DIMENSIONS OF DIVINE BLESSINGS : THE IMPORTANT ROLE FOOD, SACRIFICE AND GIVING PLAY IN ATTRACTING IRREVOCABLE BLESSINGS


DIMENSIONS OF DIVINE BLESSINGS: THE IMPORTANT ROLE FOOD, SACRIFICE AND GIVING PLAY IN ATTRACTING IRREVOCABLE BLESSINGS
By
Pastor D.A Ilesanmi (PhD)

DIMENSIONS OF DIVINE BLESSINGS : THE IMPORTANT ROLE FOOD, SACRIFICE AND GIVING PLAY IN ATTRACTING IRREVOCABLE BLESSINGS

BY

Pastor Dele Ilesanmi Bamigbade ( PhD )

Numbers 23:20:
Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse (revoke) it.

Proverbs 10-22:
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it

PREAMBLE

As much as I wish to package or present this piece in a scholarly form, I discover that this work goes beyond academic phraseology and orotundity or grandiloquence. It should be noted here that spiritual messages are not within the purview of secular academic work; they are divine revelations under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. This is what this writer calls pneumatogogy or pneumagogy. Thus, this marks a clear distinction between a spiritual scholarly work and secular scholarly work. The secular academics or scholars operate within the purview of human nature while the spiritual-theological academics or scholars operate on a supernatural plane that falls within the ambit of the directives of the Holy Spirit through theological and biblical lens. Hence, the work of this nature goes beyond the secular theological and academic rhetoric or magniloquence.
Blessings are in different categories. We have spiritual blessings, physical blessings, material blessings, and so on. There are also divine blessings, human blessings, and satanic blessings. There are other types or categories of blessings that this writer will not be able to discuss her because of limited time. Such blessings are: outpouring blessings (Malachi 3:10); overtaking blessings (Deut. 28:2); for-Joseph-sake blessings (Genesis 39:5); added blessings (Matthew 6:33); Prevailed blessings (Genesis 49:26); commanded blessings (Deut. 28:8); Cursed blessings (Malachi 2:2); common blessings; special blessings; irrevocable blessings; and many more – all these categories of blessings can manifest in form of spiritual, physical, or material blessings. But when we talk about IRREVOCABLE BLESSINGS, they are exclusive preserve of God – no one has the capacity to release irrevocable blessings to anyone without God’s involvement. Thus, irrevocable blessings are a type or category of blessing that is absolutely the exclusive right of God to bestow on man. God who has the exclusive authority and right to give blessings also has the same exclusive authority and right to withdraw blessings. That is why He is God. Job testifies to this in Job 1:21when he says, “…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD”. This is an eloquent testimony of total acceptability of Divine Absolutism. I call it “Divine Absolutism” because only infinite God has such exclusivism or exclusivity of power.

Similarly, the Book of Numbers 23:19-26 demonstrate Divine Absolutism:
19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? 20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. 21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. 22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. 23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! 24 Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain. 25 And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. 26 But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do? (emphasis, mine)

WHAT IS IRREVOCABLE BLESSING?
This is a blessing from God that remains irretrievable, or irreversible, or unalterable, or unchangeable, or permanent except the Giver of the blessing, God, who has the exclusive power to reverse it. All other blessings can be reversible except the divine blessings. When God blesses you, you are blessed indeed. Similarly, when God curses you, you are cursed indeed – God forbid. Nobody is able to reverse a divine blessing or curse, except the LORD Himself. He has the exclusive power to do and undo – that is why He is God.
Divine blessings are irreversible in nature. However, God may be forced to cancel or reverse your blessings if you fall below expectations and fail to make amends before it is too late. It should be noted here that no man has the right and power to reverse the blessing that God has given you. The moment you are blessed by God, you are indeed blessed. No man can revoke it. This is very clear in the Book of Numbers 22- 23 when the King of Moab, Balak hired Balaam to curse the children of God, the Israelites, but in Numbers 23:19-20:

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that he should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.

Intriguingly, even the man who places a blessing on you cannot reverse it. When Jacob stole the blessing of Esau, Isaac could not reverse it:

35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtlety, and hath taken away thy blessing. 36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? 37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord (master), and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? (Gen.27: 35-37).

Here, Jacob’s blessings were irreversible. A loss to Esau became a gain to Jacob. Though Isaac, their father, has the right to pronounce blessings upon his children, he has no power to withdraw them. If God has sanctioned your blessings, no one can revoke them if you are of God. Isaac had already pronounced the blessings on Jacob before the arrival of his brother, Esau, when he ate the venison prepared by him (Jacob) and the father could not withdraw them. When God has blessed you, no man can reverse it, except God or you. You can reverse your blessings yourself by telling God that you do not need His blessings. When you work below expectations or you fail Him, or you fail to keep your own side of bargain, you are telling Him that you do not want His blessings like Eli:
Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed (1Samuel 2:30).

Similarly, Ephraim, is another person who failed God and his blessings were revoked. After God had blessed him, he forgot God. God pleaded with him to retrace his steps but he remained recalcitrant. Ephraim preferred to serve Baal to serve God. After several warnings, and attempts to salvage him from destruction, he told God: your blessings are of no use to me. God now said in Hosea 4:17: “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.” You will never get to that stage where God will decide that you should be left alone. In Hosea 5:9, God continued His rebuke of Ephraim: “Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke; among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure.” We need to pay more attention to God’s statement here: “Ephraim shall be desolate…” This statement is not for someone who is poor; who is nothing in the society. It is a statement of fact that the same God who had blessed Ephraim decided to bring him down to nothing. You not be desolate in Jesus’ name. Nonetheless, the ball is in your court. The thought of God towards us is good not evil, is of peace and not of calamity (Jer.29:11). He creates evil and He makes peace: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” The Bible says:

7The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he hath set the world upon them (1Sam.2:7, 8). “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. 7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another”(Ps.75:6, 7)

You can’t query Him and you can’t report Him to anyone. He does what pleases Him. Thus, if you refuse to make amends quickly, God will have no option than to reverse your blessings. Where is Eli of this world? Where is King Saul of this world? Where is Samson of this world? Where is Abiola MKO of this world? All their blessings were revoked because they failed God.

WHY SOME BLESSINGS ARE REVOKED
Disobedient to God ( 1Sam.15; cf. Lk.9:23-24 )
Sins (Isa.59:1-2 )
Pride ( Dan.5:20 )
Failure to live by the terms of the divine assignment/ covenant (1Sam.2:30). God can revoked or reverse a blessing or promise if the recipient defaults in the terms of His covenant. For instance, God reversed the promise He made to Eli when he and his sons failed to live by the terms of the covenant that made them God’s priests (1 Samuel 2:30). “If God decides to bless you and you mess up, He can change a blessing to a curse.”

CONDITIONS TO ENJOY IRREVOCABLE BLESSINGS
Your obedience to God must be total
Your love towards God must be total
Your giving and sacrifice must be total
Your commitment must be total
Your relationship with God through Jesus Christ must be total

THE IMPORTANT ROLE FOOD, SACRIFICE AND GIVING PLAY IN ATTRACTING IRREVOCABLE BLESSINGS

Genesis 18:1-14: Here, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, entertained three divine visitors; they gave them food to eat and water to drink. After the visitors ate the food prepared by Sarah, Abraham and his wife were blessed with the long awaited miracle (Isaac), and that blessing remains permanent till today. This is an example of irrevocable blessing:

“1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Notes: It is good to feed visitors, strangers or those you don’t even know. Till today, the blessing of Abraham – the son Isaac – is permanent because the family entertained their visitors. Today, Abraham is a blessing. Everyone is now claiming Abraham’s blessing: “Abraham’s blessings are mine…” is the common song in the church today, especially when collecting offerings from the congregation.

Genesis 27: 1-40 Jacob gave his father venison to eat. After eating, his father, Isaac, pronounced irreversible blessings on Jacob, his second son – This is Power of Food:

“1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. 2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: 3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; 4 And make me savoury meat(food), such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. 5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. 6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat(food), that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. 9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat(food) for thy father, such as he loveth: 10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. 11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: 12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. 13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. 14 And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat(food), such as his father loved. 15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: 16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: 17 And she gave the savoury meat(food) and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. 18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? 19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. 20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me. 21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. 22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him. 24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. 25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed: 28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. 30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 And he also had made savoury meat(food), and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me. 32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. 33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed. 34 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. 35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing. 36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? 37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? 38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. 39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.”

Note: For your irrevocable Greatness and Blessings, you need to feed your biological and spiritual parents.

I Kings 17:10-16: The widow of Zaraphath gave Elijah food and after he finished eating the food, he blessed her and lack became a thing of the past in her life. Her blessing remained permanent.

“8 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, 9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. 11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. 12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. 13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. 14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. 15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. 16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
Note: It is good to feed men of God, especially when they come to your house. You can even invite them for a breakfast, lunch or dinner for divine blessings that will be irrevocable or permanent.”

1Kings 4: 8-37: The Shunemite woman and her husband accommodated Elisha, the man of God, in their house; they fed him regularly; and God used him to bless them which resulted in a child. The barren woman became fruitful after taken care of man of God. Even when the child developed sudden headache and died, the child was revived, he came alive, when they brought him to Elisha, the man of God whom God used to pronounce the irrevocable blessing on them. The Shunemite woman’s blessing remained permanent.

“8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. 9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. 10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. 11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. 12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. 14 And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. 15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. 16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. 17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. 19 And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. 20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. 22 And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again. 23 And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well. 24 Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee. 25 So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: 26 Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well. 27 And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. 28 Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? 29 Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child. 30 And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her. 31 And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked. 32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. 33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. 34 And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. 35 Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son. 37 Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.”

Note: It is a good think to invite a man of God into your house and entertain him for divine blessings that will be permanent.

Exodus 12:1-30: The children of Israel ate the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion today), after eating, the Lord executed their enemies. There was great cry in the camp of the enemies and every house recorded at least one dead (Exo.12:30). The Lord dealt with their enemies and they could not see them again (Exo.14:13).

“1And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. 10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. 14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. 15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. 16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. 17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. 19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. 20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread. 21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. 24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. 25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. 26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? 27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped. 28 And the children of Israel went away, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. 29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.”

2Chronicles 1: 6-17 cf. 1Kings 3: 3-15: Here, Solomon, the King, loved the LORD and he was walking in his father’s statues. He sacrificed on the altar at Gibeon by giving one thousand bunt offerings to God. This kind of sacrifice was unusual, unheard-of or unprecedented. Because he did what no one has ever done before, he received from God what no man has ever received before. Till today, no one has ever come near Solomon in terms of wisdom and wealth.

Genesis 19: Lot entertained two Angels who were on destructive assignment which led to them sparing Lot’s family.

Genesis 22: 15-18: Abraham sacrificed his only son, Isaac, to God. God blessed him for his obedience:

“15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”

WHAT BRINGS/ INDUCES IRREVOCABLE BLESSING

Obedience to the voice of God (Gen.22:18)
Releasing your most valuable asset or thing to God (Gen. 22:16)
Giving to God
Feeding one’s parents (Gen 27:1-40)
Giving to men of God (1 Kings 17:8-16; cf. Lk.6:38)
Feeding God
Feeding men of God or caring for men of God (1Kings 4: 8-37; 1 Kings 17:8-16)
Uncommon sacrifice to God (2Chronicles 1: 6-17 cf. 1Kings 3: 3-15)
Partaking in the Holy Communion (Exodus 12:1-30)
Entertaining visitors (Gen. 18:1-14).
The next question to ask now is: what is the food of God? The answer is PRAISE. We shall continue from here next time to reveal another dimensions of irrevocable blessings. Shalom.
  

CREATING ZION IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON : AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF PSALMS 137:1

CREATING ZION IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON : AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF PSALMS 137:1

CREATING ZION IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON : AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF PSALMS 137:1

By

Pastor Dele Ilesanmi  (Bamigbade ), PhD 

INTRODUCTION

Language can be denotatively or connotatively used. The choice of a speaker or writer in the use of a word is predicated on his/her circumstances or happenings around him/her at the time of speaking or writing the word. The diction can only be understood by those who understand the dynamics of language. The names of two great cities mentioned together in a sentence in the Bible: “Babylon” and “Zion” in Psalms 137:1 indicate two great opposing nations in character and religion, in social life and belief systems. “Babylon” represents everything evil. It is man’s city; it figures falsehood; and represents the kingdom of darkness. The other city, “Zion”, is a representation of everything good. It is God’s city; it figures truth; and represents the Kingdom of Light. These two cities exist in principles today: Babylon is the city of the world; Zion is the city of God. This paper is therefore set to unravel the nuances between the two great cities in relation to what each represents in the present circumstances of our lives, and their emerging trends in the contemporary world. The paper also beams search light on the possibility of creating haven of peace, safety, holiness, and better life, which Zion represents in the midst of a vast forest of violence, carnality, sensuality, decadence, corruption, and evil, which Babylon represents.

THE SYMBOLISM AND CONCEPTUALISATION OF BABYLON AND JERUSALEM (OR ZION)
Panoramic view

Babylon is a city-state in Southern Mesopotamia during Old Testament times. This city became a large empire that absorbed the nation of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem. Babylon was the principal and capital city of the Babylonian empire.
Babylon was known as the center of iniquity, carnality, worldliness, and religious plurality. Everything connected with it was in opposition to all righteousness and had negative effect on humanity. The principal building in the city of Babylon was a temple to a false god, which we often refer to as Bel or Baal. But eventually, Babylon was also destroyed by Xerxes in 478 B.C. 

Babylon symbolizes evil and God is set to destroy it:
“19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. 21 But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. 22 And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.” (Isa 13:19-22)

“37And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant… “52 Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will do judgment upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan. 53 Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD. 54 A sound of a cry cometh from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans: 55 Because the LORD hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great voice; when her waves do roar like great waters, a noise of their voice is uttered: 56 Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the LORD God of recompences shall surely requite. 57 And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts. 58 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.” (Jer. 51: 37; 52-58)

Babylon symbolizes harlotry and abomination:
“ And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Rev.17:5)
The cesspit of devils, foul spirit, and uncleanliness:

“ And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” (Rev.18:2)

Prophetic utterance for the fall of spiritual Babylon
“And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (Isa.21:9)
“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” (Rev.18:21)
Christians (the saints of God) are commanded to flee out of the midst of Babylon:
“Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance; he will render unto her recompense.” (Jer. 51:6)
The Lord will not spare anyone that remains in spiritual Babylon

God’s judgment will come upon the spiritual Babylon:

“Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come “ (Rev.18:10)

The righteous will rejoice over the fall of spiritual Babylon .

“Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” (Rev.18:20)
“1 And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. 3 And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.” (Rev.19:1-3)

On the other hands, Zion is the name given by the Lord to His righteous Saints. The name has different connotations. The name “Zion” was first mentioned in the account of David’s conquest of Jerusalem (2Sam.5:6-10; 1Chron.11:49). Jerusalem was the name of the city-state as a whole, which “included numerous villages and houses located outside of the fortified area of the city itself.” The name “Zion” was used by biblical writers in a variety of ways. “It has sometimes been used, as by the prophet Micah, to refer to the location of ‘the mountain of the house of the Lord’—as some place apart from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:2).

According the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “many of the psalmists used the term to refer to the temple built by Solomon (2:6; 48:2; 84:7; 132:13)”. Also in the Book of Isaiah, the idea of “Zion” included the whole nation (Isa.1:27). In Amos 6:1, “Zion” stood for the capital of Judah. But the most common usage of the name “Zion” was to refer to the city of God in the new age (Isa.1:27; 28:16;33:5). Zion was also understood as the heavenly Jerusalem (Isa.60:14; Heb.12:22; Rev.14:1). It is also believed that “the place where the Messiah would appear at the end of time. The glorification of the messianic community will take place on the holy mountain of “Zion”.

Zion is the pure in heart in any day, in any time, in any place.The people of Zion are of one heart and one mind; they dwell in righteousness, and there are no poor among them.

Zion symbolises a place of holiness and beauty:
“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” (Ps.50:2)
“And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.” (Isaiah 4:5).
The Lord is the founder and sustainer of Zion:
“What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.”(Isa.14:32)
The righteous represents “Zion” – the city of the Lord
“The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isa.60:14)

CONTEXTUAL EXEGESIS
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”(Psalms 137:1).

This text reveals two cities that differ in socio-political and economic life; religious, spiritual and moral leaning. One is receptive to spiritual and moral rectitude while the other is hostile to it. One is a centre of love. kindness and holiness. The other city is a cesspool of hatred, carnality, molestation, rapes, kidnapping, and killings. The ownership of these two cities are different: one is controlled by God and the other by Satan. One represents the Kingdom of Light and the other the kingdom of darkness. In his work titled “Millennial Messiah”, McConkie describes the city of Babylon as:

“In prophetic imagery, Babylon is the world with all its carnality and wickedness. Babylon is the degenerate social order created by lustful men who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Babylon is the almighty governmental power that takes the saints of God into captivity; it is the false churches that build false temples and worship false gods; it is every false philosophy … that leads men away from God and salvation. Babylon is false and degenerate religion in all its forms and branches. Babylon is the communistic system that seeks to destroy the freedom of people in all nations and kingdoms; it is the Mafia and crime syndicates that murder and rob and steal; it is the secret combinations that seek for power and unrighteous dominion over the souls of men. Babylon is the promoter of pornography; it is organized crime and prostitution; it is every evil and wicked and
ungodly thing in our whole social structure” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 424).
.
“Alas! the nations are in a deep sleep! They are drunken with the abominations of great Babylon! Their cup of wickedness is nearly full! It will soon overflow! Then shall the day of their visitation come—a day of sorrow and mourning—a day of great distress—a day of peril and war! The hosts of the mighty shall fall! The strength of the nations shall cease, and their glory shall pass away! … Then shall the remnant of the heathen know that the Lord is God, for they shall see and hear of his judgments, which he shall execute upon the corrupt powers of the earth. … O Babylon! thou hast decked thyself with costly ornaments! Thou hast clothed thyself with the most gaudy apparel! … Thine external appearance has excited the admiration of all nations. But internally thou art rotten. … Thou hast gathered the tares of the earth, and bound them in bundles, and made their bands strong, that they may be ready for the burning. O Babylon, thy cup is nearly full! Thine hour is close at hand! Thou shalt fall and not rise again!” (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, 86–87).
“Here is a truism that all men should hear: Babylon fell, and her gods with her; and Babylon shall fall, and her gods with her. False gods create an evil society. The world is the world, and Babylon is Babylon, because they worship false gods. When men worship the true God according to gospel standards, their social conditions rival those in Enoch’s city; when men worship false gods, they fall into the ways of the world, and their social conditions become as those in Babylon. When we view the fall of Babylon anciently, what we see is the destruction of her idols and ways of worship; and we shall come to the fall of Babylon in the last days, it will be—oh blessed day—the destruction of false worship. … The great and abominable church shall tumble to the dust. False worship shall cease” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 429–30).
Again, Zion is periscoped thus:
“We are here to build up the church of God, the Zion of God, and the kingdom of God, and to be on hand to do whatever God requires—first to purge ourselves from all iniquity, from covetousness and evil of every kind, to forsake sin of every sort, cultivate the Spirit of God, and help to build up his kingdom; to beautify Zion and have pleasant habitations, and pleasant gardens and orchards, until Zion shall be the most beautiful place there is on the earth. … Zion shall yet become the praise and the glory of the whole earth” (Taylor, Gospel Kingdom, 221).
“The people of the city of Enoch, because of their integrity and faithfulness, were as pilgrims and strangers on the earth. This is due to the fact that they were living the celestial law in a telestial world, and all were of one mind, perfectly obedient to all commandments of the Lord. When Christ comes, these people will be returned to the earth again, for this is their eternal abode” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:195).

As spiritual Babylon ripens in iniquity, a great latter-day Zion will be established.
“In the day of regeneration, when all things are made new, there will be three great cities that will be holy. One will be the Jerusalem of old which shall be rebuilt according to the prophecy of Ezekiel. One will be the city of Zion, or of Enoch, which was taken from the earth when Enoch was translated and which will be restored; and the city Zion, or New Jerusalem, which is to be built by the seed of Joseph on this the American continent” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:105).
“[The Lord] has told us in great plainness that the world will be in distress, that there will be warfare from one end of the world to the other, that the wicked shall slay the wicked and that peace shall be taken from the earth. And He has said, too, that the only place where there will be safety will be in Zion. Will we make this Zion? Will we keep it to be Zion, because Zion means the pure in heart?” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1941, 99).
“Jesus will never receive the Zion of God unless its people are united according to celestial law, for all who go into the presence of God have to go there by this law. Enoch had to practice this law, and we shall have to do the same if we are ever accepted of God as he was. It has been promised that the New Jerusalem will be built up in our day and generation, and it will have to be done by the United Order of Zion and according to celestial law” (Wilford Woodruff, in Journal of Discourses, 17:250).
“When Zion descends from above, Zion will also ascend from beneath, and be prepared to associate with those from above. The people will be so perfected and purified, ennobled, exalted, and dignified in their feelings and so truly humble and most worthy, virtuous and intelligent that they will be fit, when caught up, to associate with that Zion that shall come down from God out of heaven” (John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 10:147).
“We live in a day when the whole social structure is dividing itself into two camps. This is a day of the polarization of all people. In the Church the faithful members are perfecting their lives and drawing nearer to the Lord and his way of life. In the world wickedness is increasing and the rebellious and carnal among men are sinking to lower levels of evil and depravity than has been the case in any past days. These trends will continue unabated until the Lord comes. When he arrives there will be, on the one hand, a people prepared to meet him, and, on the other hand, there will be greater wickedness and carnality than has ever before been known. As time goes on, fewer and fewer among men will remain aloof from one or the other of these camps.
“Then when the Lord comes, he himself will both cause and complete the division among the people. Then there will be a great day of separation in which the wicked will be consumed and the righteous will be rewarded. …
“… The Lord does not delight in the destruction of the wicked. His bounteous mercy and grace and goodness are available for all men in all ages, but they are poured out only upon those whose works merit the receipt of such a wondrous boon. ‘For behold, the righteous shall not perish; for the time surely must come that all they who fight against Zion shall be cut off.’” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 554–55, 560).

There are many nations, especially in Africa that typify Babylon. The contemporary Babylon is an epicentre of sensuality, corruption, and decadence, terrorism, molestation, kidnapping, killing, and the worshipping of false gods which are seen in many cities, great and small, scattered across the globe. Babylon represents anything evil. In Rom.10:3, the Bible says, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
In the text under examination, we could discover that the author (though unknown) recalled the good old days before the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”(Psalms 137:1). The people wept because they remembered when they were in Zion with full access to their God; access to social and infrastructural amenities; they wept because they remembered the time when they could eat their preferred food and chose the type of wears they liked from their wardrobes. They remembered that Zion was free from violence, corruption, decadence of any type, and evil as were experiencing in Babylon. Nigerians who were born 50 years ago could recall that Nigeria was a “Zion”. The socio-economic life of the people was better than the present time. Our Naira was stronger than Dollar. The standard of living was quite amazing. In 1980s, a tin of Peak milk was less than #20. Then I could buy milk for my dogs. I could recall that there was a time I sold a big cock, very big at the rate of #80. As at that time of Zion’s experience, Nigeria was already tilting towards Babylonian Captivity. I could walk more than six miles alone to the farm to join my father as a pupil after returning from school on Fridays and returned home on Sundays before dawn without any fear of attack of molestation. But, today, the story is different. So, as Nigerians, when we remember our Zion’s experience, with nostalgia, we are likely to weep if we truly experience Zion. Any country that has experienced the good old days and now strongly to go back to that time is already in her Babylon, trying to return to Zion. if you were rich before, had sound health before, and serving God before but the story has changed today, you are already in your Babylon – Babylonian captivity. Think of going back to your Zion.

CREATING ZION IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON
Given the features of Babylon above, one could conclude that Babylonian experience is not good. As Christians, it is highly imperative for us to create our own Zion in the midst of our present Babylon. As Nigerian Christians, we can still be holy in the midst of prevalent corruption. We can still hold on to our God regardless of the present threats from the power that be and other religions.
“Zion in the midst of Babylon.” What a luminous and incandescent phrase, as a light shining in the midst of spiritual darkness. What a concept to hold close to our hearts, as we see Babylon becoming more widespread. We see Babylon in our cities; we see Babylon in our communities; we see Babylon everywhere.
“And with the encroachment of Babylon, we have to create Zion in the midst of it. We should not allow ourselves to be engulfed by the culture which surrounds us. We seldom realize the extent to which we are a product of the culture of our place and time.
“During the days of ancient Israel, the people of the Lord were an island of the one true God, surrounded by an ocean of idolatry. The waves of that ocean crashed incessantly upon the shores of Israel. Despite the commandment to make no graven image and bow down before it, Israel seemingly could not help itself, influenced by the culture of the place and time. Over and over again—despite the prohibition of the Lord, despite what prophet and priest had said—Israel went seeking after strange gods and bowed down before them.
“How could Israel have forgotten the Lord, who brought them out of Egypt? They were constantly pressured by what was popular in the ambience in which they lived.
“What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.
“There is, of course, a zeitgeist to which we should pay attention, and that is the ethos of the Lord, the culture of the people of God. As Peter states it, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9)…

“There may be a lesson here for us. We can create the real Zion among us by limiting the extent to which Babylon will influence our lives.
“When, about 600 years B.C., Nebuchadnezzar came from Babylon and conquered Judah, he carried away the people of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar selected some of the young men for special education and training.
“Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were to be the favored ones among the young people brought to Babylon. The king’s servant instructed them that they were to eat of the king’s meat and drink of the king’s wine.
“Let us clearly understand the pressures that the four young men were under. They had been carried away as captives by a conquering power and were in the household of a king who held the power of life or death over them. And yet Daniel and his brothers refused to do that which they believed to be wrong, however much the Babylonian culture believed it to be right. And for that fidelity and courage, the Lord blessed them and “gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom” (Dan. 1:17).

“Seduced by our culture, we often hardly recognize our idolatry, as our strings are pulled by that which is popular in the Babylonian world. Indeed, as the poet Wordsworth said: “The world is too much with us” (“The World Is Too Much with Us; Late and Soon,” in The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth [1924], 353). In his first epistle, John writes:
“I have written unto you … because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 Jn. 2:14–15).
We do not need to adopt the standards, the mores, and the morals of Babylon. We can create Zion in the midst of Babylon. We can have our own standards for music and literature and dance and film and language. We can have our own standards for dress and deportment, for politeness and respect. We can live in accordance with the Lord’s moral laws. We can limit how much of Babylon we allow into our homes by the media of communication.
“Wherever we are, whatever city we may live in, we can build our own Zion by the principles of the celestial kingdom and ever seek to become the pure in heart. Zion is the beautiful, and the Lord holds it in His own hands. Our homes can be places which are a refuge and protection, as Zion is.
“We do not need to become as puppets in the hands of the culture of the place and time. We can be courageous and can walk in the Lord’s paths and follow His footsteps. And if we do, we will be called Zion, and we will be the people of the Lord.
“I pray that we will be strengthened to resist the onslaught of Babylon and that we can create Zion in our homes and our communities—indeed, that we may have “Zion in the midst of Babylon.”3

CONCLUSION
As Christians, we need to be optimistic that one day we will return to Zion. Our future is very bright. We need to remind ourselves that Enoch and his people created Zion in their day, and the four Hebrew men: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah created Zion during the time of great wickedness and evil in the land of Babylon. We can do the same. Our Babylon will soon fall, and our Zion will soon be established, and we shall all shout for joy at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

END NOTES
Beautifully explained in “Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary”, 2003
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/doctrines-of-the-gospel-student-manual/35-fall-of-babylon-and-establishment-of-zion?lang=eng. Accessed on 28/04/21
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2006/04/zion-in-the-midst-of-babylon?lang=eng. Accessed on 28/04/21

CREATING ZION IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON : AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF PSALMS 137:1

CREATING ZION IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON : AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF PSALMS 137:1

By

Pastor Dele Ilesanmi  (Bamigbade ), PhD 

INTRODUCTION

Language can be denotatively or connotatively used. The choice of a speaker or writer in the use of a word is predicated on his/her circumstances or happenings around him/her at the time of speaking or writing the word. The diction can only be understood by those who understand the dynamics of language. The names of two great cities mentioned together in a sentence in the Bible: “Babylon” and “Zion” in Psalms 137:1 indicate two great opposing nations in character and religion, in social life and belief systems. “Babylon” represents everything evil. It is man’s city; it figures falsehood; and represents the kingdom of darkness. The other city, “Zion”, is a representation of everything good. It is God’s city; it figures truth; and represents the Kingdom of Light. These two cities exist in principles today: Babylon is the city of the world; Zion is the city of God. This paper is therefore set to unravel the nuances between the two great cities in relation to what each represents in the present circumstances of our lives, and their emerging trends in the contemporary world. The paper also beams search light on the possibility of creating haven of peace, safety, holiness, and better life, which Zion represents in the midst of a vast forest of violence, carnality, sensuality, decadence, corruption, and evil, which Babylon represents.

THE SYMBOLISM AND CONCEPTUALISATION OF BABYLON AND JERUSALEM (OR ZION)
Panoramic view

Babylon is a city-state in Southern Mesopotamia during Old Testament times. This city became a large empire that absorbed the nation of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem. Babylon was the principal and capital city of the Babylonian empire.
Babylon was known as the center of iniquity, carnality, worldliness, and religious plurality. Everything connected with it was in opposition to all righteousness and had negative effect on humanity. The principal building in the city of Babylon was a temple to a false god, which we often refer to as Bel or Baal. But eventually, Babylon was also destroyed by Xerxes in 478 B.C. 


Babylon symbolizes evil and God is set to destroy it:
“19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. 21 But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. 22 And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.” (Isa 13:19-22)

“37And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant… “52 Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will do judgment upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan. 53 Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD. 54 A sound of a cry cometh from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans: 55 Because the LORD hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great voice; when her waves do roar like great waters, a noise of their voice is uttered: 56 Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the LORD God of recompences shall surely requite. 57 And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts. 58 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.” (Jer. 51: 37; 52-58)

Babylon symbolizes harlotry and abomination:
“ And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Rev.17:5)
The cesspit of devils, foul spirit, and uncleanliness:
“ And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” (Rev.18:2)

Prophetic utterance for the fall of spiritual Babylon
“And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (Isa.21:9)
“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” (Rev.18:21)
Christians (the saints of God) are commanded to flee out of the midst of Babylon:
“Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance; he will render unto her recompense.” (Jer. 51:6)
The Lord will not spare anyone that remains in spiritual Babylon

God’s judgment will come upon the spiritual Babylon:

“Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come “ (Rev.18:10)

The righteous will rejoice over the fall of spiritual Babylon .

“Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” (Rev.18:20)
“1 And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. 3 And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.” (Rev.19:1-3)

On the other hands, Zion is the name given by the Lord to His righteous Saints. The name has different connotations. The name “Zion” was first mentioned in the account of David’s conquest of Jerusalem (2Sam.5:6-10; 1Chron.11:49). Jerusalem was the name of the city-state as a whole, which “included numerous villages and houses located outside of the fortified area of the city itself.” The name “Zion” was used by biblical writers in a variety of ways. “It has sometimes been used, as by the prophet Micah, to refer to the location of ‘the mountain of the house of the Lord’—as some place apart from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:2).

According the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “many of the psalmists used the term to refer to the temple built by Solomon (2:6; 48:2; 84:7; 132:13)”. Also in the Book of Isaiah, the idea of “Zion” included the whole nation (Isa.1:27). In Amos 6:1, “Zion” stood for the capital of Judah. But the most common usage of the name “Zion” was to refer to the city of God in the new age (Isa.1:27; 28:16;33:5). Zion was also understood as the heavenly Jerusalem (Isa.60:14; Heb.12:22; Rev.14:1). It is also believed that “the place where the Messiah would appear at the end of time. The glorification of the messianic community will take place on the holy mountain of “Zion”.

Zion is the pure in heart in any day, in any time, in any place.The people of Zion are of one heart and one mind; they dwell in righteousness, and there are no poor among them.

Zion symbolises a place of holiness and beauty:
“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” (Ps.50:2)
“And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.” (Isaiah 4:5).
The Lord is the founder and sustainer of Zion:
“What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.”(Isa.14:32)
The righteous represents “Zion” – the city of the Lord
“The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isa.60:14)

CONTEXTUAL EXEGESIS
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”(Psalms 137:1).

This text reveals two cities that differ in socio-political and economic life; religious, spiritual and moral leaning. One is receptive to spiritual and moral rectitude while the other is hostile to it. One is a centre of love. kindness and holiness. The other city is a cesspool of hatred, carnality, molestation, rapes, kidnapping, and killings. The ownership of these two cities are different: one is controlled by God and the other by Satan. One represents the Kingdom of Light and the other the kingdom of darkness. In his work titled “Millennial Messiah”, McConkie describes the city of Babylon as:

“In prophetic imagery, Babylon is the world with all its carnality and wickedness. Babylon is the degenerate social order created by lustful men who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Babylon is the almighty governmental power that takes the saints of God into captivity; it is the false churches that build false temples and worship false gods; it is every false philosophy … that leads men away from God and salvation. Babylon is false and degenerate religion in all its forms and branches. Babylon is the communistic system that seeks to destroy the freedom of people in all nations and kingdoms; it is the Mafia and crime syndicates that murder and rob and steal; it is the secret combinations that seek for power and unrighteous dominion over the souls of men. Babylon is the promoter of pornography; it is organized crime and prostitution; it is every evil and wicked and
ungodly thing in our whole social structure” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 424).
.
“Alas! the nations are in a deep sleep! They are drunken with the abominations of great Babylon! Their cup of wickedness is nearly full! It will soon overflow! Then shall the day of their visitation come—a day of sorrow and mourning—a day of great distress—a day of peril and war! The hosts of the mighty shall fall! The strength of the nations shall cease, and their glory shall pass away! … Then shall the remnant of the heathen know that the Lord is God, for they shall see and hear of his judgments, which he shall execute upon the corrupt powers of the earth. … O Babylon! thou hast decked thyself with costly ornaments! Thou hast clothed thyself with the most gaudy apparel! … Thine external appearance has excited the admiration of all nations. But internally thou art rotten. … Thou hast gathered the tares of the earth, and bound them in bundles, and made their bands strong, that they may be ready for the burning. O Babylon, thy cup is nearly full! Thine hour is close at hand! Thou shalt fall and not rise again!” (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, 86–87).
“Here is a truism that all men should hear: Babylon fell, and her gods with her; and Babylon shall fall, and her gods with her. False gods create an evil society. The world is the world, and Babylon is Babylon, because they worship false gods. When men worship the true God according to gospel standards, their social conditions rival those in Enoch’s city; when men worship false gods, they fall into the ways of the world, and their social conditions become as those in Babylon. When we view the fall of Babylon anciently, what we see is the destruction of her idols and ways of worship; and we shall come to the fall of Babylon in the last days, it will be—oh blessed day—the destruction of false worship. … The great and abominable church shall tumble to the dust. False worship shall cease” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 429–30).
Again, Zion is periscoped thus:
“We are here to build up the church of God, the Zion of God, and the kingdom of God, and to be on hand to do whatever God requires—first to purge ourselves from all iniquity, from covetousness and evil of every kind, to forsake sin of every sort, cultivate the Spirit of God, and help to build up his kingdom; to beautify Zion and have pleasant habitations, and pleasant gardens and orchards, until Zion shall be the most beautiful place there is on the earth. … Zion shall yet become the praise and the glory of the whole earth” (Taylor, Gospel Kingdom, 221).
“The people of the city of Enoch, because of their integrity and faithfulness, were as pilgrims and strangers on the earth. This is due to the fact that they were living the celestial law in a telestial world, and all were of one mind, perfectly obedient to all commandments of the Lord. When Christ comes, these people will be returned to the earth again, for this is their eternal abode” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:195).

As spiritual Babylon ripens in iniquity, a great latter-day Zion will be established.
“In the day of regeneration, when all things are made new, there will be three great cities that will be holy. One will be the Jerusalem of old which shall be rebuilt according to the prophecy of Ezekiel. One will be the city of Zion, or of Enoch, which was taken from the earth when Enoch was translated and which will be restored; and the city Zion, or New Jerusalem, which is to be built by the seed of Joseph on this the American continent” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:105).
“[The Lord] has told us in great plainness that the world will be in distress, that there will be warfare from one end of the world to the other, that the wicked shall slay the wicked and that peace shall be taken from the earth. And He has said, too, that the only place where there will be safety will be in Zion. Will we make this Zion? Will we keep it to be Zion, because Zion means the pure in heart?” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1941, 99).
“Jesus will never receive the Zion of God unless its people are united according to celestial law, for all who go into the presence of God have to go there by this law. Enoch had to practice this law, and we shall have to do the same if we are ever accepted of God as he was. It has been promised that the New Jerusalem will be built up in our day and generation, and it will have to be done by the United Order of Zion and according to celestial law” (Wilford Woodruff, in Journal of Discourses, 17:250).
“When Zion descends from above, Zion will also ascend from beneath, and be prepared to associate with those from above. The people will be so perfected and purified, ennobled, exalted, and dignified in their feelings and so truly humble and most worthy, virtuous and intelligent that they will be fit, when caught up, to associate with that Zion that shall come down from God out of heaven” (John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 10:147).
“We live in a day when the whole social structure is dividing itself into two camps. This is a day of the polarization of all people. In the Church the faithful members are perfecting their lives and drawing nearer to the Lord and his way of life. In the world wickedness is increasing and the rebellious and carnal among men are sinking to lower levels of evil and depravity than has been the case in any past days. These trends will continue unabated until the Lord comes. When he arrives there will be, on the one hand, a people prepared to meet him, and, on the other hand, there will be greater wickedness and carnality than has ever before been known. As time goes on, fewer and fewer among men will remain aloof from one or the other of these camps.
“Then when the Lord comes, he himself will both cause and complete the division among the people. Then there will be a great day of separation in which the wicked will be consumed and the righteous will be rewarded. …
“… The Lord does not delight in the destruction of the wicked. His bounteous mercy and grace and goodness are available for all men in all ages, but they are poured out only upon those whose works merit the receipt of such a wondrous boon. ‘For behold, the righteous shall not perish; for the time surely must come that all they who fight against Zion shall be cut off.’” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 554–55, 560).

There are many nations, especially in Africa that typify Babylon. The contemporary Babylon is an epicentre of sensuality, corruption, and decadence, terrorism, molestation, kidnapping, killing, and the worshipping of false gods which are seen in many cities, great and small, scattered across the globe. Babylon represents anything evil. In Rom.10:3, the Bible says, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
In the text under examination, we could discover that the author (though unknown) recalled the good old days before the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”(Psalms 137:1). The people wept because they remembered when they were in Zion with full access to their God; access to social and infrastructural amenities; they wept because they remembered the time when they could eat their preferred food and chose the type of wears they liked from their wardrobes. They remembered that Zion was free from violence, corruption, decadence of any type, and evil as were experiencing in Babylon. Nigerians who were born 50 years ago could recall that Nigeria was a “Zion”. The socio-economic life of the people was better than the present time. Our Naira was stronger than Dollar. The standard of living was quite amazing. In 1980s, a tin of Peak milk was less than #20. Then I could buy milk for my dogs. I could recall that there was a time I sold a big cock, very big at the rate of #80. As at that time of Zion’s experience, Nigeria was already tilting towards Babylonian Captivity. I could walk more than six miles alone to the farm to join my father as a pupil after returning from school on Fridays and returned home on Sundays before dawn without any fear of attack of molestation. But, today, the story is different. So, as Nigerians, when we remember our Zion’s experience, with nostalgia, we are likely to weep if we truly experience Zion. Any country that has experienced the good old days and now strongly to go back to that time is already in her Babylon, trying to return to Zion. if you were rich before, had sound health before, and serving God before but the story has changed today, you are already in your Babylon – Babylonian captivity. Think of going back to your Zion.

CREATING ZION IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON
Given the features of Babylon above, one could conclude that Babylonian experience is not good. As Christians, it is highly imperative for us to create our own Zion in the midst of our present Babylon. As Nigerian Christians, we can still be holy in the midst of prevalent corruption. We can still hold on to our God regardless of the present threats from the power that be and other religions.
“Zion in the midst of Babylon.” What a luminous and incandescent phrase, as a light shining in the midst of spiritual darkness. What a concept to hold close to our hearts, as we see Babylon becoming more widespread. We see Babylon in our cities; we see Babylon in our communities; we see Babylon everywhere.
“And with the encroachment of Babylon, we have to create Zion in the midst of it. We should not allow ourselves to be engulfed by the culture which surrounds us. We seldom realize the extent to which we are a product of the culture of our place and time.
“During the days of ancient Israel, the people of the Lord were an island of the one true God, surrounded by an ocean of idolatry. The waves of that ocean crashed incessantly upon the shores of Israel. Despite the commandment to make no graven image and bow down before it, Israel seemingly could not help itself, influenced by the culture of the place and time. Over and over again—despite the prohibition of the Lord, despite what prophet and priest had said—Israel went seeking after strange gods and bowed down before them.
“How could Israel have forgotten the Lord, who brought them out of Egypt? They were constantly pressured by what was popular in the ambience in which they lived.
“What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.
“There is, of course, a zeitgeist to which we should pay attention, and that is the ethos of the Lord, the culture of the people of God. As Peter states it, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9)…

“There may be a lesson here for us. We can create the real Zion among us by limiting the extent to which Babylon will influence our lives.
“When, about 600 years B.C., Nebuchadnezzar came from Babylon and conquered Judah, he carried away the people of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar selected some of the young men for special education and training.
“Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were to be the favored ones among the young people brought to Babylon. The king’s servant instructed them that they were to eat of the king’s meat and drink of the king’s wine.
“Let us clearly understand the pressures that the four young men were under. They had been carried away as captives by a conquering power and were in the household of a king who held the power of life or death over them. And yet Daniel and his brothers refused to do that which they believed to be wrong, however much the Babylonian culture believed it to be right. And for that fidelity and courage, the Lord blessed them and “gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom” (Dan. 1:17).

“Seduced by our culture, we often hardly recognize our idolatry, as our strings are pulled by that which is popular in the Babylonian world. Indeed, as the poet Wordsworth said: “The world is too much with us” (“The World Is Too Much with Us; Late and Soon,” in The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth [1924], 353). In his first epistle, John writes:
“I have written unto you … because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 Jn. 2:14–15).
We do not need to adopt the standards, the mores, and the morals of Babylon. We can create Zion in the midst of Babylon. We can have our own standards for music and literature and dance and film and language. We can have our own standards for dress and deportment, for politeness and respect. We can live in accordance with the Lord’s moral laws. We can limit how much of Babylon we allow into our homes by the media of communication.
“Wherever we are, whatever city we may live in, we can build our own Zion by the principles of the celestial kingdom and ever seek to become the pure in heart. Zion is the beautiful, and the Lord holds it in His own hands. Our homes can be places which are a refuge and protection, as Zion is.
“We do not need to become as puppets in the hands of the culture of the place and time. We can be courageous and can walk in the Lord’s paths and follow His footsteps. And if we do, we will be called Zion, and we will be the people of the Lord.
“I pray that we will be strengthened to resist the onslaught of Babylon and that we can create Zion in our homes and our communities—indeed, that we may have “Zion in the midst of Babylon.”3

CONCLUSION
As Christians, we need to be optimistic that one day we will return to Zion. Our future is very bright. We need to remind ourselves that Enoch and his people created Zion in their day, and the four Hebrew men: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah created Zion during the time of great wickedness and evil in the land of Babylon. We can do the same. Our Babylon will soon fall, and our Zion will soon be established, and we shall all shout for joy at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

END NOTES
Beautifully explained in “Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary”, 2003
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/doctrines-of-the-gospel-student-manual/35-fall-of-babylon-and-establishment-of-zion?lang=eng. Accessed on 28/04/21
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2006/04/zion-in-the-midst-of-babylon?lang=eng. Accessed on 28/04/21

EDUCATING FOR LIFE : REFLECTIONS ON NATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITYY


EDUCATING FOR LIFE: REFLECTIONS ON NATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITYY

By
Pastor Dele Ilesanmi (PhD)


“I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, LORD, make me live in safety.” (Psalms 4:8, HCSB)


Introduction
No doubt, so much discussions and conferences have been held and much has been written on the issue of national peace and security world over. The spate of insecurity around the world today, cascading in torrents, calls for concern and makes it crystal clear that the present world is incapable of dispensing peace and curbing or stemming insecurity.


The Capsule Reality
It is evidently clear that the daily manifestation of gruesome killings, obnoxious kidnappings, molestations, rapes, arsons, wanton destruction of property with impunity are signs of a failed nation-state. All these poignant leanings are not companions of peace and security or safety. Peace and safety are absent in a nation where one cannot sleep in one’s house with two eyes closed without being afraid of attack. Peace and safety are no more in a country where institutions of learning, banks, companies, markets, farms, palaces and churches are objects of attack every day. Our roads are no more safe. Going in a car to your office is risky. Walking on the road to your home or place of work is dangerous. Going to the contiguous or adjoining street or town to visit your friends or attend a meeting is not advisable. You cannot send your child on an errand to a neighbour’s house without entertaining fears. There is palpable fear in the land. No one can predict the next line of actions of the assailants, or rather the bandits.


Without economizing the truth, there is a systemic collapse in all sectors of the economy. Things are in state of imbroglio. The security apparatus has failed. The military power has been weakened and the intelligence agencies of all the nations of the world are confused. The centre cannot hold again. The governments at all levels have used all the weapons in their arsenals to curb the spate of insecurity but to no avail. The security and intelligence professionals are in total disarray. The proposals, theories and hypotheses for panacea from the ivory towers are nothing but irrelevant to the real situation. Now the whole world has caught cold and sneeze from the shambolic water of insecurity. Having tried all the necessary available options to us with little or no result, we are only left with one option: JESUS. He is our Prince of Peace (Isa.9:6) and the only Hope of our safety (Prov.21:31).


Concise Concepts of Peace and Security
Peace and security have attracted many definitions. Though, this is not strange given the appalling trend of acrimony and insecurity around the world today. Without recourse to academic jargons, peace and security or safety can be lexically explained. Peace is a “state of tranquility, quiet, and harmony”. It is an “absence of violence”; and “cessation of war”; freedom from oppression and attacks. Safety, on the other hand, is the condition of being secured, protected, and freed from attacks. National security is the ability of a nation-state to cater for the protection and defence of its citizenry.


This national security covers many other things such as political security, economic security, homeland security, energy and natural resources security, cyber security, human security ( includes peoples’ safety from hunger, disease and repression include harmful disruption of daily life.), among others. In summary, national security is the safekeeping of the nation as a whole. And without this national security there will not be national peace. Thus peace is predicated on security. When there is no security, there will be no peace. But the giver of both is JESUS.


In His own comfortable skin, Jesus, the only hope of our peace and safety, encapsulates the concept of peace in Matt.5:38-41 thus:
38Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.


This is a very hard thing to do as human beings. However, this is not hard for people who have the mind of Christ (1Cor.2:16; Phil.2:5-8). Jesus wants peace not rewarding evil with evil. He wants us to eschew evil and do good, and pursue peace (1Pet.3:11 cf.2Tim.2:22). He wants jaw-jaw and not “war-war”. In Romans 14:19, Paul said “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Here is the Right Solution:
Secular Views: Quasi Solutions
In his popular book, “Philosophy of Christian Education: An African Perspective”, Prof Joseph Ilori identifies three methods by which we may seek to solve the world’s problems. The first method is revolution, which means, violent upheaval. This may cause a sudden change in government and society. The great educators like Socrates, Erasmus, and Tolstoy believed that change must come from within, such change must be predicated on ethical principles. The second method, according to Ilori, is war. It is believed by Heraclitus in Greece that “war is the father of all things and that it creates the seed for progress”. Hegel made a declaration that “war decides the destiny of the world”. In his response to war, Nietzsche said “war is the essence of civilization”. Ilori mentioned Christian education as the third option for solving the world’s problems. He illuminates that Christian education “works slowly, in an evolutionary manner. It creates no sudden utopias. It offers no magic remedies. It gives no categorical promises. It demands effort and discipline. It awakens man to his own creative possibilities’. He concludes that Christian education is man’s most formidable tool for survival.
According to Winston Churchill, “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war”. In his own view, Benjamin Franklin said, “There never was a good war or bad peace”. In other words, peace is peace and is better than war because war always has side effects but not peace.


Biblical Views: Right and Reliable Solution
As divinely pointed out by the king of Israel, Solomon, the son of David, safety is the exclusive power of God: “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD” (Prov.21:31). The safety of the world and Nigeria is the Lord. The horse, the weapons, the security apparatus and military intelligence cannot save us – they are not reliable. The Psalmist said in Psalms 33:17, “An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.” Thus the safety of any nation is the Lord. This can be corroborated by a song of degrees earlier sang for Solomon in Psalms 127:1: “…except the LORD keep the city (nation), the watchman waketh but in vain.” This implies that human efforts are useless without God – only God can protect a nation. Hence, King Solomon, the wisest man ever lived on earth, submits in Eccl.7:12 that wisdom and true (Christian) education are better than money (or weapons), even though money is important: “For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” Thus, it is imperative for all the nations of the world to seek Wisdom first because this Wisdom is Christ Jesus, who is the power and Wisdom of God (1Cor. 1:24).


The right solution to our problems of lack of peace and insecurity is here and can only be found in JESUS. Jesus is the dispenser of peace not the world. In John 16:33, He (Jesus) says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It is only in Him we can have our peace and not in any one. This is a very clear statement from the Prince of Peace Himself. He is the conduit through which our peace can be secured. In Rom.5:1, Paul, the apostle testifies to this: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”


Jesus is not a religion but a Saviour (Matt.1:21); Jesus is not a man but the Prince of peace (Isa.9:6); Jesus is not a method but the Preacher of peace (Eph.2:17); Jesus is not a mere historical figure but our Peace (Eph.2:14). Jesus is not only the Life but the Life and Light of all men (John 1:4; cf. 1:9; 8:12; 9:5).


Conclusion
Perfect peace is possible for anyone (or nation) who wishes to accept Jesus Christ into his/her life. A nation that is ready for peace will be ready to accept Jesus Christ. That is the only way to enjoy peace – that is the only lasting solution to intractable problems confronting our national peace and security. The Book of Isa.26:3 is our witness: If anyone stays in Christ “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Therefore, the only way out of this mess in our national life is to run to Christ, only in Him our peace and safety can be guaranteed (Prov.18:10 cf. Acts 4:12). Though this goes beyond religious inclination, we have not heard any genuine Christian who is a terrorist – who kills innocent people in the name of a religion. Anyone who has the mind of Jesus cannot terrorise his nation. Jesus is not a religion but the Life (John 1:4; 11:25). Accept Him today to have your lasting peace and security. This education for life is coming to a people or a nation that lacks the TRUE EDUCATION, not the type we receive in our secular schools but the one that can engender lasting peace and security. The education that is Bible based, Christ centred, Holy Spirit controlled, life applied, and socially relevant. The education that produces peace, and not terrorism and banditry. May your spiritual eyes of understanding be enlightened in Jesus’ name (Eph.1:18).


To spiritually and imaginatively enter Paul’s world, I therefore pray that may the God of peace be with you all in all nations of the world and in Nigeria. Amen (Rom.15:33).

DOES GOD EXIST?

DOES GOD EXIST?
By
Pastor Dele Ilesanmi(PhD)


No doubt, the question of God’s existence is the most important question of human philosophy. This is philosophically theological though, we cannot confine the understanding of God into a philosophical and theological discourse. God is beyond what we can understand within the purview of academic discourse. Perhaps, hence, the question is often asked and answers are given, yet people still ask the same question ad infinitum. Probably the answers given are not adequate. No doubt, the answers to be given here will be longer than the question asked. After all, question is derived from ignorance and answer is derived from knowledge. It is very easy for me to answer this question straight away that God exists. But that will be shallow to the scholars. Hence, this question is reconstructed thus: How can we know that God exist? Therefore, this piece is set to explain or prove the existence of God.


God is too great for us to fully understand. That may be the major reason for people to ask the question: Does God exists ad infinitum. That does not mean we cannot understand Him. Indeed, this God has no beginning and He has no end. There is no place where His presence is not felt. His knowledge transcends all other beings. He is distinct from and transcendent to all His creatures. This is a mystery. Defining Him, therefore, means limiting Him. He is very difficult to define because it is impossible to perfectly define what you do not know its beginning and ending. No man knows the beginning of God; man is mortal and limited in knowledge and wisdom. Thus, man is incapable of defining his Creator. This is because no one can fathom His mysteries; no one can probe the limit of His Almightiness (NIV, Job 11:7). Besides, He is the Creator of heaven and the earth and no one can fathom His understanding, or rather there is no searching of His understanding ( Isa.40:28). Therefore, this write-up is not set to define God but can only attempt to describe Him.


The Bible presents the description of God as He has revealed Himself. God is personal (Exo.3:13-15; 6:3; Isa.42:8); God is spiritual (John 4:24); and God is holy and you cannot compare Him to any being (Isa.40:25). What is more, God’s attributes distinguish Him from other beings. Metaphysically, God is self-existent, external, and unchanging; intellectually, our God is omniscient, faithful, and wise; ethically, this God is holy, righteous, and loving; emotionally, God detests evil, He is long-suffering, and is, indeed, compassionate; existentially speaking, our God is free, authentic, and omnipotent; and rationally, God is transcendent in being, immanent universally in providential activity, and immanent with His people in redemptive activity ( Lewis G.R in Horton, David(ed.)et al. pp98-117, 2006).


How can we then know that God exists? This question can be answered in two parts. First, we should know that everyone has an “inner consciousness of God”. And, second, the Holy Scripture and nature itself are evidence of His existence. Besides, there are four traditional proofs about the existence of God or what I can call four theophilogical arguments about the existence of God. These are: cosmological, teleological, ontological, and moral arguments. The cosmological argument proves God to be the cosmic Designer; the teleological says that God designs the universe with a purpose and that He is an intelligent God; the ontological argument concludes that there is no being greater than God that can be conceived, which can be said to be in existence; while the moral arguments explains that God is a moral God, He is the Judge in whom all will give account to, who will finally judge the whole world. Every man is accountable to this God. Thus He exists.


Beyond these arguments, all people understand that they are God’s creatures and He is their Creator. Paul, the apostle, says “… they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened”(Rom.1:21). What to know about God has been made known to us already and this is very plain (Rom.1:19). Thus whosoever denies the existence of God is only willfully rejecting the truth that he knows. It means that such a person is a fool (Psalms14:1; 53:1).


With the benefit of hindsight, to know that God exists is crystal clear. Indeed, the revelation of God to man does not completely exhaust His being and activity. Although to some He is arguably incomprehensible, no man can absolutely fathom Him (Deut.29:29; Job 36:26; Isa.40:28). He cannot be comprehended but can only be apprehended. Sancy says “Finitude cannot comprehend infinity, nor human thought patterns, which are associated with the created environment, completely grasp the transcendent realm of God” (Horton, op.cit.pp88). Robert says on the basis of this limitation of human reasoning, some strains of mystical theology have denied of knowing God. For example, modern rationalism has argued for the “unknowability” of God. No wonder the fool denies the existence of God (Psalm 14:1).


There are theistic proofs that God exists as mentioned above. The cosmological, teleological, ontological, and moral arguments point to one thing: God’s existence. However, we can also identify three major ways in which we can know that God exists. According to Arlie J.H, the priori approach argues that from a conception of God as being so perfect that His non-existence is inconceivable. He says that a posteriori approach gives evidence from the world, from observable, empirical universe, insisting that God is necessary to explain certain features of cosmos because He is the Creator. The last approach is the existential approach, which asserts that the direct experience of God is by way of personal revelation (Horton, et al. op,cit.pp 348-356).


With the benefit of hindsight, therefore, does God exist? Yes, He does.

JESUS : THE CRUCIFIED GOD IS ALIVE

JESUS: THE CRUCIFIED GOD IS ALIVE 
By
Pastor Dele. A Ilesanmi (Ph.D)

“12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:12-21, KJV; Emphasis mine)
“5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.
7 He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.
8 And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.”(Phil.2:5-8, NLT, cf. John 1:1, 14; Emphasis mine).
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1Tim.3:16)

Introduction

A cursory look at the resurrection accounts of our Lord Jesus Christ in the four Gospels reveals a wide variety of material. Admittedly, any attempt at harmonizing the accounts will be speculative, and dogmatism must be absolutely avoided. Certainly, each account shows a possible arrangement of events in a credible sequence.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus is one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. His bodily resurrection validates the claim that he is both Christ the Lord and God – God incarnate (John 1:1, 14; 20:28; Col.1:13-16; Phil. 2:6; cf.1John 5:7) and that by His death we have forgiveness of sin, salvation and redemption (1 Tim. 1:15; Lk. 19:10; Jn. 3:17; Matt. 9:13; Rom. 5:6-11; 1 Jn. 3:5; 1 Jn. 4:14; Rev. 5:9). This also substantiates the proposition that His life and death were not just the life and death of a good man but that He is indeed God incarnate and that by His blood which He shed on the cross we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins (Col.1:14). Admittedly, Thomas, one of His disciples, confessed this to the whole world when he confirmed that Jesus is God in human flesh in John 20:28 “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” This is a mystery!

The Great Mystery: A Religious Truth, Not an Academic Discourse

This is a great mystery – a great mystery that can only be understood by a spiritual man. This great mystery is not within the purview of academic discourse. It can only be discerned spiritually by a man who has the mind of Christ in him (1Cor.2:10-16). Thus, there is need to demystify and demythologize this considering Jesus’ deity as God the Son and God-incarnate (John 1:1, 14). This will be done by employing what this writer calls “Biblical Functional and Ontological Models” in this paper.

It should be noted here that “mystery” is a religious truth that cannot be understood by the application of human reason alone without divine help. So, when we talk about “mystery” here, we mean a religious truth that goes beyond human reasoning until there is divine aid. Thus, when we say Jesus is “Son of God” and yet He is “God” – this is a great mystery – a religious truth that can only be understood by a spiritual man. It takes the spiritual man to understand the spiritual things: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”(1Cor.2:14).
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1Tim.3:16).

The Question: Who Is Jesus?

The question, ‘who is Jesus?’ is again asked. Right from the New Testament days to the present day, the question of who Jesus is generates conflicting views. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were confused about the personality and deity of Jesus Christ. The church and the people outside the church, the heathens, are differed in their views. Having given the benefit of hindsight about His identity, Jesus asked His disciple a theological question, “Who do men say that I am?” (Mark 8:27; cf, Matt.16:13; Lk.9:18). The answers given by His disciples show that there is a great variety of opinions among the people: for example, “some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the Prophets.” Then, Jesus went on in His theological enquiry whether His own disciples who have been with Him for some time know Him or not. He asked them this question: “But whom say ye that I am?” (Lk.9:20; Mark 8:29; Mat.16:15). Indeed, this is the heart of the matter. At least every one has to give his own personal answer and make his own personal confession.

In recent years, this question forms the epicentre of theological discussion, which has culminated in Christological debate. Although the substance of this paper is not to join in this Christological debate, it is to demystify and demythologise the deity of Jesus Christ through functional and ontological models. To save time and space, “The central statement of the Christology of the Ancient Church is that God becomes one with man: Jesus Christ “Very God and very man”.’ For those who care to know, the Council of Nicaea (AD325) states:

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance(homoousion) with the Father, by whom all things were made.

The debate about who Jesus is lies mainly on the suggestion of Oscar Cullman in his classic book, “The Christology of the New Testament”, that ‘while the Greeks were more interested in nature or an ontological Christology, the Jewish people were more interested in a functional Christology. Similarly, today some people place a greater emphasis on the “deeds” or “action” of Jesus Christ than His nature or being and vice versa.

Functional and Ontological Models

Jesus is functionally equivalent to God; He has the same power and authority as the God of Israel. For example, power to heal the sick (Mark 1:32-34; Acts3:6; 10:38); power to teach authoritatively (Mark1:21-22; 13:31); to forgive sins(Mark 2:1-12; Lk 24:47; Acts.5:31; Col.1:14; 3:13; Heb.8:12); He has the power to save, to give eternal life (Acts 4:12; Rom.10:12-14; 6:23b; phil.3:20; Jude 1:25; 1John 5:11-12); to raise the dead (Lk.7:11-17; John 5:21; 6:40); power to exercise judgment(Mat.25:31-46; John 5:19-29; Acts 10:42; 1Cor.4:4-5; 2Tim.4:1), just to mention a few.

On the ontological dimension, Jesus is God. The incarnational theology of John is a clear revelation that Jesus is God (John 1:1-18). Time does not permit me to dwell extensively on this here. To know that only God (Jesus) is mighty to save, the name JESUS means SAVIOUR (Mat.1:21). Jesus is also called God (Mat.1:23). Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, called Him (Jesus) “My Lord and my God” when he confirmed that the same Jesus (God) that was killed, crucified and buried resurrected (John 20:28). Resurrection of the Christ stands in a class of its own that Jesus is mighty to save. Apart from “countless” miracles He performed, He, Jesus, the very God that was crucified, still performed one other miracle after His resurrection to demonstrate His divine nature and /or deity. This is the miracle of the GREAT CATCH OF FISH (John 21:4-14). When He resurrected, He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat.28:18). He is talking about power to save, to deliver, to judge, and power to do all things as God who will never die – the Great “I AM”.

Jesus may be called a Prophet and a good Teacher; His utterances lend more credence to His divinity or deity as the very God of all. For example, His role as a Prophet, He did not use the trademark formula: “Thus saith the Lord”. Instead, He spoke authoritatively. Jesus went beyond the function and moves to ontological plane when He used the seven ego eimi (“I am”) utterances:

“I AM the Bread of life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51);
“I AM the Light of the world” (John 8:12);
“I AM the Door of the sheep” (John 10:7, 9);
“I AM the Good Shepherd” (John 11:25);
“I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25);
“I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6); and
“I AM the True Vine” (John 15:1, 5).

For the avoidance of doubt, Jesus declared Himself emphatically in John 8:58 as the “I AM” of the Old Testament, who had been before Abraham – a more direct claim to His deity. Hear Him: “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” In other words, He has been before the formation of the world and through Him all things were created, or rather He is the Creator of all things (John 1:1-4; Col.1:12-21). All this lends credence to ontological Christology.

The Crucified God Is Alive: Power of Resurrection is another Mystery
Admittedly, Jesus, the very God of all, was crucified for the sin He never committed. Truly, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the awesome, incontrovertible and indomitable power of God. That is the power that conquered sin, Satan, death and grave, an indubitable, exceeding great power (Eph. 1:19). Jesus declares:

I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Rev. 1:18); All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18).

That same power – power of His resurrection – will be at work only in those who know Him (Phil. 3:10). And the Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead will dwell in only those who believe Him (Rom. 8:11); they will have power over death, Satan, sickness, disease, poverty, barrenness, serpents, poison and over all elemental forces of darkness if they obey His commandments like the disciples of old by preaching the Gospel to every creature (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark. 16:15-18; Lk. 10:19).

What is more, for those who have accepted the gift of faith, Jesus is much more than a mere historical figure, a prophet, and a good teacher. He is the Christ, the Savour, the Son of God, and the very God of all that was crucified. He is God-incarnate. He came to the people He created on earth to save them from their sins, to establish the (His) spiritual Kingdom of God on earth, and to offer the promise of eternal life to all those who believe Him. But the greatest surprise is that He came to His own but His own recognizes Him not as God (John1:10-11).The books of Colossians, Philippians and John early cited chronologically above in the beginning of this piece give a graphic picture of a God the Father who is a God-incarnate the Son, with an “ontological equality but economic subordination”.

Easter Message

The main thrust of Easter message is that Jesus died and rose again; He conquered sin, Satan, Sickness, oppression, death; that all powers in heaven and on earth belong to Him; that anyone who believes in Him is free and will not perish but have everlasting life; that we should show love to one another; that the spirit of humility should be permitted in our lives; that a believer will not die again but live forever in the presence of God; that the Gospel of Christ is the only message that can save the World; that your attitude to this will determine where to spend your eternity; and that the proclamation of this message will change your life and clothe you with the power of God.

In Conclusion

In the air of finality, Christ Jesus is the Ultimate Reality, the Ultimate Revelation of God, the Ontological and Absolute Reality. His deity is the bedrock of Christianity and the fulcrum on which the entire cosmos revolves (John 1:1-14; Col. 1:12-21; Phil.2:5-8,). This makes Christianity the only religion that portrays the very nature of God Himself. Thus, Christianity as a religion is teleological. This essentially distinguishes it from all other faiths or monotheistic faiths. Jesus is the True God and the true God is eternal life and that eternal life is Christ Jesus (1John 1:2; 5:11, 12, 20). Therefore, the real God, our Saviour, the very Voice of Hope, the very Hope of the entire world (1 Tim.1:1). He is the reason for the dawning of new day of salvation, victory over Satan, freedom, new life, new hope, new glory, new access to God, and the beginning of everything new. And again, of course, Jesus is the reason for the season. He came to save us; He fought for us; and conquered the world for us. He has gone now, yet He is alive. He has gone to the Father now; He will return sooner or later. Jesus, the crucified God, is alive today.
PRAISE THE LORD ! HALLELUYAH!

Prayer Points :

Give thanks to God for His resurrection power that is at work in you.
Give thanks to God for raising Christ form the dead and giving Him glory
Father, release a fresh anointing of the Holy spirit to spread abroad the news of Christ’s death and resurrection, with signs and wonders following.
Father let your spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwell in me for great exploits
Pray that God should put an end to your problems
Pray that God should give you total victory this year
Pray that God will move you from glory to glory
Pray that the death and resurrection of Jesus will not be in vain in life
Pray that God should make you fruitful and useful
Thank God for answering your prayers

HAPPY EASTER CELEBRATION

Writes in from the RCCG, Sanctuary of Life Zone, Ekiti Province 9, Ado-Ekiti.
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pstdeleilesanmi3@gmail.com
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