Text: Isaiah 13
When God’s people go astray, He sends His prophets to frankly and bluntly warn them of their sin and admonish them to repent and return to Him. Again, when I speak of God’s people, I am speaking of the church, Jewish believers, and Jews that do not yet believe that Jesus is their Messiah.
The LORD does not desire for any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). So, He sends Isaiah to speak to Jerusalem and Judah. And He has assigned me to speak to today’s believers.
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be “The Demise of Babylon.” Jesus Christ has been established as Judge (John 5:22).Who will He judge? He will judge the empire of Babylon by the invasion of the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31), and He will judge spiritual Babylon, in the final judgment, the Day of the LORD.
Verse 1 —
The LORD has given Isaiah an oracle, both a word and a vision, concerning Babylon. It is a word and a vision of its destruction, in the natural. But there is also a spiritual meaning here, for Babylon represents the world order that defies the LORD, the world order overseen by Satan (Ephesians 2:2, 2Corinthians 4:4).
Verse 2 —
The LORD says, Lift up a standard on the bare hill — a banner on a high mountain peak, where there is no vegetation — so it can be seen from afar! Raise your voice to the Medes and the Persians, wave the hand that they may enter the doors of the nobles of Babylon.
Verses 3-5 —
Indeed, the Medo-Persian army entered the doors of the nobles. History records that they cut the bars and drained the water from a sluiceway beneath the palace of Balshazzar, king of Babylon, the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar. Psalm 107:16 refers to the cutting of the bars.
Meanwhile, Balshazzar was eating and drinking with the holy implements that his grandfather had taken from the temple in Jerusalem when it was overrun (see Daniel 5:2-3). Thus, the Medo-Persian army entered the palace undetected! Balshazzar was slain and the kingdom was taken by the Medes and Persians in one night. It was the LORD who made it so! Who is in charge? The LORD!
The Medes and Persians were consecrated by the LORD to execute His anger toward Babylon and obliterate it from the face of the earth. They were His mighty warriors, just as boastful and proud as Babylon.
Isaiah describes their approach. It will be like a sound of tumult (noise of a multitude) on the mountains, for they are a huge army! It will be like a sound of uproar (a rushing forth) of kingdoms, of nations gathered together to fight against Babylon!
At the end of things, God the Son, the LORD of Hosts, the divine Captain of the armies of the LORD, will muster an army for battle, to destroy spiritual Babylon! There will be an uproar, indeed, far beyond that of the destruction of natural Babylon!
And He will defeat the world order called Babylon, in the Day of the Lord, in one hour’s time. One hour! The description of spiritual Babylon and its destruction is in the Book of Revelation —
Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”
Revelation 18:2 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.”
Revelation 18:10 (the kings of the earth) standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”
His army is coming from a far country — against natural Babylon, from Media and Persia, in the Day of the Lord, from heaven! The Medes and Persians are His instruments of indignation against the earthly Babylon, for its whole land to be completely destroyed. He Himself will come against spiritual Babylon, for its complete destruction.
Verses 6-8 —
Wail! Make a howling noise, you who follow after Babylon! For the Day of the LORD is near! It will come as a destruction (violence, ravaging, desolation) from the Almighty God!
Because it is coming from Him, all hands will fall limp, and every man’s heart will melt with fear. There will be no strength and no courage in them, for His fearsome army will quickly overwhelm, and cannot be conquered!
Like natural Babylon, spiritual Babylon, will be terrified (trembling, alarmed, amazed). Pains (as the pangs of childbirth and anguish (a rope, a noose) will take hold of them. They will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame with terror!
Verses 9-11 —
Again, Behold! See! Pay attention! The Day of the LORD is coming! It will be cruel (terrible), with fury (an outburst of wrath) and burning (fierce) anger, to make the land a desolation. And He will exterminate (utterly destroy) its sinners from it!
While it is still today, repent, believe into Jesus Christ, be saved, and then cry out for your sin nature to be crucified and for the infilling of the Holy Spirit —
Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
He will purify you from your sin, and set you free from slavery to it. Then, you will no longer follow spiritual Babylon!
The lights of the heavens will go out, in the Day of the LORD — no sunshine, no moonlight, no starlight. Thus, He will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity (sin). He will put an end to the arrogance of the proud, and humble the haughtiness of the ruthless (tyrannical oppressors, even Satan himself)!
Verses 12-13 —
Very few mortals will be left. They will be scarcer than pure gold. Mankind will be scarcer than the gold of Ophir, a gold region in the Far East.
In the Day of the LORD, He will make the heavens tremble. And the earth will be shaken from its place, at the fury of the LORD of hosts, in the day of His burning anger. He will shake everything that can be shaken, so nothing remains but that which cannot be shaken so nothing remains but that which cannot be shaken (see Hebrews 12:26)! Those who are filled with His Holy Spirit cannot be shaken, beloved!
Peter describes the Day of the Lord, and exhorts believers —
2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
And . . .
2Peter 3:11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening (eagerly awaiting) the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
2Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless . . .
Isaiah switches to the prophecy regarding the destruction of the natural Babylonian Empire, comprised of many nations that Babylon had conquered. They will be hunted by the Medes and Persians. They will be like sheep with no one to gather and protect them. They will turn to their own people, and flee their own land.
Those who are found by the Medo-Persian army will be thrust through with lances. Any who is captured will fall by the sword. Their little ones will be dashed to pieces before their eyes. Their wives will be raped.
Behold, the LORD will stir up the Medes agains them, an army of men who do not care about silver or gold. Their empire is already rich! Their bows will mow down the young men, they will have no compassion on pregnant women, nor will their eyes pity children.
Verses 19-22 —
And Babylon, the most beautiful of kingdoms, the glory (majesty) of the pride of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. They will be overthrown, and they will be judged by the LORD in the same way as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation, nor will the Arab pitch his tent there, nor will shepherds make their flocks lie down there. So, what will lie down (dwell) in the ruins of Babylon?
Unclean creatures, for Babylon will be in the place where evil spirits, and the devil himself, await judgment. Desert creatures like scorpions, poisonous snakes, and owls, with their powerful talons, will dwell in the Babylonian’s beautiful houses.
Babylon will be populated with ostriches that fight with their powerful legs and claws, and shaggy goats (the Hebrew meaning is saytrs — that is, devils, demonic beings) will frolic there. Hyenas will howl in their fortified towers, and jackals will howl in their luxurious palaces.
Babylon’s fateful time also will soon come — within 150 years of this oracle from the LORD to Isaiah — and her days will not be prolonged. Babylon’s empire lasted 400 years, but it ended in one night, at the hand of the LORD!
And it will be the same for spiritual Babylon in the Day of the LORD. As I have told you, she will be destroyed in one hour!
That said, O believer, O church, I wonder who you are following? Do you follow after the world and its wisdom and its ways?
Now that you know the fate of such ones, return to the Lord, before the Day of Judgment! He will gladly receive you if you repent from the heart. No one knows the day of His coming. Do not be found wanting, when He judges!
Lord Jesus, You give this warning to Your people, because they have strayed far from You. May there be ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. So be it, I pray. Amen!