Building Babylon Pt. 6-Tale of Two Kings

Pro. Jeremiah Shepherd

Kings embody their kingdoms and often project the collective spirit of the people under their rule. In the case of King Saul, he became a reflection of Israel in ways that were unrecognized by the Israelites. As the people’s choice against the will of God, Saul epitomized the physical prestige and power that Israel coveted and idolized, but he also became a model of their disobedience.

David, Israel’s next king, was God’s choice to rule Israel, and his story stands as a reflection of Israel’s fall and also the future repentance of its remnant. Remarkably, even David’s most egregious sins parallel those of his nation, and they are adultery and murder. David had an adulterous affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, then had Uriah killed in an attempt to cover his sin. Similarly, Israel developed an idolatrous affair with the world and had Jesus killed as a coverup. The sinful elixir of adultery and murder brought judgment upon the house of David, but he ultimately repented and found mercy as evidenced by his writings in the book of psalms.

Psalm 118:1-2, 24-26
“1O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. 2Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever….

24This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. 25Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. 26Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.”*

Not only did David praise the Lord for mercy in his psalm, but he also encouraged Israel to do the same. Much later, Jesus would reveal the connection, reciting David’s prophetic song and declaring it as the sign of Israel’s repentance and prerequisite for their forgiveness.

Matthew 23:37-39
37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

David is called a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:21-34), because he demonstrated sincere contrition and repentance after his great sin. His actions perfectly illustrate God’s desire for Israel’s repentance, and Romans 9 declares that Israel’s elect will, one day, repent as David did.

Romans 9:27-29
“27Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha.”*

So, both Saul and David are two kings that represent Israel—the first in their sin and the second in the final humility and repentance of the remnant. As these two kings collectively reveal, Israel’s story begins with failure but concludes with their eventual fulfillment of the Lord’s purpose.

In a different way, Babylon is also reflected by two kings—Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. However, instead of a reflecting a change from sin to repentance, these kings appear to illustrate an opposite change of heart—from repentance back to sin. Babylon’s reign began with a season of mercy as humbling experiences provided an opportunity for Babylon and its leaders to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. But it was ultimately destroyed as a result of pride and rampant idolatry. This is also reflected by its two kings.

First, there was Nebuchadnezzar. Although it took a series of revelatory experiences, Nebuchadnezzar was afforded a great deal of mercy from the Lord and came to recognize that there is no other god like the God of Daniel and the Hebrews.

Daniel 2:46-47
“46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. 47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.”

Daniel 3:28-30
“28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.”

Daniel 4:25-37
“28 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. 30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. 33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. 34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”

But the humility afforded to Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom he ruled wouldn’t last long after him. In the spirit and nature of Babylon, its people began to return to their worship of idols, most notably under the leadership of a different ruler, Belshazzar, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.

The Lord had raised up Babylon, a Gentile nation, as a form of chastisement against the pride of Israel, His elect nation of promise. During this time of captivity for Israel, the Lord used Daniel along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to reveal His goodness and sovereignty to Nebuchadnezzar on several occasions. In one event, God graciously gave Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that none of the other magicians or astrologers could discern. In another instance Nebuchadnezzar ordered the Hebrew boys to be thrown into a furnace to be killed, but a fourth entity appeared in the image of the Lord to save them from the flames. In yet another revelation, God drove Nebuchadnezzar to insanity, forcing him to live in the wild for 7 years. Because that event was prophesied by Daniel and fulfilled with precision, Nebuchadnezzar had no choice but to acknowledge the omnipotence of Daniel’s God. Through Nebuchadnezzar, we see an amazing demonstration of divine love and mercy shown towards a nation of Gentiles. Nebuchadnezzar initially credited his own power and might with the rise of Babylon, but he was eventually brought to humility. Then, just two generations later, came Belshazzar.

“Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. 5 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6 Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. 7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. 8 Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. 9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied. 10 Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: 11 There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; 12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation. 13 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? 14 I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. 15 And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not shew the interpretation of the thing: 16 And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom. 17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: 21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. 22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; 23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: 24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. 25 And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. 27 Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. 28 Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. 29 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom 30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. 31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.”

The biblical story of Belshazzar with all of its details provides valuable insight into the spirit of Babylon. In a way, the spirit of the centuries-older city of Babel, led by Nimrod, had returned to inspire this newer Babylonian Empire back to its rebellious roots. Under Belshazzar, they praised and worshipped the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron and stone even though they had knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar’s divine revelations and declarations. Belshazzar credited these materialistic idols with their nation’s prominence instead of remembering that God had given them their power and security by His authority. So, because Babylon had knowledge of God and still rejected Him, their fate would be worse than the Babel which came centuries before. On the same night that the hand wrote upon the wall, they pridefully celebrated their false gods right into their destruction at the hands of the Medes and Persians. The were so full of their own pride, that they were destroyed, quickly, having barely put up a fight.

Much like Saul and David reflected Israel, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar became prophetic reflections of God’s season of dealings with the Gentiles. From the spiritual perspective, there is much more to be learned. As defined by scripture, Gentiles are people outside the physical covenant of God, and this great nation of Gentiles was granted such authority that God’s elect nation of Israel was given to them as captives. Through possession of Israel’s covenant people and possessions, Babylon was afforded a knowledge of God that they would not have otherwise learned of. Handled correctly, the captivity of Israel should have caused the Gentiles of Babylon to humble themselves to the truth and revelation of God.

Today, Gentiles, or non-Jewish believers, must recognize that this dynamic still exists to a great extent. We are currently in a position of grace that was once reserved for Israel, alone. Their covenants and promises are in our captivity and possession through the holy scriptures, but they are not to be handled with selfish pride. We can’t take advantage of the sacred protections and promises of God to become spiritually drunk on our own lusts, and we can’t presume to be immune from destruction because of an elevated position. If we forget these truths, and ignore the example of Babylon, then we risk becoming as Belshazzar, and our spiritual fate will be no different than physical Babylon. Paul provides clarity for better understanding in Romans 11

Romans 11
A Remnant of Israel
1I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. 5Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 7What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded 8(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 10Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

The Ingrafting of the Gentiles
11I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? 13For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: 14If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. 15For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? 16For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 24For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

All Israel Shall Be Saved 25For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 30For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 31Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 32For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”*

Paul warns us about forgetting the power of God or His unique love and purpose for Israel, so Babylon’s failures are, in fact, a warning to the Gentile church. Still, John prophesies through the book of Revelation that a future Babylon will rise again.

Revelation 17:1-6
“17 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: 5 And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth. 6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.”

Notice, there are several similarities. The whore of Babylon appears to be enjoying the metaphorical rewards which Daniel rejected. Daniel once said, “Let thy gifts be to thyself,” but the woman depicted in Revelation 17 is sitting atop a blasphemous beast, boasting in her array of purple and scarlet and delighting in the precious jewelry she has received. Amazingly, she even possesses a golden cup not unlike the vessels which Belshazzar and the Babylonians drank from. The story of the past and this depiction of the future are basically the same. She is also drunk with the blood of Saints and martyrs. Babylon persecuted and killed the Jews of its day, and the new Babylon will do the same to believers in Christ. Worst of all, Belshazzar led Babylon down the Nimrodic path to self-exaltation, self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency despite having knowledge of the ways of God. Ultimately, the end times will feature a group of individuals who carry this same defiant and blasphemous mentality, and they too will be judged.

Past iterations of Babylon stand as a warning to all men, especially Gentiles privileged with the opportunity to benefit from the blessings of Israel’s exclusive covenants. For all of mankind, we must learn from the story of Babylon and surrender to the God who first revealed Himself to Israel. It is not time for us to build our own kingdoms, and prioritizing selfish desires is not the Lord’s will. If we do, Paul warns us that our fate will be far worse than captivity Israel endured. It will be as the destruction of Babylon.

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