Sermon Notes

June 5th 2022

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson June 5th

God Foretells Destruction / Isaiah 47:10-15 (MSG)

10-13 You thought you knew so much, had everything figured out. What delusion! Smugly telling yourself, ‘I’m Number One. There’s nobody but me.’ Ruin descends—you can’t charm it away. Disaster strikes—you can’t cast it off with spells. Catastrophe, sudden and total—and you’re totally at sea, totally bewildered! But don’t give up. From your great repertoire of enchantments there must be one you haven’t yet tried. You’ve been at this a long time. Surely something will work. I know you’re exhausted trying out remedies, but don’t give up. Call in the astrologers and stargazers. They’re good at this. Surely they can work up something! 14-15 “Fat chance. You’d be grasping at straws that are already in the fire, a fire that is even now raging. Your ‘experts’ are in it and won’t get out. It’s not a fire for cooking venison stew, not a fire to warm you on a winter night! That’s the fate of your friends in sorcery, your magician cronies you’ve been colluding with all your life. They reel, confused, bumping into one another. None of them bother to help you.”

INTRODUCTION

Isaiah 47 is a prophecy of the destruction of Babylon and the Chaldeans and declares the causes of it. The mean, low, ignominious, and miserable condition Babylon and the Chaldeans should be brought into by the Lord—the Redeemer of His people—are described. The cause is Babylon’s cruelty toward Judah, their pride, carnal security, sorceries and enchantments, and trust in their own wisdom. wherefore their destruction should come suddenly upon them, and they should not be able to put it off.
It is difficult to “time” Babylon’s downfall in the context of book. What can be safely determined is that Babylon’s downfall is a certainty. God has said so. There will be no reprieve. God has said so. Thus, the chapter may be viewed as a taunt from God, through the prophet, directed at those God used to chastise Judah, because they chose to see their prevailing as having to do with them rather than the providence of God.

BACKGROUND OF THE PASSAGE

Isaiah 47 is a series of strophes—a structural division of a poem containing stanzas of varying line-length, especially an ode or free verse poem. The chapter is divided into five strophes: verse 1-4, verses 5-7, verses 8 and 9, verses 10-12, and verses 13-15. The final two strophes comprise our printed lesson.
The chapter deals with, “Daughter Babylon” and her ultimate ruin. In the ancient world, cities were often described figuratively as women needing protection of kings. In satirical language, God ridicules all of Babylon’s claims. She thought: she’d be queen forever; she was secure; she’d never be widowed; she’d never lose her children; she could hide her evil deeds. She thought her astrologer’s could predict her future or use magic to control events. But she was incorrect.
Babylon’s future will be grim. Instead of being seated on a throne, she will sit in the dust on the ground. She will go into darkness, intimating her passage to the underworld. She will be stripped of her garments—veil and robe will be removed, legs uncovered. Her nakedness and shame will be seen by all. For her crimes—showing no mercy to the exiles and especially abusing the elderly—there will be no one to save her.

INTO THE VERSES

10-11 You thought you knew so much, had everything figured out. What delusion! Smugly telling yourself, ‘I’m Number One. There’s nobody but me.’ Ruin descends—you can’t charm it away. Disaster strikes—you can’t cast it off with spells. Catastrophe, sudden and total—and you’re totally at sea, totally bewildered!
God condemns any confidence Babylon placed in human wisdom; it is useless. Ultimate disaster has been concealed from the Baby-lonians by their smug attitudes of superiority. But it cannot be held back by incantations; it is certain to come, and quickly.
*When dealing with God—or when seeking to serve God through service to each other—the only appropriate approach is one of humility. This was taught by the Prophets (Micah 6:8) and reiterated by Jesus (Luke 9:23).
12-13 But don’t give up. From your great repertoire of enchantments there must be one you haven’t yet tried. You’ve been at this a long time. Surely something will work. I know you’re exhausted trying out remedies, but don’t give up. Call in the astrologers and stargazers. They’re good at this. Surely they can work up something!
God’s tone turns to mockery. No methods will prove helpful in determining the details of what will happen. The Babylonians had for a long time depended on astrology and astronomy to predict the happenings on their world. But God now emphasizes that any effort to predict the future by those means will achieve nothing.
According to Jeremiah 43:11, Babylon was to mete out a threefold judgment on Judah and Jerusalem: Pestilence, sword and famine. But here, Babylon is told that they will experience evil, ruin and disaster, for which her magic will yield no protection.
* Probably one of the worst features of our late western culture is a naivetè about monotheism. We presume that everyone knows that there is one God. Yet, we engage in a kind of polytheism on several levels: consumerism, egotism, political tribalism, and feelings of moral superiority, to name a few. The Babylonians made no effort to conceal their polytheistic beliefs—and perhaps their transparency has benefits over our continued duplicity, where we claim to follow the Lord, yet invest ourselves in things and philosophies that are antithetical to Christ’s ethic of limitless love, sacrificial service and unfettered forgiveness.
14-15 “Fat chance. You’d be grasping at straws that are already in the fire, a fire that is even now raging. Your ‘experts’ are in it and won’t get out. It’s not a fire for cooking venison stew, not a fire to warm you on a winter night! That’s the fate of your friends in sorcery, your magician cronies you’ve been colluding with all your life. They reel, confused, bumping into one another. None of them bother to help you.”
The coming of the great judgment is likened to a consuming fire. Fire, which was often the source of goodness—cooking, warmth, etc.— is not their friend in this instance. It is an enemy.
The history of Babylon’s long flirtation with astrology is bluntly dismissed; it will all come to nothing! There will be no redemption at all. The judgment will be swift, sure and without exception.

CONCLUSION

A significant challenge in reading Ancient Hebrew prophecy is how to deal with the ancient near eastern view of women that pervades the texts. Women were viewed as the property of men, and this comes through in much of the writing. While the ideal male was powerful, provisional and protective, the ideal female was sub-missive, in need of protection, and faithful to her spouse (ironic that such fidelity was not included in the attributes for men). Women were the property of their male protector—husband, father, brother, son, or other kinsman redeemer. They were second class citizens at best.
In recent years, scholars have discussed this question by providing important background information to the origins of this point of view. The Women’s Bible Commentary (Newsom, Ringe and Lapsley), provides data to support the need of a more informed view of this matter in both canons of the biblical texts. It is no longer justifiable for interpreters to take the biblical view of women and men as acceptable views for the world today. Citing biblical views about women out of context is not sufficient evidence to draw conclusions and make rules for society today. Further, it is damaging to both women and men. Thus, a contextual view of society and culture is essential to understand values and practices in the Bible.
Such a contextual view reveals that the fall of Babylon, interpreted from the perspective of anthropology, portray her as a queen turned slave. The loss of status, the shame of removing her garments and exposure, and of doing menial work support this position.
It can also be read as an anti-type of the status of Jerusalem/Zion. Later chapters described the elevation of Zion’s status from widow to bride, rejected and captive to redeemed, and barren to mother of many. The prophet uses the fall of Babylon as a contrast to the rise of Jerusalem.
Isaiah 47 has features similar to satirical laments for the dead else-where in the book (Isaiah 14:3-21), as well as in lamenting the death of gods in ancient Near Eastern literature. These laments include the hubris of the gods or notions in their belief that they will rule forever. We are thus assured that they also will fall from their thrones, sit on the ground, and descend into the oblivion.

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