FROM HERO TO VILLAIN

Opening Prayer

Lord, help me be still and quiet in your presence. I want to hear your voice and learn more of your plan for me.

Read JEREMIAH 50:1-28

A Message About Babylon

50 This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians[a]:

“Announce and proclaim among the nations,
    lift up a banner and proclaim it;
    keep nothing back, but say,
‘Babylon will be captured;
    Bel will be put to shame,
    Marduk filled with terror.
Her images will be put to shame
    and her idols filled with terror.’
A nation from the north will attack her
    and lay waste her land.
No one will live in it;
    both people and animals will flee away.

“In those days, at that time,”
    declares the Lord,
“the people of Israel and the people of Judah together
    will go in tears to seek the Lord their God.
They will ask the way to Zion
    and turn their faces toward it.
They will come and bind themselves to the Lord
    in an everlasting covenant
    that will not be forgotten.

“My people have been lost sheep;
    their shepherds have led them astray
    and caused them to roam on the mountains.
They wandered over mountain and hill
    and forgot their own resting place.
Whoever found them devoured them;
    their enemies said, ‘We are not guilty,
for they sinned against the Lord, their verdant pasture,
    the Lord, the hope of their ancestors.’

“Flee out of Babylon;
    leave the land of the Babylonians,
    and be like the goats that lead the flock.
For I will stir up and bring against Babylon
    an alliance of great nations from the land of the north.
They will take up their positions against her,
    and from the north she will be captured.
Their arrows will be like skilled warriors
    who do not return empty-handed.
10 So Babylonia[b] will be plundered;
    all who plunder her will have their fill,”
declares the Lord.

11 “Because you rejoice and are glad,
    you who pillage my inheritance,
because you frolic like a heifer threshing grain
    and neigh like stallions,
12 your mother will be greatly ashamed;
    she who gave you birth will be disgraced.
She will be the least of the nations—
    a wilderness, a dry land, a desert.
13 Because of the Lord’s anger she will not be inhabited
    but will be completely desolate.
All who pass Babylon will be appalled;
    they will scoff because of all her wounds.

14 “Take up your positions around Babylon,
    all you who draw the bow.
Shoot at her! Spare no arrows,
    for she has sinned against the Lord.
15 Shout against her on every side!
    She surrenders, her towers fall,
    her walls are torn down.
Since this is the vengeance of the Lord,
    take vengeance on her;
    do to her as she has done to others.
16 Cut off from Babylon the sower,
    and the reaper with his sickle at harvest.
Because of the sword of the oppressor
    let everyone return to their own people,
    let everyone flee to their own land.

17 “Israel is a scattered flock
    that lions have chased away.
The first to devour them
    was the king of Assyria;
the last to crush their bones
    was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”

18 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says:

“I will punish the king of Babylon and his land
    as I punished the king of Assyria.
19 But I will bring Israel back to their own pasture,
    and they will graze on Carmel and Bashan;
their appetite will be satisfied
    on the hills of Ephraim and Gilead.
20 In those days, at that time,”
    declares the Lord,
“search will be made for Israel’s guilt,
    but there will be none,
and for the sins of Judah,
    but none will be found,
    for I will forgive the remnant I spare.

21 “Attack the land of Merathaim
    and those who live in Pekod.
Pursue, kill and completely destroy[c] them,”
declares the Lord.
    “Do everything I have commanded you.
22 The noise of battle is in the land,
    the noise of great destruction!
23 How broken and shattered
    is the hammer of the whole earth!
How desolate is Babylon
    among the nations!
24 I set a trap for you, Babylon,
    and you were caught before you knew it;
you were found and captured
    because you opposed the Lord.
25 The Lord has opened his arsenal
    and brought out the weapons of his wrath,
for the Sovereign Lord Almighty has work to do
    in the land of the Babylonians.
26 Come against her from afar.
    Break open her granaries;
    pile her up like heaps of grain.
Completely destroy her
    and leave her no remnant.
27 Kill all her young bulls;
    let them go down to the slaughter!
Woe to them! For their day has come,
    the time for them to be punished.
28 Listen to the fugitives and refugees from Babylon
    declaring in Zion
how the Lord our God has taken vengeance,
    vengeance for his temple.

Read full chapter

Footnotes

  1. Jeremiah 50:1 Or Chaldeans; also in verses 8, 25, 35 and 45
  2. Jeremiah 50:10 Or Chaldea
  3. Jeremiah 50:21 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verse 26.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Lord, in my desire to do your will, teach me to respect your delegated authority, so that I may always serve you ‘in the fear of God.’1

Think Further

While working for 11 years in a pastorate in north London, I became familiar with the phrase, ‘We do not talk to Babylon.’ Babylon was used as a byword for injustice, cruelty, and oppression: the perception of most young black people in that context of the police. This label is derived from ancient Babylon and its fearsome character expressed in injustice, brutality, and oppression.2

Jeremiah’s preaching tells us that initially Nebuchadnezzar and his army were instruments in the hands of God to punish rebellious Judah, just as Assyria had been used a century earlier to punish Israel. Babylon exceeded its mandate, however, turning cruelty, injustice, and oppression into ends in themselves. That is why a massive publicity campaign was called for and mounted, to tell everyone that Babylon too will be captured (vs 2,21–28). Babylon had rejoiced exceedingly as it pillaged other nations, reducing them to ruins, nations whose security had been undermined by the will of God (vs 11–13,17). A coalition of the Medes and Persians from the north would devastate Babylon (vs 9,14–16). Babylon’s key colonial policy was to conquer, capture, deport, and disperse. The Medes and Persians would reverse these policies and return people to their homelands (vs 18–20). In history, empires rise and fall: Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, modern Europeans, and others. Jeremiah makes it clear that history is not random. Its forward movement is not just historical but theological. God, the only Sovereign, will have the last word.

Apply

All authority on earth belongs to God. He delegates it to people, institutions, and nations. In recognition of this fact, all leaders must lead in the fear of God.3

Closing prayer

Thank you, Father, that you reign over history, over world events, over all. You see. You care. Your good purposes will come to pass.

Last Updated on December 15, 2023 by kingstar

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