Southern California is home to Los Angeles, sometimes called the City of Angels. Hollywood makes its home here along with a large portion of the entertainment industry. This is the place for images and image-makers. Some of the local radio stations interject the following quip in between songs, “Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.” That in itself creates an image of this city in the minds of listeners. Thousands of people flock to Los Angeles for the glitz and the glamour. Of course, glitz and glamour are merely artifacts or side effects of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. It seems to me that I can describe Los Angeles as a city of images.
The reason that I bring this up has to do with something that I read in the Bible. I have been reading through the Old Testament (OT) book of Jeremiah for a one-year, Chronological Bible Reading plan. I came across the following verse: “…For it is a land of images, and they are mad over idols” (Jeremiah 50:38b, ESV). Now, the immediate context of this verse and passage centers on the future judgment coming upon the nation of Babylon. The Spirit of God inspires Jeremiah to characterize this ancient, world empire as a land of images filled with men and women who are mad over idols. I could not help seeing the parallel to Los Angeles.
I live in a city of images filled with people who are mad about them. Billboards line the freeways and streets of Southern California. Everywhere I look I see something vying for my attention. The steady flow of images is like an avalanche upon the soul. I understand the point behind marketing and advertising; however, there is something desensitizing about them. Commercials, television programming, movies, magazines, radio programming and more all have the ability to suck the life out of human beings. The images coming through these various forms of media become idols. These are the men and women to admire and/or to follow. Eat these foods, consume these drinks, and life and energy return to your body.
For the Christian, his life and energy issue from the Lord not the world. In Jeremiah’s day, big bad Babylon set the tone for its citizens and those it conquered. King Nebuchadnezzar and his successors made sure that devotion to Babylon’s ethos remained wholehearted under penalty of death. For example, the famous account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrates this perspective quite clearly, but their miraculous deliverance by the Lord also highlights his ultimate sovereignty over all kings and kingdoms (Daniel 3, ESV). There is relief for God’s people in godless nations, but this is not a principle for living in the kingdom. Sometimes the Lord delivered his people, but other times he did not as in the life of Isaiah, John the Baptist, Stephen, and the apostles Peter and Paul.
I do not bring this up to broach the subject of suffering and the corresponding theological problems that ensue. The key point to remember is that Stephen and John the Baptist enjoyed an earthly, covenant relationship with the Lord like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. All of five of these men enjoy the blessed, heavenly fellowship of the Lord’s presence as I type this up. They are in heaven awaiting their glorification at Christ’s second advent. Most, if not all, of Babylon’s citizens and rulers cannot say the same. The Lord raised up Jeremiah in order to warn this ancient empire about its impending doom. This demonstrated his love, his mercy, his longsuffering, and the certainty of his coming judgment.
If the Lord did not hold back his earthly judgment upon Babylon and its people, there is no reason to expect future relief judgment day. I realize that such rhetoric sounds alarming and harsh, but that day is coming. All of the warnings and admonitions from Christ, the apostles, and Christians throughout human history testify to the absolute certainty of judgment day. When I think of my current city, Los Angeles, I feel the sorrow of the Father’s heart toward this city and its people. Open their eyes and hearts Lord by your Holy Spirit in order to receive your truth and Kiss the Son. Grant your people, Lord, the grace, humility, and boldness to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the message of reconciliation. Amen.