The Prophet Series: Isaiah part 9; chapters 13-14: The Burden of Babylon
The Book of Isaiah is built around three Messianic portraits: the King (chapters 1-37), the Servant (chapters 38-55), and the Anointed Conqueror (chapters 56-66). We continue on looking at the portrait of the King. In this section, the King is going to judge the Gentile nations.
Our prophet makes a significant change in his prophetic verses in chapters 13-23. I would have summarized them all in this installment, but the “I wills” of Satan in chapter 14 prevented me. This section relates God’s dealings with nine Gentile nations. All of them had, more than once, caused Israel to suffer, and some of them are still at it. We have prophecies concerning Babylon (chaps. 13-14); Moab (15, 16); Damascus (17); an unknown maritime power (18); Egypt (19); Egypt and Ethiopia (20); Edom and Arabia (21); and Tyre (23).
The first installment is somewhat unique in that the king of Babylon becomes a type of Satan, and Satan’s fall and judgment is beheld by the eye of the prophet.
A tale of two cities:
Babylon and Jerusalem are displayed in scripture from beginning to end representing the darkness and light that battle throughout human history. The ongoing history of the world produces a global society structured without God, the humanly-made, humanly-centered city, created by human cleverness for human salvation. The small beginnings in Shinar (the Tower of Babel and Nimrod in Gen 11) are thus a microcosm of what the whole earth will be at the end, and the King is going to judge it.
Contemporaneous with the inevitable divine overthrow of Babylon there is created the ‘city of God’, Jerusalem, a new world order constructed by God on His plan, with Himself at the center and from where He reigns over a universe of righteousness and peace.
At the time of prophecy, Babylon was only a small, unknown city amongst other similar cities in the region of Mesopotamia. It would be a century before they became a major power, yet God through Isaiah prophecies their power and destruction.
Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them,
Who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold,
Babylon would be defeated by the Medo-Persian Empire at the Battle of Opis in 539 B.C., approximately 200 years after Isaiah recorded his prophecy. Some centuries later, there would be nothing left of the city, and there still isn’t. It is buried under the silt of the Euphrates and the sands of the Arabian desert. It will be rebuilt, as the city plays a major role during the grim time of the Tribulation, but that is a different city with the same name and a near, but different location, being built on a different site.
Yet, more is here than the Battle of Opis. The picture goes beyond the destruction of Babylon and reveals conditions that will befall all Gentile nations, all of whom will be arrayed against Israel at the end of the Tribulation. Therefore, if the prophecies for the whole of the Gentile nations in the distant future should seem unreal to the hearers, Isaiah offers an interim fulfillment that people can literally watch, and we can literally look back at as historical fact. Babylon was conquered by the Medes. And in ISA 14:24-27, Assyria, masters of the earth, is altogether overthrown.
God provides this same help to our “little faith” along the way (16:13-14; 20:1-6). This is of some importance for if God cannot demonstrate His management of history in what people see before them, why should they trust Him for what they cannot see? God provides a foundation for faith.
We must understand that it is not all individuals that are in view, as if every Roman in the Empire rejected God, but that the way of the nation itself was ungodly, unjust, and dark. And when it comes to the leadership of Gentile nations, likely nine out of ten of the sum of them throughout their history are greedy, arrogant, power driven people who have rejected God’s offer of salvation. The wickedness of these nations eventually cause their economic and military decline as well as the erosion of their unity as greed and pettiness overrules common sense aimed at the good fortune of the common family man, which practices and laws made them a prosperous people to begin with. At some point during their decline, all the nations adopt a certain amount of Antisemitism. When a people get weak enough, they will adopt any lie Satan throws at them, and one of the things he wants more than anything is the death of every Jew. God lumps them all together as corrupt.
They are coming from a far country
From the farthest horizons,
The Lord and His instruments of indignation,
To destroy the whole land.
6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!
It will come as destruction from the Almighty.
7 Therefore all hands will fall limp,
And every man's heart will melt.
8 And they will be terrified,
Pains and anguish will take hold of them;
They will writhe like a woman in labor,
They will look at one another in astonishment,
Their faces aflame.
Thus I will punish the world for its evil,
And the wicked for their iniquity;
I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud,
And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.
How we weep for them all. Silly beings, thinking themselves so wise and wonderful when the mirror of frailty, sin, and inadequacy stares back at them, obvious to their eyes.
The Apostle John would behold what his brother Isaiah did many years before:
And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?"
I know that I cannot save anyone, but I must admit that in soberly reading these passages that I feel that I must be more prudent as a witness and evangelist (though I continue to sit alone at my desk). I pray I remember them well when I am confronted with one of their number.
Isaiah affirms that the Lord is really and truly ruling history and guiding it to His predetermined end. The human mind cannot always trace out the course of the divine purposes, and often the believing mind cannot but agree that everything looks like a terrifying mess. But beyond that, the still small voice whispers, ‘nevertheless’ into the ear of the faithful, which only faith can hear and speak of, and we are assured that everything is in the hand of God.
Vv. 19-22 reveal that the beautiful Babylon, that jewel of the Shinar plain, would be reduced to nothing and that not even a tent would be pitched there. This has all become painfully fulfilled. [It is interesting to note that in vs. 21, “shaggy goats” is a Hebrew word that depicts demons, which is why, I assume, the devil and his demons are often depicted as goats. If we take this rendering, then God is saying that goat-demons will dance in the ruins of Babylon.]
Chapter 14: God links Israel’s future with Babylon’s doom.
When the Lord will have compassion on Jacob, and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land, then strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the peoples will take them along and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them as an inheritance in the land of the Lord as male servants and female servants; and they will take their captors captive, and will rule over their oppressors.
Israel returns, which makes this the Second Coming of Christ. The Gentiles will cleave to them and become their servants. Those who were Israel’s oppressors, their children will become Israel’s servants.
Captor-captive roles are reversed (14:2) and the power that overthrows nations, gathers nations, breaks kings, and ends empires is a power of compassion to His people.
In vv. 3-8, Israel will speak a truism or proverb to the serving nations concerning God’s judgment [NASB calls it a taunt, which misses the scope of the word]. The truth is, ‘You who thought you were high, were brought low. The exalted are God’s children alone.’ Captor-captive roles are reversed.
God’s evaluation of all Gentile nations in chapter 13 concludes general wickedness, and in 14:9-15 we discover the one who was behind them, motivating them, promising them, and eventually killing them, Lucifer, the star of the morning.
Satan is the power behind all corruption. He is the one who has “weakened the nations.” He can’t force anyone to such pettiness, but he can motivate them while promising them the moon, and so many of them take the bait.
"How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
13 "But you said in your heart,
'I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
14 'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.'
15 "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.
The “I will” to be like the Most High is the same thing that Satan tempted the woman with in the Garden. He told her that if she ate she would be like God. From what happens to the human race after believing that lie shows us that an attitude of wanting to be our own gods can only lead to sin, destruction, murder, enslavement, and death, i.e. complete darkness. God loves light, and His perfect love must judge that darkness.
Satan’s rebellion was not alone. He has other angels with him, MAT 25:41; REV 12:7-9. They have been defeated by Christ as was foretold in GEN 3:15, the protevangelium, the first mention of the gospel. For a time they are allowed to continue weakening the nations. God’s victory will come, just as Babylon and Assyria are no more and Israel continues on.
I am sad for our nation. She is the most economically prosperous she has been in her history, and therefore in the history of the world, but her people are isolated and lonely in their overwhelming technology addiction. Birth rates decline due to lack of health and a decline in the desire to marry and start families. Health decreases as we sit on our derrieres clicking plastic mice, looking at screens while the beautiful outdoors are untrodden. Minds are poisoned with untruths that are easily checked but go unchecked and swallowed. Yet the US, like all nations, will be judged in the end as corrupt, not all of her people, but the nation in general. Our citizenship is not on her soil but somewhere in heaven. Our place is at the right hand of God with our Lord. Our country is a nation of priests unto the Lord, the Kingdom of God. Let us pray for our neighbors that they may also believe and see His precious kingdom and be delivered from the wrath that is sure to come.
Vv. 16-23 a very poetically described destruction . The pride of the world ends in complete destruction.
Vs. 24. Everything God says will come to pass.
The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,
Come Lord Jesus,
Pastor Joe Sugrue