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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,
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)
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