Thursday, July 05, 2012

Three Laments and a Jig

Revelation 18.9-24

If the last three sections of Revelation have been about the evils of Babylon, then this section is undoubtedly about the evils of her suitors—the kings of the earth, the merchants, and the mariners. Just as Babylon was a corrupted city whose own evil eventually destroyed her, so too Babylon’s suitors are corrupt men whose greed and self-interest have now been depleted. With her demise, they die too (in one way or another).

The kings mourned the loss of their pimp (‘they fornicated with her and shared her luxury’). Babylon was their pleasure center, the focal point of their illicit and self-indulgent relationship with excess. With her destruction, the kings have no way to work out their kinks. It is amusing, though, that the kings mourn her from a distance. They’ll miss her, but not enough to run up and say goodbye.

The merchants mourned the loss of their customer base (‘no one buys our cargo anymore’). And, lest we feel any sympathy for the merchants, let’s not forget that their cargo included human livestock. That’s right—they treated people like cattle, to be bought and sold like meat at market. The Roman system of slavery dehumanized both product and purchases, robbing the slaves of full personhood at the same time that their masters sold their own—a sour example of total control and debasement.

The mariners mourned the loss of their distribution channel (‘all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth’). Babylon was their business partner, and without her they were left holding onto old goods. Like the kings and the merchants, the mariners’ lamentation was totally self-centered. They don’t miss Babylon herself; they miss her luxury, her customers, and her markets.

And what are we to make of all this?

In a word? Celebration!

The evils about which we have been repeatedly warned have now been exposed and exhausted. There is no longer any opposition to the wisdom of the Creator—it’s now obvious that the behaviors he’s prohibited do, in fact, bring death. There’s no longer any debate about whether or not the powers of greed will outlast the powers of faith. Babylon is finished, and all those who loved her mourn. Just as Babylon brought death to God’s people, God has now brought death to her and ruin to her suitors.

Once upon a time Babylon deceived the nations with her magic, but God has disenchanted the world. We must be careful not to fall under such spellcraft again, in our own time, in our own ways, with our own suitors.

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