Years ago when I worked as a police reporter for a newspaper, I heard a late night report on the police scanner of a house fire. The address took me far out into the country, and I could see the glow of the firetrucks in the distance as I approached.
When I pulled up to the scene, I watched the firefighters working to put out the blaze that could be seen emerging from the two-story farmhouse. But what I really found myself watching was the homeowner. He was hustling around, moving things out of the way, helping the firefighters haul around their water lines, giving them suggestions about how best to put out the fire.
The man was very busy trying to save his house. And then he stopped. There was nothing more to do. Somewhere in his mind, the realization came over him. His house was being destroyed.
That reminded me of another house fire I viewed as a newspaper reporter – in the middle of the city, just a few blocks from my office. There, the homeowner arrived late, well after the fire was reported and the fire trucks had arrived. And as the man walked up the sidewalk to his home, from which black smoke was billowing, he collapsed to the ground in shock. The paramedics propped him up against a tree and gave him oxygen.
I was reminded of these episodes while reading about the fall of Babylon – pictured as the prostitute in Chapter 17 – and the way in which the kings and merchants of the earth lamented the fall of the city. Babylon represents worldly political and religious power. It represents what Satan has to offer the nations of the world in order to pull them away from the true worship of God.
And as the city burned, the people who lived there mourned. The entire structure of sinful living and rebellion against God had been lit on fire. The residents couldn’t believe it, and they grieved. This was their home. This was all they knew. Where would they go now?
The fault of Babylon was the way in which it exploited people – and its pride. “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.”
God called his people out of the city. Like the Israelites taking leave of the actual ancient city of Babylon in order to return to the Promised Land, we can picture God’s faithful ones hitting the road. Like the prophet Daniel, they remained committed to God even while exiled in this city of greed, pride, power, and lust.
This paints a picture for us of the world in which we live. We have another home, and this is not it.