Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The priorities of Babylon and lamentations for its desolation

11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her [Babylon]; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. (Revealtion 18:11-13)

Elsewhere I have posted about Captain Moroni’s priority list as found on the title of liberty.  It is important to note that Babylon has its own priority list that we must guard against adopting. 

We can see this priority list above in the list of goods that Babylon won’t be able to buy any more, which causes the merchants and suppliers to face total ruin.  If we look at it carefully, we see that it reads like a priority list of materialism, and notice that people come last.  And not for any actual care; remember, this is a list of merchandise.

First comes currency—gold and silver—because it is the medium of exchange.  As the devil said, “You can buy anything in this world for money..”

Next comes the jewelry—precious stones and pearls—because they are almost as liquid as currency and can be worn as status symbols.

Third comes luxury fashion—fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet—the most difficult and time-consuming and costly clothing to make.  No ordinary homespun for these people; Babylon places a high priority on status symbols you can wear to demonstrate your importance instantly.

Next comes the fancy furniture—all thyne wood—because you have to have the best décor at home to demonstrate your worth when people come to visit, and you want everything you see at home to remind you how important and special you are.

After that comes the containers to hold all your stuff—vessels of ivory, most precious wood, brass, iron, and marble—because you can’t have all your stuff in a disorganized mess and just laying around.  The best stuff deserves the best containers, you know.

Then come the sensory pleasures of smell—cinnamon, odours, ointments and frankincense—because you want to create an aura of luxury and importance wherever you go.  Plus you want to cover up any scent of harsh reality, like dirt, sweat, infection, or rotting food.

And then after that are the sensory pleasures of taste—wine, oil, fine flour, and wheat—but of course wine is more valued than wheat because wheat merely sustains life whereas wine… well you can’t have any fun without intoxication, can you? 

After that comes animal life—beasts, sheep, and horses—because they can do all this work for you, or you can eat them, and they don’t sass back, and you can buy and sell them, and if they are vicious, they can be a weapon to protect you and hurt your enemies.. And they are yet another way of displaying wealth.

Then comes transportation—horses and chariots—because heaven forbid you should stay in the same place all the time or be forced to walk everywhere or have to travel among the common rabble.  You’re too important to be kept waiting; you deserve speed.  What speed limits?

Oh, and humans.. ah.. human life isn’t that big a deal.  Slaves definitely rate higher than souls in Babylon, that’s for sure.  Slaves have to do what you tell them, but souls you have to persuade and cajole and bribe and threaten.

So what else do we notice about this list?
1.     Lifeless things are higher on the list than live things.  Babylon cares more about stuff than about life.
2.     Animal life is higher on the list than human life.
3.     Liquidity is considered higher priority than status symbols, hence the world loves those who are rich but don’t show it even more than it loves the show of wealth, and this means those without status symbols have to make sure everyone knows about their liquidity so that they still get respect from people they don’t know.
4.     Status symbols are a higher priority than the pleasures of the senses, so you will find people flocking to status symbols even if said symbols make them uncomfortable. 
5.     Babylon values superfluous pleasures of the senses much more than it values common or necessary things.  Hence, scents are a higher priority than actual food, and if you consider food, extravagance, dainties, and mind-altering substances have higher priority than good, solid, healthy nourishment.

We are specifically warned to depart from Babylon in that same chapter:

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)

If we adopt any of Babylon’s priorities, we will also experience Babylon’s plagues—medical, social, and spiritual.  If we come out of Babylon and avoid her sins, then we will be spared those plagues.  Yes, trouble and affliction is a natural part of life, but then there are also consequences of sin that we can avoid by.. not sinning. 

What happens to it all?  It all disappears.  The same chapter of Revelation that gives us this list of merchandise and priorities also describes the lamentations of the kings, merchants, and shipmen devastated by the desolation of Babylon.  Their lamentations are instructive to us.

9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. (Revelation 18:9-10)

The kings call Babylon “that mighty city,” indicating that they derived much if not all their power to rule from Babylon’s resources and power to coerce, the military-industrial complex.  Once Babylon is gone, their power is gone as well, and they don’t see any alternative way to gain, hold, or use power.  They think Babylon was mighty, but they aren’t willing to see that the Lord is mightier.

Kings were those who dispensed judgment and they recognize that the fall of Babylon is deserved.  They should have administered judgment on Babylon themselves, but they held back, preferring to unite and partner with Babylon rather than do their judicial duty.  Perhaps they though rendering judgment would open a huge can of worms, diverting resources to catch and try criminals.. So it is notable that they marvel over the speed that judgment comes to Babylon—“in one hour is thy judgment come.” 

Who else laments over Babylon?

15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
16 And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought…  (Revelation 18:15-17)

The merchants lament that once Babylon is destroyed no one buys their merchandise any more; there is no demand whatsoever.  Peoples’ priorities are completely different outside of Babylon, and it is depressing to these people to find that all the goods they worked to aggregate for sale are no longer valuable.  And since they probably measured their own worth according to what they made, they probably felt suddenly worthless.

Additionally, though the merchants had been made rich by Babylon, suddenly it didn’t matter any more. “For in one hour so great riches is come to nought,” they lament.  The riches they worked so hard to accumulate don’t matter in eternity, and suddenly they are faced with the realization that from now on, everyone is to be considered of equal worth, no matter what their wealth or status has been.  They can’t stand that idea, since they worked so hard to establish their value through wealth.  Wealtn no longer matters without Babylon, but they can’t seem to imagine any other way.  To them, it is wealth or oblivion.  They wanted riches so they could buy the corrupted delicacies of Babylon, but now there’s nothing to buy!  It’s all gone.

Another way that so great riches may come to nought for the merchants is if they can’t hold back a disaster that they felt they could avert or survive with a large enough financial cushion.

Who else laments Babylon’s demise?

…And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. (Revelation 18:17-19)

The shipmasters and sailors represent those in charge of transporting goods to Babylon.  They foresee that the destruction of Babylon means there won’t be nearly the amount of goods to move about, so their business is going to slump immensely.  They say, “What city is like unto this great city!” which indicates they can’t even imagine any alternative to Babylon.  The city of Zion isn’t on their radar at all.  They could always depend on finding a port in Babylon to deliver their goods, but now they are left floating with no place to go.

All the demand for what they could transport to Babylon meant they could charge exorbitant prices, become rich, and then partake of those same luxuries and vices of Babylon, but now it is all gone, their riches mean nothing, there’s nothing to their corrupted taste to buy anyway, and all their skills and cunning and equipment are superfluous. 

To them all, the judgment on Babylon seems to come “in one hour” without warning, yet we know there is always plenty of warning given.  They just chose not to listen, so there was no time for them to prepare for anything different.  (Of course, during the time the Saints were coming out of Babylon, Babylon’s prospects seemed to be getting better and better, so they deceived themselves into staying.)

They are all shocked by how totally Babylon was destroyed.  Everything they loved, everything that mattered to them, everything that made them who they were and wanted to be was gone forever. 

The kings, merchants, and shipping masters mourn for Babylon because they can’t imagine living any other way than the Babylon way.  They didn’t fit in with any other way.  They had oriented their lives totally in terms of Babylon, so without it they realize their total and complete spiritual poverty.

These verses teach me that I can’t let myself get comfortable with the worldly status quo of “you can buy anything in this world for money” and Babylon priorities.  I have to be able to imagine another way—Zion.  I have to work toward Zion, and see something different. 

When you think about Zion, how do you see it as different from the world we live in now?


Ramona Gordy said...

When I think about Zion or rather the concept of Zion and what Zion is, my only frame of reference has been up unto this point the story of Enoch. I remember being taught this story as a child and I was amazed at how a group of people could actually be “so good” or that they got their acts together in such a way that the Lord would actually reward them by “translating them” and they didn’t die.

I wrote a post on Zion once, and I noticed that one of the principles that were repeated was this: They had all things in common

They were pure in heart.
Matthew 5:88 blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

They all had a “good name” As opposed to “Babylon, where name dropping helps to get gain and power,
Proverbs 22:1-2
1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
2 The rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.

I love this proverb, a good name is rather to be chosen; there is no other name by which we can be saved except in the name of Jesus Christ. So we have “taken on” that name that was chosen for us from the foundation of the world.

They all trusted in God and were blessed because of it, they are happy in their lives in the service of their God. They esteem others above themselves, humility, and loving kindness.

Matthew 5:3Amplified Bible (AMP)
3 Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

The citizens of Zion are “swallowed up” in the Savior and all that he has set before us to do. The corruption of Babylon is not a concern anymore. 1 Nephi 15:26-27

Alma 31:37-38
37 And after that they did separate themselves one from another; taking no thought for themselves and what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on.

38 And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea and he also gave them strength that they should suffer no manner of afflictions save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.

2nd Nephi 9:
50 Come my brethren, everyone that thirst, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money come and buy and eat; yea come buy wine and milk without money and without price.

51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perish not, neither can be corrupted and let you soul delight in fatness.

These are a few things that I have learned, and studied. Zion is that city "made without hands", so a Zion community will be spiritually endowed and then temporal, because the work of the Lord will not be frustrated. The foundation for Zion was layed down by the father. Jesus is the "chief cornerstone", that holds up this "house'. We are the frame work, and our hearts are those "rooms" which will be throughly furnished to prepare us for the work at hand. I don't think there is anything we can do to "frustrate" the progress and building of Zion, but we are a part of the progress.
Good post

Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for sharing those characteristics about Zion that you found in the scriptures. They are scattered all over, aren't they.
I have to say, something about having a good name versus Babylon's name-dropping really tickled me, I'm not sure why.