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 129: In the Latter Days You Will Understand

Jeremiah 30:18-24

Yahweh says:
“Behold, I will reverse the captivity of Jacob’s tents,
and have compassion on his dwelling places.
The city will be built on its own hill,
and the palace will be inhabited in its own place.
Thanksgiving will proceed out of them
with the voice of those who make merry.
I will multiply them,
and they will not be few;
I will also glorify them,
and they will not be small.
Their children also will be as before,
and their congregation will be established before me.
I will punish all who oppress them.
Their prince will be one of them,
and their ruler will proceed from among them.
I will cause him to draw near,
and he will approach me;
for who is he who has had boldness to approach me?” says Yahweh.
“You shall be my people,
and I will be your God.
Behold, Yahweh’s storm, his wrath, has gone out,
a sweeping storm:
it will burst on the head of the wicked.
The fierce anger of Yahweh will not return until he has accomplished,
and until he has performed the intentions of his heart.
In the latter days you will understand it.”

At the time that I make this, Israel is its own country and is in its own land, yet, I can’t say that it is ruled by a prince who has the boldness to approach God Himself. It’s clear to me that this passage is, once again, talking about the very last days when Jesus Himself rules in Israel. The Bible makes it clear all over, including Daniel, Jesus’ words about the end in Matthew and Luke, and in the book of Revelation, that a time of great distress will come at the very end. This is the time when Jesus will have vengeance on a world that has rejected God and Him as their savior. It’s the time of God’s “fierce anger.” It’s difficult to find a time in the Bible that is discussed more than this one. God doesn’t want people to go through this time and has given us all a way to escape it if we will believe Him.

The book of Revelation is especially clear about this time in history. In it we read that God will first build up the people who have rejected Him and then, suddenly, unleash His wrath against them all. In the process, Jesus will kill all of His enemies and free the group of His people, Israel, that believe in Him and are in hiding. The book of Revelation is very clear that there will be a world war against Israel at one point. Jesus will destroy an enormous army and their leader and usher in world peace, making Israel the world capitol. As we read back in Isaiah, Israelis will be shipped at the expense of the other nations, back to Israel to live and serve in this now great country.

I like how this passage tells us that we will understand it “in the latter days.” It’s difficult to imagine a day when God’s way is the only way that anyone wants to go. Rebellion against God is the rule of our time, but in that day we will understand.