“I will punish the king of Babylon” (Jeremiah 50:18)

Pastor Ino

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Today, we will read from Jeremiah chapter 50. It is about God’s judgment on Babylon. No matter how great a nation, if it becomes proud, oppressive, and abandons God’s ways, it will receive God’s judgment. May this message give you assurance and courage as you look at the condition of the world today.

Verse 1 says, “This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians.” Verse 2 says, “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.’”

Bel and Marduk are names of a god that Babylonians believed in. Bel’s name means “ruler” or “conqueror,” and he was the patron god of Babylon. Marduk is another of Bel’s names, and he was revered as the highest of the Babylonian gods. And yet this conqueror was be judged by the one true God.

This is how Babylon was judged. Verse 3 says, “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.” Babylon would be destroyed by the kingdom of Persia. Babylon, along with its idol gods, would be destroyed and put to shame.

This message of Babylon’s destruction was, at the same time, a message of freedom for the Jewish people. That is why verse 4 says, “‘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.’” These are tears of repentance. At the time, they were living as captives in Babylon, which was God’s judgment for his people’s sins. But they would live with the hope of being freed after 70 years, as God promised. They would shed tears of repentance as they remembered their suffering and the price of the sins that they and their ancestors committed. They would seek the Lord again.

Verse 5: “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.” Being freed from Babylon would give them a hope. They will ask God to bind them in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.

As we learned previously, God had prepared a new, everlasting covenant for his people, both Judah and Israel. The new covenant would begin with the birth of Jesus. With new hope, God’s people will ask to be bound to him through this covenant.

Verse 6 says, “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.” The phrase “my people” refers, of course, to the Jewish people. Like lost sheep, they were taken by their leaders to high places—where idol worship was conducted—and lost their way; they forgot the one true God, who is their resting place.

Verse 7: “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.’” As we know, they forgot the Lord and lived selfishly, which caused the fall of Jerusalem. God used their enemies the Babylonians to deliver his judgment. However, in verse 7 we see a picture of the Babylonians justifying their violence against other nations. It implies their growing pride. This chapter mentions a few reasons why the Babylonians were also judged by God, but the main reason is pride.

Verse 8 goes on to say, “Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock.” It’s an interesting expression that God uses to tell his people about leaving Babylon. They are to be like goats which lead the flock.

Prideful Babylon will fall, according to God’s plan and because of his justice. Jumping ahead to verse 15, it says, “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.” Just as Babylon destroyed the cities of Judah and incurred God’s wrath, so God will destroy Babylon.

We reap what we sow. “This is the vengeance of the Lord,” says the passage. As the book of Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

I mentioned that it is God’s will to judge Babylon. God is sovereign over human history. The fall of northern Israel to Assyria and the fall of southern Judah to Babylon were all part of God’s sovereign plan. Like the fall of Babylon itself. This is described in verses 17 and 18. In verse 18 God says at last, “I will punish the king of Babylon.” And that will be a day of freedom for God’s people.

In verse 20 God says, “In those days, at that time . . . 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.” On that day of freedom, God will also forgive his people’s sins and give them a new beginning.

Moving on, what were the reasons for Babylon’s punishment? As mentioned before, one reason was their pride. Verse 29 says, “Repay her for her deeds; do to her as she has done. For she has defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” The word “arrogant” is used multiple times to describe Babylon. Like in verse 31, “‘See, I am against you, you arrogant one,’ declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty, ‘for your day has come, the time for you to be punished.’” And verse 32: “The arrogant one will stumble and fall…”

Arrogant and also blind towards those who are small and weak. Living selfishly. God will judge such people. We have seen this happen in history. Assyria, Babylon, and Rome—all became proud and were brought low by God. We should take heed and let this humble us. We would be wise to learn from history and the Old Testament.

When Babylon is judged, those who were mistreated by Babylon will be set free. It is all part of God’s plan. That is the message of Jeremiah in this chapter. Verses 33 and 34 add, “The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well. All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land, but unrest to those who live in Babylon.”

The God who redeems Israel will bring judgment and restoration. The One who redeems us is mighty. May we be able to receive warning and encouragement from Jeremiah’s message and walk humbly before God.

The destruction of Babylon is not only prophesied by Jeremiah. The prophet Isaiah did as well. Isaiah compares Babylon with Satan. The destruction of Babylon implies the destruction of Satan as well. That is why we see a prophecy in Revelation 17 about the fall of “Babylon the Great.” Imagine how this prophecy in Revelation sounded to its audience at that time, who were the early Christians. The Romans who occupied Israel and other peoples all claimed that they were the supreme power, and early Christians were commanded to worship the Roman emperor. But even Rome fell. Victory belongs to God and to his son Jesus Christ. And when Babylon the Great falls, it will be nothing less than God’s victory.

Today’s message is especially relevant to countries living under a dictator. No matter how great a nation, if its leaders defy God, are selfish and oppressive, seeking only self-glory, we should remember that God’s judgment is sure to come. Let us pray that our leaders will love God and the people, and carry out policies that realize God’s will for us.

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