Sunday, October 05, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 14 (2)

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God. I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’ All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people.

“May the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named! Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities.”

“I will rise up against them,” declares the Lord of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the Lord. “And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the Lord of hosts. (Is. 14:12-23)

The judgment of Babylon continues in this passage, and the last two verses in verses 22 and 23 restates God's judgment in rendering Babylon into a wasteland. This passage however is infused with an interesting element which is otherwise foreign to the judgment of Babylon — that of Satan and God's judgment of Satan.

Verse 12 starts off with a remark on the fall of the Day Star. The Day Star typically refers to Venus which can be seen brightly early in the morning or in the early evening from the earth, and is thus the most prominent of all the astral bodies from earth besides the Sun and the Moon. Stars typically are used to symbolize angels (cf Job 38:7; Rev. 12:4) or the child(ren) of God (cf Gen. 37:9; Num. 24:17). So on the one hand, the narrative continues to proclaim judgment on Babylon and the king of Babylon, and then introduces him as being akin to Satan, who is the Day Star, brighter than the other stars (angels). Both of their sins and fates in this passage parallel each other to a certain extent.

From verses 13 and 14, it can be seen that the Day Star desires to ascend to the heavens, above the stars of God, setting his throne over multitudes, and even be like the God the Most High. This at once describe the unbridled and proud ambition of the King of Babylon who desires through astrology and magic etc to reach heaven and control the future if possible (cf King Nebuchadnezzar's act of defiance in Dan. 3:1 in imitation of the image in the God-given vision in Dan. 2:31-35), and also his desire to conquer all nations and rule over them. And such pride and ruthless ambition mirrors that of Satan who similarly desires to be over all the angels and rule over the world which God creates, and desire to be equal to God Himself.

God's judgment on such pride and godless ambition will be swift. The King of Babylon will be destroyed and brought down to the grave to its lowest depths (v. 15), as Satan himself is thrown into hell. He will be punished worse than the others for his gross wickedness and pride (v. 20), thus becoming a mockery to those he had formerly conquered (v. 16-19). And their offspring would be cut off so that the wicked seed would not flourish in the land (v. 21). This is not talking about the physical offspring of the King of Babylon per se as much as the rulers and their heirs of the Babylonian throne, as judgment on the King of Babylon and her dynasty. Similarly, Satan will have seeming great success in ruling over the world and subjugating the wicked under him, but in the end his end would be the worst off, being thrown into the lake of fire and punished the most severely.

So therefore, through all this, let us not be fearful of the devices of the enemy. Their rage is for a while, but their doom is sure. As Luther mentioned in his great hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God, "One little word shall fell him".

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him

(Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is our God, Third stanza)

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