From Jeremiah 51-52
Babylon the great and powerful nation has been used by the LORD to punish the people of God and the nations around her. But her own sins have not gone unnoticed by the LORD. Nor have the pleas of the LORD’s people gone unnoticed by the LORD. Jeremiah anticipates the punishment of Babylon and the vindication of his people by the LORD. Jesus tells a parable where those who have persecuted the servants of the LORD are punished. Have you experienced affliction by others? Do you think the LORD will punish them in turn?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comment
Today’s passage reminds us the LORD is faithful to his people even though he has punished them. Babylon has been the LORD’s instrument to punish Israel and Judah. In today’s passage Babylon’s demise is prophesied because she has acted against the people of God.
51 Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon, against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai,
2 and I will send to Babylon winnowers, and they shall winnow her, and they shall empty her land, when they come against her from every side on the day of trouble. (Jer 51.1-2)
Jeremiah does not say who the destroyer is. Presumably it is Persia. However their destruction will be by the LORD’s will.
The LORD will stir up the destroyer against Babylon. Those who afflict God’s people will be punished.
Jeremiah uses agricultural imagery to depict what will happen to Babylon. Crops of wheat are winnowed. The grains shed away. When the destroyer is finished with Babylon, many people will be dead and gone.
3 Let not the archer bend his bow, and let him not stand up in his armor. Spare not her young men; devote to destruction all her army.
4 They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans, and wounded in her streets. (Jer 51.3-4)
Jeremiah says it is no use fighting. They cannot win against the LORD. They will fall down slain and destroyed.
5 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel. (Jer 51.5)
Watch out for the father if you hurt his children. Watch out for the husband if you take advantage of his wife. It is more than simple payback and justice. Honour is at stake.
God will pay back those who have afflicted his people.
By invading, plundering, slaughtering and capturing the people of Israel as they have done. Babylon has become guilty and aroused the wrath of the LORD.
6 “Flee from the midst of Babylon; let every one save his life! Be not cut off in her punishment, for this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance, the repayment he is rendering her.
7 Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad. (Jer 51.6-7)
Previously, Babylon was used to punish the nations of the earth. The nations were consumed by the LORD’s wrath through Babylon. Drunk, mad and out of control symbolise the state the nations were in as they were under attack. Being slaughtered with their worlds turned upside down.
Perhaps there was a time when Israel thought the LORD would not judge this nation who punished her so.
But now things have changed. Jeremiah exhorts the inhabitants of Babylon to flee. The LORD has turned on Babylon herself.
8 Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken; wail for her! Take balm for her pain; perhaps she may be healed.
9 We would have healed Babylon, but she was not healed. Forsake her, and let us go each to his own country, for her judgment has reached up to heaven and has been lifted up even to the skies. (Jer 51.8-9)
Babylon’s sins have reached to the sky. The people are not urged to stay and help. Rather they are better off fleeing for their lives. They cannot escape the LORD’s judgment.
Some sins are so significant, all heaven can see.
10 The LORD has brought about our vindication; come, let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God. (Jer 51.10)
The people of Israel are vindicated when Babylon is punished. The LORD is protective of his people. He punishes those who afflict and curse his people. Even though Israel herself was punished for her sins. She is raised up among the nations when the LORD punishes her enemies. Israel will rejoice when her enemies are cast down and punished by the LORD.
Story of Israel
“The wrath of God also extends to all mankind (Na 1:2). The concept of the Day of the Lord was developed by the prophets to warn Israel and the nations that no one can escape the righteous expression of God’s wrath (Am 5:18, 20). The Day of the Lord is the day of his wrath (Zep 1:15).
The effects of his wrath are set forth in metaphorical language, associated with the semantic fields of water and drink: flood or river, Is 8:7, 8; Na 1:8), a cup filled with wine (Is 51:17, 22); of fire (Is 66:15, 16; Jer 4:4; 21:12, 14; Na 1:6), a fiery furnace (Ps 21:9); of warfare (Is 42:25; 63:3–6): rod (Is 10:5), physical hardship (Lam 3:5); and of natural phenomena: earthquake (Mi 1:3, 4; Na 1:5, 6), storm (Is 30:30; 66:15, 16; Jer 30:23).
The OT holds the doctrine of the wrath of God in balance with three other doctrines: his forbearance, his love, and his readiness to forgive.
First, God is patient. The Hebrew word for patient is related to the word for wrath, and means “length of wrath,” that is, God does not quickly become angry. He is longsuffering (Ex 34:6).
Second, God is full of compassion and fidelity (Ex 34:6). Even when his children sin against him, he is like a father who is full of compassion and love. He is always faithful to his children.
Third, he is ready to forgive those who sin against him when they atone for and are cleansed from their sins (Ex 34:6).
The pleasure of his love is so much greater than his wrath (Ps 30:5). Micah prayed that the Lord may soon forgive and restore his people on the ground that he cannot be angry forever (7:18; cf. Ps 89:46; Jer 3:5). In Psalm 103:8–13 the psalmist likens God’s love and forgiveness to that of a father who does not harbor his anger continually, nor does he vex his children with discipline, so great is his love for those who fear him.
The purpose of God’s wrath is not to destroy mankind (Hos 11:9). His wrath is neither a vindictive, emotional overreaction, nor is it unpredictable. In his wrath he sovereignly imposes limits on nations (Babylon, Assyria), and disciplines his own people with the desired end that they return to him (Jl 2:13, 14).
The eschatological expectation of the OT concept of the Day of the Lord includes the restoration of the earth, when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge (Is 11:9; Hb 2:14) and glory (Nm 14:21; Ps 72:19) of the Lord and wickedness will be no more (Is 65:25).” (Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 2167). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)
Story of Jesus
In the gospel Jesus shares a similar story where the enemies of the LORD are punished for what they do to his people. There is a twist however. They people God punishes are those he initially invited to be part of his kingdom.
22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mt 22:1–14)
In Jeremiah and in the gospel we are reminded the LORD will avenge the mistreatment of his people.
We are also told to expect a few surprises regarding who his people are. The LORD will reject those who seemingly we think should be invited. The LORD will open his kingdom up to people of all walks of life.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.