The Harlot Babylon

Daily Reading – Genesis 10-11

Genesis 10 and 11 tells the story of the “beginnings” of modern day religion. More specifically it recalls man’s earliest mass organized attempt to find satisfaction and purpose outside of God’s design.

Noah’s son Ham received a curse on his family line for disrespecting his father after the flood. Perhaps in spite, Ham’s grandson was named Nimrod meaning “Let’s Rebel.” He was raised to be “a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The Jewish Targum is an Old Testament version of a Study Bible and explains this verse to mean “a man of wickedness in the face of God.” He was a hunter of men and a conqueror of cities. Nimrod set out to establish his own little empire with the city of Babel at its center. Babel means “a gateway to the gods” in Akkadian, but we are more familiar with the Greek version of the city’s name, Babylon.

great-ziggurat-of-urThe tower in the city of Babylon was almost certainly a ziggurat built as a pagan temple with an astrological sign at the peak. The top of the tower was said to be “in, with, or by the heavens.” The purpose of a ziggurat was not to physically reach the heavens, but to provide spiritual access to heavenly power through idol worship. The people’s goal in creating the tower was to make a great name for themselves rather than God. (Gen. 11:4) The people of Babylon exchanged the truth of God for a lie and chose to worship the creation rather than the Creator. Rather than honoring God, they used astrology as a means of honoring themselves.

God does not bring immediate judgment on this rebellion. Instead he displays his patience by scattering the people and limiting their ability to be as evil as they could possibly be. (v.6- “nothing will be impossible for them” is like saying, “their evil deeds will know no limits.”)

The city of Babylon- “a gateway to the gods”- is known as Babel to the Hebrews. This word sounds like the Hebrew word for “confusion.” Immediately the name symbolizes the place where God confused the languages, but it also demonstrates how the pursuit of satisfaction and freedom in pagan “religion” leads to nothing but confusion.

The people of Babylon were scattered to surrounding locations including Ur and Egypt. As they went out from Babel, their man made efforts to find purpose and satisfaction went with them. The astrology spread out as worship of the sun in Egypt and the moon in Ur of the Chaldeans. Below is the reconstructed footing of the ancient Tower of Ur, which was dedicated to the moon god Nanna.

ziggurat_at_Ur

This is the radical nature of the call of Abraham. He was a man living among a people in rebellion against God. The people of Ur were held captive to the oppression of the harlot of false religion. Then “the God of Glory appeared to Abraham” (Acts 7) and called him out of darkness and into light.

Babylon shows up again in Revelation 17 where she is identified as the mother of all harlots. These harlots are the false religions that spread out from Babel and sit on the peoples and nations. (v.15) The reality for anyone who is outside of Christ is that they are under the oppression of a harlot and their soul is dead in transgressions and sins. While promising satisfaction, this harlot crushes the life of the soul.

In America we worship at the altar of sex, status, and materialism more often than astrology. We all know the feeling of oppression that comes from being sat on by these prostitutes. Yet while we were dead in our transgressions and sins, the God of Glory intervened and appeared to us in the form of Christ. Just as he intervened in the life of Abraham and called him out of the darkness of Ur, God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of light.

1 John 3:8 says the Son of God appeared to destroy the work of the devil. Jesus’ death has loosened the stranglehold of the prostitute Babylon. We are no longer confined to the slavery of searching for “a gateway to the gods” outside of God’s design. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Whether it is legalism or lust, Babylon and her daughters are alive and well in our culture.

But her days are numbered.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:35-39 ESV)

Our victory in Christ is secure. We will not shrink back and look for comfort in the lies that flow from Babylon and we will not seek satisfaction in the things for which Christ came to die.

The Emmaus Trail is a weekly devotional study that explores the theme found in all of Scripture of God reconciling himself to the world through the redemption of his Son. 

Luke 24

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

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