Monday, November 07, 2005

Revelation 18:1-8

Much in Scripture refers primarily to individuals and their relationship with God. Other parts of Scripture refer primarily to groups or peoples and their relationship with God. Yet other parts refer primarily to nations and their relationship with God. Today’s passage fits into this last category.

Historically in Scripture, ancient Babylon represented an enemy to the people of God (Israel) and to God himself, to the peace, righteousness, and justice desired by God. John’s codename for RomeBabylon the Great – painted Rome and its empire with the same brush: an enemy to the people of God (the Church, or the Body of Christ) and to God himself, to God’s peace, righteousness, and justice.

There is an irony, intended by John, in the description of Babylon or Rome as “the Great.” No human being could have denied the power, wealth, and extent of nations like Babylon and Rome. From a human perspective, each in its own day constituted a great empire – an impressive aggregation of military might, organizational systems, cultural influence, and goods and commerce.

Yet they were not great in the sight of God for two reasons. One, no matter how powerful they seemed on the scale of human history, they paled before the scale of God, creator of the cosmos and lord of all history, from beginning to end. Two, they failed – even warred against – the peace, righteousness, and justice of God that, had they fostered them, would have made Babylon or Rome truly great in the sight of God.

Even as all humans sin and fall short of God’s good purposes and plans, so all human systems and institutions sin and fall short of the good that God intends. Empires, nations, and governments are no exception. Some fail more than others; and some actually war against God’s peace, righteousness, and justice. But all fall short. The temptation for nations is to act as if there is no God; or even more, to act as if they can be God over life, history, and destiny for themselves and for others.

As John vividly pictures in Revelation, our hope is not in empires, nations, or governments. Our hope is in Jesus, the Lamb who was slain. The Lamb rules history not through power as understood and exercised in human terms. The Lamb accomplishes God’s purposes – peace, righteousness, and justice – through sacrifice. May we love and worship the Lamb by following his example as we live in but not of the world.

Gregory Strong

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