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Isaiah 46, 47: God’s Message to Babylon: Chapter 4: The Irresistible Flame

Isaiah 47:12, 13 says to Babylon,

12 “Stand fast now in your spells and in your many sorceries with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you may cause trembling. 13 You are wearied with your many counsels; let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you.”

The fallen queen of Babylon is pictured as one who has spent long hours studying spells and sorceries in order to make a profit and retain power over the minds of men. Her faith was in her fleshly ability to learn occult secrets so as to make men afraid of disobeying her. God taunts her to let her counselors and astrologers “stand up and save you from what will come upon you.”

In other words, occult knowledge, spells, and sorceries cannot overrule the power of God and His law. God’s law supported Babylon only for as long as Israel was being judged. When the time of judgment ended, it was Babylon’s turn to be judged—in particular, for mistreating its slaves (Isaiah 47:6), those that God had entrusted to Babylon. The queen of Babylon should have known that God’s idea of slavery was different from her own.

The Power of the Flame

Isaiah 47:14 says,

14 “Behold, they [Babylon’s counselors and astrologers] have become like stubble. Fire burns them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame; there will be no coal to warm by nor a fire to sit before!”

The “fire” that burns stubble is the same fire that burns chaff which, as John the Baptist said, is burned up “with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12). It is not “unquenchable” to God, but it is not possible for men to quench (or resist). It is the fire of divine judgment, often misunderstood as a literal torture chamber (“hell”).

The fire is actually the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2, KJV), which judges the world in righteousness. Every law is a “fire,” including the law of beatings, as Jesus described in Luke 12:47-49,

47 And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few… 49 I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

The law itself is an expression of God’s nature, for when He gave Israel His law, He appeared to them only as a consuming fire (Deut. 4:15, 24, 33; Exodus 24:17). Those who do not realize that the fire is a metaphor for the love and passion of God—for “God is love”—usually interpret the fire carnally, thereby making God unjust in His judgments.

The law of God does not demand torture but restitution, not never-ending destruction but ultimate restoration, not the destruction of the body but the crucifixion of the “old self” (Rom. 6:6). Men have been deceived into thinking that God will lose most of His creation in the end, but Paul asserts confidently that all things will be reconciled to God (Col. 1:16, 20). All things will be put under the feet (authority) of Christ (1 Cor. 15:27, 28), so that the purpose of creation might be fulfilled.

Hence, “the power of the flame” is unquenchable in its quest to burn stubble. Chaff has no power to resist divine judgment. The queen of Babylon, along with her counselors cannot escape this fire by the power of sorcery or astrology. All flesh must be burned as stubble in order that God may save the world.

This “flame” does not produce any literal fire to warm the fallen queen. In fact, it does not even produce a “coal to warm by” (Isaiah 47:14). This again shows the spiritual nature of God’s fire. It is not a literal or physical fire.

The Angel

In my series of biblical novels called The Anava Chronicles, the fourth book is entitled, Power of the Flame. It is primarily the story of Samson told in novel form, showing that the Power of the Flame is actually the name of an angel whose work was evident in the death of Samson’s fiancé, Eglah (“Heifer”). Samson referred to her as his “heifer” in Judges 14:18. (This name is comparable to Leah, “calf,” and Rachel, “ewe.”)

When the Philistines burned her and her father’s house, they did not realize that they were fulfilling the prophetic law, which required burning a red heifer (Num. 19:5) to be used to cleanse the unclean. In my story, Samson stored her ashes just outside the border of Israel, even as the ashes of the red heifer were to be stored “outside the camp” (Num. 19:9) to purify those who would approach the God of Israel.

The point is that “the power of the flame” is not to be seen as a loss for God but as a means of restoring the unclean nations to the rule of Christ. Only flesh is lost. Rebellious men cannot escape the fire that will surely burn the stubble and chaff from their lives. The fire of God is unquenchable, but God’s love, passion, and jealousy compels Him to save the whole world. God wins in the end because His fire is unquenchable.

Fleshly Men Cannot Save the Queen

Isaiah 47:15 concludes,

15 “So have those become to you with whom you have labored, who have trafficked with you from your youth; each has wandered in his own way; there is none to save you.”

The fallen queen of Babylon is left alone. None of her friends are there to save her, for “each has wandered in his own way.” Later, the prophet would say the same of all men in Isaiah 53:6,

6 All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him [Christ].

The queen herself represents the government of Babylon and its way of life. There is nothing that can save that fleshly system of oppression. However, the Babylonian people themselves have hope, because the Messiah was sent to bear the penalty for all iniquity, thus saving the world along with Israel. The death of Christ was on behalf of the whole world (1 John 2:2). In fact, the salvation of the world is about saving them from their own wandering, each “in his own way.”

This ends God’s message to Babylon, leaving the city hopelessly fallen from power in spite of its power of sorcery, spells, and astrological knowledge. The city cannot defend itself from the fiery law of God, which sets the captives free from sin by the power of the law of Jubilee. The Jubilee is the law of Grace.

The hope of salvation is then presented to us in the next chapters. First, Israel is set free from Babylonian captivity, but the prophet also sees the entire world being set free in the end by the work of the Messiah.

This great salvation, presented in Isaiah 48-56, is the underlying message in the name of the prophet. Isaiah, like Yeshua, is derived from the root word yasha, “to save,” making Isaiah the prophet of (universal) salvation. Yeshua-Jesus Himself is that “salvation,” the Messiah who died to save the world.