Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 14 2019 - Isaiah 47 – The fall of Babylon

God used Babylon as an instrument of judgment upon his faithless kingdom of Judah. They were unaware that the living God was directing their hand; they had been driven only by the desire for their own wealth and power, and had violently crushed those who stood in their way. God says:

I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance;
I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy.
Even on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke. (v.6)

They had boasted that their power would last for ever – like the boast of the Nazi regime that theirs was a Reich that would last a thousand years. But they had failed to consider that the power by which they had subdued other nations might as easily be used to subdue them (v. 7).

In this chapter God declares that just as he gave Judah into the hand of Babylon, so now he will bring others to destroy their kingdom. Their glory will be reduced to dust (v. 1). Their pride will be turned to shame (v.3). Their proud boast in days past, "I am, and there is none besides me" (v. 8, repeated in v. 10), is blasphemous, for it can only rightly be made by the living God. Babylon boasts, "I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children", but both of these disasters will overtake her in one day. The great city of Babylon and its people will both be destroyed. No amount of their magic spells or appeals to their idol-gods will be able to protect them from disaster.

Babylon is later used in the Book of Revelation as a picture for human empire which seeks to depose God and declare itself to be the power that determines the destiny of humankind. Such power typically seeks to suppress and even destroy those who worship the living God – they are seen as threats to its own claim to power. In the days of the New Testament, the Roman Empire was such a power and Rome is referred to as "Babylon" (1 Peter 5:13; Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:1,5, and especially chapter 18).

The words of judgment upon Babylon both in this chapter and in the Book of Revelation do not apply only to ancient and long gone empires, they are warnings also to contemporary regimes, of whatever political flavour, which seek to impose their power over others by oppression, intimidation and injustice. They are warnings particularly for those regimes that oppress God's people and seek to stamp out the Christian faith. God is in control of all human history and will not allow such regimes to exalt themselves for long. In the end, as God has declared, the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of the Lamb.

God's ultimate purpose is for a world marked by justice and peace; a world in which people will be the source of blessing to one another rather than exploiting one another. In Isaiah 47, God proclaims his judgment on Babylon in order to bring his people out of captivity and return them to the land he had promised to give them. In the cross of the Lord Jesus, the living God permits his Son to suffer the injustice and violence of the powers of this world, particularly the power of Rome, and through his resurrection he breaks those powers. The closing chapters of Revelation picture a day when all human oppression and injustice will be swept away and when the whole of creation will be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Father God, we thank you that, through the death and resurrection of your Son, you have set us free from the oppressive regime of sin and death. Lord Jesus, we long for the day of your return when oppression will cease and the deep hurts of our world shall at last be healed. Give us the wisdom to live now as those who belong to a better kingdom. By your Spirit, teach us how to withstand the subtle pressure to conform to the patterns of this world and how to bear gracious witness to the transforming and healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to bring healing to our world rather than to increase its hurts.

Peter Misselbrook