Read Isaiah 47
The Fall of Babylon
47 “Go down, sit in the dust,
Virgin Daughter Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne,
queen city of the Babylonians.
No more will you be called
tender or delicate.
2 Take millstones and grind flour;
take off your veil.
Lift up your skirts, bare your legs,
and wade through the streams.
3 Your nakedness will be exposed
and your shame uncovered.
I will take vengeance;
I will spare no one.”
4 Our Redeemer—the Lord Almighty is his name—
is the Holy One of Israel.
5 “Sit in silence, go into darkness,
queen city of the Babylonians;
no more will you be called
queen of kingdoms.
6 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.
7 You said, ‘I am forever—
the eternal queen!’
But you did not consider these things
or reflect on what might happen.
8 “Now then, listen, you lover of pleasure,
lounging in your security
and saying to yourself,
‘I am, and there is none besides me.
I will never be a widow
or suffer the loss of children.’
9 Both of these will overtake you
in a moment, on a single day:
loss of children and widowhood.
They will come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
and all your potent spells.
10 You have trusted in your wickedness
and have said, ‘No one sees me.’
Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you
when you say to yourself,
‘I am, and there is none besides me.’
11 Disaster will come upon you,
and you will not know how to conjure it away.
A calamity will fall upon you
that you cannot ward off with a ransom;
a catastrophe you cannot foresee
will suddenly come upon you.
12 “Keep on, then, with your magic spells
and with your many sorceries,
which you have labored at since childhood.
Perhaps you will succeed,
perhaps you will cause terror.
13 All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!
Let your astrologers come forward,
those stargazers who make predictions month by month,
let them save you from what is coming upon you.
14 Surely they are like stubble;
the fire will burn them up.
They cannot even save themselves
from the power of the flame.
These are not coals for warmth;
this is not a fire to sit by.
15 That is all they are to you—
these you have dealt with
and labored with since childhood.
All of them go on in their error;
there is not one that can save you.
The Babylonian religion was best-known for its polytheistic (“many gods”) system, and recognized thousands of gods including astral deities (v. 13) associated with heavenly bodies (sun god, moon god, morning and evening gods). There was even a god of sin. It was believed that these gods were present in their idols much like a king would reside in the palace. Throughout the Bible, Babylon is regarded as wicked, even engaging in child sacrifice. Nevertheless, God allowed Babylon to invade Israel, and He used Babylon as His instrument to punish Israel for Israel’s many sins.
Unfortunately, when Babylon invaded Israel, the Babylonians were unmerciful, even treating the elderly harshly (v. 6). They behaved this way because they were arrogant (v. 8). They mistakenly believed no one was comparable to them and that they were above calamity. The New English Translation says it this way: “You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me’” (v. 10).
Regarding punishment, we must always remember that God is a God of mercy. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and often delays His judgments in the hope of repentance. God desires “all people to be saved” (even the Babylonians!) and to have “knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). When God acts in judgment, it often upsets human values so people can more easily see their circumstances from a divine perspective and establish a proper sense of values.
Even though God used the Babylonian Empire to discipline the Israelites, He does not ignore the bad behavior of the Babylonians. God the Father will rebuke and correct us out of His love for us, but like the Israelites and the Babylonians, we get to decide how we respond to God’s discipline. Proverbs 12:1 teaches us that, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” In Proverbs 3:11-12 we read, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” God’s discipline is rooted in His love. He wants us to be more like Him because we are His children. Hebrews 12:11 encourages us to remember the fruit of discipline which is “a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” If we take God’s discipline seriously, we will not only find God’s mercy, but also righteousness and peace in abundance!
- What does this chapter of Isaiah teach you about God? What does it teach you about humanity?
- In what ways do you feel God has disciplined you?
- What were the positive benefits of that discipline?
“The author of Hebrews readily admits that discipline is painful (Heb. 10:11). But He also assures us it is profitable. It produces ‘a harvest of righteousness and peace.’ The purpose of God’s discipline is not to punish us but to transform us. He has already meted out punishment for our sins on Jesus at Calvary: ‘The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him’ (Isaiah 53:5). But we must be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. That is the purpose of discipline.”–Jerry Bridges
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