Here are two complementary truths about life: a.) suffering is only for a time; b.) success is only for a time. So if you are currently navigating choppy waters, remember that this storm has come to pass. And if your graphs are all ‘up and to the right’, keep it in perspective. The prophecy against Babylon that we began to look at in 13:1 continues down to 14:23. See in today’s reading that:
- Suffering will end (1-4a): God gives ”relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage.” (3) The people of God would be taken as captives to Babylon, but years before this happened, Isaiah saw that those exiles would return (10:20, 21). There is a part of Isaiah’s prophecy that is yet to happen (2). One day God will fulfil His ultimate purpose for Israel, to be a blessing to all the peoples on earth. The return of the remnant was an important marker on the road to the ultimate establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. When we go through our days of ‘Babylonian captivity’, as we do in this world, we can be sure that God will bring the pain and heartache to an end in His good time.
- Success will end (4b – 11). Three sharp pointed thoughts cut into me as I read these words:
- Success is only for a time: The Babylonians were at the ‘top of the tree’ politically. They had barnstorming success, rampaging across the world of their day. But it was only for a limited period.
- Leadership is only for a time: In (9) you read about ”all those who were leaders in the world…all those who were kings over the nations.” (Underlining mine). Their leadership and authority is in the past tense. (It is good for those who lead in church life to recognise this truth also. We only have a short time to make a difference. Our status should not come from our leadership position but our relationship with God as His children. Too many leaders get defined by their role, and apart from it they don’t really know who they are.)
- Greatness (in human terms) is only for a time. For a few short years people will clamour for your autograph, then life will go on without you, just as it has done in the case of every other rich and famous personality. Time may briefly doff its cap to you, but then it marches on, taking out more victims left, right and centre. So, success, leadership and greatness all come to an end. THEN WHAT?
Verses 9 – 11 read like this in The Message: ”And the underworld dead are all excited, preparing to welcome you when you come. Getting ready to greet you are the ghostly dead, all the famous names of the earth. All the buried kings of the nations will stand up on their thrones With well-prepared speeches, royal invitations to death: ”Now you are as nothing as we are! Make yourselves at home with us dead folks!” This is where your pomp and fine music led you, Babylon, to your underworld private chambers, a king-size mattress of maggots for repose and a quilt of crawling worms for warmth.”
”Now you are as nothing as we are!” It makes you think!! As someone said to me recently, ‘You’re dead a long time.’ That is certainly true. But Biblically speaking, death is not the cessation of existence. So you need to be clear about where your eternal home will be. That will be determined by your response to Jesus.
Prayer: ‘’Teach me to live that I may dread the grave, as little as my bed.’’ (Bishop Thomas Ken).