The victory of the gods of Babylon was complete. The Jews were enslaved and the images of Bel, Marduk, Enlil, and Ishtar stared down in mockery at them and their weak god, Yahweh, who could not stand the onslaught of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The gates to the great city slammed shut and God’s beleaguered people were hurried along for processing.
Then, one Jew broke away from the rest – his name was Seriah. He walked with defiance to the River Euphrates which flowed through the heart of the city, pulled a secret scroll he had been hiding in his satchel, and began reading. He started quietly at first. His words seemed ridiculous and the Babylonians howled at the spectacle. But then he remembered the instructions from the prophet Jeremiah.
When you come to the City, go to the River,
And shout the scroll where people drink.
Tie a rock to the parchment, then throw it in,
Just so shall Babylon not rise again,
Just so shall the Queen of cities sink.
With each sentence, the derision and laughter of the Babylonians grew. This foolish Jew must be mad! Were not his people just conquered? Jerusalem lay in ruins, the temple and the great houses burned to the ground, the city gates and walls demolished. Was not mighty Babylon the queen of the world and the power of all powers?
But Seraiah’s faith held fast. With each word his voice grew firmer and more convincing as he read the words Jeremiah had penned and entrusted to him.
“Declare and proclaim among the nations.
Proclaim it and lift up a standard.
Do not conceal it but say,
‘Babylon has been captured,
Bel has been put to shame, Marduk has been shattered;
Her images have been put to shame, her idols have been shattered.’
“In those days and at that time,” declares the Lord, “the sons of Israel will come,
both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go,
and it will be the Lord their God they will seek.
They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction;
they will come that they may join themselves to the Lord
in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.”
Seriah finished Jeremiah’s words. He rolled up the scroll, tied a rock to it and flung it to the Euphrates, the scroll and rock rising high and far in a perfect arch, then descending toward the water with great speed. Everyone watched as the scroll, for a moment rested on the river, and then the weight of the rock carried it to the depths never to be seen or read from again. Seriah turned and looked at the people of Babylon who had become quiet, and then he returned to his people to await the fulfillment of the word of the Lord.
Against all odds, 47 years later, the Queen of the earth, Babylon, was destroyed, and the little band of people made their way back to Jerusalem, to rebuild and to wait for the Messiah.
Against all odds! Is this not what it means to walk by faith? To trust God’s word when everything around says something else? Is this not what the prophets, the apostles, and our Lord supremely, did – to keep walking forward, trusting in God’s word when everyone and everything else was screaming the opposite?
Against all odds Jesus came when the mightiest empire of them all, Rome, ruled the land. Against all odds he proclaimed God’s empire. Against all odds, he entrusted himself to his Father as he descended into death. Against all odds he rose again from the dead and against all odds he was enthroned at the right hand of God, the rightful ruler of heaven and earth, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus said.
You and I are to walk by faith, just like Jeremiah wrote his scroll by faith and Seriah read it by faith by the banks of the Euphrates River and in the face of its false gods. You and I are called to walk by faith like the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus.
Against all odds you and I are called to write, to read, to live, to love, to serve the kingdom of God in the face of mighty empires and mighty movements that array themselves against the Lord and his Anointed.
Whether your problem is big or small, whether it pertains to reaching people with the Gospel of the Kingdom in countries where it is dangerous to name the name of Jesus or just getting through today’s challenges in our country, you and I are called to walk by faith against all odds.
And if your faith begins to falter, remember Seraiah’s Secret Scroll and the river into which it descended. God’s words do come true.
Word of God, Speak!
The story of Seraiah’s Secret Scroll can be read in Jeremiah 51:59-64. Jeremiah’s words against Babylon can be read in their entirety in Jeremiah 50:1-51:58.