Isaiah 47 and 48 give us a picture of two cities: Babylon and Jerusalem.  In his commentary on Isaiah, John Oswalt writes, “Isaiah 47-48 should be considered together as two sides of the final conclusion of Chapters 40-48.  If God is to keep his promises, two things must happen.  Babylon must fall (chp. 47) and the exiled people must listen to God and believe him so that when Babylon does fall and they have the opportunity to return home, they will dare to act on the opportunity (chp. 48).” 

Babylon is a portrait of worldly power and arrogance.  She is called the queen of kingdoms (47:5), believing she will last forever (47:7).  She has a false sense of security, thinking she is self-sufficient, “lounging in your security and saying, ‘I am, and there is none besides me” (47:8).  In her arrogance she defies God.  “You trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’  Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me'” (47:10).  Declaring “I am” is an expression of self-deification.  Years ago, I wrote in the margin of my Bible, “USA today.”  Culture seems only to be getting worse in our day. 

But the message of chapter 47 is that Babylon will soon suffer great disaster.  “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” (47:11).  “Her sense of impregnability is a complete illusion.  She is like the man who built his house upon the sand… Babylon is the city of destruction… Babylon represents humankind organized in defiance of God… Babylon is still with us, and still stands under judgment of God.  The historical Babylon of the sixth century BC was merely one manifestation of it” (Webb – Isaiah). Can we see the marks of Babylon in our own culture?

In Chapter 48 God speaks to his exiled people and urges them to pay attention to his message.  God points out their unfaithfulness.  “You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourselves the holy city” ( 48:1-2).  But God knows about their waywardness. “Long ago I told you what was going to happen” (48:3).  “One reason He made predictive  promises in the Bible was to prevent us from crediting our idols with power and success” (Ortlund – Isaiah). 

God plans to do something new.  “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new, things you never heard of before” (48:8).  But the people needed to be disciplined.  “I have refined you in the furnace of suffering” (48:10).  For the sake of his own glory and in his mercy God will rescue his people.  “I will rescue you for my sake – yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished and I will not share my glory with idols” (48:11). 

We need to know that God in our day will bring about his purposes in new ways.  We will not be able take credit for what will happen in the days to come.  We will discover the hand of God even in our day.  “God is never be defeated.  He has a purpose even in the painful upheavals of history… He has rescued not to punish us as we deserve, but to bring his glory to triumph finally in human history” (Ortlund – Isaiah).   

Men, our call is to keep our eyes on the Lord of history, knowing that we will leave Babylon.  “Yet even now, be free from your captivity!  Leave Babylon and the Babylonians.  Sing out this message!  Shout it to the ends of the earth! (48:20).