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.
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:
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!
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.