A sign of a healthy church is that it operates outside of the world’s system.
After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and took many Israelites into exile, the book of Ezra tells the story about the return of some of them to Jerusalem 50 years later and what happened when they rebuilt the city and their lives there.
While they’re in exile, as we can imagine, there’s just a glimmer of hope that what God promised to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) would come to pass. It all doesn’t seem very plausible at this point.
But the tides turn when God moves the King of Persia to allow some Israelites to return to their land from their exile (Ezra 1:1-4). The book of Ezra focuses on two key leaders that were a part of the rebuilding efforts – Zerubbabel and Ezra.
Zerubbabel, whose name means “planted in Babylon,” represents the generation born in Babylonian captivity. He leads a large group of people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.
Then about 60 years later, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem to teach the Torah and rebuild the community. He wants to bring about spiritual and social renewal.
In the Bible, Babylon represents the world’s system. What is the world’s system? It’s how fallen humans tend to relate to one another and organize themselves to provide order, stability and progress.
While order, stability and progress are necessary things, their source and how they come about determines their healthiness. God is 100% opposed to the world’s ways of providing order, stability and progress. These emerge differently in God’s Kingdom than they do in the world’s system.
It’s the difference between life and death, and between oneness and division. That is not an exaggeration. Your ways of operating determine what you’re progressing toward.
God’s people have to come out
Coming out of Babylon is step 1. God’s people had to first come out of the world’s system before the temple could be rebuilt.
In our day and age, the Church is His temple. His Church will not be built in Babylon. This means authentic church life will not emerge where His people choose to operate in ways the world’s system provides order, stability and progress.
His people must first come out of the world’s system before they can be built together into a temple in which He dwells.
Israel wanted a human king
A classic example is the people of Israel in the Old Testament. God’s design for Israel was that He would be their King. But they decided they wanted a human king.
This establishment of tiers of importance in human relationships is a classic characteristic of the world’s system. It’s a deceptive and enticing way to provide order, stability and progress in any relationship.
Does this type of thing still happen today among God’s people? You bet it does. Churches may not be asking for a king, but they most certainly establish tiers of importance in relationships.
They may use different labels, but the tiers are there. They may (incorrectly) use Scripture to justify it, but the tiers are still there. They will even say that everyone is of equal importance, but the tiers are still there.
The world’s system is deceptive
The world’s system the enemy has set up provides order, stability and progress in a way that can initially seem smarter, safer and more convenient. This is so enticing that any Christian, no matter how seasoned, can be enticed and entrapped by it if they’re not VERY careful.
Our relationship with the world’s system should not be taken lightly. It seeks to infiltrate our lives and it will easily infiltrate churches if they’re not careful.
God had to first provide a way out of Babylon before they could return to their home and rebuild the temple. In the same way, God has provided the way out for His people in Christ. They have to abandon the world’s system if they’re to be the home and temple they were made to be.