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 187: Respecting Israel’s God

Jeremiah 48:18-28

“You daughter who dwells in Dibon,
come down from your glory,
and sit in thirst;
for the destroyer of Moab has come up against you.
He has destroyed your strongholds.
Inhabitant of Aroer, stand by the way and watch.
Ask him who flees, and her who escapes;
say, ‘What has been done?’
Moab is disappointed;
for it is broken down.
Wail and cry!
Tell it by the Arnon, that Moab is laid waste.
Judgment has come on the plain country—
on Holon, on Jahzah, on Mephaath,
on Dibon, on Nebo, on Beth Diblathaim,
on Kiriathaim, on Beth Gamul, on Beth Meon,
on Kerioth, on Bozrah,
and on all the cities of the land of Moab, far or near.
The horn of Moab is cut off,
and his arm is broken,” says Yahweh.

“Make him drunk,
for he magnified himself against Yahweh.
Moab will wallow in his vomit,
and he also will be in derision.
For wasn’t Israel a derision to you?
Was he found among thieves?
For as often as you speak of him,
you shake your head.
You inhabitants of Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock.
Be like the dove that makes her nest over the mouth of the abyss.

In this part of Jeremiah’s prophesy against Moab, God goes into detail and specifies some of the cities that will be destroyed. God said that “all the cities of the land of Moab, far or near” were going to experience His judgment. God also explains that the reason for all this is that Moab was acting proudly against God and God was taking revenge against them for how they treated Israel.

God accuses the Moabites of magnifying themselves against God. He also says that He saw them mocking the Jews. They treated the Jews as if they were theives. It’s interesting to me that this is being done by many today. They accuse the Jews of taking money out of the economy while ridiculing them for things that they haven’t actually done. God told Moab that in their day of judgment, they would be the ones being mocked. They would also be the ones that people shake their heads at in disgust. They will end up living in hiding places like wild animals.

This is a lesson to us about how to treat the nation of Israel. Obviously, Israel had been doing evil. In one sense, they didn’t deserve respect. It was so bad that they were in the process of being judged by God for their sin, yet, God still judged Moab for their their treatment of Israel. Just because Israel does evil, doesn’t mean that we are free to start mocking them. The reason is quite simple. God decided to attach His Name to a nation and a place on earth. Even when Israel is wicked, we are to respect God’s Name. In other words, we don’t mock Israel even when they deserve it, because God’s Name is attached to them. God will be the One to mock them and when He does, they will be purified. Our job is to continue to respect God’s will in the matter. If we don’t then we are also acting wickedly like Moab was here.