In The Shadows of Babylon

Bible Book: Jeremiah  1 : 13-17
Subject: Babylon; America, Sin of
Series: Jeremiah's America

From the time the Lord entered a covenant relationship with Israel at Sinai, He had maintained that covenant. That should focus our attention on one of the attributes of God that, for some reason or another, is not given the attention it deserves. When we speak of the attributes of God we often speak of His omnipotence (He is all powerful), of His omniscience (He is all knowing), and of His omnipresence (He is everywhere present at the same time). If you want to go to one passage that will highlight all three of these special attributes, spend some time in Psalm 139. We often say that God is love, and we may remember that a key attribute of God is His holiness. One attribute we seem to take for granted, or simply skip over is that He is faithful. Even if we do not take it for granted, we must remind ourselves that He is faithful. He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). We may think of that simply as something He does because He loves us. However, let me assure you that every spiritual blessing, and every physical blessing for that matter is made available to you because God is faithful to keep His promises. He is faithful to accomplish His purpose.

This is a two part series within a series of messages from the book of Jeremiah, a series which I call Jeremiah’s America, because America is mirrored so clearly in Jeremiah’s message to Judah. This series is one of many I have included in THE SERMON NOTEBOOK, the companion to THE BIBLE NOTEBOOK. The genesis of these two messages came to me as I listen to a song while driving to and from Shreveport. Becky and I love to hear Daniel O’Donnel sing. She had bought a new CD and told me she listened to it on the way to visit her mother. She mentioned one song in particular that she enjoyed. It was By the Rivers of Babylon. I played the CD while driving to Shreveport. When I heard By The Rivers of Babylon, I loved it so much that I hit “repeat” and listened to it again. On the way home, I did the same thing, only, I kept replaying that one song, while thinking about the message. I came home and began skimming both Psalm 137, on which the song is based, and the entire book of Jeremiah. Let me read the first verses of Psalm 137 in the New American Standard Bible:

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst of it
We hung our harps.
For there our captors demanded of us songs,
And our tormentors mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
How can we sing the LORD’S song
In a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand forget her skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
If I do not remember you,
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

I knew then that I had to include a sermon on this subject in the series from Jeremiah. The more I studied, the more I felt led to expand it to two sermons. The first is In the Shadow of Babylon, and the second is By the Rivers of Babylon. Judah had been living in the shadow of Babylon, in the very shadow of God’s judgment, but they refused to repent. As a matter of fact, they openly said, “We will not listen.” The more they persisted in their rebellion again God, the darker that shadow became. Let me stress here that I find America on every page of Jeremiah, and though America is not the Covenant People, God raised up America to accomplish His purpose. America became the center for the spread of the Gospel - and it still is, even though there are serious signs that we are going the way of ancient Judah and Israel.


A. God Had Been Faithful to Them, But They Had Not Faithful to Him.

In dealing with His Chosen People, God was the God of love. Because of His love, He provided for them, protected them, and offered them forgiveness. Because He is holy, he refused to excuse or overlook their sin. Because He is omniscient, He refused to be deceived as parents of this world often are when it comes to their children. How many times do you think a teacher or principal hears some parents declare, “My child would not lie.” Let me tell you something, if your child would not lie, even as a toddler, you had better get some help for your child! He is not normal. Two of the things a child comes into the world with a propensity for it is to deny guilt - as in “I didn’t do it!” - and to blame someone else - as in “He did it!” God was never deceived. He knew His people.

They were never faithful for more than a generation, and often less than that. He was always faithful, both to His promises, His plan, and to His ultimate goal. Because of his love, he was long-suffering in dealing with His people, but he was never naive. When, after He gave them every opportunity to repent, they persisted in rebellion against Him, He sent judgement upon them. That judgment took various forms: famine, disease, pestilence, and war were all used to punish Israel in order to persuade them to return to Him.

One hundred year before God called Jeremiah and sent him to declare his message to Judah, he had sent Amos and Hosea to warn Israel, the Northern Kingdom, or the Northern Ten Tribes, that if they did not repent and return to Him, He would destroy them as a nation. They refused to repent and God sent the ruthless Assyrians to wage war against them, to conquer them, to disperse the population, to settle the area with foreigners, sparing only a small remnant that joined itself to Judah.
At the same time Amos and Hosea were proclaiming God’s final warning in the Northern Kingdom, God sent Isaiah and Micah to warn Judah, the Southern Kingdom made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, that if they repented He would bless them, but if they refused to repent He would use Assyria to judge them. Assyria would destroy Israel, and defeat Judah and force them to live under their thumb for a century before He raised up Good King Josiah to try to bring revival to the land. About this time, He called Jeremiah to stand before His people and deliver His final warning that after giving the nation over a century to repent, their time was running out. He would not use Assyria to for His purpose, but raise up Babylon to accomplish His purpose. His message was both clear and powerful, but it was not what they wanted to hear, so they refused to listen to the great prophet whose whole life was devoted to delivering God’s message to His Chosen People, chosen but continually rebellious.

For more that a century, Judah had lived in the shadow of Assyria. As a matter of fact, it was more than a shadow. They lived continually under the thumb of Assyria. The nation continued to exist as an independent nation as far as other nations were concerned, but they were often forced to pay tribute to Assyria, an unforgiving, ruthless world power. Free to pursue the pleasures and wealth of the world, Judah persisted in idolatry, immorality, greed, and all manner of other sins. God sent Jeremiah to warn them of the judgment that was about to all upon them.

B. The Shadow Grows Darker.

1. Their time is running out on Judah. Even though Judah knew that Israel, the Northern Kingdom, had been destroyed because they refused to repent and return to the Lord, they persisted in their rebellion against Him. In fact, they declared that they would not listen to Jeremiah. After all, they had prophets and priests who would tell them what they wanted to hear, so why listen to Jeremiah tell them what they did not want to hear.

1. God commissioned Jeremiah. “Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: Look, I have filled your mouth with My words. See, today I have set you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant” (Jer 1:9-10, HCSB).

2. He gave Jeremiah a vision of a boiling pot facing Judah from the north, Jer. 1:13-17:

“Again the word of the Lord came to me inquiring, “What do you see?” And I replied, “I see a boiling pot, its mouth tilted from the north [to the south].’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘Disaster will be poured out from the north on all who live in the land. Indeed, I am about to summon all the clans and kingdoms of the north.’ This is the Lord’s declaration. They will come, and each king will set up his throne at the entrance to Jerusalem’s gates. They will attack all her surrounding walls and all the other cities of Judah. ‘I will pronounce My judgments against them for all the evil they did when they abandoned Me to burn incense to other gods and to worship the works of their own hands. ‘Now, get ready. Stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not be intimidated by them or I will cause you to cower before them.”

C. As the Shadow Darkens, Judah Becomes Even More Stubborn.

Now, if you will follow me in your Bible, I am simply going to read Scripture from Jeremiah that will paint a clear picture of the persistent rebellion of God’s Chosen People against Him.

1) Jeremiah 2:1-6: “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘“Go and announce directly to Jerusalem that this is what the Lord says: I remember the loyalty of your youth, your love as a bride— how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord...” (1-3a). “Here is what the Lord says: What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves? They stopped asking: Where is the Lord...” (5-6a).

2) Jeremiah 2:11-13: “Has a nation ever exchanged its gods? (but they were not gods!) Yet My people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols. Be horrified at this, heavens; be shocked and utterly appalled. This is the Lord’s declaration. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.”

3) Jeremiah 2:19: “Your own evil will discipline you; your own apostasies will reprimand you. Think it over and see how evil and bitter it is for you to abandon the Lord your God and to have no fear of Me. This is the declaration of the Lord God of Hosts.” The shadows of Babylon are reaching out to toward them.

4) Jeremiah 5:15-19: “I am about to bring a nation from far away against you, house of Israel (He is talking about Babylon. This is the Lord’s declaration. It is an established nation, an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know and whose speech you do not understand. Their quiver is like an open grave; they are all mighty warriors. They will consume your harvest and your food. They will consume your sons and your daughters. They will consume your flocks and your herds. They will consume your vines and your fig trees. They will destroy with the sword your fortified cities in which you trust. ‘But even in those days’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘I will not finish you off. When people ask: For what offense has the Lord our God done all these things to us? You will respond to them: Just as you abandoned Me and served foreign gods in your land,
so will you serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”

The shadow of Babylon is growing closer and closer to them. When I was a twelve year old, chopping cotton on our family farm in the Mississippi Delta, I kept an eye on my shadow. I think it must have been my grandfather who had told me that when I could overstep my shadow it was about time to go to the house for lunch. Early in the morning the shadow was very long, but as the morning wore on it reached the point that it’s length matched my height. I still had more work to do before “dinner time”. Then, just as my grandfather had said, I would turn at the end of a row and as I started back in the other direction I would look down and edge of my shadow was close I could step beyond it. It was dinner time! Of course my grandfather carried a pocket watch, but watching the shadow seemed to enhance the anticipation, both for lunch and for escape from the intense heat and hard work. The shadow is drawing close now for Judah.

5) Jeremiah 5:30-31: “A horrible, terrible thing has taken place in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own authority. My people love it like this. But what will you do at the end of it?” Can the not see the shadows inching toward them?

6) Jeremiah 6:13-15: “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is gaining profit unjustly. From prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated My people’s brokenness superficially, claiming: Peace, peace, when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they acted so abhorrently? They weren’t at all ashamed. They can no longer feel humiliation. Therefore, they will fall among the fallen. When I punish them, they will collapse, says the Lord.” They are living in the shadows of Babylon, but their prophets and priests tell them it is not so.

7) Jeremiah 9:4-11: “Everyone has to be on guard against his friend. Don’t trust any brother, for every brother will certainly deceive, and every friend spread slander. Each one betrays his friend; no one tells the truth. They have taught their tongues to speak lies; they wear themselves out doing wrong. You live in a world of deception. In their deception they refuse to know Me. This is the Lord’s declaration” (4-6).

“Therefore, this is what the Lord of Hosts says: I am about to refine them and test them, for what else can I do because of My dear people? Their tongues are deadly arrows— they speak deception. With his mouth a man speaks peaceably with his friend, but inwardly he sets up an ambush. Should I not punish them for these things? This is the Lord’s declaration. Should I not take My revenge against a nation such as this?” (7-9).

“I will raise weeping and a lament over the mountains, a dirge over the wilderness grazing land, for they have been so scorched that no one passes through. The sound of cattle is no longer heard. From the birds of the sky to the animals, everything has fled—they have gone away. I will make Jerusalem a heap of rubble, a jackals’ den. I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, an uninhabited place.”

The shadows of Babylon are ever advancing and they have been warned, so what do the people do? Do they repent? What about their priests and prophets? How did they respond to Jeremiah’s message? The priests, the prophets, and all the people sought Jeremiah’s death.

D. The Weeping Prophet Weeps Over Judah (Jer. 8:18-22)

There are some really sad words in the Bible. It breaks my heart to read of Rachel weeping for her children. It grieves me to read God’s question, “Has a nation changed it’s God?” Listen now to Jeremiah’s lamentation:

“My joy has flown away; grief has settled on me. My heart is sick (vs 18). Can you not sense the grief of this humble prophet? Listen to those words again: “My joy has flown away.” The joy of a covenant relationship, the joy of fellowship with God’s people, the joy of the ministry. All that joy had flown away. Jeremiah said, “Grief has settled on me.” This was not a fleeting moment of depression, this grief had settled on him permanently. He added, “My heart is sick.” The nation he loved was living in the very shadow of Babylon, God’s judgment, and they refused to repent. They insisted that they were righteous and believed God should reward them accordingly. He continues:

“Listen—the cry of my dear people from a far away land: Is the Lord no longer in Zion, her King not in her midst? Why have they provoked Me to anger with their graven images, with their worthless foreign idols? Harvest has passed, summer has ended, but we have not been saved. I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people. I mourn; horror has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? So why has the healing of my dear people not come about?” (8:19-23).

Now, let us summarize God’s dealings with His Chosen People.

They had been warned of the judgment to come
They had rejected God for Idols (broken cisterns)
Jeremiah pleaded with them to repent
They vehemently refused
The judgment came (in 606, 597, 586 B.C.)

The revival under Josiah ended when Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Necho on the Plains of Megiddo in 608 B. C. Then, in the Battle of Carcamesh, Babylon defeated Egypt, and in 606 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar’s commander, Nebuzaradan defeated Judah and took the first group of captives back to Babylon. Included among the princes taken to Babylon were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Obednego. Judah rebelled and the Babylonians came again in 597 B.C. and carried away many more captives. Then, they Judah rebelled again in 586 B.C, and Babylon laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, broke through the walls of the city and destroyed the temple, after looting it. The next step was to raise up the Medo-Persian Empire to return God’s people to the Land of Promise. They returned under Zerrubbabel in 536 B.C. to rebuild the temple. Jeremiah saw the three invasions and the Captivity, but never saw the return of his people to the land he loved. If Jeremiah grieved so for Judah, should we not grieve for America today?


A. Babylon Symbolizes World Systems Set Against God (Rev. 17 - 18).

1. We live in the shadow of religious Babylon.

Babylon is used symbolically of idolatry in Revelation. In Revelation 17, we read of the nature of this beast called Babylon the Great:

“The kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and those who live on the earth became drunk on the wine of her sexual immorality. So he carried me away in the Spirit to a desert. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names, having seven heads and 10 horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She had a gold cup in her hand filled with everything vile and with the impurities of her prostitution. On her forehead a cryptic name was written: BABYLON THE GREAT

John adds, “Then I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was utterly astounded” (Rev 17:6).

Throughout the Bible, idolatry is portrayed as spiritual adultery. In the Old Testament Israel is seen as the bride of God. In the New Testament, the church is the bride of Christ. False worship is understandably portrayed as spiritual harlotry. This is a serious charge, one that should never be taken lightly. The sin that was always central in God’s judgment against Israel was idolatry, of which Babylon would become a symbol down through the centuries.

Americans, like ancient Judah, is guilty of two sins: first, there is the worship of false gods, and second, there is the false worship of the true God. There are many people in America who are living in the shadow of religious Babylon through the worship of false gods. Islam is spreading across the nation with the blessings of the left wing media who are willing to portray it in a positive light if for no other reason than to place Christianity at a disadvantage in our society. Many people have been caught up in eastern mysticism, New Age religions, and other pagan religions. A lot more people are turning to shamanism, witchcraft, and various other forms of the occult. Still others are caught up in one cult or another. Animism is becoming popular with many people. All these things point to the worship of false gods - gods who are not gods, gods that do not exist.

There is no way to estimate the number of people who would never worship a false god, but they are guilty of the false worship of the true God. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are two groups that come to mind, but there are many members of mainline denominations who are guilty of this sin. They profess a faith in God, but when you talk with them you discover that they have no concept of what it means to be a born again believer in Jesus Christ. They depend upon infant baptism, church membership, communion, or simply in good works for their salvation. They have no concept of the New Testament doctrine of grace. Without a doubt, there are millions of Americans who believe they are Christians because they have a membership in one church or another. Many people grow up in a Christian home but they have never committed themselves to the Lord - by grace through faith.

These people are living in the shadow of religious Babylon. Little do the know how much danger they are in every moment. Anyone who dies without Jesus is going to hell. It is as simple as that.
Jesus is coming for His church and that means born again believers in Jesus Christ. He is not coming for Muslims, Buddhists, or other pagan religions. He is coming for His church, those who are born again believers.

There are many religions in the world, and Satan is the one behind all of them. Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. Religions have to do with man’s quest for some god, either to appease that god to keep from facing his wrath, or to impress him in order to gain his blessings. One does not find Jesus. One does not find salvation because of his search for God. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. If you are saved, it is because Jesus came to seek and to save you, and you placed your trust in Him.

There are others who are living in the shadow of religious Babylon. They are church members, even some pastors who have watered down the Word of God, distorted the Gospel, and substituted the thus reasoneth the mind of man for the thus saith the Word of God. A lot of church members, especially leaders, focus more attention on proving some other church is wrong than in reaching the lost. They compromise with the devil at every turn, failing to apply the Word of God in dealing with apostate church members, refusing to condemn sin in society, and embracing false doctrines.

You know you are in the shadow of Babylon when you have church members who use God’s name in vain, violate the Lord’s Day, lie, steal, cheat, commit adultery, subscribe to pornography, promote same sex marriage, justify abortion, condone homosexuality, and support embryonic stem cell research. You know we are in the shadow of Babylon when churches ordain homosexual priests and elect homosexual bishops. You know you are in the shadow of Babylon when church leaders become addicted to gambling, alcohol, drugs, and pornography. You know you are in the shadow of Babylon when some professors of theology and some pastors deny the virgin birth, deny the Trinity, deny the existence of Satan and hell, and reject inerrancy of Scripture.

2. We live in the shadow of political Babylon.

The Bible stresses that the kings of the earth are seduced by the woman on the scarlet beast. The nations of the earth do not worship the one true and living God. A large percentage of the nations of the world are Islamic, others are Hindu, or Buddhist. Some profess to be Christian but place more value on tradition than on the Word of God. Not only do many of the nations of the world honor false gods, America, though founded on Christian principles, seems determined to purge America of any open expression of faith in Jesus Christ. The ACLU has been at the forefront in the battle against Jesus Christ for a century, but there are other groups that are doing everything they can to force the true God out of the public arena. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore has paid a very high price for his stand for the Ten Commandments. The ACLU has waged a ruthless war against this man, and sadly, many Christians have sided with them. Chief Justice Moore was target by the ACLU, but they are attacking God in every arena they can - and you and I are paying for them to attack God, the Bible, and prayer when we pay our taxes.

Neil Cavuto interviewed President George W. Bush and then reported on the interview on the Hannity and Colmes program, in a preview of the news program when the interview will be shown. Cavuto mentioned some of the things they discussed and the fact that the president is such a nice person to interview. He then added, “What many people do not understand about this president is that he is a very religious man. Some people may not appreciate that, but he is very religious.” There are people who hate President Bush and one of the reasons is his faith in Jesus Christ, and the fact that he does not keep it a secret. Millions appreciate his faith in Christ, but there are many who are at war against God today. We are under the shadow of Babylon. Those who do not receive Jesus Christ will face the same judgment God has planned for Babylon the Great. When Babylon falls to the Lamb of God the kings of the earth will weep and wail: “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in a single hour your judgment has come” (Rev 18:10).

3. We live in the shadow of commercial Babylon.

There is nothing wrong with commerce. God expects us to work, to produce, and to practice New Testament Stewardship. That which is condemned is greed, selfishness, dishonesty, and extortion.
When Babylon falls in the battle against the Lamb of God, the merchants of the earth join the kings of the earth in mourning her fall.

“Woe, woe, the great city, clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls; because in a single hour such fabulous wealth was destroyed!” (Rev 18:16-17).

B. America Has Lived Under the Shadow of Babylon for a Long Time.

This country was founded on godly principles, but there has been a constant, relentless war against God waged by the systems of this world, under the prince of this world (Satan). America has lived in the shadow of Babylon for almost a century. Consider some of the challenges that had the potential of turning America to God or turning people against Him.

1) There is World War I, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression.

2) There is World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam.

3) There was the Cold War, and now it is Islam.

4) There is Communism, Humanism, New Age Religions, and Moral relativism’

5) There is evolution and all the evil it breeds.


At the time God sent Jeremiah to deliver his message to Judah, He declared that Judah was worse than Israel. He had used Assyria to destroy the Northern Kingdom; how did these people believe He would overlook their rebellion. At the time God sent Jeremiah to confront Judah with her sins, she was already under the shadow of Babylon. He urged the people to repent, to return to Him, and to obey Him. They not only refused to repent, they arrogantly declared that they would not listen to Him.

America knows, or should know the history of God’s dealings with Israel and Judah. Sadly, modern Americans know very little about our history or they would know that America was founded on Christian principles. This is not wishful thinking on my part, the founders were very clear about their dependance upon the Word of God.

America has many advantages over Judah. For one thing, God told Jeremiah to go out onto the streets of Jerusalem and see if he could find one righteous man. There are millions of Americans who have not bowed their knees to pagan gods. There are millions of Christians who worship God on a regular basis. There are many believers who witness for the Lord. Thousands of children will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ this year in Vacation Bible School. Charles Roberts e-mailed me that in their church in Lufkin, Texas, 42 children were saved during their evangelistic service in Bible School in 2005.

America may be in the shadow of Babylon, but the light is not out yet. Just as the Lord appealed with Judah to repent so that He might bless them. If they persisted in rebelling against Him, they would meet Him in judgment.

While there are many glowing reports about the success of various churches and denominations in recent years, we are losing ground. We are losing ground numerically. Church growth is not keeping up with the population growth. Many of those who are a part of the Me Generation are not willing to put God first in their lives. They don’t want to hear sermons on stewardship. They do not want to hear anything about sin, repentance, of judgment. They want to come to church feeling good and leave feeling great.

We may well be in the shadow of Babylon, whose prince is Satan himself, but I believe there is still hope for America. Let me tells you what God expects of us:

“And My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14