The Babylon Connection

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THE BABYLON CONNECTION Spring Valley Mennonite; October 2, 2022; Isaiah 13, 14:12-15, 22-23 We return this morning to our studies in the book of Isaiah. In the past weeks we have examined what has been called the "Book of Immanuel" which gives a glorious description of the coming Messiah. While we look back on these verses, remember that to Isaiah and Judah this was all in the future. This was to be an encouragement to the faithful in a dangerous time of turmoil. Beginning in chapter 13 and continuing through chapter 23 we have a section describing judgment on the ungodly nations surrounding Judah. These judgments are described as "burdens or oracles." The Hebrew word means something weighty or heavy. Sin always results in judgment. I am so thankful that Jesus bore judgment of our sin on the cross and that there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! But nations are a different matter. Even Israel, God's chosen people, faced judgment when they turned away from God. These chapters prove that Biblical principle "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." All these prophesies, when written, were to be fulfilled in the future, and history has proven their accuracy. Fulfilled prophesy proves that the Bible is truly God's Word, the working of our Sovereign God fulfilling His plan of the redemption of mankind. We recall the chapters in Daniel that describe succeeding World Empires that have come and gone. God certainly rules over the affairs of men and nations. And while we will not examine all these prophesies in depth, because of the continuing importance of Babylon in God's unfolding plan of the ages, we will spend today looking at the 13th and 14th chapters which deal with Babylon, what I call "The Babylon Connection." When Isaiah recorded his prophesies around 700 B.C., Babylon was not the supreme power in the world. That honor was given to Assyria. Yet Isaiah, peering down through the ages, saw the destruction of a Babylon which had yet to ascend to power. This prophesy should have been a warning to Judah's future Kings, but we find that not to be the case. Let's begin by reading the first 11 verses of chapter 13. This was fulfilled by the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C., but it foreshadows the destruction of a future religious and economic power spoken of in the Book of Revelation. Babylon has figured heavily in Biblical history beginning in the days following the great flood in Noah's day. I. A TALE OF TWO CITIES We find the first mention of Babylon in the 9th chapter of Genesis. The worldwide flood has receded, and God instructs Noah and his family to be "fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." Noah's son Ham dishonored his father, and a curse fell upon Ham and his descendants. His sin had far-reaching effects, for the descendants of Ham founded the nations which gave Israel most of its troubles down through history. One particular descendant of Ham was a man named Nimrod. Genesis 10:8 and 10: "Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. V. 10: "and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar." Take note of the land of Shinar, which is one description of the Euphrates area. In chapter 11 of Genesis, we read of the first organized rebellion against God after the flood. This involved the construction of the Tower of Babel. The people, under the leadership of Nimrod, rather than obeying the command of God to spread out and populate the whole earth, decided to congregate in the plain of Shinar and build a tower to reach to God. This was an expression of the pride of man and opposition to God's plan. They desired to "make a name for themselves," to become great. Isn't that the lure of sin? "Don't follow God's way; discover your own way!" God took punitive action: He confused the languages and the people scattered. In the 1980's, Saddam Hussain began to rebuild the city of Babylon. His plan was to include a great tower. This was the prominent feature in Nimrod's Babylon, the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, and will be in the Babylon of the future. Saddam's plan was halted by the recent was, but it is significant that as recently as March of this year, one publication stated, "A new World Monuments Fund (WMF) project in Babylon, funded as part of a $3 million donation by the US embassy in Baghdad first bestowed in 2018, aims to repair and restore the famed Ishtar Gate by this summer. The new initiative is part of the World Monuments Fund's 15-year commitment to conservation efforts as part of its Future of Babylon project, initiated in 2008. Collaborating with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) until 2015, the WMF performed extensive surveys and documentation and developed conservation plans."1 This rebuilding project is significant for Babylon figures heavily in end-times prophesy. In contrast to Babylon, "the city of man" as we can call it, stands the "city of God" which is Jerusalem. We know Jerusalem flourished and became great when God's people obeyed God's commands. God chose Jerusalem to be the place where His great Temple would be built by King David's son Solomon. In contrast to a people who wanted to make their own name great at Babel, God promised Abraham that He would make Abraham's name great. Genesis 12:2: "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing." That promise was repeated to the House of David in 2 Samuel 7: "And I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name." When man tries to make his own name great instead of allowing God to exalt him, he asks for great heartache. The enemy of God has snared so many in this way. This brings up a crucial point in our understanding of Babylon, and that is the power behind it. Let's look at what scripture says about: II. THE KING OF BABYLON In Isaiah 14, the restoration of Israel is promised after God delivers them from Gentile dominance. In verse 4, the people of the restored Nation of Israel are told to take up a taunt against the King of Babylon. Amid verses which easily could apply to an earthly leader comes the verses of 12-15 which cannot apply to anyone except Satan himself. Look at chapter 14, beginning with verse 12 (read through 15). Satan is called the King of Babylon! We begin to understand that why Babylon has special significance in the plan of God's enemy. From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden Satan has been proposing an alternate plan for mankind. As the enemy of God, he is the power behand every pagan religion, every pagan ruler, every earthly dictator who would exalt himself. But especially, Satan is presented as the King of Babylon. It was the plan of Satan coupled with the sin nature of man which resulted in the alternate plan of man at Babel. In Genesis 12, God set into motion His plan to redeem mankind through the family of Abraham. Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, was living in Mesopotamia, along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers when God called him to leave that area and go to a new land. God separated Abram out of the pagan culture which would later become Babylon. He removed him from that influence and took him to the land of Canaan. It was there that God promised to bless him and make of him a mighty nation. During the 400 years Abraham's descendants were in Egypt, Babylon was establishing itself as a nation and center of civilization. It was during this time that great Babylonian king named Hammurabi wrote a code of laws for Babylon, a code seen by scholars as a great development in civilization. Isn't it instructive that soon after, God would give to His people another great code of law far superior to man's way? While Babylon continued its influence in the Euphrates region, for the next 700 years it had little influence on Israel and is missing from the Biblical record. But when the Kingdom of Israel split, and God's people began to turn to pagan gods and reject YHWH, guess who crops up once more in the Biblical record? Babylon! III. THE AGE OF COOPERATION WITH BABYLON It was not until the reign of Judah's King Hezekiah that Babylon came into contact with the Jews in a significant manner. Hezekiah succeeded his wicked father Ahaz Remember it was Ahaz who allied with Assyria against the duel threat of Damascus and Israel who together were attacking Jerusalem. God had repeated warned against alliances with foreign nations and Judah's ally Assyria soon became their enemy. When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah became King. Hezekiah rejected the pagan ways of his father and led a revival in Judah. God miraculously delivered Judah from Assyria in the days of Hezekiah, but the King made a very foolish mistake in his later years. In chapter 39 of Isaiah, we read of Hezekiah becoming very sick, and when he prayed for healing, God gave him an additional 15 years of life. God gave Hezekiah a sign of His intentions to heal him by making the sun back up in the sky. After he had recovered, the King of Babylon sent envoys to Jerusalem with a present for Hezekiah It doesn't take a genius to figure out what was going on. Judah was the only nation which had successfully opposed Assyria and handed them a defeat. Babylon was looking for a strong ally against their common enemy! Soon after this visit Babylon waged war against Assyria. Assyria forged an alliance with Egypt, and as Egyptian forces marched northward, Judah's King Josiah attacked these forces, presumably because of an obligation he felt toward Babylon. Josiah was mortally wounded in the battle, and Judah suffered a terrible defeat. Disobedience to God's instructions always leads to defeat. We don't associate with evil without getting burned. Back to Hezekiah and Babylon: When the Babylonian king's delegation visited him, Hezekiah was flattered. 2 Chronicles 32 tells us the delegation inquired about the miraculous sign of the sun backing up. Hezekiah could have given glory to God; he could have explained that the One True God controls both the movements of the stars as well as giving victory in battle. But instead, Hezekiah took credit himself, and a boastful mood, showed the Babylonians all his wealth and treasure. He was trying to make a name for himself. Once again, we see pride and its results. God's response is recorded in Isaiah 39:3-8 (READ). All the treasure would be taken by Babylon, along with many of the royal family. Daniel and others were taken about 100 years later. Soon the age of cooperation with Babylon became... IV. THE AGE OF CONFRONTATION We know from history that Babylon soon became an adversary to Judah. After a short revival under King Josiah, Judah lapsed into flagrant idolatry, and God's judgment fell. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in 605 B.C, installing puppet kings; as a result of an ill-fated rebellion, Jerusalem fell in 586; the city and the Temple were destroyed, and Judah was led into exile for 70 years. The "Age of the Gentiles" had begun. Yet, although God may allow His chosen nation to be disciplined by other nations, those nations will be judged for their treatment of the Jews. This is the message of Isaiah 13-14. God's plan will not be thwarted by that of the enemy. It may appear as if the city of man had gained victory over the city of God, but it was all part of God's plan. God was going to send a deliverer, a Messiah who would establish an everlasting Kingdom. In the fullness of time, God sent the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior of all mankind. As Isaiah predicted, and Daniel foretold, Babylon itself soon fell to the powerful empire of the Medes and Persians, its glory lasting only about 100 years. By the way, the Persians came from the area now Iran. The ancient rivalry between Babylon (now Iraq) and Persian (Iran) still exists. Persia was conquered by the Greeks, whose empire was conquered by the Romans. What happened to Babylon during these years? It gradually declined in splendor and influence as a city, and little is found in references until modern times. Saddam Hussain pictured himself as a second Nebuchadnezzar and began to rebuild the city, restoring its former glory. We all know how that ended! But it seems the present government of Iraq with help from others are determined to rebuild. Isaiah 13:6 speaks to Babylon's destruction: "Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Verse 9: Behold the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it." When the Persians conquered Babylon, they did not destroy the city, but over the years it gradually declined. The overwhelming destruction spoken of by Isaiah awaits the future. This explains the significance of the present rebuilding of the city. We read of the future destruction of Babylon in Revelation 17 and 18. V. MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT In the end times during the Great Tribulation, there will be two great centers of power led by two leaders. The first great leader will be the Antichrist, and indications are that that his base of operations will be somewhere in the footprint of the ancient Roman Empire, the most popular idea being Rome. The Antichrist's right hand man will be a second great leader called "The Prophet" and he will be a religious leader. Babylon will be the center of a world-wide religious system, a joining of all the religious systems under one umbrella. This system will exclude the followers of Christ and will persecute them (Revelation 17:6: And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus...) Verse 18: "The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth." In Chapter 18 of Revelation, we find the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy of the ultimate destruction of Babylon: (Read Revelation 18:1-3). Satan is the power behind Babylon. As we observe efforts to rebuild the city of Babylon today, we sense that the Day of the Lord is nearing. Like the reestablishment of the Nation of Israel, the rebuilding of Babylon sets the stage for the events of the Tribulation Period. What is the takeaway from all this history regarding Babylon? First, we see the sovereignty of God in the affairs of men and nations. God raises up and brings down nations and empires. Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Rome, the Ottoman Turkish empire, Napoleon France, the British Empire, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and while not a stated empire... The United States? We must not trust in governments or politicians or political parties, but in God alone. He has a plan and as believers in Jesus Christ, we are part of that plan. While these days are troubling and chaotic, we can be calm and confident as God's plan unfolds, and we look forward to our Lord's return. Our present task is to spread the Good News of the Gospel, to be light and salt where we are and among the people we know. This world is the Kingdom of God's Enemy Satan, so we are not to love the world and the things that are in the world. There is nothing which must happen before the Rapture of the Church: all further preparations could occur after the Rapture, and in fact would be accelerated and helped along by the chaos cause by that event. The question before us today is simply this: Are you ready? 1 The Art Newspaper; March 24, 2022 article by Hadani Ditmars: "Babylon is coming back to life with its fames Ishtar Gate to be restored by this summer"; --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ 2
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