This is a Bible study on Isaiah 47:1-15.

5 pages.

Isaiah 47:1-15 - Humble Yourself Before the LORD

Read Isaiah 47:1-15.


A successful businessman writes:

Until a dozen years ago, I thought I was completely in control of my life. It was easy for me to chart my course and see how I was progressing in the company. I had my entire future carefully mapped out with insurance policies, investments and a house for security. My philosophy was that man is at the center of life and has all the answers.

Once, when my wife said, 'We really ought to thank God for all the blessings He has given us,' I responded, 'You don’t thank God! You thank me! I’m the one who brings home the paycheck; I’m the one who pays the bills; I’m the one who plans how we’re going to spend the money.'1

That is the testimony and the attitude of a once proud man. He goes on to write, “Although it makes me cringe now, at the time I really believed what I was saying.”

When we are “on top of the world,” there is the temptation to entertain an attitude of self-confidence and arrogance. That was the situation with ancient Babylon when she held sway as the greatest empire of the day.

But what we learn from this present passage of Scripture is that God resists the proud. Taking to heart the testimony of this passage, let us humble ourselves before the LORD our God, because He is the God who opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Humble Yourself before the LORD, or He will Bring You Down🔗

The great empire of Babylon is portrayed as a beautiful queen who is brought to disgrace and humiliation (vs. 1-3). The LORD issues the command, “Come down [from your lofty throne of power and prestige], and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon!” “Virgin daughter of Babylon” indicates a nation that has known no defeat in battle. “Sit on the ground without a throne;” this great nation, at the command of the LORD, shall be abased and deprived of her glory. “You shall no longer be called tender and delicate;” this beautiful nation, known for its splendor, one that has been blessed with every luxury, shall be reduced to shame and disgrace. “Take the millstone and grind flour;” this once great “queen” is now reduced to the status of the most menial slave girl who is assigned the hard task of grinding grain for bread. “Remove your veil; lift up your skirt, wade through the stream with your legs uncovered;” this great queen must remove her royal apparel and conduct herself in a most unlady-like manner: splashing across a stream like a common peasant girl, instead of being conveyed across in a stylish coach carried by servants. The LORD declares that He shall reduce this great world power to nakedness and humiliation as an act of righteous vengeance and judgment: “Your nakedness will be exposed, and your shame will be uncovered. I will take vengeance; I will spare no one” (vs. 3).

Earlier in Babylon’s history, (although still far into the future from Isaiah's day), the great king, Nebuchadnezzar, had to learn the lesson that the LORD rules in the kingdom of men and that He is able to abase those who walk in pride:

29b...[the king] was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30The king said, Is not this great Babylon that I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty? 31While the word was [still] on the king’s lips, there came a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: The kingdom has been removed from you. 32Furthermore, you shall be driven away from men and you shall live with the beasts of the field; you shall be forced to eat grass like the cattle. Seven years shall pass over you, until you acknowledge that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever he desires. 33In that very hour what had been declared to Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from men, and he ate grass like the cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew like [the feathers] of an eagle and his nails like [the claws] of a bird. 34aAt the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my sanity was restored to me. Then I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever... 37Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honor the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just, and he is able to humble those who walk in pride. Dan. 4:29b-34a, 37

But, tragically, his son, Belshazzar, refused to learn that lesson and, consequently, at the end he and his kingdom paid the terrible price for their unholy pride:

O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar, your father, the kingdom and the greatness and the glory and the majesty. 19Because of the greatness he gave him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared him and trembled before him. He killed whomever he desired, and he kept alive whomever he desired; he promoted whomever he desired, and he demoted whomever he desired. 20But when his heart became arrogant and his spirit was hardened, so that he behaved in a proud manner, he was deposed from his royal throne and they took his glory from him. 21He was driven away from men and his mind became like that of the beasts. He lived with the wild donkeys, he was given grass to eat like the cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men and that he sets over it whomever he desires. 22Yet you, his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. 23aOn the contrary, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven.Dan. 5:18-23a

Will we take to heart the lesson that Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way, will that profound truth have a practical impact on the way we view and employ the abilities and opportunities the LORD God gives us? Or will we follow the course of Belshazzar to a tragic end?

Let us humble ourselves before the LORD, or He will bring us down. Let us consider well the warning of Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Let us acknowledge with humble gratitude that whatever abilities and opportunities we possess have been graciously given to us by the LORD, as the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians by means of a series of rhetorical questions: “What makes you superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you received it, why do you boast as if it had not been given to you?” (1 Cor. 4:7) Let us dedicate ourselves and those God-given abilities and opportunities to the LORD, asking Him to show us how to use them in ways that are pleasing to Him and for His honor and glory.

Humble Yourself before the LORD, by Renouncing the Attitudes that Offend Him🔗

The LORD consigns this mighty world empire of Babylon to silence and darkness; i.e. to judgment and complete obscurity (vs. 5). When one has been granted a position of power and prestige, one must be on guard against the temptation that accompanies such a position; namely, the temptation to entertain and exhibit ungodly attitudes, attitudes that are highly offensive to God.

Such attitudes resided in the heart of Babylon and were displayed in her life. She was merciless (vs. 6). She had no pity on the weak and helpless, no compassion for such; rather than employing her power for the benefit of the needy, it was used to crush them and to even do so with delight. How do we employ whatever power and position God has given us? Do we use it for the defense and relief of the needy, or for their suppression and exploitation?

She displayed arrogant self-confidence (vs. 7). She viewed herself as being unconquerable, secure, immune to disaster; and she entertained this confidence with an attitude of arrogance, she said, “I will be queen forever.” She was a nation that had a false sense of security (vs. 8b). Due to her strategic position, her strong fortifications, and her vast military power, she viewed herself as being secure and invulnerable. She was confident that she would perpetually continue in her lofty estate: she would not be a widow; she would not become childless (vs. 8d). That is to say, she would never know a time when there would be no one to protect her and provide for her; but the LORD declares that her desolation shall come upon her “in a moment” and “in full measure” (vs. 9). Babylon declared that forever she would be the mistress of kingdoms, but the LORD declared that no longer would she be called the mistress of kingdoms (vs. 5). Do we view our positions as being secure; do we see ourselves as being in complete control? Or do we humbly and wisely recognize that all of life is under God’s sovereign control and at His disposal? With regard to mankind’s absolute dependence upon God our Creator, the Apostle Paul reminds the Athenians, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Babylon was devoted to her pleasures (vs. 8). She assumed that all her power and prestige was to be employed for her own personal benefit, satisfaction, fulfillment, and pleasure. The Hebrew word for ““pleasure” ( עִד ןַ ) is related to the word “Eden;” Babylon sought to create her own form of Eden; in this case, a self-centered, self-indulging paradise. Do we assume that our abilities and opportunities are to be employed for the chief purpose, if not the exclusive purpose, of fulfilling our own personal ambitions and desires? Or do we recognize that all we are and all we have are to be dedicated to the Lord our God? As the Apostle Paul instructs the Corinthians, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Furthermore, and worst of all, Babylon deified herself. She viewed herself as being at the center of life and the fulfillment of her will as being the chief end of life. In her heart and thinking she sought to assume, or usurp, the identity of the LORD, declaring, “I am, and there is none besides me.” In our hearts and thoughts do we hold the philosophy that man is at the center of life? Bear in mind the testimony of that successful business man mentioned in the Introduction: My philosophy was that man is at the center of life and has all the answers. Or do we acknowledge the truth that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever?

The LORD rebukes the incredible perverseness of Babylon: “You have trusted in your wickedness. You have said, ‘No one sees me"” (vs. 10a). She viewed herself as being hidden from God; and thus entertained the false confidence that she could continue to practice wickedness, and rely upon wicked measures to advance her own purposes, without fear of punishment and just retribution.

“Your wisdom and your knowledge have deluded you, causing you to say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is none besides me"” (vs. 10b). Here is great confidence in human wisdom and human knowledge, (the outlook that maintains that man possesses the knowledge to solve all problems and accomplish all things). This haughty self-confidence deluded the nation into deifying itself. “Therefore,” declares the LORD, “disaster will come upon you.” When that day comes, “you will not know how to conjure it away;” all of Babylon’s superstition and magic shall not be able to drive away the calamity sent by the Lord of heaven. “A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom;” Babylon shall not have the strength or the resources to defend itself and to repel the calamity ordained against it by the Lord Almighty. “A catastrophe you could not foresee will suddenly come upon you;” it shall overtake the nation unexpectedly, catching her totally unaware. She shall neither be prepared for its coming nor have the wherewithal to withstand it; it shall be a calamity such as she has never known before. It proved to be a calamity that took the form of invasion and defeat by the Medes and the Persians under King Cyrus.

The LORD challenges Babylon to stand against Him, but at the same time informs her that such efforts will prove to be utterly futile. He challenges the nation to resort to its sorceries and by means of them to ward off the LORD’s judgment: “Adhere to your incantations and the multitude of your sorceries in which you have labored from your youth; if you will be able to benefit [from them], if you will be able to prevail [by means of them]” (vs. 12). The LORD challenges the astrologers themselves to stand up and save the nation: “Now let your astrologers come forward—those stargazers who make predictions month by month—and save you from what is coming upon you” (vs. 13). But far from being able to save their nation, the sorcerers themselves will be stubble before the fire of the LORD’s judgment: “Surely, they will be like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They will not be able to deliver themselves from the power of the flame—this will not be a fire of coals to provide warmth nor a campfire around which they may sit” (vs. 14). The LORD warns the nation that all the unholy and ungodly things they have trusted in will desert them and there shall be none to save them: “This is what the things with which you have labored will be for you—they will be of no value! Furthermore, those with whom you have carried on trade from the time of your youth will each wander away to his own home; there will be no one to save you” (vs. 15).

Let us humble ourselves before the LORD, by renouncing the attitudes that offend Him: pride, arrogance, lack of compassion, failure to extend mercy. Let us bear in mind and, by God’s grace, put into practice the counsel of the prophet Micah, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? [He requires you] to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly before your God” (Mic. 6:8).

Humble Yourself before the LORD, and He will Lift You Up🔗

Upon hearing the pronouncement of God’s righteous decrees against proud Babylon, the people of God cry out in praise and thanksgiving: “Our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, is the Holy One of Israel!” (vs. 4)

As the LORD Himself indicates in verse six, He had been angry with His people and had been compelled to send them away in discipline, because they had exhibited in the land of Israel the same pride and arrogance found in the nation of Babylon. But, as the Scriptures reveal, Israel’s exile had a humbling effect upon them; it caused them to turn their hearts to God, to call upon Him as their Redeemer, and acknowledge Him as their sovereign Lord, note Jeremiah 29:12-14a, will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14aI will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back from captivity.

The LORD had warned long ago that He would chasten His people with severe discipline, that He would break their stubborn pride: “I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze” (Lev. 26:19). Then, after having done so, He would restore them:

But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, 41which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they accept the punishment for their iniquity, 42then I will remember my covenant. Lev. 26:40-42

Contrast the LORD’s pronouncement of judgment against arrogant Babylon (Isa. 47:1) with His pronouncement of blessing upon repentant Israel (Isa. 52:2a):

Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon! Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans, for you shall no longer be called tender and delicate. Isa. 47:1

Shake the dust off yourself. Rise up and sit on your throne, O Jerusalem. Isa. 52:2a

Let us humble ourselves before the LORD, so that He may lift us up. As the Apostle Peter declares, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 'Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5b-6). In practical terms, this means having the same mind and attitude as the Lord Jesus: He did not seek to exalt Himself; on the contrary, He faithfully served His heavenly Father, being confident that He would receive true and lasting honor from Him:

Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus: 'existing in the form of God, he did not regard his being on an equality with God as a thing to be exploited; 7on the contrary, he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. Being found as a man in appearance, 8he humbled himself by becoming obedient unto death, even the death on the cross. 9aTherefore, God exalted him to the highest position. Phil. 2:5-9a

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. What form of judgment will the LORD bring upon Babylon? See Isa. 47:1. Note Isa. 2:11. So that we may be spared from the fate that befell ancient Babylon, and will befall the final “Babylon,” what are we exhorted to do? See 1 Pet. 5:5b-6,

Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon! Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans, for you shall no longer be called tender and delicate. Isa. 47:1

The arrogant looks of man will be brought low, and the lofty pride of men will be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. Isa. 2:11

...because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the appointed time... 1 Pet. 5:5-6

  1. Of what does the LORD forewarn Babylon in Isaiah 47:3? How does the Apostle Paul describe the conduct of a Godless, sinful society, and what does he exhort us, as Christians, to do? See Eph. 5:11-12. Do we ever entertain the delusion that sin can be practiced in secret and can be kept secret? Note Prov. 14:14a; also, Heb. 4:13,

Your nakedness will be exposed, and your shame will be uncovered. I will take vengeance; I will spare no one. Isa. 47:3

Do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead rebuke them, 12for it is shameful to even speak about the things that they are doing in secret. Eph. 5:11-12

The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways... Prov. 14:14a

When you indulge sinful desires in your heart, eventually your life will become filled with the sinful fruit of those desires.

And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Heb. 4:13

  1. What sin, worthy of God’s judgment, is described in Isaiah 47:6 (note especially vs. 6b)? What are the practices that are pleasing to the LORD, and expected of us as Christians? See Matt. 23:23. Of what does the LORD warn us, if we refuse to extend mercy to others? See Jas. 2:13a,

I was angry with my people, [therefore], I desecrated my inheritance and delivered them into your hand; [but] you showed them no mercy. [Even] on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke.Isa. 47:6

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you...have neglected the weightier [matters] of the Law: justice and mercy and faith... Matt. 23:23

...judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Jas. 2:13

  1. For what lifestyle does the LORD hold Babylon culpable and worthy of condemnation? See Isa. 47:8a Cp. 2 Tim. 3:1-4. Like Babylon, does your life revolve around pleasure, rather than God; are you devoted to pleasure, rather than God? Do you find that what the Lord Jesus said to the Ephesian church, He must also say to you? See Rev. 2:4. If so, what does He tell you to do? See Rev. 2:5,

Now then, listen to this, you who give yourself over to your pleasures, you who lounge in your security, you who say in your heart, I am, and there is none besides me; I will never be a widow, nor will I suffer the loss of children. Isa. 47:8

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come; 2for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money... 4...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.2 Tim. 3:1-4

But I have this against you: You have left your first love. 5Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the works [you did] at the beginning; or else I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, if you do not repent. Rev. 2:4-5

  1. What was the spirit that animated Babylon? See Isa. 47:7-8. The ancient empire of Babylon was a manifestation of the kingdom of man, and of the spirit that resides in the heart of every unconverted man; what does the LORD urge us as Christians to do? See Rev. 18:4. As a Christian, are you aligning yourself with the worldview and the agenda of the kingdom of man, or with the LORD and His transcendent kingdom?

You said, I will be queen forever. So you did not consider these things, nor did you reflect on what would happen. 8Now then, listen to who lounge in your security, you who say in your heart, I am, and there is none besides me; I will never be a widow, nor will I suffer the loss of children. Isa. 47:7-8

Then I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, so that you have no fellowship with her sins and that you do not receive the plagues that will come upon her. Rev. 18:4

We cannot physically depart from the humanistic and hedonistic society in which we find ourselves, but we must separate ourselves from its lifestyle and worldview.

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