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Bible study

Bible Study – Babylon is fallen (Isaiah 47:10-11)

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 47-51

Today’s Reflection: Isaiah 47:10-11

10) 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.”  11) 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.

What is this text saying?

In chapter 47 of Isaiah, the prophet is foretelling the fall and destruction of Babylon because of their wickedness and refusal to acknowledge God.  Babylon was the dominant world power at that time, and it had dominion over Judah, something which God Himself had caused (explained in Isaiah 47:6 and 2 Chronicles 36:15-20).

Why is it important?

Babylon is one of the most significant ancient kingdoms because it is used as an example of the pride, decadence and wickedness that would exist in the world at the time of Jesus Christ’s return.  Revelations chapter 18 is a prophesy of the downfall of the dominant world power at the end of time, and it refers to this nation by the name ‘Babylon’.

‘Babylon’ is the Greek version of the Hebrew word ‘Babel’, so to fully understand what Babylon symbolizes we have to go back to the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9.  Several generations after the flood of the entire earth (in Genesis 7) a group of people gathered to build a tower that would ascend into the heavens.  God disrupted their efforts by turning the one language spoken on the earth at that time into many languages.  The confusion of being unable to communicate caused the building to stop and the people to be scattered around the world.  What does this story tell us about Babylon?

1) Babylon represents not believing God or his promises.

Part of the reason for building this tower ascending into the heavens was to have a defense against another worldwide flood.  Since God had already promised that such a flood would never happen again (Genesis 8:21-22) this fear and the effort put behind it shows a complete mistrust and disregard for God’s Word on the part of the Tower of Babel’s builders.

2) Babylon represents man creating his own way and calling it ‘good’, regardless of God’s law or will.

After choosing to disregard God’s promise, the people of Babel created their own solution to the perceived problem.  They didn’t consider the actual cause of the flood—which was man’s sinfulness, wickedness, evil, and complete disregard for the God who created them, attitudes that were destroying them and their world.  Instead they looked to a solution that wouldn’t require any change in behaviour or moral character, but would spare them the consequences IF they came in the form of another flood.

3) Babylon represents the confusion that occurs when man lives by his own will instead of by God’s wisdom.

People will inevitably come into conflict with each other when guided by their own greed, passions and desires.  The only truly unifying force among men, that guides people to make decisions that value and affirm others as much as themselves, that bring them into harmony, is the leading of the Holy Spirit.

How can I apply this?

Recognize the Babylonian mindset in the world around you today and determine not to be influenced by it.

Our societies today, in the wealthy North American / Western European region, have decided they do not need God.  They trot Him out at convenient events (like weddings, baby dedications, and funerals) and claim His approval and sanction (for governments, nations and wars).  But our societies cater to people’s lusts and greed, so they have no place for God’s law or God’s version of love.

Our societies have created a way of life that doesn’t require one to consider God at all.  If you live and work within the downtown core of a city you may rarely even see any of the natural world, which affirms the creative power, authority and dominion of God.  Furthermore our society feels secure in its godlessness, and acts as though nothing can disrupt it’s standing in the world.  It is like Isaiah describes in 47:10: 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.”  It is prudent to note that Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome all thought their empires would never see an end.  Why would we be any different?

Our societies are confused. Politicians would rather gain advantage over rivals than serve the people who elected them.  Companies ship jobs overseas to increase profits, abandoning loyal local employees so they can no longer afford their products.  Parents look at children as a burden rather than a blessing.  Human life is another commodity to be used up—enslaved by overwork, sexually exploited, sacrificed in wars that have nothing to do with justice, or discarded like refuse on the streets.

Our societies are always shocked when destruction comes upon them.  From Hurricane Katrina, to 9-11, to the BP oil spill, disaster seems to always strike without warning and make escape from it’s horrors impossible.  Isaiah 47:11 warns that ‘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.’  This warning is very reflective of the feeling of fear in our societies today.

Most of all, our societies are in need of knowing there is another way.  A much better way.  The way of God’s coming Kingdom.  Let us live out the example of the abundant life Jesus modeled for us.  A life that doesn’t fear the way unbelievers do (Jeremiah 10:2).  Rather than chasing after the things of this world let us put the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first, understanding that anything else we require will also be freely given to us (Matthew 6:33).

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