Tag Archives: Babylon

This Day in History: God Breaks a Heart of Stone

By Eugene C. Scott

What if the place Jesus spent his last days could tell its story? The story of how God broke a heart of stone.

Granite to the core–a heart of stone, they said. And they were right. That the death and destruction, tragedy and violence I’ve witnessed in my 6,000 plus years on this earth would have crushed anything less than stone is true.  But even a heart of stone, they claimed, should have turned to dust, and like grains of sand been scattered in the desert wind.

In my long life I was smashed and left desolate by Canaan, Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. Only to rise up again. Why? How?

I can’t say. Knowing such things does not always come with age. I can say this. At one time I was the proudest of my kind. I weathered siege after siege because I was proud and strong. They all desired me. My temple was unrivaled. They say gods walked my streets. Though–again–I can’t say. I did not pay much attention to such things, until . . . .

. . . . until the week of the Jewish Passover in the days when Rome thought she owned me. A desert flea of a Jew, lauded as a king by a few hundred peasants, rode a scrawny colt through my east gate. I paid little mind. My walls were full of Jewish pilgrims, crawling through my alleys like ants. I blinked and forgot him. Then on Yom Reeve, the fourth day of the week, counted in the Jewish fashion–sundown to sundown–and the day before the Passover, this Jew tickled my ribs and woke me from my slumber.

“Do you see all these things?” this man with only one ratty robe asked, pointing to the temple shining like a moon on my highest hill. Those with him nodded recognizing my magnificence.

“I tell you the truth,” he said, “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be torn down.”

I laughed. The Babylonians had torn down my temple, but it rose from the dust; Alexander the Great had considered turning the temple to ruble but wisely reconsidered; Antiochus Epiphanies had desecrated her; he later paid dearly. And today she towered still. Each time my temple was sacked she rose again more magnificent than before. Not one stone left on another! Who did this man think he was? God?

I was not sure why what this man said mattered at all. Why I cared. I was one of the greatest cities of stone ever raised up on a desert hill. He was dust.

It may be because seventy years later his prediction came true. Rome tore me stone from stone and my temple still lies in its grave.

It may also be because of what he said to me, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

This man saw me for what I was, a stone facade. My name “The City of Peace” has never been true. And it never will be, until he returns to walk my streets again. A city cannot bring peace, not the kind her people need. But can a city have a heart, stone or otherwise, you may ask? I can only speak for myself. Two days after he predicted my ruin–on a hill that looked like a skull–the last Jewish prophet to enter my gates wet my dirt with his innocent blood. I watched him breathe his last. I shuddered and that night my heart of stone broke.

Today, 2,000 years later I long to feel his sandals on my stone. I will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

If Jesus saw the art in me, a hard, proud city of stone, think of what he can see in you.

Read Matthew 23:37-24:1-51, Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 13:1-37, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-2.


Also, go to tnc3.org for info on how The Neighborhood Church is remembering this week in history.

Two thousand years ago this week one man turned history upside down. I would give anything to have been there, seen him, heard his voice. Instead we can only use our imaginations to re-enter ancient history. Each day this week, called Holy Week, we are going look at this day in ancient history through the eyes of a fictional character who witnessed part of that day as Jesus lived it. Join us as we believe a better story: the greatest, truest story ever told.

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A Tale Of Two Kings or Heeding The Writing On The Wall

Early in our marriage, I endured a two-year period plagued by multiple jobs, persistent unemployment, and poverty. Any extra income was directed toward diapers for our newborn daughter and medical expenses for her persistent ear infections. In fact, Anna’s ear problems required two sets of tubes and two ear drum surgeries. In order to pay for the expenses, I cashed out what little retirement we had, paying severe penalties to the government.

I count myself among the many who have stood at the edge of the downward spiral and looked down. Without a supportive extended family system, we would have fallen in. It was frightening.

During that time, I opened my Bible looking for solace and read about King Saul’s many troubles. It seemed like God was against him. I was incensed. God, why were you so deadset against Saul? I asked.

Then I opened the book of Job and read about the righteous man’s many sufferings. My anger against God grew into a raging fire. We’re toast! I yelled at God. You can do whatever you want and you have no one to answer to. You don’t even care. I felt like God was dangling me over the fire and enjoying himself as he watched me burn.

At the end of the two year period, I enrolled at Fuller Seminary a thousand miles away in Pasadena, California. Looking back, I laugh at the fact that I chose to study theology while I was intensely angry at God.

Then December 1, 1991 (almost 19 years ago to the day of this post), I read a tale of two kings: Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar.

One day King Nebuchadnezzar was admiring his kingdom and taking credit for his exploits when God drove him into the wilderness where he lived like a wild animal. God told the king he would remain until “until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes (Daniel 4:32).”

After spending seven years in the wilderness, after being humiliated before his fellow Babylonians, here’s what Nebuchadnezzar announced to his people:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
Daniel 4:37

Rather than voice his bitterness toward God, the king exalted God and commented that “everything he does is right and all his ways are just.”

In the next chapter, Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar is sitting on the throne. He’s wining and dining his guests, reveling in his glory when a finger begins writing on the wall. Four words appeared in an indiscernible language. Belshazzar was terrified by the experience, and worse yet, he couldn’t decipher what the words meant. Daniel was brought in who interpreted the words, which were written in Hebrew.

Daniel began by reminding Belshazzar about his father King Nebuchadnezzar. God sent him into the fields, Daniel explained, because his heart had become hardened with pride.

“You, O king, haven’t learned from your father,” the prophet confessed. Then he interpreted the four words on the wall: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Literally, the words meant, “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.” Daniel told him, “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:26-28).

That night, Belshazzar’s life came to a violent end.

As I compared the two kings’ stories, I had a life-changing realization:

First, God hates pride. Nothing strikes deeper at the heart of God than when we take credit for what he has done.

Second, God may allow pain to come into our lives in order to weed out pride’s insidious tentacles. It isn’t an act of punishment, it’s an act of mercy. He does this because he loves us and desires an unhindered relationship with us.

Third, only God has the right to define what is just. This last point hit me particularly hard. In his mercy, God had sought to weed out my pride and independence. But instead of turning to God, I had turned away from him, assuming he was unjust. But what right did I have to define justice? Justice is defined by God’s actions, not my opinions. In my arrogance, I had defined justice. Any time I define the meaning of justice, I miss the mark entirely. Yet Nebuchadnezzar said, “Everything he does is right and all his ways are just” (Daniel 4:37). God cannot act unjustly.

Instantly, my anger melted away and I asked God to forgive me of my arrogance. Pride still rears its ugly head in my life and I still encounter hardships and struggles, but this I know: God is good. God is just. And because of this, I can trust him.

And you can too.


Daniel 4:1-5:31
2 Peter 1:1-2:22
Psalm 119:97-128
Proverbs 28:17-20


2 Peter 1:1-2:22. Peter wrote his second epistle in order to address false teaching in the church. He likely wrote this letter shortly before he was martyred. This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires
2 Peter 1:3–4

God has already given you everything you need to live and enjoy the life he has called you to. Because Christ lives in you, you can participate in the divine nature. You’re not God, but God can live through you!

Psalm 119:97-128. Verses 98-100 tell us that simply knowing God’s word makes us wiser than our enemies, wiser than our teachers, and wiser than our elders. Our reading below in Proverbs offers us a great example of this.

While reading Psalm 119 the thought occurred to me that the word of God does a great job of warning us about potholes that lie in our way. Verse 105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” God’s word makes us aware of sin so we can avoid becoming enslaved by it’s addictive grip. It also helps us free ourselves from it, although doing so requires so much more work than avoiding sin before it takes root.

Proverbs 28:17-20. Promises of financial independence roam freely on Saturday morning television. Years ago I chased some of those dreams only to discover the reality of Proverbs 28:19-20: “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”

I once attended an online marketing seminar that sold business opportunities for $5,000 apiece. After the presentation, probably 50 people crowded around the cashier to give their money away. My dad, who accompanied me, asked the presenter what percent of the people in line would actually make a profit on the business venture. “Oh, one or two,” he replied. Yep! Proverbs is right.

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  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Do you struggle believing God is good and just? Why or why not?
  3. Who defines what is just in your life?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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