Day 210: Epic Themes

Jeremiah 51:49-53

“As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall,
so the slain of all the land will fall at Babylon.
You who have escaped the sword, go!
Don’t stand still!
Remember Yahweh from afar,
and let Jerusalem come into your mind.”

“We are confounded
because we have heard reproach.
Confusion has covered our faces,
for strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Yahweh’s house.”

“Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will execute judgment on her engraved images;
and through all her land the wounded will groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to the sky,
and though she should fortify the height of her strength,
yet destroyers will come to her from me,” says Yahweh.

As I have studied the Bible, I have noticed that there is an epic theme that emerges. It could be called: “The Tale of Two Cities.” I’ve been told that Babylon is the most mentioned city in the Bible after Israel and that makes sense. These two are in conflict with one another. Babylon represents the world and Israel represents God. The world is involved in idolatry and God’s city isn’t supposed to do that. There was a time when God had Babylon destroy Israel, but these verses of Jeremiah help us to see that there is more going on here. God wasn’t done with Israel or Babylon yet.

The world “holy” means: separate. The Bible tells us that God is holy. In a sense, He is separate from both Israel and Babylon and verses like these remind me of that. God intended for Israel to be the city that demonstrated His holiness by showing the world who He is, but instead, they decided to practice idolatry. So, God had them destroyed, but that didn’t let Babylon off the hook for their idolatry. God was still planning to destroy Babylon too, as we read here. God’s holiness will not be disturbed by any city. If anyone chooses to worship another god, they will be destroyed no matter how they started out. In this sense, the two cities became the same for a while, but why would God allow that?

I believe that this shows us yet another epic theme and that is the theme of grace. God allowed Israel to fall into sin so that He could save them by grace. Their works were not allowed to save them. Instead, God’s city was to rise up out of the ashes as a city blessed by the grace of God, not by works, so that no one could boast. Those who trust in their own works cannot build a city strong enough to withstand Babylon, but those who have been saved by God’s grace, rest on the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus must first save Israel and when Israel rises up by grace, the Holy Spirit will make it unstoppable.

Day 209: The Danger of a Worldly Focus

Jeremiah 51:41-48

“How Sheshach is taken!
How the praise of the whole earth is seized!
How Babylon has become a desolation among the nations!
The sea has come up on Babylon.
She is covered with the multitude of its waves.
Her cities have become a desolation,
a dry land, and a desert,
a land in which no man dwells.
No son of man passes by it.
I will execute judgment on Bel in Babylon,
and I will bring out of his mouth that which he has swallowed up.
The nations will not flow any more to him.
Yes, the wall of Babylon will fall.

“My people, go away from the middle of her,
and each of you save yourselves from Yahweh’s fierce anger.
Don’t let your heart faint.
Don’t fear for the news that will be heard in the land.
For news will come one year,
and after that in another year news will come,
and violence in the land,
ruler against ruler.
Therefore behold, the days come that I will execute judgment on the engraved images of Babylon;
and her whole land will be confounded.
All her slain will fall in the middle of her.
Then the heavens and the earth,
and all that is therein,
will sing for joy over Babylon;
for the destroyers will come to her from the north,” says Yahweh.

An important thing for Christians to remember is that God calls us to focus on heavenly things and not on earthly things. Heavenly things are eternal, but earthly things are only temporary. I believe that this passage shows us that focusing on earthly things is also quite stressful on us as human beings. It’s like building your house in a place where a freeway is about to be built. Your house will be destroyed at some point in the future. Your trust in it would be poorly placed and at some point your stress is going to be more than you can handle. The reason I bring this up is because this passage tells us that Babylon became “the praise of the whole earth.” Everyone was talking about it. They thought that it was a strong foundation. Had you asked 9 out of 10 economists, they probably would have recommended investing in its economy.

From a heavenly perspective, Babylon was in serious trouble. Those who listened to the prophets of God would have had a heavenly perspective and would have known that Babylon was going to be completely destroyed. The stress for the believer was that they would have to get away from Babylon so as to not be destroyed with her. Jeremiah tells us why Babylon was so insecure. God was upset at “Bel” and about “the engraved images of Babylon.” Bel was a false god in Babylon. I understand that this is where the word: Belzebub originates. It appears that God recognized the worship of Bel as the force that swallowed up the nations. God was going to reverse that. God also intended to kill the people for following their idols.

In the end, the heavens and the earth would sing over Babylon’s destruction. This is very interesting to me because it reminds me that a world majority can follow after something that harms all of heaven and earth! A majority is not a protection at all. That’s what happens when we focus on this world instead of on heaven. Passages like these remind us that a majority belief held by corrupt human beings can actually be a warning sign. We need to listen to God’s prophets in the Bible so that we are ready for the horrible destruction to come.

Day 208: The End of False Religion

Jeremiah 51:34-40

“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me.
He has crushed me.
He has made me an empty vessel.
He has, like a monster, swallowed me up.
He has filled his mouth with my delicacies.
He has cast me out.
May the violence done to me and to my flesh be on Babylon!”
the inhabitant of Zion will say; and,
“May my blood be on the inhabitants of Chaldea!”
will Jerusalem say.

Therefore Yahweh says:
“Behold, I will plead your cause,
and take vengeance for you.
I will dry up her sea,
and make her fountain dry.
Babylon will become heaps,
a dwelling place for jackals,
an astonishment, and a hissing,
without inhabitant.
They will roar together like young lions.
They will growl as lions’ cubs.
When they are inflamed, I will make their feast,
and I will make them drunk,
that they may rejoice,
and sleep a perpetual sleep,
and not wake up,” says Yahweh.

“I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,
like rams with male goats.

God doesn’t have nice things to say about Babylon. Since God was the one to who told Babylon to destroy Jerusalem, there must be more to the story. We know that God doesn’t enjoy destroying people because that would be inconsistent with what the Bible says in other places. That leaves only one option that I can see and that is that Babylon was an enemy of God. That’s what we read earlier so it is not a new thing but it’s important to know that had Babylon merely obeyed God and destroyed Israel, they would have been commended, but because Babylon didn’t do it for the right reasons they were going to be destroyed.

Non-biblical history tells us that Babylon was a center of idolatry. It’s not a surprise that they wanted to destroy Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a place where only one God was welcome. Babylon was a supporter of religious diversity. Jerusalem was a problem to be removed, not a blessing to be adopted. That kind of sounds familiar today doesn’t it?

From the sound of this passage, it’s as if God was going to make Babylon’s successes lead to their downfall. He compares them to lion’s cubs that feast and then get drunk and fall asleep, never to wake up again. He also compares them to sacrificial animals. Perhaps, God is telling us that He plans to use Babylon as an example to the world. Just as sacrifices are intended to ceremonially represent someone else, Babylon does represent the existence of false religion in our world. That’s how it is often represented in the Bible. God’s destruction of Babylon could be seen to represent what will happen to all false religion in the world. That’s what we read about in Revelation. Someday, God will cause all false religion to die and never come back.

Day 207: Valuing the Wrong Things

Jeremiah 51:27-33

“Set up a standard in the land!
Blow the trumpet among the nations!
Prepare the nations against her!
Call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz!
Appoint a marshal against her!
Cause the horses to come up as the swarming locusts!
Prepare against her the nations,
the kings of the Medes, its governors, and all its deputies, and all the land of their dominion!
The land trembles and is in pain;
for the purposes of Yahweh against Babylon stand,
to make the land of Babylon a desolation, without inhabitant.
The mighty men of Babylon have stopped fighting,
they remain in their strongholds.
Their might has failed.
They have become as women.
Her dwelling places are set on fire.
Her bars are broken.
One runner will run to meet another,
and one messenger to meet another,
to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken on every quarter.
So the passages are seized.
They have burned the reeds with fire.
The men of war are frightened.”

For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says:
“The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time when it is trodden.
Yet a little while, and the time of harvest comes for her.”

An amazing and unique thing about the Jews is that they got to read the news before it happened! They were privileged to know that some time after God gave them over to Babylon, Babylon would also be destroyed. They even knew how wide spread it would be and that it would involve the Medes. If God desires, we will eventually be reading the book of Daniel. We will get a little bit of an inside look into this history as it unfolds, but for now we are reading about what Israel was supposed to know beforehand.

I have been observing that many important things in our world are treated as if they are not important at all. As I consider some of those things, I’m actually astonished at myself and others. It’s pretty clear that we have either deceived ourselves about how things really are, or that someone else has helped produce that deception. As Christians we know the causes if we are studying our Bibles. In Jeremiah’s time, He was being mistreated by his own people. Instead of hanging on every word he spoke, they were locking him in jail and throwing him in a well. Jeremiah actually knew the future. Had they listened, they could have avoided the severe events that were going to change their lives forever. Somehow they were deceived into thinking that Jeremiah’s words weren’t that important. I see the same thing with how the Bible is being treated in Europe, Canada and the United States today.

There are a lot of English Bibles available. Not only are they in print, they are available for free on multiple web sites on the Internet. You can even listen to the Bible read to you for free. The western world is saturated with Bibles, yet it is pretty clear that most of the people in these cultures are not very interested in actually reading it. At the same time, there are people who don’t know how to read and others who don’t have a printed Bible available to them. They don’t have enough money to have the Internet. These people are longing for the same English Bibles that the western world is ignoring. Some of them would be happy to have a little piece of the English Bible available to them. Others don’t even have the Bible in a language that they understand at all. It’s important for us to remember the truth and snap out of the deception that keeps us from seeing the value of the words of God. They tell us about our future. If we don’t pay attention, the future will still come, but we may not be ready.

Day 206: The Portion of Jacob

Jeremiah 51:20-26

“You are my battle ax and weapons of war.
With you I will break the nations into pieces.
With you I will destroy kingdoms.
With you I will break in pieces
the horse and his rider.
With you I will break in pieces
the chariot and him who rides therein.
With you I will break in pieces
man and woman.
With you I will break in pieces
the old man and the youth.
With you I will break in pieces
the young man and the virgin.
With you I will break in pieces
the shepherd and his flock.
With you I will break in pieces
the farmer and his yoke.
With you I will break in pieces
governors and deputies.

“I will render to Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight,” says Yahweh.
“Behold, I am against you, destroying mountain,” says Yahweh,
“which destroys all the earth.
I will stretch out my hand on you,
roll you down from the rocks,
and will make you a burned mountain.
They won’t take a cornerstone from you,
nor a stone for foundations;
but you will be desolate forever,” says Yahweh.

I’m not completely sure about this, but my best estimation is that the first section of this passage is talking about Jesus. I considered the possibility that God was talking about how He used Babylon to crush the nations of the world, but in this part of Jeremiah’s prophesy, Babylon is also being destroyed. The key to my interpretation comes from the previous verses. In those verses, God began to talk about “The portion of Jacob” who “formed all things… Yahweh of Armies is his name.” The final book of the Bible tells us that Jesus will be the one who will “destroy kingdoms.” So I believe it’s pretty clear that this passage is where Jeremiah tells us about the coming Messiah that was to save Israel and destroy the nations that oppose her.

Then we read that Babylon will be completely destroyed and uninhabited. As I mentioned before, I don’t believe that this prophesy has happened yet. Some of it appears to have taken place, but I don’t see that the “desolate forever” part has happened yet.

This gives me an opportunity to talk about the hope that many Jews have concerning their Messiah today. The orthodox messianic Jews that I have heard about don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah at all. They are still waiting for the day that their Messiah comes and destroys Israel’s enemies. In a sense, they are actually still waiting for Jesus even though He came once already. I believe that they are correct to expect Our Messiah to come and destroy the nations, just as Jeremiah appears to be talking about here. The problem is that they have failed to recognize His first coming. God’s word actually tells us that Jesus is both the lion and the lamb. He came as a lamb first, but the lion is coming and He will set the politics of this world strait, just as the Jews expect.

Day 204: A Culture that Refused to be Healed

Jeremiah 51:9-14

“We would have healed Babylon,
but she is not healed.
Forsake her,
and let’s each go into his own country;
for her judgment reaches to heaven,
and is lifted up even to the skies.
‘Yahweh has produced our righteousness.
Come, and let’s declare in Zion the work of Yahweh our God.’

“Make the arrows sharp!
Hold the shields firmly!
Yahweh has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes,
because his purpose is against Babylon, to destroy it;
for it is the vengeance of Yahweh,
the vengeance of his temple.
Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon!
Make the watch strong!
Set the watchmen,
and prepare the ambushes;
for Yahweh has both purposed and done
that which he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
You who dwell on many waters, abundant in treasures,
your end has come, the measure of your covetousness.
Yahweh of Armies has sworn by himself, saying,
‘Surely I will fill you with men,
as with locusts,
and they will lift up a shout against you.’

In this part of the prophesy against Babylon, God makes it clear that the Medes are to be the ones He will use to bring down Babylon. History tells us that this is exactly what happened, once again demonstrating that the Bible holds the very words of the God who cannot lie. That’s one of the most amazing things about the Bible. It is perched precariously on its claim of perfection. If it could ever be demonstrated that the Bible contained an error, the whole thing would have to be thrown out. With all of the enemies of the Bible, not a single error has been discovered. There are many who claim to have found an error, but every single one of those has been demonstrated to be an error in the human making the interpretation. This book is something to be feared. If the Bible predicts the destruction of a city or a nation, then it will be destroyed exactly as it predicts.

The first paragraph in this passage is very surprising to me. It appears to be saying that if Babylon had been willing, the Jews would have brought healing to it. In context, God appears to be telling us that Babylon chose to reject the teaching of men like Daniel. Then, the prophesy appears to be quoting the Jews as saying that they are returning to Israel. It also says that God produced their righteousness. I don’t think that I should make too much of the wording of this translation. Other translations, like the ISV say: “The Lord will vindicate us.” That’s quite a different idea than I get from the words in this translation, but isn’t it true that when people are against the truth about what we say, that it feels very dark and oppressive to us? There are many things in our cultures today that oppose the truth about what Jesus says to us through the Bible. We feel the pressure of those around us. If we could heal them, we would, but many of them refuse to be healed. Just like the Jews in those days, we also know that in the end, God will show everyone that we were right and the culture was wrong.

Day 203: Not Forsaken

Jeremiah 51:1-8

Yahweh says:
“Behold, I will raise up against Babylon,
and against those who dwell in Lebkamai, a destroying wind.
I will send to Babylon strangers, who will winnow her.
They will empty her land;
for in the day of trouble they will be against her all around.
Against him who bends, let the archer bend his bow,
also against him who lifts himself up in his coat of mail.
Don’t spare her young men!
Utterly destroy all her army!
They will fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,
and thrust through in her streets.
For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God,
by Yahweh of Armies;
though their land is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.

“Flee out of the middle of Babylon!
Everyone save his own life!
Don’t be cut off in her iniquity,
for it is the time of Yahweh’s vengeance.
He will render to her a recompense.
Babylon has been a golden cup in Yahweh’s hand,
who made all the earth drunk.
The nations have drunk of her wine;
therefore the nations have gone mad.
Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed!
Wail for her!
Take balm for her pain.
Perhaps she may be healed.

When I read this passage, I remember the words that Jesus said:

Matthew 7:2

For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.

In this prophesy, God tells us that Babylon was to receive arrows just as they gave them out. They were also to receive battle against those who wear coats of mail, have their young men cut down, and be attacked by people from far away. God was going to give back to them what they gave to His people Israel, but the most amazing thing I read here is what God said after that.

God said: “For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God, by Yahweh of Armies; though their land is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.” This may be the most clear and obvious passage that directly opposes replacement theology. That’s the belief that the Church replaces Israel and has now obtained all of her promises. The typical argument that I hear is that the Church has been given Israel’s promises because Israel was unfaithful to God. That argument is directly refuted here. God doesn’t give to Israel according to her deeds. God’s promise to be faithful to Israel does not depend on Israel’s performance. The reason that I bring this up over and over again, is because this is a Gospel issue. If God’s faithfulness depended on man’s performance, then salvation is based on man. The true and only Gospel teaches us that it is not by man’s performance at all, but by God’s faithfulness alone that we are saved.

The last few verses here should sound pretty familiar. That’s because something very similar is written again in the last book of the Bible. Many prophesies in the Bible have an immediate application as well as a future one. A surprising fact about the Bible is that Babylon is one of the biggest subjects. For a city that doesn’t even exist today, that’s kind of peculiar. Obviously, the old city of Babylon was destroyed many years ago, but what that nation started in the world is still alive and well. Babylon loved idols and was proud against God and it was eventually destroyed. It stands as a symbol of what is about to happen to all who have followed her ways.