we know by history. And--but the fascinating thing is that this is a great view of the site where ancient Babylon existed, where Daniel himself lived and, of course, Queen Esther and others and such. No, actually, Queen Esther lived in Shushan but Daniel, for certain, you know, Mordecai and--no, he was in Shushan as well. I've got to make sure I get my facts right. And so here we have Babylon, ancient Babylon, the tel, and so do you see anybody living there? Okay, Saddam Hussein and his posse, you know, lived there off and on as he made his way there but he didn't live in Babylon. It's not a operating, functioning city, is it? Why? Because God said no one would ever inhabit it ever again. Now, let's go to the next slide, the Cyrus cylinder. Now, this is exciting because the question is how did God conquer Israel? How did He fulfill this prophecy that He gave in 700 AD through Isaiah, some 150 years later, around 535, 536 BC? And so here we find the Cyrus cylinder. This is no small archeological find. It was found in the site that you just saw, ancient Babylon. The archeologists had dug it up. The British had found it in the late 1800s and named it the Cyrus cylinder because it actually recorded and gives us a play-by-play on how Cyrus was able to successfully conquer the unconquerable city. Let's go to the next slide. Why was it unconquerable? Well, here's a bit of a blueprint of ancient Babylon and, as it turns out, one of the greatest, largest rivers of the area, the Euphrates, ran right through it. And so they had this endless vast supply of water. Now, why was that important? Because the number one way that ancients would--enemies would conquer an ancient city is not to knock down the walls which sometimes they did successfully, but not very often. And the mortality rate was so high because they would pour hot oil and throw spears down and such. So they would just stand at a safe distance and they would just blockade the whole city in and they would besiege it, as they call it. And so they would bring out their lawn chairs and order in pizza and just watch the people inside start to starve to death as month after month went by. And then eventually, they would be so starved they would give up and--or they'd be so weak that the enemy could go in and conquer it. Well, in this case the Euphrates River ran through it and so they had this endless supply of water, they had all the water they needed for their laundry, to be able to bathe, to be able to drink and to cook with and, not only that, but also to irrigate the gardens that they had inside to give them a continual supply of food. And so they had that whole thing covered. It was impossible in the mind of the ancients to be able to conquer Babylon 'cause besieging it was a lost cause. And not only that, if you tried to conquer down--if you tried to break down its wall, why, they had said to themselves, "Well, instead of one wall as traditionally cities do, let's build three walls." And so, if you got through the first wall, you still had two more walls to break through and these were larger and thicker than ever--in fact, it is said that three chariots could race one--parallel to each other along the top of one of those walls. And then they put a moat around the outside of that outside wall. It was the unconquerable city. All the traditional methods of taking an ancient city was a lost cause when it came to Israel. I mean, to Babylon. And so it was known as the unconquerable city and so, of course, the pride of Babylon started to rise higher and higher and we have different quotes of the prophets indicating that. So how did Cyrus do it? How did the Lord help him fulfill that which we just read in Isaiah 44 and 45? Well, as it turns out, the Cyrus cylinder gives us a play-by-play. Once again, let's go to the next slide. We find there that Cyrus had said to himself as he scratched his head and he looked at the city and he said, "You know what? All the traditional ways aren't going to work so I've got to think outside the box." And I'm trusting that the Lord put in his head and put in his mind and said, "Listen, you need to be able to go under the walls, not through it, not over it, not around it, but under the wall." "How do I do that?" "You need to be able to divert--temporarily divert the waters of the Euphrates that are running towards the city, dry up that Euphrates River temporarily, and then your army and its soldiers can just march right underneath the walls and conquer the city." And that's exactly what he did. I don't know, I forget how long it took him to be able to have his soldiers, you know, have the army, you know, digging away, digging these channels in the night, these secret channels and then he, of course, they all would release the very front of them where the side of the river was and then all the river temporarily diverted into these channels, into these canals. And sure enough, the--you know, of course, he had his best soldiers of combat waiting at the actual wall of the city and ready to be able to go under and, sure enough, they're scratching their head, saying, "Boy, I sure hope Cyrus knows what he's doing. I hope he can pull this off." And lo and behold, they look at the water and foot by foot they see the water of the Euphrates River decrease until it's right down to the very bottom. Now, they only have probably a few minutes, maybe ten minutes at the most, because it's a big river and it's a lot of water to divert. And so they know that time is of the essence. They march underneath and, of course, in Daniel chapter 5 we find the inside details. God records what's going on inside, the king Belshazzar of Babylon is in a drunken feast, he's got the temple--the Israelite temple vessels that he's pouring alcoholic wine in and they're all drunk and all the soldiers, the guards, are not in their right mind because they'd been drinking all night and so very easily, very quickly, Belshazzar and all the key men and soldiers and guards of the city are slain in one night. And now, the very unconquerable city, the center of the known world and empire, is conquered in one night. And Cyrus, the anointed one, the deliverer of God's people, is now on the throne. In one night. Powerful stuff. 2 Chronicles chapter 36. Let's go to 2 Chronicles chapter 36. We're going back to the last chapter and I know that Pastor Doug read this last week as an intro and he touched on the theme that we're looking at here but I know he had such a wonderful mission report that he ran out of time and wasn't able to be able to give it the full attention that we're giving here today. And so I just count it a privilege to be able to unpack that a little bit more and be able to look at this as we look now for the next three months at the context of Nehemiah and Ezra. Nehemiah--not Nehemiah, but we're looking at 2 Chronicles chapter 36 and verse 22. 2 Chronicles 36, verse 22. The last two verses. It says: "Now in the first year," what year? "The first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stretched--or stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me," he has what? "He has commanded me." Now, this goes perfect with the traditional history that Josephus records in which Cyrus actually read the message that God had inspired Isaiah to record 100 years beforehand, over 100 years. "He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!" And so here Cyrus is actually reflecting the words that we read in Isaiah, sorry, in Jeremiah where God twice in the last chapter of Jeremiah, the last chapters of Jeremiah, said, "Get out of Babylon. Flee it before you also share in the very destruction and judgment that is coming upon it." And so here we have in the very first year, one of the first tasks that this newfound king and empire takes upon himself is this vast and huge exodus of the Israelites that they may go back to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Now, the question, the million-dollar question is, how many of God's people respond? Very, very small. Very, very small amount actually respond. Okay, now, the Bible record tells us that, you know, there's about 50,000 on the first one. That was the largest exodus under Zerubbabel and Joshua. Very small remnant, and the word "remnant" is used by the prophets itself as they describe these events. A small remnant is willing to step out in faith and leave the comfort and familiarity of Babylon. In Ezra chapter 2 and verses 65 to--64 to 65, it tells us about 50,000 had left Babylon's false religions, its false moral beliefs, and they went to worship the only true God, to restore his gospel message and plan of salvation played out in the sacrifices, in the temple ceremonies, in the annual feast. All pointing forward to the ultimate deliverer, the anointed one, Jesus Christ Himself, the Savior of the world, the only solution to happiness, the only true solution to salvation for eternity. Now, God gives more than one opportunity and this reveals a God of grace. You know, He could have said to the rest of the Jewish people, said, "Listen, I told you to get out. I told you to get out and flee as soon as possible and most of you didn't. Too bad." Is that what He said? No, okay, several years later He raises up a man by the name of Ezra and He says, "Now I want you to lead the second batch." Now, sadly, the second batch only amounted to about 6000 people. But they still had another opportunity and 6000 more souls found themselves in the Promised Land, amen? Okay, so that's the good news. And then we find that there is another man by the name of Nehemiah that leads a third group that leaves with him. And again, a smaller group, much smaller than the first group but, nevertheless, there's a few hundred or a thousand, I forget what the number is, that left with him. And so God gives three opportunities. He gives a second chance and He gives a third chance for God's people to go back to the Promised Land, back to the holy capital which is Jerusalem, rather than the throne of Satan himself which is found in ancient Babylon and the empire that had been surrounding there for so many years beforehand. Now, the lesson points out that Jeremiah--Nehemiah hears the bad news, that the remnant is not progressing very well with their mission, the walls are still not built around the city and it's not functioning the way that God intends. And so he mourns, he cries, and then he falls on his knees and he fasts for four straight months. Now, I don't know if he fasted for four straight months but he is in a spirit of fasting off and on, in deep prayer, asking God to be able to open up an opportunity to release him as the cupbearer of the king and go back to Jerusalem and help rebuild the walls. God put it upon him heart--his heart. And so he found that opportunity in a private audience with the queen and the king, when the king was able to ask him some personal questions, "You're not looking the same, you're not looking as happy as you usually are." And he shares his heart and his burden, and the Lord moves upon the king and says, "Go back. And again, take it from my--I'm going to pay the bill and I'm going to give you an escort, a military escort. I'm going to give you the funds that you need, and you go back and rebuild the city of your heritage." And so, powerful, powerful thing. It's a great example for us as the lesson study points out. But as we close and we're running out of time here now, we're coming back to the big picture. There's a parallel that Pastor Doug had pointed out last week. Again, we want to be able to pick that up today. We don't have time to study it but in Revelation chapter 14 on, God speaks about a Babylon. Now, we know it's not ancient Babylon 'cause history tells us that ancient Babylon started to be buried by the sand around 100 AD. 100 AD there was just a few straggling people, just a few dozen, that were living in the city of Babylon and then it started to be buried by the sand as we saw it in Iraq today. And so we know that when Revelation is being penned, God is not talking about literal ancient Babylon but He's talking about a spiritual modern Babylon. And in chapter 17, Babylon is referred to as a woman. Now in prophecy, symbolic prophecy, a woman always represents a church. And so, very sadly, God here is pointing to religious confusion, not in a pagan city and empire called ancient Babylon, but in a modern spiritual Babylon that is including that of the Catholic and Protestant traditions that sadly compromise the Word of God, the truth of the--the truth and they replace it with age-old traditions, beliefs that are produced instead by men. And God declared that there would be an end to Babylon in Revelation: Revelation chapter 18, verse 8 and verse 21. Twice God says modern Babylon will find its end even as ancient Babylon did. And He also calls God's people out. In Revelation 18, verse 4, He says, "Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her judgment and you drink of her plagues." And so, friends, we find here that God gives the same warning, the same appeal, "Come out of Babylon. Don't make yourself comfortable. Leave the familiarity of what you know in Babylon and come into the truth and the Promised Land." Sadly, only a small remnant come out, but it's there, it's available, and I believe that indeed the Seventh Day Adventist Church is a fulfillment of that prophecy in the largest, clearest way. Thank God for that, amen? Now, I want to recommend something for further study on Israel, modern Israel, modern Babylon, and the modern remnant. And you can find it in "Amazing Facts" Study Guides, number 22 and 23. They're entitled "The Other Woman" and "The Bride of Christ." And you can go to amazingfacts.org, amazingfacts.org, and you can find at the very--if you scroll down to the very bottom of the web page, you'll find there a link to Study Guides. Click on Study Guides, look for number 22 and number 23, "The Other Woman" and "The Bride of Christ," and you can study that in its fullness. I strongly recommend it. We have a free gift that we want to offer to you, again, as we did at the beginning: "Teach Us to Pray," even as Nehemiah was a man of prayer. Ask for number 717 as far as the Study Guide or gift code, and then you can dial 1-866-788-3966, as you see on the screen, and you can also text to the information that you find on the screen to 40544 and find yourself with a digital download. Until next week, God bless you, and don't forget that not only do we love you, but God loves you too.

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♪♪♪ Doug: Hello, friends. We all know a marathon is one of the longest and hardest races a person can run. But did you hear about the ultra-marathon they used to have in Australia? It was 544 miles from Melbourne to Sydney. It attracted as many as 150 world-class athletes. But then something happened that no one would ever forget. In 1983 a 61-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young decided to enter the race. People were very amused because he had on rubber galoshes over his boots and when the race began and all the runners took off, sure enough, old Cliff was left behind shuffling along very slowly but he was shuffling very persistently. Normally, during this seven-day race, the runners would go about 18 hours running and then they'd sleep for 6 hours. But nobody ever told Cliff that. When the other runners stopped to rest during the night, Cliff just kept on running. Some people were afraid old Cliff was going to have a heart attack and they were asking the race organizers to show mercy and stop the crazy old man. But he would have none of it. Each day, he was gaining on the pack because when they were sleeping, he was plodding along. During the last night of the race, Cliff passed all of these world-class athletes. Not only was Cliff able to run that 544-mile race without dying, he won, beating all the other racers by nine hours, breaking the record and becoming a national hero in the process. What's really amazing is when they told him that he had won the $10,000 prize he looked confused and said he didn't know there was a prize and he decided to share it with the other runners. When asked how he was able to run all night long, Cliff responded that he grew up on a farm where they had about 2000 head of cattle and because they couldn't afford horses, he used to have to round them up on foot, sometimes running two and three days nonstop so, throughout the race, he just imagined he was chasing after the cows and trying to outrun a storm. Old Cliff's secret was to keep on running while others were sleeping. You know, the Bible tells us that the race is not necessarily to the swift, something like Aesop's parable of "The Tortoise and the Hare," the tortoise just kept on plodding along. That's why Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:13: "He that endures unto the end, the same will be saved." Now, you might slip and fall during the race, you might even get off to a bad start, but in the Christian race that we run the main thing is you want to finish well. Keep on running, friends, and don't give up.

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