In today's lesson we begin a series of "burdens" against nations. They open with Babylon and conclude with Tyre in chapter 24.
Isaiah Chapter 13
Lessons from the text
Poetry over Darkness
Amidst all the woes that He is about to proclaim, God takes the time to artistically develop a dramatic scene. It amazes me that in the midst of death and destructions, God retains beauty. His poetic voice, his rich sense of depth and value, is never overrun by what is happening on earth. To the contrary, He surpasses it by painted over it with His massive skill. Who else can take the mess of society and somehow cover it with something beautiful?
God is able to take all of our human choices, all of our failures, and still weave it towards His good purpose. Make no mistake. Even when it seems that only cruelty and human devices are ruling, God is sovereign, putting people and circumstances in place to direct Creation to His divine goal: Redemption.
Babylon or Babylon?
While Babylon has now been destroyed, the fall of Babylon was not a supernatural overthrow by the hand of God: it was Cyrus and his army taking the capital in a political, not a physical, overthrow. The city was still intact after the transition of power occurred. As Daniel records, there was hardly a battle; in one night the king was having a party, the city invaded, the king slain, and power given to Darius the Median who was under the charge of Cyrus.
Therefore, the prophecy of the utter destruction of Babylon points to a future event. As there is no longer a kingdom named "Babylon," I take the stand that this refers to the spiritual Babylon, the harlot who sits on the donkey of Revelation, who makes the nations drink of fornications and has trampled on the blood of the Saints (Rev 17:1-6). If that is not a description of the world system, I don't know what is. It is good to know that one day the corrupt society of chasing gold and earthly pleasure at the cost of trampling down all forms of godliness will be utterly destroyed.
It's a dog-eat-dog world, the idea that you can only get ahead by stepping over someone else, these are the ideas that fuel the world system, and one day God will wipe them from off the face of the earth. Hallelujah!
Verse by Verse Commentary
1 As with all major prophecies, the person who sees it is clearly identified as well as the subject of the prophecy. The word "burden" is the Hebrew word "massa" and can refer to either a physical load that must be carried or a prophetic declaration.
2-5 The Lord paints a battle scene. He gives us a dramatic setting of lifting up a banner, calling with a load voice, with shaking of hands, calling everybody together to make a mighty army of the Lord against his enemy. Note that the purpose of the army is to destroy the whole land. Whatever God does, He does thoroughly!
6 The "day of the Lord" is a major prophetic event. Whenever that phrase is used, it refers to the final judgment of God. Ultimately, this will be the scenes described in the book of Revelation.
7-8 At the "day of the Lord" God's wrath will be made plain to all of humanity to the point that everyone's heart will melt, and all shall be so afraid, in so much pain, as they realize what they have done and where they stand with a righteous and holy God.
9-11 Once again, God not only tells us judgment is coming, but also gives the exact reason for it. The theme of the arrogant being brought low begun in chapter 2 is repeated. In the final judgment God will not just punish individual souls but will punish all of creation. The whole world has to be purged of sin. As time goes on in the Scriptures, we will see how God plans to do this.
12 As judgment proceeds, the human race will be incredibly reduces. Revelation gives exact numbers, telling us that at one point a third of the population will be killed from the judgments (Rev 9:18).
13-16 The judgments begin in the heavens and cause people to be scattered and to flee, only to be caught up in war and death.
17-19 The prophecy now narrows to the subject of the opening line: Babylon. God fulfilled this verse with the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great, who at that time had already conquered the Medes and merged them into his empire.
20-22 Babylon will be destroyed by the hand of God to the point that no human will be able to live there. This is an imminent prophecy, as the days of Babylon "shall not be prolonged."
Please comment below to tell us what you learned from today's lesson.