Saturday in the First Week of Advent

Isaiah 21:1-10

Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! … For all the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living … Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come” (Revelation 18:2a, 3, 10).  The fall of Babylon in the Book of Revelation is practically the climax of that great drama.  In Revelation, Babylon represents the city of Rome of John’s day, but also the wicked world system, any city or nation that corrupts its people by enticing them to worldliness, such as greed and sexual immorality, all of which is idolatry.  God’s people are called to “come out of her … lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (18:4).

Isaiah actually lived before the rise of the Babylonian empire.  He lived most of his life in the eighth century, B.C., when Assyria was the Mediterranean world’s dominant force.  Babylon did not rise to world status until the seventh century when it conquered Assyria’s capital, Nineveh, in 612 B.C.  This shows us why these men were called prophets.  They were prophets first and foremost because they spoke the word of the Lord to the people.  Most of the time that word took the form of some message of repentance.  But often the Lord gave these men (and some women) the knowledge of future events.  Here, Isaiah foresaw the rise and fall of Babylon (Babylon fell to the Persians in 539 B.C., also see Isaiah 13, 14, 47 for more on Babylon).

It is this nation that is spoken of in the passage above, which later becomes the quintessential code name in the Bible for the wicked world system that fallen man cannot help but create.  The “watchman” cries out, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon, and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground.”  Isaiah records the event as earth-shattering, as indeed it would have been.  The collapse of a nation or world empire is always accompanied by social dislocation and turmoil.  But it’s interesting that Revelation 18-19 sees the fall of “Babylon” in a different light.  Oh, indeed, the nations tremble.  The kings, the merchants, the sailors, all those who profited from the world system, mourn her fall.  But God’s people see it differently: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just; for He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality and has avenged on her the blood of His servants … Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”

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