In yesterday’s sermon, Peter Leithart, preached on Isaiah 13, the burden against Babylon. Pastor Leithart pointed out that in Hebrew the name Babylon is the same as Babel. And seen against that backdrop, Isaiah’s burden has a number of similarities to that original Babylon.
And this highlights the tension throughout history between God’s way and the ways of prideful men. The city of man, the way of Babel seeks to unite humanity through the use of power and force, through money and violence, and their cities can seem impressive. Their towers do reach up into heaven. The empires of men do look sophisticated and powerful. But when God comes down to that original Babel, chaos ensues. Their moment of fame is really only that: a moment — all of nine verses, Pastor Leithart pointed out. And when Isaiah comes to deliver the burden against Babylon, once again, it is only just to declare the destruction of that mighty empire. It hasn’t even quite begun, and yet God is already declaring its doom.
But we are so easily distracted by the fancy letterhead and uniforms and the talking heads. But the Bible teaches us to read history and current events in a different way. Genesis shows us that what really matters is what is happening with the family of the childless nomadic sheik, Abram, who left his home looking for a city whose founder and builder is God. It seems silly and strange to focus so much attention on the petty squabbles and trials of that single family when various kingdoms and powers are rising and clashing all around them, but the point is that where God’s promise is, where God’s covenant is, that is where the real action is. And we need eyes to see what God is up to, eyes to see the city of God growing and filling the earth.
Though Pastor Leithart didn’t make this connection, his sermon fit well, I thought, with it also being Mother’s Day yesterday. Of course our culture can popularly celebrate this day and not catch the ironies, but we celebrate Mother’s Day not only in obedience to the fifth commandment, not merely because we love our mothers and are thankful for them, but also as a confession of faith, as an extension of our confidence in the way God works.
In other words, where is the real action? Where is the real power? Genesis and Isaiah point to children and families. They point to the seed of the woman, to our sisters and daughters and mothers and wives as types of the new Eve, the Christian Church which is the city of God, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. This is the way God is building His kingdom in this world. It does not come by power or might or swords or money or coercion or sexy news anchors. It comes by the Spirit. It comes by love and service and humility. It comes by a simple meal of bread and wine. It comes by prayers whispered and cried. It comes by song and dance. It comes by children born and loved. It comes by mothers. This is the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Eve, the Jerusalem from Above, the Mother of us all, the Mother of all the Living.