Day 211: The God of Retribution

Jeremiah 51:54-58

“The sound of a cry comes from Babylon,
and of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans!
For Yahweh lays Babylon waste,
and destroys out of her the great voice!
Their waves roar like many waters.
The noise of their voice is uttered.
For the destroyer has come on her,
even on Babylon.
Her mighty men are taken.
Their bows are broken in pieces,
for Yahweh is a God of retribution.
He will surely repay.
I will make her princes, her wise men,
her governors, her deputies, and her mighty men drunk.
They will sleep a perpetual sleep,
and not wake up,”
says the King, whose name is Yahweh of Armies.
Yahweh of Armies says:
“The wide walls of Babylon will be utterly overthrown.
Her high gates will be burned with fire.
The peoples will labor for vanity,
and the nations for the fire;
and they will be weary.”

It should be pretty obvious by now to everyone who has been following along with me as I read through the Bible that God is a God who pays people back for what they have done. The Bible clearly teaches that forgiveness is not the act of ignoring evil. It teaches that retribution and forgiveness can coexist. Once you become a Christian, you understand this. God is only able to forgive us because Jesus took our punishment. When we look to Jesus, our punishment, which is death for failing to keep God’s law, was paid back to us.

I honestly believe that had Babylon stopped worshiping idols and started sacrificing to the God of Israel, they too would have been forgiven. God would have put their sin on The Sacrifice, but they didn’t accept that. I believe that this is one reason why the destruction of Babylon is repeated over and over again here in Jeremiah. God expects us to understand that retribution has to happen one way or the other. We have the same choice. We can either turn to The Sacrifice required by the God of Israel, or we can receive His retribution ourselves.

We also need to avoid being influenced by the world’s idea of “forgiveness.” Forgiveness that allows sinners to go free without punishment is not really forgiveness. It’s a corruption of justice. It’s treating the wicked as if they are good and treating the good as if they should just accept harm that they didn’t deserve. Some people believe that the Bible teaches this, but it doesn’t. When God tells us to not take revenge, He also tells us that we should expect revenge to happen. Let’s look at that:

Romans 12:19

Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.”

God commands us, here, to “give place to God’s wrath.” If we take revenge, we will actually corrupt it. Perhaps that’s because we, as sinners ourselves, don’t have any right to be giving out punishments. God is the perfect One and He’s the one who alone has the right to punish people. He is also the only One who knows which ones will accept His Sacrifice first.