thoughts on babylon

 

Readings—Isaiah 46, Revelation 3

My Dear Brethren and Sisters,

As a remnant whom the Lord has preserved in these latter days in His mercy and grace, we can gain instruction through the words of Isaiah addressed to the remnant of Israel in his day:

“Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages [were] heavy laden; [they are] a burden to the weary [beast].  They stoop, they bow down together: they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.  Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne [by me] from the belly, which are carried from the womb: and [even] to [your] old age I [am] he; and [even] to hoar hairs will I carry [you]:  I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver [you]” (Isa. 46:1-4).

Thus Yahweh invites comparison between Himself as One, who from the call of Abraham and the giving to him of His great and precious promises concerning the everlasting inheritance by him and his seed of the land of his sojourning, had caused miraculously the birth of the nation through Isaac, and had brought them out from the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and a stretched out arm, had planted them in the land of promise, and had wrought signs and wonders for their preservation in Isaiah’s day; and Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon, who could not carry themselves, let alone those who trusted in them.  Well might God say these words to them:

“To whom will ye liken me, and make [me] equal, and compare me, that we may be like? …  Remember the former things of old: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else: [I am] God, and [there is] none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [the things] that are not [yet] done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure”  (Isa. 46:5, 9-10).

He invited the remnant of Israel to consider the folly of making graven images, and the wisdom of casting aside the gods of Babylon, who could not deliver them who put their trust in them.  These things were written for our learning who have entered into the same everlasting covenant as Israel.  We are not surrounded by graven images, but we are with a system of idolatrous worship identical with the old Babylonian worship of Bel and Nebo.  There is the same urgent need for us to separate from it as there was for Israel in Isaiah’s day.  The God of Israel appeals to us also to trust in Him, and He will bear us and carry us from our birth in the truth to old age.  Well might we trust in Him, when we remember what He did for His people in the days of old.  But, coupled with God’s denunciation of the worship of Bel and Nebo, was His threatened judgment upon ancient Babylon because of her idolatry, living in pleasure and afflicting of His people Israel.  To rightly appreciate the fulfilment of His counsel and pleasure upon her, we have to realise that Isaiah was writing some 150 years, or so, before Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar attained to the height of her power and magnificence.  Not for nothing does the Bible describe her as the Chaldean excellency, nor did Nebuchadnezzar unwarrantly boast:

“… is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and the honour of my majesty? (Dan. 4:30)

With her impregnable walls 300 ft high, enclosing 200 square miles, her hanging gardens of trees and flowers on arches 75 ft high, her temple to Bel, built of 8 pyramids, with a stature of Bel on top 40 ft high made of solid gold, her learning far above other nations, she was the greatest city the earth has ever seen.  Who but Him who sees the end from the beginning could have predicted her utter overthrow and destruction, by Isaiah, so many years before.  As the ravenous bird from the east, the man that executes God’s counsel:

“Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken [it], I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed [it], I will also do it” (Isa. 46:11).

A NIGHT OF FEASTING

Cyrus the Persian, whose name means “the Heir” came against Babylon and entered into it through the strategum of diverting the Euphrates, and thus enabling his army to march up the dry bed of the river.  The state of Babylon on that night of destruction is given us in Daniel 5:

“Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.  Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the Temple, which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.  Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem, and the king and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drink in them.  They drank wine, nad praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. (Dan. 5:1-4),

It was a night of feasting to Bel of careless pleasure of contempt for the God of heaven, in the vessels of whose Temple they drank wine, a deliberate insult to Him. Well might the angel write the judgement of Babylon upon the wall: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.”  The stern words of Daniel to Belshazzar were justified:

“And thou, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before thee, and thou, and thy Lords, thy wives and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver and gold, or brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know; and the God in whose hand thy breath [is], and whose [are] all they ways, hast thou not glorified” (Dan. 5:22-23).

God indeed numbered the kingdom and brought it to an end.  It was weighed in the balance of the Word of God and was found wanting. And as a result, divided.  A thought by the way, is that “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin,” in Babylonian, measures 2520 the seven times of the kingdom.  The judgment of God was prompt.  As Isaiah had said:

“Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold of me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing [of it]; I was dismayed at the seeing [of it].  My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me” (Isa. 21:3).

THE FALL OF KING BELSHAZZAR

The night of pleasure was turned into fear by the entrance of Cyrus suddenly into Babylon, and Belshazzar was slain together with his mighty men, in their drunken feasting.  They are sleeping a perpetual sleep, and shall not awake.  The ground of ancient Babylon’s condemnation is given us in Isaiah 47 as being the persecution of Israel, and failure to remember God’s purpose with them in their latter end:

“I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst show them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.  And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: [so] that thou didst not lay these [things] to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it” (Isa. 47:6-7).

In the next verse as being wholly given to pleasure:

“therefore, hear now this, [thou that art] given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I [am], and none else beside me; I shall not sit [as] a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children” (Isa. 47:8)

In verse 10 as trusting in her wickedness, and being perverted by their wisdom and knowledge.

“For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me.  Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I [am], and none else beside me” (Isa. 47:10).

It gives us a picture of a city dwelling carelessly with no thought of the God of heaven, wholly given to pleasure and trusting in the power of human institutions.  Judgment came suddenly upon her, for Cyrus the Persian and his sanctified ones entered into Babylon like a thief in the night.  What the Lord has spoken by the prophets concerning ancient Babylon, is deeply instructive for us in these latter days, for though nothing remains of Babylon by the Euphrates but a burned mound, there is a mystical Babylon, whose wine of fornication have made all nations drunk.  The idolatry of Babylon did not perish with her, but has passed successively  through Egypt, Greece and Rome to all nations.  Wherever the Chaldean mysteries have come, there is Babylon in the Scriptural sense—of Babylon the Great of the latter days, ther eis much written in Revelation 18, that identifies her with the Babylon of antiquity:

“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babyon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of ever foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.  For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.  And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues … therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong [is] the Lord God who judgeth her” (Rev. 18:2-8).

We could quote much else as proof of identification.  Christendom and all other nations of the earth is nothing more than ancient Babylon in an ecclesiastical and scientific garb.  The same lack of reverence for the God of Jerusalem prevail, the same despising of His truth as centred in Israel and the Saints, the same hatred of His people, the same giving over wholly to pleasure and wickedness.  What remains therefore, but judgment to come upon her as upon Babylon of Daniel’s day, by One, who as the heir of all the nations of the earth, shall with his saints enter into her suddenly.  And, it is this aspect of the present troubled situation that we shall proceed to consider in the next issue, if the Lord permit.

(To be Continued)

Ben Williams