1 An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw:
2 Raise a banner on a bare hilltop,
shout to them;
beckon to them
to enter the gates of the nobles.
3 I have commanded my holy ones;
I have summoned my warriors to carry out my wrath—
those who rejoice in my triumph.
4 Listen, a noise on the mountains,
like that of a great multitude!
Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms,
like nations massing together!
The LORD Almighty is mustering
an army for war.
5 They come from faraway lands,
from the ends of the heavens—
the LORD and the weapons of his wrath—
to destroy the whole country.
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty. [a]
7 Because of this, all hands will go limp,
every man’s heart will melt.
8 Terror will seize them,
pain and anguish will grip them;
they will writhe like a woman in labor.
They will look aghast at each other,
their faces aflame.
9 See, the day of the LORD is coming
—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make man scarcer than pure gold,
more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the LORD Almighty,
in the day of his burning anger.
14 Like a hunted gazelle,
like sheep without a shepherd,
each will return to his own people,
each will flee to his native land.
15 Whoever is captured will be thrust through;
all who are caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
their houses will be looted and their wives ravished.
17 See, I will stir up against them the Medes,
who do not care for silver
and have no delight in gold.
18 Their bows will strike down the young men;
they will have no mercy on infants
nor will they look with compassion on children.
19 Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
the glory of the Babylonians’ [b] pride,
will be overthrown by God
like Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 She will never be inhabited
or lived in through all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there,
no shepherd will rest his flocks there.
21 But desert creatures will lie there,
jackals will fill her houses;
there the owls will dwell,
and there the wild goats will leap about.
22 Hyenas will howl in her strongholds,
jackals in her luxurious palaces.
Her time is at hand,
and her days will not be prolonged.
The Powers That Were
Again, the amazing poetry and metaphor of Isaiah, this time directed to describe such utter violence and destruction. Here, the prophecy pertains to the destruction of Babylonians at the hands of the Assyrians. The Assyrians would then be themselves overthrown, and so on and so on.
What is important to remember here is that Babylon was one of the largest and most prominent cities of ancient times. They were one of the first ancient cities to have a population of 200,000, which is big even for modern times! They had the code of Hammaraubi. They had the amazing Hanging Gardens, one of the ancient wonders of the world. To the people of Babylon, and to its rivals, it must have seemed so powerful, established, even…eternal!
But we see the eventual fate of the city, completed ransacked by its enemies, its armies quaking in fear. The power of Babylon was tiny compared to the vengeance of God.
I find myself thinking very similarly about current earthly powers, as I walk through the streets of D.C. – they seem so established and organized. They seem to have so much unquestionable and unshakable power. We fear them. We trust them. We assume that they are permanent and will never pass away. But this is an illusion – no earthly power is permanent, nor perfect. And despite all of its history and grandeur and tradition, its power is nothing compared to that of God.
And that should shape our understanding of worldly power, and more importantly, our understanding of the power of God.
1. Given that worldly powers are temporary and fallible, how does that shape our approach to and interaction with these powers?
2. Imagine God, larger than the Capitol building or the White House, dwarfing the entire world – how does this image change your understanding of him? Your interaction with him?