8–14 November 2015.
In 1888 a French newspaper mistakenly reported that Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, had died. The newspaper happily announced that “the merchant of death”, the person “who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before” was finally dead. Nobel was horrified when he saw the report! Is that how people would remember him, as a successful but terrible monster? He was so worried, that he decided to use his great wealth to set up the Nobel Prizes, which would celebrate efforts to improve human life.
Today we often get focussed on gaining success regardless of the cost. We want to be the greatest, the wealthiest, the most successful – even if this means losing all our friends, destroying our families, and making people hate us. Is that really worth it?
In ancient times, Babylon was a great empire that ruled the whole region of the Middle East. They built up great wealth, enormous power, and used their violent military to conquer all people. As a result, they were terribly hated.
So in Isaiah 14 we hear the prophet’s great song of joy at the downfall of this great empire. In vv. 9–15, we hear how Babylon’s arrogant emperors thought they could be invincible and even divine, but now they lie dead with everyone else. They thought they were so glorious, but now they will be covered with maggots and worms (v. 11). They persecuted the poor, oppressed the weak, and made so many suffer. But now their power is broken – and the oppressed rejoice at their defeat. In vv. 7–8, even the land and trees sing out for joy at the fall of successful Babylon!
For many of us today, we think being successful is the most important thing: to be a big boss, a company CEO, and to have people respect and even fear you! But after you are gone, how will people remember you? Will they joyfully celebrate your death as good news? Will they dance and sing to see you dead?
This week, think about what you will leave behind, and take this opportunity to build a life that reflects God’s love, justice, and compassion. Because it is only that type of life that counts as a real success.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis