Sunday, 9 November 2014

(314) November 10: Jeremiah 50-52 & Hebrews 6

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note what God has to say about his people.

To ponder:
Finally God’s word now comes to Babylon. Although this people have been the agent he has used in bringing judgement on others, and their king his servant, he will still hold them accountable for the evil this entailed. So he urges Jeremiah to proclaim amongst the nations that Babylon will be captured and her idols metaphorically shamed and filled with terror. The description of what will come from the north (the Medo-Persians and their allies) is similar to previous oracles against other nations. But what is key here, is that this is God’s means of delivering his people. So we are told in those days the people of Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern) will seek God with tears (of repentance), ask the way to Zion, and bind themselves to God with an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten (50v1-5, see 31v31-35). As with Isaiah, the return from exile and the new covenant established in Christ are compacted together as the one act of God in which he restores his people as one nation.
            God describes his people like lost sheep led astray by their shepherds (leaders), forgetting their resting place and devoured by those (the Babylonians) who consider themselves without guilt because the Israelites sinned against God – their true pasture, ie. their place of rest (50v6-7). Yet now he urges them to feel Babylon (50v8-10). He declares that the city will be destroyed because she rejoiced in pillaging his inheritance – ie. Judah. So he calls the nations to take up positions and attack, executing his vengeance (50v11-16). Noting Israel was first oppressed by Assyria and then Babylon, he declares he will punish Babylon as he did Assyria, but bring Israel back to graze in both the north and south of the land, promising her guilt and sin will not be found, as the remnant will be forgiven (50v17-20). This of course looks us to the gospel.
            50v21-30 speak of God in wrath and vengeance calling the enemy to attack and destroy Babylon, repaying and punishing her for defying him, whilst the refugees from the city declare in Jerusalem how the LORD has taken vengeance for their destruction of his temple. This vengeance was warranted, as the temple was the heart of Israelite religion and the very place of God’s presence. To destroy it was to destroy the very means of maintaining God’s covenant relationship with his people and so the fulfilment of his promises. Likewise, God’s most serious judgement is for those who stand against his Son as the focal point of his relationship with his people.
            What follows is clarification that despite their captivity, Israel’s redeemer is strong and will defend their cause. So Babylon will fall and never again be inhabited because God is against her in her arrogance and idolatry (50v31-40). With a repetition of previous language, God then describes the army approaching and the terror gripping the Babylonians. He stresses none can resist him, and that the earth will tremble at the sound of Babylon being captured, because of its significance (50v41-46). This same divine strength means we can be sure that nothing will hinder God’s final exclusion of all evil from his kingdom.
            51v1-5 reiterates that this complete destruction of Babylon is because God has not forsaken Israel and Judah. Despite their guilt, he is still their God. And so, once more, he urges them to flee Babylon so they are not destroyed because of her sins. Babylon is pictured as a gold cup from which God’s wrath was poured out on the nations, but now she will fall and be beyond healing. God’s people seem gracious in saying that would have healed Babylon – a reference perhaps to their role in bringing the knowledge of God to the nations. But recognising this is impossible, they determine to return to their homeland, desiring to tell in Zion how God has vindicated them as his, by delivering them from such a superpower (51v6-10). Yet again, as the LORD calls the Medes against Babylon, we are told it is vengeance for his temple (51v11-14).
            God’s power and wisdom displayed in creation is then outlined as a means of contrasting his reality with the worthless and fraudulent Babylonian idols (51v15-18). As the maker of all things, and especially Israel, the tribe of his inheritance (ie. his special possession), he is also the maker of Babylon who he had used as a war club against all categories of people (51v19-23), but who he will now repay for the wrong they have done in Zion. Once more therefore, he stresses he is against the city, will totally destroy it, and calls the nations against it (51v24-29). The exhaustion of the Babylonian warriors is the described, as is the messenger telling the Babylonian king the city is captured (51v30-33). A prayer is then put in the mouth of the Israelites, calling for their blood to be upon Nebuchadnezzar. And God responds that he will defend their cause and avenge them, punishing the city and its gods (51v34-44). He then calls the people to run from Babylon, and not lose heart in hearing rumours that could imply Babylon will not fall. No, he is clear: Because of Israel’s slain, no matter how fortified she might seem, he will punish her idols, disgrace her land, and heaven and earth will rejoice over this. So the effort the captive nations put in to building the city will come to nothing, as it simply burns (51v45-58). All this reminds us that people will be judged not only for their rejection of Christ, but their oppression of his people.
            51v59-64 gives us the context to all these words. They were to be read by a Seraiah on arriving in Babylon with king Zedekiah, adding a prayer that would acknowledge it was the LORD who had said he would do all these things. Seraiah was then to tie the scroll to a stone and throw it into the Babylonian river Euphrates, no doubt as a symbolic action for the fall of Babylon itself.
            The book ends with an account of the fall of Jerusalem, how Zedekiah was taken to the king of Babylon, the temple, palace and walls of Jerusalem destroyed, and the people exiled. It can be found in 2 Kings 24v18-25v30 (see notes there). It’s a fitting conclusion because the entire book explains why this happened. It was not because of any weakness in the LORD, but because of his anger at the people’s evil and idolatry (52v3). It also explains God’s future for the people – that he will destroy Babylon, bring them home, and reunite them in the context of a new covenant. The king of Babylon’s kindness towards Jehoicahin (52v31-34) was a hint at this future, demonstrating that whatever could be thought, God had not forsaken his people.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he does not forsake his purposes, and will ensure they are fulfilled. The theme of judgement is extremely strong in the book of Jeremiah. Pray that you would not forget what you have learnt about it.

Thinking further:
Well done for finishing Jeremiah. It is not an easy book.

If you receive this post by email, visit and make a comment.


Post a Comment