15–21 November 2015.
In the ancient world, many different empires took turns defeating and controlling the surrounding lands and peoples. Whether it was Egypt or Assyria or Babylon or other great empires, each new one seemed worse than the last, oppressing the people, robbing countries of their wealth, and leaving destruction behind them. As we saw last week in Isaiah 14, Babylon (the latest of these empires) was so hated by the people that they waited to celebrate Babylon’s downfall.
Now in chapter 21 the prophet describes his vision of Babylon’s coming destruction. Like a wild sandstorm from the desert, Elam and Media sweep down and attack Babylon. In verse 4, the prophet describes how he had been waiting so long to see this night of destruction come, but now it is so terrible to see! In v. 5, the soldiers are relaxing and feasting, and are taken by surprise. Babylon, the empire that terrorized others, is now being terrorized. The robber is now robbed, the destroyer is now destroyed (v. 2)! And in v. 9 the great shout goes out for all to hear: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon!” And all its gods have been shattered on the ground.
The prophecy is a great one for the weak and oppressed. But it is still only prophecy. Babylon still rules, their destruction hasn’t yet come. But in vv. 6–10, the prophet keeps watch, waiting to see that day finally arrive.
But how long will it take? In v. 11 even Edom, Judah’s southern neighbour calls out, asking the prophet for news: “Watchman, Watchman, what is left of the night?” Is the night of suffering, the night of Babylon’s rule, finally over? When will morning come?
Today, our troubles aren’t on the same level as great imperial wars. But when we go through our own times of suffering, we too call out to God wanting to know how long this night will go on for. God promises us that all suffering and trouble will eventually be over. The night of suffering will end, and in the new light of day God will wipe away all our tears and heal all our wounds. We just need to hold on, and wait for that promised morning to come.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis