Lessons from Babylonian Captivity
In studying the great book of Isaiah, one of the things that we learn from this rich study is the impending Babylonian Captivity that would come upon the people of God. As a means of summary, there are several lessons to learn from this major historical event.
* When Hezekiah, king of Judah, was in trouble (Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was threatening to invade Judah), he turned to the prophet, Isaiah (Isa. 36-37), but unfortunately, he forgot about doing so when Babylon later visited him in Isaiah 39, which opened the door for the forthcoming Babylonian Captivity.
* God intended for the nation of Israel to be a light to the rest of the world, but they failed in that. Yet, when they went into captivity, the remnant of the nation carried with them monotheism—the wor – ship of one true and living God. Pagan nations (i.e., Babylon) worshipped idols, but when the remnant of the nation went into captivity, they carried with them the one true and living God, which the book of Daniel emphasizes. Therefore, the remnant accomplished in exile what God wanted them to do all the while!
* The exile emphasized the importance of the individual (a lesson reinforced by Ezekiel). Within the nation, only the remnant would become vital and impor – tant, and the reason for this is because of the individual (cf. Isa. 27:12). Therefore, though they went into exile as a na – tion, they would come out as individual believers (such as Ezra and Nehemiah describe).
* The exile separated the political from the spiritual. When the nation desired a king to be as the other nations (cf. 1 Sam. 8), as time passed, the nation be – came more and more political, and they became less and less spiritual. The more that they emphasized the king; the less they appreciated the prophets and the importance of spiritual things. However, the remnant in exile will understand the difference. Their cities, temple and king were all gone; was God gone, too? Oh, no! Daniel still prays toward Jerusalem, although it has burned and was destroyed, but they knew that God still lives! This was a demonstration of his faith and that God still lives, although the city and temple were destroyed. Is their worship gone, too? No, their religion was just note in the ritual of temple sacrifices (cf. Isa. 1:11-15).
* Captivity taught them that the temple that God desired was their heart (Isa. 57:15; 66:1-2), not the one that Solomon built. Do we remember what God said to Da – vid when David proposed the idea of a temple (2 Sam. 7:4-16)? He essentially began His response to David through the prophet, Nathan, by stating that He never at any time complained about the current situation of meeting them in fellowship through the tabernacle. Unfortunately, through the years that would follow, the temple became a symbol of ritual and had no relationship to life at all. God only dwelt in the temple as a symbolic manner. This same principle is true today—God desires to dwell in our hearts, and because He is high and holy, He does so in the hearts of those who are contrite, humble and obedient (Acts 7:45-50; 1 Cor. 3:16- 17). In fact, Isaiah 1 and Isaiah 66 are in direct contrast as proper bookends of this book—the rituals of the first chapter by those whose lives were impure and unholy (1:11-15) are contrasted with what Isaiah says that God wants in the last chapter—hearts that are clean, pure, holy and upright (66:1-2), which is still true today!
* The exile gave meaning to their mission – ary purpose. In exile, they became what God wanted them to be. Some thought that without Jerusalem, the temple and their earthly king, that there would be no testimony or witness to the true and living God, but this was not true. Even in captivity, this is why there were prophets, such as Ezekiel and Daniel. They were a testimony to the missionary purpose of God’s people and were a witness to the world!
* Moreover, they were to learn once again in captivity of their relationship with other people—they were to be separate from them, yet they were to influence them. They were not to live as other people, but they were to be a godly, life- changing influence upon them. Such is true of Christians today!
* In captivity, the only advantage they had over Babylon was the revelation of God and the truth onto which they held. That is what made the difference! Therefore, the pagans met true religion and revelation when they were in captivity (cf. Ps. 102).
Therefore, here are some of the things that the exile accomplished, prepared by the prophet, Isaiah. The captivity did not thwart the divine purpose that God had with His people! May we learn much from our study of the Old Testament to the point that we may see principles of truth and righteousness that we may apply today (cf. Rom. 15:4)!