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.

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 201: Five Swords and a Drought

Jeremiah 50:35-40

“A sword is on the Chaldeans,” says Yahweh,
“and on the inhabitants of Babylon,
on her princes,
and on her wise men.
A sword is on the boasters,
and they will become fools.
A sword is on her mighty men,
and they will be dismayed.
A sword is on their horses,
on their chariots,
and on all the mixed people who are in the middle of her;
and they will become as women.
A sword is on her treasures,
and they will be robbed.
A drought is on her waters,
and they will be dried up;
for it is a land of engraved images,
and they are mad over idols.
Therefore the wild animals of the desert
with the wolves will dwell there.
The ostriches will dwell therein.
It will be inhabited no more forever,
neither will it be lived in from generation to generation.
As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and its neighbor cities,” says Yahweh,
“so no man will dwell there,
neither will any son of man live therein.

Here we read that God used swords to bring Babylon down. In this prophesy, God applies His use of war as a punishment for their pride. He used it to bring down the ruling class and the intellectuals. He used it to bring down their war technology and their best fighting men. We are even informed that He used it against their “mixed peoples.” Perhaps, Babylon thought that “diversification” would protect them on the downside. Diversification doesn’t work when God is against you.

We also see here that God applies “a drought” as a result of their religious practices. God records here that the Babylonians were “mad over idols.” God cursed the city by predicting that it would one day remain uninhabited. When I looked at pictures of some of the remains of that old city, it appeared to me that there were still new buildings built around them. I don’t think that this prophesy has come true yet. When you look at the locations where Sodom and Gomorrah were, they really are desolate. It would appear to me that the ultimate end of Babylon is yet to come. Even so, ancient Babylon was taken over by the Medes and the Persians.

There are some things that we can learn from this passage and apply today. One is that war is something that God can use. God doesn’t use war for selfish human conquest. He uses it as a way to “clean up the neighborhood.” If war were to be irradiated in our world, it would mean that evil would run riot. To completely remove war and war technology would be to follow a Satanic path against God. Satan would be able to do whatever He wants. As we have been reading, we would be avoiding the clear teaching of the Bible to not see that God is a God of justice and purity. He will not allow sin to continue and will bring justice when the time is right.