|Volume 24 Number 6 June 2022
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21 NKJV). Faithful Christians must always try to walk in the steps of Jesus, but no one will ever fully succeed. The reason is that Jesus is perfect. Just look at verse 22 that follows the above Scripture. “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth.” Hebrews 4:15 says of Jesus that He was “…tempted as we are, yet without sin.” No matter how hard we try to please God, we, though Christians, will still sin. God knew that before He created us, and that is why He provided a Savior for us.
Yet, that doesn’t diminish our need to live the way God has told us to live. Not only did He give us a pattern to follow in the steps of His perfect Son, but He gave us the most beautiful book ever written, the Bible! Because of that book, we cannot plead ignorance in knowing what God expects of us. We cannot say that we weren’t given an opportunity to walk in the steps of Jesus.
When I was a child and when we were blessed with snow, whenever an adult walked through the snow in front of me, I tried my best to walk in his footprints. Many of us have done that. We didn’t do that because we despised the snow, because we loved playing in the snow, having snowball fights and building snow forts. We tried to walk in those footprints because someone else had made a pathway through the snow, and we wanted to see if we could walk in those same steps.
That’s the way we should follow Jesus. We need to follow in His steps. He has paved the way for us. He has shown us how to walk a straight and narrow path without wavering. He showed us it could be done! The writer of Hebrews exhorted brethren to “…make straight paths for your feet” (12:13). In other words, keep on the right path because if you don’t, you’ll be on an imperfect path that leads to sin.
We’ve all seen little babies learning to take their first steps. It’s not easy for them, and it can be a frightening stage in their early lives. When a baby takes his first steps, he is probably going to take a tumble. He or she may cry but will get up and brush away the hurt. Babies get up and go again! A baby doesn’t begin walking successfully overnight. It may take days of encouragement, falling, getting up and going again. Learning to walk accords with the truism, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!”
There are many things in life that may cause us to follow the same kind of determination and exercise that a baby must follow when learning to walk. However, nothing in this life at which we try to succeed is as important as learning to be faithful children of God. Christians are never told that when they become children of God that they will never sin again. In fact, Paul cautioned the Roman brethren, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). The implication is that we will continue to sin, but we are not to test God’s patience. When Christians fall, they must always get up, dust themselves off by asking for forgiveness and, like Paul, continue to “…press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
In Jesus, Christians have this assurance: “My little children, …if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). Sometimes we sing this song: “Footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow; we will follow the steps of Jesus where-e’er they go.” Faithful Christians must always walk in the steps of Jesus.
The Blessings of Babylon
In the sixth century before Christ, the exiles from Israel were marched through the mountains, valleys and deserts into a life of cruel slavery. They had rebelled against their God, and He permitted the Babylonian empire to conquer their homeland in punishment. Proud Jerusalem had been brought under the tyrant’s heel, not to be free again for generations.
Is it any wonder the people who were dragged there in chains sang a heartbreaking song of mourning? In Psalm 137:1, they sang, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (NKJV).
Without a doubt, they considered the folly of disobedience and how they had turned away from the God of their fathers. How they regretted the consequences of their poor decisions! They sang, “We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:2-4). The phrase, “plundered us,” in the Hebrew, tells us this was the wild cry of intense, inner pain. The longing for what was lost is declared in the next two verses. “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth — If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy.”
The heathen may think of these songs as entertainment, but the singers refused to desecrate the songs by forgetting the promises of God. In Obadiah 1:10-12, the prophet made the best observation of the torment the exiles had in longing for justice.
For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side — In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem — Even you were as one of them. But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother In the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah In the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress.
In Psalm 137:7-9, we read the remembrance of what their neighbors did to them. “Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom The day of Jerusalem, Who said, ‘Raze it, raze it, To its very foundation!’ O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock!”
These verses are strong condemnation of the enemies of God’s people. The inhabitants of Jerusalem had seen their beautiful Temple destroyed, their families massacred in front of them and their capital city in ruins. Their oppressors delighted in causing suffering in a most wicked manner. We need only to read 2 Kings 25:7 to understand the cruelty of this nation. In that verse we read of the killing of the young princes of Judah. “Then they killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, put out the eyes of Zedekiah, bound him with bronze fetters, and took him to Babylon.” The blessings of Babylon were cruel indeed.
It may be hard to find any blessings in the exile in Babylon; indeed, it’s hard to find blessings in our own sufferings, but these can be teaching moments. We learn to rely on God’s Word to avoid the mistakes that lead to such calamity. It is a fact that, after the return from exile, as described in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, the Jewish people never worshiped idols again. The blessing of making mistakes is being able to recognize them and avoid repeating them.
Some years ago, my driving instructor told me of a time when he ran a stop sign. Unfortunately for him, there was a police car right behind him. The policeman wrote him a ticket and spoke to him three words that he will never forget: “Stop means stop!” How easily we can apply this to our own lives. God means what He says. He told Israel that judgment was coming, and they ignored his prophets, right up until the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem. They had every opportunity to listen and to obey, just as we do today.
Jesus said, in Matthew 24:37, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” We are in the Christian age, in that period of grace when safety may be sought. It is also very clear from Scripture that the period of grace in which we live will end. Judgment could have been avoided for Israel if it had listened to the call of the prophets and preachers of old. As it was, then, even so is it now.
The exile from Zion lasted seventy years, and repentance brought about restoration. We can avoid the sorrow of the exiles by turning to God for salvation. Acts 17:30 says, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” The heavenly Zion awaits the repentant sinner, and it will be a home like no other. Let us remember the blessings of Babylon – to repent of our past sins, to obey the gospel and to look to the heavenly Jerusalem, where only songs of joy are sung (Revelation 15:3-4).