How many times have you heard someone declare belief in particular thing, then watch them go and act in way absolutely opposite? Exercise is important, then go sit on couch watching tv, munching on chips and soda. Believe cigarettes are harmful, then light one up. Safety is definitely important, then text or do makeup or tie necktie while driving. List is endless, isn’t it! Just one more: Believe in God, act like an atheist. Now, here’s really sad part: not a new problem. Throughout millennia, generation after generation, people have been behaving that way. In words of Isaiah, they “did not take these things to heart”, just as Babylonians.
“To “place upon the heart” involves giving thought to something and acting in accordance with that thought.” E J Young Too many people regardless of age or social status or spiritual condition think about a lot of things but then don’t act accordingly. As people of God we should not be like that – should think about what we say we believe, then act in way consistent with such a belief. Babylon, then, is model of what we should NOT do.
Isaiah by virtue of prophetic insight given to him by God speaks with divine authority about what will occur at future time to nation that wasn’t at time of writing. Target audience was Jewish people, not Babylonians; primary purpose to warn Jews about consequences of unbelief, offer hope and comfort to those who had faith in their covenant God, the Holy One of Israel. So there’s no question about God’s justice, speaks of Babylon’s sinful behavior. Then identifies Babylon’s blindness and her bane, that which would destroy her. Finally he provides hope for God’s people.
A. Babylon’s behavior
1. luxury v.1,8
tender and delicate (1) – rise to importance, becoming world power was quick and dramatic. From being a vassal and paying tribute to another empire, became economic powerhouse almost overnight. Just like those who win the lottery, people ate it up, denying themselves nothing.
given to pleasures (8) – lived modern slogan in another era, “If it feels good, do it”. If money could buy it, was theirs. Did little or nothing for themselves, paid others to do for them, living in lap of luxury.
2. pride and ambition v.6-8,10
showed no mercy (6) – acted as those above the law, not required to act in accord with local or internationally recognized standards. Thought they could treat POW’s however they wished and no one could call to account.
a lady forever (7) – refused to even consider that the good times would end. Their domination of the ancient world a sure thing, would go on and on forever without interruption.
sit securely (8) – prosperity and accomplishments gave strong sense of security to people. Had risen to level of power and influence thought they were immune to hardship. Stock market would keep on ticking, dough keep rolling in, life was good and would keep on that way.
“I am” (8, 10) – here is pride to the nth degree; Babylon taking to herself an exalted position over all other powers, parroting Jehovah God’s description of himself (Isa. 45:6, 22). Because of exalted view of position, believed that calamity would never come: never lose preeminent standing or her legacy.
3. superstition v.9,12,13
your sorceries (9, 12) relying on spells and charms to bring good fortune, ward off evil, guide in mapping out plans. Doing what was expressly forbidden by God – dabbling in witchcraft, consulting mediums, playing with Ouija boards and tarot cards and tea leaves.
your enchantments (9, 12) expecting a rabbit’s foot or charm bracelet or crystal or potion to exert power over unseen forces
astrologers, stargazers, monthly prognosticators (13) demonstrating belief that stars and planets control human affairs. Checking out daily horoscope in newspaper to be sure of making right decisions. Not just an issue for common person; reliance on false science / religion endemic in all levels of society.
4. worldly wisdom v.10,13
“self-professed” wisdom and knowledge (10) – trusting in own wisdom had seared conscience to point they were complacent in their wickedness – nobody can see me. Believed they knew more than anyone else, could not be taken in by anyone. Yet like all worldly wisdom it led them down wrong path, not path to truth.
multitude of counsels (13) – everyone giving advice and much of it conflicting; had become hindrance rather than help.
B. Babylon’s blindness v.7b,11
did not take it to heart (7b) – even though truth right in front of them, could not see it. And what they could see, they redefined – putting spin on it so it would support the choices they wanted to make. No secret that other nations had risen to power and influence just like Babylon; hadn’t stayed at top of the heap, had been replaced. No just reason to think Babylon would be immune. Yet Babylon didn’t see truth of history and then apply it to their own situation.
you shall not know (11) – blindness would persist to bitter end; destruction would come and they wouldn’t know what hit them or where it came from. Persistent unbelief and willful disobedience would bring blindness and they wouldn’t even know they were blind. In addition to blindness, they would be powerless to defend against calamity. We know the sequel to the prophecy: the very night Daniel was called on to read handwriting on wall, Belshazzar lost his kingdom and his life. Without warning, Darius the Mede and army diverted the Euphrates river, marched under wall and took city without a fight.
C. Babylon’s bane v.1-3,5,9,11
without a throne (1) – wrenched from most luxurious throne in the world and made to sit on the ground
humiliation (2) – required to serve themselves and others with no one to serve them, trying to meet simple basic needs
shame (3) – stripped of all the finery, true inward (rotten) condition revealed to all the world, brought about by hand of God
obscurity (5) – no longer prominent power, reduced to obscurity: Babylon WHO??
insignificance (9) – just as husband and children of primary significance to woman, those things that gave significance to Babylon would be removed.
evil, trouble, desolation (11) – abasement would be complete: characterized by disaster, destruction and calamity. No holds barred, overthrow would be irreversible and permanent with no way to save face.
useless faith (14-15a) – ones they had trusted in – astrologers, etc – would be destroyed. Could provide no real help in good times, would provide no benefit even in destruction.
D. Israel’s blessing v.15b,4
no one to save Babylon (15b) – God gives final word of condemnation: “there is no one to save you”. Babylon shouldn’t waste energy on hoping for deliverance – no one could, no one would rescue them from calamity. Just as God had used them as his instrument for punishing Israel (6), so God would bring just judgment on Babylon for their sinful behavior.
OTOH, our Redeemer (4) No light at the end of the tunnel for Babylon, only silence and darkness (5). But,… Israel does have a Redeemer and we know his name: Yahweh Tsaba, Lord of Hosts. Lord who would bring his army against Babylon and accomplish her utter defeat is same Lord who would rescue his people from captivity. In larger picture, Lord could be counted on to deliver people from both exile in Babylon and exile in sin. Moving his people back to homeland integral part of God’s plan for their Redeemer to be born in Bethlehem to a descendant of David in the tribe of Judah.
Babylon did NOT take it to heart – and they had no redeemer; Israel SHOULD take it to heart – they have a Redeemer, one who was first promised in the Garden to our first parents. History contains repeated evidence of God’s faithfulness to his promises and his people. His name makes it clear he has the power to deliver his people from all their enemies. His name also makes clear his purpose for his people: the Holy One of Israel intends to make his people holy. Their time in exile as well as deliverance from captivity were both designed by God to move them along road to holiness, purity as people of God.
We have 2600 additional years of God showing his continued faithfulness – orchestrating the lives of his people for their good and his glory. We should consider all that we know of God and his loyal love to us, his people, and take it to heart. We say we believe in God and we believe God and we believe God is faithful and we believe God is our Redeemer. We must take it to heart, act as if we are convinced of these truths.