(See Isaiah 39 for context)
So I hear you made an alliance with Babylon…
Let’s talk about that.
I know your options were limited. I know none of them seemed good. You’ve been under the thumb of the Assyrians for the last few years, and you felt the Egyptians breathing down your neck. I know you felt pressured from every side and frightened by a rapidly changing world with an uncertain future.
But Babylon? Really? That was where you decided to turn for protection? You chose to make an alliance with a worldly force that neither knows God nor fears him, a force guilty of doing the very things you detest in Assyria and Egypt. And yet you celebrate this alliance as if it were the salvation of God.
Nevertheless, you made your choice. Now you have to live with the consequences of your choice. Let me tell you some things that you can expect to come out of this alliance:
1. There will be spiritual compromise. Actually, this has already happened. It’s been going on for years. Every time your fathers made an alliance with another power, idolatry quickly followed. It goes with the territory. It’s part of the deal. When you seek protection from these other powers, they always expect something in return. In forging an alliance with them, you have proved that you really trust in their gods more than you trust in the one true God.
These other nations and powers expect you to worship their gods, and your fathers were always only too happy to oblige. Some have full on worshipped the Baals and Asherahs, but more often, the spiritual compromise has come in the form of a syncretism between our faith and theirs, a weakening of our faith, a celebration of their values in our worship. Your father Ahaz set up an Assyrian altar in the temple courtyard after his alliance with Assyria. He thought he could keep both God and the Assyrians happy. Instead, both turned against him. His actions showed where his trust really lay. Your actions show the same.
You cannot serve two masters. God and Babylon ask for very different things, talk about very different things, and prioritize very different things. God and Babylon are ethically and morally opposed. Stop fooling yourself into believing this compromise will work.
2. There will be loss of influence. Look, I know the alliance seems to make sense right now. I’m sure that when Babylon wooed you to their side, it was with promises of power and protection. You’ve felt your influence waning for some time now, and it has frightened you. That’s why you went looking for a new lover. And when Babylon flattered you with the words you’ve been longing to hear, you were easily wooed. Babylon whispered sweet nothings in your ear, “You can still matter on the world stage… I will protect you from your enemies and your enemies will be destroyed… I value you… You can be great again…”
Let’s be honest. You have been used. Babylon doesn’t value you. You only matter on the world stage as a puppet to prop up their empire. They only protect you as long as you serve their interests. They only value what they can get from you (in particular, the treasures you showed them when they visited). You will not be great again, except as a tool to build their greatness. Your reach for influence will result in less influence than ever before.
3. There will be loss of witness. Hezekiah, when stories are told about you in the future, your willingness to stand apart, trust God, and make no alliance in the face of the Assyrian armies will be told as an example of great faith. God was glorified, his power shone through you, and his fame went out into the world.
But the story of this alliance with Babylon will be told as a story of shame, a sad conclusion to a story that had started so brilliantly. If you are saved, it won’t be God who saves you, but Babylon. You will be painted with the same brush as Babylon, and the world will be unable to differentiate you from them. Their actions are now your actions. Their words are now your words. You can’t ally yourself to them and denounce them at the same time. Your actions speak louder than your words. The world sees what it sees, and it sees an alliance. Why wouldn’t it assume that you are just like Babylon?
4. This alliance will ultimately be your undoing. Babylon didn’t make this alliance because they agree with you or support you or have your best interests at heart. They are in this because they know you need them, and they can use you. Babylon has no real interest in propping you up. Know for certain that Babylon will exploit you (and is exploiting you) for your treasures. You invited them in. You showed them the wealth and power you had to offer. And they want it. They will find a way to make it theirs. They already have. Babylon owns you now.
They will return one day, and demand more from you. And more. More compromise. More support. More treasure. It won’t end. You will lose, and lose, and lose some more. You will lose until the day you can’t take it anymore, and when you rebel they will come and take the little you have left.
Listen, Hezekiah, I know that even as you read this that you are telling yourself that this is all okay because it won’t happen in your lifetime. You are just happy that there will be peace and security in your day. You should be ashamed of yourself! How can you be content with the short-term victories this alliance offers you when the long-term results will undo everything you thought you’d gained today and more? How can you be content when it is your children and grandchildren who will suffer the consequences? Some of your own sons will be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon. But what you don’t realize is that Babylon has already made a eunuch of you.