The Collective Bodies Existing on Earth
Gen. 10: 6, 8-12, 32; Gen. 11: 1-6. Joshua 7: 10-12, 20-22, 25
2 Kings 18: 28-35; 2 Kings 19: 14, 35; 2 Kings 20: 12-16. Zech. 5: 5-11
Rev. 17: 3-5; Rev. 18: 2-5, 9, 11, 17-24; Rev. 19: 1-3
Eph. 1: 22-23; Eph. 4: 10-15
The portions of the Word of God that we have read this evening are connected with the collective bodies which exist upon earth. It is very interesting to discover that two of these collective bodies are found from the very beginning and continue up to this present time. We therefore need to consider these powers because we may have some relation to them and have to learn their true character.
Genesis 10 is a chapter that few would read with interest. It seems to be just a listing of generations, of fathers, sons, and so on. What can be interesting about this? But the way that God gives us history is not at all the way that men give it. It is clearly stated in the last verse of chapter 10 that, "these are the families of the sons of Noah... from these came the distribution of the nations on the earth after the flood." Not only are the names of the nations given here found throughout the Bible, but they have characters that they keep during all the history up to the end. In Ezekiel, especially in Ezekiel 38 and 39, we find many of these names mentioned in connection with the very last days before the millennium.
The few verses we have read in chapter 10 speak to us of two bodies quite different in character, even though they are presented at the same time and are closely connected in their origin and the regions where they are located. Nimrod was a son of Cush, who was a son of Ham, the one who sinned against his father. He began to be mighty on the earth, and was a mighty hunter before Jehovah. Those are few words but they are full of meaning. He was under the curse but that was nothing to him. He did not fear Jehovah at all and he was willing and able to show he was strong before Him. There is a clear difference between the hunter and people of God like David and Amos who were shepherds who took care of the sheep. The hunter tries to kill the animals he is hunting. This remains Nimrod's character down the ages. He is closely connected with Babel because the beginning of his kingdom was Babel. Babel is described more specifically in chapter 11, but first in chapter 10 we have mention of the connection with Nimrod. Babylon is located in the land of Shinar and we will find elsewhere that Babylon is in some respects the counterpart of Nimrod. Nimrod is mighty and rules the old city of Nineveh and the people there. He is what, today, we would call a dictator. Babylon is completely the reverse. There is nobody specifically mentioned in connection with Babylon. The people desire to have a name and they combine their efforts to achieve their aim. The basic principle of Babylon is that unity makes strong and the desire of Babylon is to have a name, that is to say, to be recognised and to be important before everybody on the earth. We are going to see that these two collective bodies, with their specific characteristics, reign during all the time of the land of Shinar.
There is a portion that we have not read, in Genesis 12, where Abram is called outside these people of the earth. He is a man of faith who represents those who are called out of the existing people and who are for God in a world which is at enmity with Him. That is to say, Abraham is totally the opposite of Nimrod and Babylon. Now we are going to see the relationship of the people of God to these collective and powerful bodies.
The first mention we have of Babylon after Genesis 11 is in the story of Achan in Joshua 7. It is particularly interesting because it comes just at the time the children of Israel are entering the promised land. They had just fought the battle of Jericho and gained the victory. The Lord Himself had thrown down the walls of the city. At this crucial time there is the introduction of this mantle of Shinar which was taken from Jericho with some silver and gold. Achan saw it and coveted it, and through that action he introduced the curse of God among the people. All the people of Israel were defeated just because of this corruption which had its origin in Shinar. This was at the very beginning of the life of the people of God in their own country. What a warning! That is really the first mention of Babylon corrupting the people and this is what we are going to find right up to the end in Revelation. The reaction of Joshua was good. He rent his clothes, and turned to God about the situation. The Lord told him very clearly what had happened and showed him what was to be done in order that Israel might clear themselves in the matter. There was a clear confession of the sin by Achan, and they stoned him: they rid themselves totally of the sin which was among them. So, the first reaction of the people of God was good. They showed that they were pure of heart and put away this uncleanness. It is most solemn to see that this one sin of this one person introduced and placed the curse on the whole of the people of God.
The next portions we have read are in the Second Book of Kings. In 2 Kings 18 and 19 we have the story of Rab-shakeh who came from Assyria and spoke to Hezekiah, and in 2 Kings 20 we have the story of the visit of the messengers from Babylon. If I may summarise the speech of Rab-shakeh, he says to them, "It is no use relying upon the Lord. If Hezekiah tells you that you may rely upon the Lord he is deceiving you. It is no use relying upon the Lord because I am the one who is mighty and I am resolved to take you to a land which is better than yours. Nobody has been able to resist me so I am the lord and the Lord you are relying upon is nothing." The city and people specifically named in Genesis 10 in connection with Nimrod, were found in Assyria, and the speech of Rab-shakeh shows the same principle we have seen with Nimrod. There is a collective body with a strong leader and hierarchy. It is strong, but strong against God. It doesn't care about God but only about itself. The consequence of this is that it oppresses the people of God. There is direct persecution of believers. So from Assyria, Nimrod, and Nineveh we get power, a dictator, and a hierarchy; oppression, violence, and persecution of the children of God. Babylon is corruption introduced among the people of God. Nothing else is to be expected, at any time, from these worldly bodies.
We have read how Hezekiah overcame the problem of Assyria and Rab-shakeh. He didn't dispute with him. He told his people to keep silent and he went to the house of God with Rab-shakeh's letter and showed it to the Lord. Then the answer came from the Lord to Isaiah the prophet, indicating that He Himself would deal with the matter. we have read that in one night one hundred and eighty-five thousand were killed. All the mighty power of this nation was nothing before God. Hezekiah and the people of Israel were in very great weakness, but they were the victors in this story, not by their own power but by the power of God. But immediately after this victory Hezekiah became sick and was visited by people who were sympathetic about his sickness. They came and entered his house and he showed them all the treasure which God had given. He showed all the riches which were from God and which were blessings from God, to the coveting world of Babylon. This also has a typical meaning. There were not only the riches but also the fine oil which could be used for the perfume for God. How can it be that a believer shares the precious portion reserved for God with the corrupting world? Immediately the Lord sent the prophet Isaiah again, who asks Hezekiah, "What said these men? and from whence came they to thee? ... What have they seen in thy house?" Hezekiah confesses what he has done and then the speech is very strong: "... all that is in thy house... shall be carried to Babylon." Hezekiah was empowered by God but he sought the recognition of the world and lost everything. How much all this should speak to us and to our hearts, that we may realise and consider what is the character of the world and what should be the character of the believer.
We are not going to consider at length the passage in Zechariah. The specific character which is seen in the vision in Zechariah 5 is wickedness, and the woman with the wings of a stork takes the wickedness back to its origin which is Babylon in the land of Shinar. This is a very important point.
We have read some verses in Revelation. Without going into many details, we may observe that what we have seen already, we see again. There is Babylon, and people trying to be united. They have a religious character, and they are trying to have a name, to be important in the world. They do this as a collective body. They introduce corruption not only among the children of God but also among everyone else in the world. And Babylon keeps its influence through its business links, and all business is seen in chapter 18. Everyone weeps when Babylon is destroyed, the kings and merchants, the steersmen, sailors and the like. Everybody has benefited from Babylon but the Word of God is very strong: "Come out of her, My people;" have nothing to do with such an organisation, it is only corruption. And it is not only corruption like the mantle of Shinar in the story of Achan, and Hezekiah showing everything in his house to the Babylonian messengers. It is absolutely amazing: in Babylon there is found all the blood of the saints since the beginning of the world. There is only one sort of people who rejoice over this destruction, and that is the people of heaven. They say "Hallelujah." It is a marvellous scene and this is the starting point of the marriage of the Lamb in chapter 19.
We read two portions of the Word of God in Ephesians. It is important to see that these verses speak of the assembly as the body of Christ. This is the third kind of collective body on the earth. The first kind is Nimrod the dictator, and is marked by mightiness and violence. The second kind is union, but without relationship with God and without conscience. The corruption is not considered important provided there is success: power in relation to the Beast, the political body, and money and business. These are the two principles governing the organisations in the world. And if we think about this problem we will see that in every political domain men are organised according to one or other of these principles, either the principle of strength, where one is dominating everybody, or of union together. But both are at the end against God and against His will. That is the organisation of men. But there is the collective body which is according to the thought of God and this is blessed. The principle of organisation in this case is totally opposite to what we have been considering. First of all it is not an organisation, it is an organism. Secondly, there is connection with the Head. You have neither dictatorship nor worldly union. You have unity in one body, and the clear relationship of each member to the Head. This direct relationship is not only a direct relationship for guidance, but it is also a direct connection for conscience. That is to say, each member should have the same appreciation of the holiness of God and of the saints, and the same appreciation of the Head. This is the key point: the collective body with conscience. This is the only way that you can get a body for the glory of God. And this is the only principle that we are to follow together as individual members of the body, as local assemblies or as the assembly as a whole. Of course, there are many things to consider in relation to this subject. It is so beautiful to look into Ephesians 4. The Lord is not only the Lord and Head, but He is also the One who gives the gifts of apostles, of prophets, of evangelists, shepherds and teachers. And there is the growing of each member. Is it just growing to be competent? No, it is much more. It is growing up to "the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of... teaching;" the teaching of men, "but, holding the truth in love, we may grow up to Him in all things, who is the head." Dear brethren, that is what is before us, and what is so difficult to realise. But it is the only thing that we are to realise both as individual members of the body and collectively. In this way sin is avoided and holiness is maintained, but any organisation according to the spirit of men will arrive either at Nimrod's gate or at Babylon's gate. May we be preserved from either of these ways and may we cleave to this one organism according to the will of God. It is very striking that there are troubles precisely in connection with this matter of the unity of the body because it is this principle of organism that the Lord would like us to keep and that Satan would like to destroy. Satan only likes the principle of Nimrod or the principle of Babylon. Let us hold fast the principles connected with the one body and let us keep close to the Lord as members of His body, both individually and collectively.