Mystery Babylon and her Garment

Rev. 17:4.---' And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: '

The woman was clothed with purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, and also having a golden cup full of abominations. The woman's clothing and adornment is to us a visible sign. To the pious mind it is repulsive. The colors represent a high position that it is given in the thoughts of men.

Her being decked out with gold shows the excessive extravagance of her richness. The precious stones and pearls enhanced her appearance even more, in order to impress and allure her illicit lovers. And the gold cup is the degrading influence on those around her.

From her perspective the cup's contents represent her own glory and grandeur, but the reality is that it will be her self-destruction from the consequences of her sins. Abominations is a term for idol, which is moral impurity. So the harlot thrives on spreading her filthy vices and corruptions by allowing earth's inhabitants to drink from her beautiful but contaminated cup.

The hatred and scorn of idolatry which runs through the Bible from the Second Commandment to the verse in Revelation which denounces those who 'worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk,' is one of the most striking features of the religion of the Jews. Israel for the prophets was marked off from other nations that worshipped idols. The God of Israel was not to be represented or worshipped in images of men or beasts. The connection of any such worship with Him was a degradation! And yet the denunciations and scorn of the prophets show how constantly and easily the Jews turned away, in spite of their traditions and commandments, from the worship of the living God to the worship of idols. Not only did they take up all too easily the religions of their neighbors and adopt their fantastic beliefs and practices; time and again they introduced images into the worship of Jehovah, which time and again some stern reformer drove out.

We may be sure that this long history of attraction and repulsion is concerned with some constant tendency in man, and that we nowadays are just as inclined as were the Israelites to worship idols, and we need, as did they, to listen to the denunciations of the prophets.

Though an idol is "nothing in the world," there is nothing in the world more real than idolatry. Putting something else in God's place, making a God of something else than God---that is a very real transaction.

The worship of idols is a religion of a more subtle falseness. Listen to Isaiah of how he thinks the frame of mind with idolatry comes. 'Their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there and end of their treasures. Their land also is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. Their land is full of idols.' Idolatry is the sin of the prosperous and complacent, of men who have by the work of their hands, or more often by the work of their fathers' hands, done well for themselves, have got a secure position, and need no longer ask fortune or other men for mercy. Their own hands have made them independent of God or of other men. When they worship their idols they are really worshipping themselves. They forget the desperate hazards of former times, the inspiration through which their first successes came, the humility which goes with all real creative action. They take their comfortable and assured prosperity for granted. If they have a religion at all, they will use what religious feelings their wealth has left them, in adorning and reverencing their position and themselves. We, who are heirs of a long tradition of prosperity and success, know that spirit, how hard it is to resist. We have a great inheritance---of long-continued wealth, of civil liberty and freedom, of all kinds of noble institutions. They were built up mostly in a spirit of creativeness and of humility. But we who inherit them can too easily take them for granted, worship the achievements, and remain entire strangers to what goodness and divinity went to their making. When we do that we treat such achievements as idols.

The Bible insists that when we are worshipping idols we are worshipping something which is bounded and lifeless. If we really worship the work of our hands and not the spirit which inspired that work, we worship something that is dead.

To turn from the worship of idols to the worship of the living God is to surrender ourselves to something not only infinitely greater but infinitely more alive than ourselves---to something that gives greater life to us. We cannot determine beforehand what God is going to do with us, but the result and the test of our surrender to God is the quickened and aroused life that we shall find in ourselves. And when men say, as some do, that all religion is nothing but the making God out of our own desires, and fears, and imaginings, and aspirations, we shall know that that is untrue. For we shall know how God has called us, and dealt with us, and led us to things that were never in our minds or in our proposals for life.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha