Isaiah 47-48, "Babylon has Fallen...Get Out!"
Isaiah • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 33:33
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Where were you when...
Kennedy was shot
The last Americans left Vietnam
The Challenger exploded
The Berlin Wall came down
The World Trade Centers were attacked
America shut down for the pandemic of 2020
All of these are events we will remember forever because they mark the downfall of some system we all rely on: political leaders, military power, technology, unifying ideology, intelligence, healthcare and policy-making.
But what if the system that runs the whole world collapsed all at once? What would the headlines be? What kind of public angst would that create?
What we will see today is that they kingdoms of man are doomed, but we don’t have to go down with them. In fact, by refusing to live by the system, we will have greater prosperity and peace.
Isaiah 47-48 is the prophecy of the downfall of Babylon and the implications for the people of God. The language of 47:1-3 is the same language the LORD was using toward Jerusalem and Judah in the opening chapters of Isaiah. When Yahweh is done disciplining His children, He will bring justice to the nations that oppressed them. Babylon was His chosen instrument of discipline, but they added to His plan by unnecessary oppression. Yahweh speaks directly to the Babylonians.
Isaiah 47:6 (ESV)
I was angry with my people; I profaned my heritage; I gave them into your hand;
you showed them no mercy; on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.
To give us some context, in the Bible, Babylon is a real city and empire, but is also a type for a worldwide system. It is an integrated governmental (47:1, 5), financial (47:15), educational (47:13), and religious system (47:9, 11) for people in exile from God. In the Garden of Eden, the first man and woman sinned against God and their punishment was death, which as the story unfolds, is essentially an exile from the Garden, away from the Tree of Life, which is a type for God’s words to humans. The exiled humans go east of Eden, and the city their descendants build is Babylon. It was the city built as a monument to the achievements of man (Genesis 11).
In fact, here in Isaiah 47, Yahweh quotes the general attitude of the Babylon system,
Isaiah 47:8 (ESV)
Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me; I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children”:
That phrase, “I am, and there is no one besides me,” sounds an awful lot like what Yahweh says about Himself. Babylon is man’s replacement of Yahweh as the omnipotent ruler of the world. If the city of God, typified by Jerusalem, is the city built on justice and righteousness, and trusting in the faithfulness and steadfast love of God, then Babylon, the city of man is built on the inverse of all those things. It is built on injustice and unrighteousness, and promises prosperity and peace based on the achievements of man: technology, education, economic growth, etc. And many people get rich from this system of unjust unrighteousness, which keeps it running.
So, when Yahweh tells His redeemed people that the punishment for their sins against Him would be exile in Babylon, this is a severe warning. Babylon is unjust, immoral, and oppressive. The people of God do not fit into the Babylon system. But Babylon doesn’t care.
Isaiah 47:10 (ESV)
You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.”
Babylon doesn’t need God. Babylon has replaced God. We need to reconcile with this fact. The Babylon narrative is that the God of the Bible is a fiction used by Jews and Christians to control other people. You don’t need God to have prosperity and peace, you have Babylon.
So, there is an innate opposition. At the end of the Bible, we find Babylon still opposing God. As John writes in the book of Revelation,
Revelation 18:24 (ESV)
And in her (Babylon) was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
As Jesus’ brother James puts it,
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James must have read Isaiah. You can try to fit in, but if you are God’s redeemed, you will not succeed. But you aren’t supposed to fit in. You are an ambassador for the kingdom of God, and you are an agent of change in a world that doesn’t want to change.
Because God is just and Babylon is unjust, Babylon is doomed.
Isaiah 47:11 (ESV)
But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone;
and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing.
The all-consuming fire that is the presence of God is going to visit this world, and
Isaiah 47:14 (ESV)
Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame.
No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!
Babylon makes idols of comfort and prosperity. But God will disrupt that comfort. He doesn’t share space with idols. Babylon must fall to make room for His kingdom, which is coming more fully as we continue through the prophecy of Isaiah. The All-consuming Fire will destroy all the comforts and prosperity and make light of the power Babylon deceived herself into thinking she had.
When that day comes, you had better hope you don’t live in Babylon. So the message to the people of God in Isaiah, and in Revelation, is “get out”.
Revelation 18:4 (ESV)
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
Or in the case Israel, thus says the LORD,
Isaiah 48:20 (ESV)
Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth;
say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
We could read this as another promise from God that He will regather and restore Israel from exile. But if we read in Revelation that Babylon is still running the world and the redeemed people of God are still called by God to get out, maybe something else is going on.
How do you come out of a system that runs the world? Where would you go? Maybe getting out of Babylon has less to do with where you live than the way you live.
Babylon is not a place. Babylon is a refining process. It isn’t your final destination. It isn’t meant to be your home. God uses the kingdoms of men to refine our faith in Him. With so many options available to me for my prosperity and peace - education, stock markets, political platforms, technological and medical advancements, will I trust in God alone? Living in Babylon refines our faith.
Isaiah 48:9 (ESV)
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.
Isaiah 48:10 (ESV)
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
Isaiah 48:11 (ESV)
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
God refines His people in Babylon, not to cut them off, but that they would learn to give glory to His name in a world that seeks glory for men.
Will Israel live in a world that demands allegiance to its system and give their allegiance instead to God by obeying His word?
Isaiah 48:12–13 (ESV)
“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called!
I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.
My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.
So, inanimate matter responds to God’s voice. But will Israel listen? This is the test of faith that Israel has failed over and over. As Yahweh says in 48:3-5
Isaiah 48:3–5 (ESV)
“The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old,
before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’
Stiff-necked and thick people who would rather turn to idols than simply listen and obey their Father. But He is a gracious Father; He keeps speaking. In a world of distractions, He’s trying to get their attention.
Isaiah 48:14 (ESV)
“Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things?
The Lord loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
Isaiah 48:15 (ESV)
I, even I, have spoken and called him;
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.
Isaiah 48:16 (ESV)
Draw near to me, hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.”
And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.
Isaiah 48:17 (ESV)
Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
Isaiah 48:18 (ESV)
Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;
Prosperity and peace come from listening to the voice of Yahweh and paying attention to His commandments. He takes care of His children. If He calls them to leave Babylon, He will provide what they need along the way back to Jerusalem, see 48:20-21.
Isaiah 48:22 (ESV)
“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
For those that continue to live a Babylon way of life, there is no peace.
So, what does it mean to get out of Babylon? It means that we listen to and obey the voice of God while living in a world that does not want or need God. Getting out of Babylon is a daily and lifelong process of praying with your Bible open, listening for the voice of the Spirit of God for your next step of obedience to Jesus. This is the message of Isaiah and the book of Revelation.
Revelation 18 parallels Isaiah 47, declaring the fall of Babylon. But it also declares the fulfillment. Babylon has fallen.
Revelation 18:2–5 (ESV)
And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven,and God has remembered her iniquities.
If Babylon is still operating, how can it have fallen? God has pronounced His judgment. It is for His people and against Babylon.
Revelation 18:20 (ESV)
Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
When did God judge Babylon? When Jesus took all the injustice and immorality of the world upon Himself on the cross and died, He condemned it. And when Jesus was raised He overcame its power over humans who will unite themselves to Christ. In Jesus’ ascension, He took authority to rule over this world and has cast out its ruler from his place of authority and now the devil is waging an insurrection, but will not win. (See John 12.)
So the basic message is, Babylon has fallen. Do not live a Babylon life anymore. Prosperity and peace do not come from economic comfort and technological advancements. Your fullest life can be lived in a Babylon world when you don’t try to fit in. But when you give your allegiance to Jesus and live by His commandments.
Live in Christ and you will overcome Babylon. Overcome her injustice with justice by the presence and power of Christ in you. Overcome her oppression with love. Overcome her immortality with holiness. Overcome her corruption with the fruit of the Spirit. Overcome her values for power, wealth, popularity with the values of Jesus, being willing to die to self and your rights to lift others up that they may see Jesus crucified, raised, and lifted up in your life.
Questions for Discussion
What are the most significant world-changing events of your lifetime?
How did they change the way you think about how the world works?
Why does God pronounce the downfall of Babylon but allow it to still operate in our world?
What are the ways Israel’s exile in Babylon refined them? Is there a parallel for us as Christians?
What are ways God uses our time in this world to refine our faith?
Are there ways Christians sometimes live according to Babylon’s values?
What are some commandments of God in His word that help us overcome the world?
How does the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and ascended overcome Babylon in our lives and in our world?
How will you respond to this passage this week?
Who is someone you can share this passage with this week?