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How Thou Art Fallen

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Who is the king of Babylon? From a purely historical perspective, Isaiah 14:12-15 is a reference to the King of Babylon at the time of Judah’s captivity. His name is Sennacherib—or that is, it will be since Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 14 is years away from being fulfilled. In his military might this great king will lay low the nations, including Phoenicia, Philistia, Egypt, Moab, Edom, Cilicia, much of Judah, and northern Arabia. According to Isaiah 14:4 the nation of Babylon is an oppressor, and according to Isaiah 14:5 the nation is a wicked oppressor who has subdued nations with relentless aggression (v. 6). But God has made captive the captors of His people who now begin to taunt the Babylonian king and remind him that death is coming and hell is his reward.

The people taunting this tyrant picture him ascribing godlike characteristics to himself. Sennacherib, because of his great power, thought himself a deity. In the ancient Near East, kings had supreme power; and many were deified by their subjects. But he would fall like a morning star.

“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12–15, NIV)

Christians have been fascinated with theses verses and see a double reference in them. As early as the late second century, theologians such as Tertullian believed that these verses also gave us a picture of the fall of Satan, personified in the fall of the Babylonian King. I believe that the prophet saw in this event something far deeper than the defeat of an empire. In the fall of the king of Babylon, he saw the defeat of Satan, the “prince of this world,” who seeks to energize and motivate the leaders of nations.

This passage, if it does focus on Satan, reveals the reason for his fall from heaven. The five vaunting “I will” statements reveal a twisted passion of the creature to replace the Creator as Lord. But the arrogant effort to rise higher than God leads only to a devastating fall. Isaiah pictures the ruler cast down to the depths, a pitiful creature now and on object of wonder that any might have feared him at all.

Another Old Testament passage that is helpful to us is Ezekiel 28:11-19.

“The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’ ”” (Ezekiel 28:11–19, NIV)

Like our Isaiah passage, here too, we see a double reference. In this instance, Ezekiel’s prophecy is against the king of Tyre. This passage, if it does focus on Satan, reveals the something of his splendor before his fall from heaven. Between these two passages, what can we discern about Satan?


    • ILLUS. Chuck Swindoll once told the following story: A young woman who had recently undergone somewhat of a religious transformation sought the advice of her pastor on a matter of great urgency. Previously she had lived her life obsessed with the latest beauty secret, the newest fashion, and the best weight loss program. The woman said, “Reverend, I need advice to overcome grievous sin.” The minister asked, “What is it, child?” The young woman confessed sheepishly, “I have committed the sin of vanity. Twice a day I gaze at myself in the mirror and tell myself how amazingly beautiful I am. I can’t help it. It is an ungodly preoccupation. Now that I have found God, I know that this is not the way to live. Will you please pray for me?” The preacher turned, took a good look at the girl, and replied, “My dear, I have good news. That isn’t a sin—it’s only a mistake.”
            1. an old German proverb says, “The devil entangles youth with beauty, the miser with gold, the ambitious with power, the learned with false doctrine.”
            2. Satan had three fascinations:
            3. good looks, bright lights, and fine things
                1. the devil was infatuated, captivated, and obsessed with none other but himself
                    1. he did not need make-up or touch-up, a supporting cast or an adoring public
                    2. all he needed was a continuous supply of mirrors


            1. originally, he was a guardian cherub (vv 14, 16) with outstanding qualities
                1. it was a Cherub that God placed at the entrance to Eden after man’s expulsion from the Garden to guard the Tree of Life (Gen 3:24)
                2. in 2 Sam. 22:11 and Ps. 18:10 God is depicted as riding on a cherub when he descended to earth
                3. if you remember it was a representation of a covering cherub that was to adorn the lid of the Ark of the Covenant
                4. in Ezekiel 10:15-22 the prophet describes them as partly human and partly animal and they seem to act as guardians of God’s throne
            2. he was the model of perfection (v 12)
            3. he was full of wisdom— the kind that not even Solomon or any person on earth could match
            4. finally, Satan’s beauty was celebrated in words and song— You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared
                1. captivating is a good word to describe Satan’s character
                2. no wonder the Apostle Paul characterizes him as an angel of light
                  • “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:14–15, NIV)
            5. however, twice in this passage, Satan was described as a created being (vv 13, 15)
                1. unlike the Creator, Satan did not have a divine nature, was not preexistent, and had no power to create out of nothing
                2. Satan was brought, fashioned and ordered into existence by his Creator
                    1. Satan did not speak, will anything into existence
                    2. whatever splendor he had was given to him
                3. his role was to be the guardian angel, his place of assignment was God’s holy mountain, where he walked back and forth in the fiery stones
                4. though Satan had some powers, he was not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent
                    1. eventually he became envious of God’s power, knowledge, and sovereignty


    • ILLUS. A young, gifted, outstanding young preacher was once asked by the renowned nineteenth century Puritan preacher Alexander Whyte to preach in his place at Whyte’s church in Edinburgh. The young man went up to the pulpit with great anticipation from himself, and to great expectations from the crowd that had gathered to hear the bright, promising young man. However, when the invited speaker took his place on the lectern, his worst nightmare occurred: his mind went blank, he was speechless and couldn’t think of what to say. It was a disaster, an embarrassment to the church pastor, and a shock to the congregation. A hushed silence fell on the crowd as he came down from the pulpit a broken-hearted man after further attempts to continue yielded the same result. The dejected young man privately confided with the more experienced pastor, “What went wrong, sir?” Whyte said gently, slowly but truthfully to him, “Well, laddie, if you have gone up [into the pulpit] the way you came down, you would have more chance of getting down the way you went up.”
            1. do you know who committed the first sin in the Bible?
                1. if you said Adam and Eve you were wrong
                    1. they were not the ones who committed the first sin in the Bible
                2. Satan was the first created being to sin, and his sin was pride
                  • “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” (Ezekiel 28:17, NIV)


            1. Satan said in his heart,
                1. I will ascend to heaven
                    1. God’s Place - Satan Wanted a Place That Belonged to God
                2. I will raise my throne above the stars of God
                    1. God’s Position - Satan Wanted to Take over God’s Throne
                3. I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain
                    1. God’s Power - Satan Wanted to Possess God’s Strength
                4. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds
                    1. God’s Purity - Satan Wanted to Gain God’s Glory
                5. I will make myself like the Most High
                    1. God’s Prestige - Satan Was in Open Rebellion to God
            2. Satan was setting his will over against the will of God
            3. Satan’s ‘I wills’ became man’s ‘I will’
                1. this is man’s original sin
                  • “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6, NIV)
                2. Adam and Eve’s disobedience was not original with them; it wasn’t their brainchild
                3. Satan used his best liked and most powerful and familiar tool to tempt humankind in the garden
                    1. he dangled the carrot of god-likeliness before Eve
                      • ““You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3:4–5, NIV)
            4. how did pride lead to Satan’s downfall?
                1. God created Satan blameless, without spot or blemish (v 15)
                2. but wickedness found in Satan when he was caught harboring secret ambition in his heart


            1. Satan is God’s unforgivable, impenitent, and overthrown enemy
                1. Satan was holy, but not sinless; glorious but proud; awe-inspiring but power-crazy, power-corrupting, and power-grabbing
                2. he is hell-bound with his allies
                  • “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; ... what is going to happen to the ungodly;” (2 Peter 2:4–6, NIV)
            2. Satan’s horrible end in verse 19 is described by the Hebrew word for terror
                1. Satan, the first terrorist, will experience the last terror on earth
                  • “All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’”/ (Ezekiel 28:19, NIV)
                  • “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10, NIV)
            3. Satan, with all wisdom, had no foreknowledge of the future
                1. Satan’s plan of events, judgment of character, and opinion of things were flawed
                2. His greatest joy and ultimate downfall was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ
                  • “No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:7–8, NIV)

IV. Lessons from Isaiah 14:12-15

            1. Pride really does go before a fall
            2. Satan’s ambition was to usurp the authority of God; the Believer’s ambition is to be totally submissive to the authority of God

Conclusion: There is more to the fall of Babylon than the deposing of a proud king or the destruction of a great empire. Behind the evil of Babylon was the enemy of God. Behind the evil in today’s world is the same enemy.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

Praise the Lord, God has an intimate relationship with humans that angels do not have.

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