I have a friend who, when we visited him and his wife, my young daughter got a kick out of torturing. When she was maybe six or seven, she would get a glint in her eye and say to him, "No one will help you," as she sought to entrap his arms with string or whatever else was the method of the day.
My friend, who is an expert in existentialist philosophy, found the phrase to be fascinatingly suggestive of the human plight, particularly from an existentialist standpoint.
This phrase is pretty much the theme of Isaiah 47. It's a prophesy on the fall of Babylon, and Babylon is repeatedly informed that there is nothing that they can do to stop it and that no one can help to alleviate it in any way. The chapter literally ends with, "There is no one to save you."
As mentioned before in this blog, Babylon means many things in the Bible. It's a physical and historic location. But it's also a stand-in for all sorts of evils and essentially at times becomes the personification of all that is wrong on the earth.
Our modern sensibilities receive little comfort and pleasure in reading a passage talking about someone's comeuppance. The past few chapters have been chock full of words of comfort, and are accordingly quoted from all the time. I have yet to hear a single Bible verse quoted from Isaiah 47!
And yet, people today are not immune from frustration over things that are unfair. Religious people may secretly feel a certain pleasure at things going less well for those less devout than they are; they want to see themselves rewarded and others punished, because that satisfies human sensibilities of how they think the world should work. People who are vaccinated against the coronavirus may secretly feel that someone got what they deserved if an unvaccinated anti-masker contracts the virus and succumbs to it. I recently read an article where a nurse described essentially these feelings and justified them by saying that it's the only way she can cope with the day in and day out dramas she is experiencing in the hospital this year. We may have fury at politicians, world leaders, government employees who we strongly disagree with, and we may take pleasure at their inevitable falls.
All this to say, reading about the fall of Babylon may not resonate with us, but reading about the fall of some celebrity, enemy, or political figure sure is newsworthy. And it's newsworthy because it sells--because there is a human itch for those whom we feel deserve it to get punished, even if we won't admit it even to ourselves.
It's very telling what our response is when we feel that someone deserving of punishment gets bailed out again and again.
This is why Isaiah 47 is actually intended to be words of comfort to someone....that someone being Israel. It is an assurance that there is no bailout for Babylon. No one will help them, no one is going to help them, and the oppression will in fact stop completely.
And there are also words of comfort for Israel. For example, this little aside in verse 4 amidst the prophesy of what will happen to Babylon:
Our Redeemer--the Lord Almighty is his name--is the Holy One of Israel.
Specifically, the Hebrew is referring to a Kinsman-Redeemer (go'el). As this Crosswalk article describes regarding kinsman-redeemers (https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/the-beautiful-truth-of-how-christ-is-our-kinsman-redeemer.html), kinsman-redeemers redeem what was lost, and they rescue and bring restoration. This article lists four Biblical requirements for being a kinsman-redeemer.
First, one had to be kin.
I was meditating the other day on how the Bible talks about Jesus being our brother, and there are both motherly and fatherly descriptions of God throughout scripture. The one nuclear family position missing, then, is sister. Still, there are numerous descriptions describing God as relating to us as a family member. However, it's a little hard to wrap our mind around having a family member one never sees and rarely hears. And, many have famously written of efforts to overcome poor perceptions of God as father, for instance, when one has had a terrible earthy father. Deep-seated feelings can be projected on God the Father, and we therefore have our idea of a stern, cosmic figure in the sky meting out judgment willy-nilly.
We must take it on faith that, positionally, we are related to God. There is something very powerful in this idea. I mentioned above that I am not aware of any sisterly description of God. Yet, just googling the phrase, "Daughter of the King," reveals that this is apparently a popular tattoo for women to get inscribed in Hebrew. This phrase resonates with people. It's a powerful concept to be thought of as a daughter of God. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it.
Secondly, the kinsman-redeemer had to be willing to help. The book of Ruth describes a scenario where the first-in-line kinsman-redeemer rejects the opportunity, which opens the door for Boaz to step in, marry Ruth, and change the course of history (Ruth and Boaz being the great-grandparents of King David, from whom Jesus descended). God is indeed willing to be our Kinsman-Redeemer.
As the NETBible site describes (http://classic.net.bible.org/dictionary.php?word=REDEEMER), the Christian conceptualization of Redeemer has two elements. First, there is deliverance. This can be from physical, spiritual, or emotional bondage. Christians across the centuries have called out to God for deliverance from all of these things. African slaves in the United States were particularly fond of the Moses motif, as Moses represented a redeemer guiding God's people to the promised land during the Exodus. Harriet Tubman herself was was known as "Moses," for her work on the underground railroad and its role in providing deliverance. Many have also noted, from New Testament times on, that people can be in bondage spiritually and emotionally. The bonds are invisible but very real, and the individual in question may feel completely helpless in removing the bonds themselves. Deliverance is needed.
According to NETBible the second Christian element of a Redeemer is "the positive movement of the soul thus relieved toward larger and fuller life." Shalom, or complete wholeness and soundness. This is my great desire personally and for the world. I believe that many of us, all across the world, desperately long for this for ourselves, our friends and family, and for the world. We may try to accomplish it in various ways, and in our humanness get in each other's ways as we try to accomplish shalom. Biblical conceptions, however, point out that our efforts must be led by the Redeemer. This is why surrender is so key. Without it, we may be inadvertently fighting the very spiritual processes and forces working toward shalom, unless we surrender and tap into the global and trans-dimensional struggle against darkness (note: I say trans-dimensional for lack of a better word, as I work to eradicate in my own mind the erroneous idea of heaven being upward and hell being downward).
Back to the specific discussion of a kinsman-redeemer, thirdly, the kinsman-redeemer had to be able to do the role. This usually meant having the financial means to do it. Boaz, mentioned earlier, was loaded. He had no problem paying what was needed. God is the perfect Kinsman-Redeemer, since God alone possesses all the means necessary to deliver as many as possible.
The book of Revelation, which is all about God's redemption of the world and mankind, says this in chapter 5:
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.
It's a beautiful description of the total redemption of the world, and it describes the process by which our Kinsman-Redeemer did this, which is the fourth and final element: The price must be paid in full.
There's no tab for paying this later, no partial credit. Rescuing us from the darkness needs to be complete. And while the price is already paid, the process continues. As I've quoted before,
We have been saved from the penalty of sin.
We are being saved from the power of sin.
We shall be saved from the presence of sin.
Being saved from the presence of the sin means the eradication of illness, suffering, and death. These are the biggest signs of wrongness in the world, signs that had Jesus yelling and crying over when He was in human form on earth. We know that they are wrong, and that we hate them. God hates them, too. His master plan is to get rid of them entirely.
And so we eagerly pray for and await the fall of this Babylon--the personification of all that is evil and wrong in this world.
Even so, come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22: 20).