Exactly! What happened to them? We know that Babylon doesn’t exist today. Its ruins lay in present day Iraq. But from our Biblical accounts, we understand that Babylon was once a bustling center of activity, had prominent status in the ancient world, and had taken the Israelites hostage for more than half a century. Babylon exists now as only a memory.
Today’s reading personifies Babylon into a beautiful woman. Imagine the Israelites hearing these prophetic words. What were they thinking? It’s like they were overhearing a conversation between God and Babylon. “Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust. For your days of sitting on a throne have ended. O daughter of Babylonia, never again will you be the lovely princess, tender and delicate.” For the oppression God’s people had endured, seeing Babylon described as tender and delicate seems odd, doesn’t it?
If there had been any question about why Babylon had succeeded in exiling God’s people, we see God’s explanation here. “For I was angry with my chosen people and punished them by letting them fall into your hands. But you, Babylon, showed them no mercy. You oppressed even the elderly.” While God seemingly allowed the calamity, he was very displeased with the lack of mercy shown to his people. Did he expect the Babylonians to roll out the welcome mat? We see how power, even God-given power, can go in the wrong direction when people are involved.
God equipped the Babylonians with the ability to capture and punish the Israelites because of their sinfulness. That’s probably where people get the notion that bad things happen to people who displease God by sinning. I think of, for example, the story of a blind man Jesus healed in John 9. His own disciples stood by watching, wondering what sin had caused the blindness. Jesus words are priceless. “‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.’” Without the blindness, God could not heal and be revealed.
We can take this response to heart when we are going through our own struggles in life. God will use our bad situations for good. There are countless examples for us in the Bible to know that this is how God rolls. Think of the story of Joseph and his brothers. In our weakness, when we rely on God’s strength, we can accomplish more than our minds can fathom. We oftentimes don’t allow God to do his thing. We’re too busy trying to fix things ourselves.
Take some time today to let the fate of Babylon speak to your heart. They were empowered by God for a season. Because they didn’t repent and turn to God, they were cut off from further wins and ultimately destroyed. Their might was on borrowed time you might say. They didn’t realize where their success was coming from. That was where the tragedy began for the Babylonians.
God’s promise did come true. “So disaster will overtake you, and you won’t be able to charm it away. Calamity will fall upon you, and you won’t be able to buy your way out. A catastrophe will strike you suddenly, one for which you are not prepared.” That is what God’s message was to the Babylonians. Did it give the Israelites hope? I’m sure it did. Think of how remarkable it must have been to see exactly how God brought the unforeseen catastrophe releasing the Israelites from the bondage once again.
The message for us is to be careful in whom we place our trust. “But they are like straw burning in a fire; they cannot save themselves from the flame.” We don’t want to see our lives going up in smoke by trusting the wrong leadership, that is, leadership not ordained by God. God is our ultimate leader. Is he leading your life?
Let’s pray … Lord, you can see inside my heart. You know my devotion to you. Thank you that I can rely on you to bring me through the struggles of life. Thank you that I can feel strong because you are beside me. Guard my heart and protect me from the lure of evil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.