Thursday, January 30, 2014

Isaiah 21: 6-10

For thus the Lord says to me,
“Go, station the lookout, let him report what he sees.
“When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
A train of donkeys, a train of camels,
Let him pay close attention, very close attention.”
Then the lookout called,
“O Lord, I stand continually by day on the watchtower,
And I am stationed every night at my guard post.
“Now behold, here comes a troop of riders, horsemen in pairs.”
And one said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon;
And all the images of her gods are shattered on the ground.”
10 O my threshed people, and my
afflicted of the threshing floor!
What I have heard from the Lord of hosts,
The God of Israel, I make known to you.

We draw conclusion to another prophecy concerning Babylon with our passage today, though Chapter 21 of Isaiah has more in store for us. It's not the last time we'll hear about Babylon over the course of Isaiah, and this prophecy in particular may resonate with you if you have studied Revelation.

Last week, we had a preview into the fulfillment of a prophecy that came about in Daniel's time with the death of Belshazzar. The cry came to "oil the shields," (vs. 5) and now God tells Isaiah to "station the lookout." (vs. 6) The one placed in a watchtower, near the king's palace, had much the same job as Paul Revere's men in the light towers in Revolutionary War times: observing the situation with the enemy and reporting back. But instead of "one if by land, two if by sea," God said the watchman should look for twos and groupings of certain animals.

"He then saw another chariot drawn by asses or mules, which were much in use among the Persians, and a chariot drawn by camels, which were likewise much in use among the Medes; so that...these two chariots signify the two nations combined against Babylon, or rather these chariots come to bring tidings to the palace."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

We don't know how long the watchman was in the tower literally, but that it was day and night (vs. 8). We can gain from this that the man was vigilant in his responsibilities of observation, expecting that there would be the sign the Lord indicated. Then, in verse 9, "Behold...," just as the Lord had said. There is a bigger picture in this description--for the prophecy in its time and for us. In its time, through Isaiah's speaking, the prophecy to Judah should have provided them with reassurance. Yes, Babylon pressures and threatens you, but My plan is to ultimately overcome them.

"...And, before it [Babylon] arrived at that pitch of eminency which it was at in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, God by this prophet plainly foretold its fall, again and again, that his people might not be terrified at its rise, nor despair of relief in due time when they were its prisoners...."
--Matthew Henry

If we believe the Word and promises of Scripture, do we let the Holy Spirit act as our man in the watchtower, calling our attention to act or to wait longer or to rest in the knowledge that things as they exist now are how they should be? Do we trust in the Spirit to be on-call, day and night, and to report to us?

Finishing verse 9, which may be familiar to some of you: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon...." The vision from the tower is now quite defined. "Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, and glory of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah." (Isa. 13:19) Indeed, Babylon fell to the Persians and Medes in 539 B.C.--the second defeat at the hands of a significant empire. (Babylon was defeated by the Assyrians in 689 B.C.) 

Today, Babylon is located in Iraq. It is a pile of archeological rubble and not a true city. Saddam Hussein actually tried to reconstruct Babylon to its former glory days, but he didn't get very far. But it doesn't mean that Babylon of old doesn't exist. The ideologies of this nation may seem of history, yet you will still find them in our daily headline news. No, this will not be the last time "Babylon" is defeated, as the cry of the watchman is heard through John's Revelation:

"And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality....' 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 14:8 and 18:2

Not only does the city fall, but her idols are gone. More literally, the end of verse 9 translates, "He has shattered them to the earth." This is part of the fulfillment of this prophecy that is yet to come. There are still nations imbibing the wine of the passion of Babylon's immorality, which includes the worship of idols, the following of false teachings, living with "every unclean spirit," you-name-it, whatever....

Look to the Holy Spirit--the watchman over your lives!

Verse 10 in the King James Version reads as follows: "O my threshing, and the corn of my floor!" Isaiah is speaking to Judah here and the reference is a difficult one. Threshing is the process of separating out the grain from the rest of the plant or seed pod. If you remember the story of Ruth and Boaz, you learn a great deal about the process of grain harvesting. Isaiah says this to Judah as God speaking love to His people: You will be threshed--at the hands of Babylon, Persia, Rome, etc.--but you are the corn of My floor! What remains on the floor is that which has been culled and refined under the care of God the Father. What remains on the floor is His to keep.

"What I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I make known to you."

The prophecy concerning Edom.  ...'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week:  Isaiah 21: 11 and 12
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).