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Without a Trace

November 14, 2014

I am not teaching this Sunday so I don’t have my normal blog post but I do want to share a resource from Scripture Union that I have found very helpful – WordLive (https://www.wordlive.org/). I have copied the entry for Friday 14th November here but I normally listen to the podcast version which is available from the same page. I spend so much time teaching that it is good to receive from someone else, it is also so uplifting to have human voices giving that teaching each day.

This offering is entitled “Without a Trace“.

God oversees nations and details in equal measure. Bring both to him before you read further…

Bible passage: Jeremiah 51:33–64

 

  This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says:
“The Daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor
at the time it is trampled;
the time to harvest her will soon come.”

“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured us,
he has thrown us into confusion,
he has made us an empty jar.
Like a serpent he has swallowed us
and filled his stomach with our delicacies,
and then has spewed us out.

May the violence done to our flesh be upon Babylon,”
say the inhabitants of Zion.
“May our blood be on those who live in Babylonia,”
says Jerusalem.

Therefore, this is what the LORD says:
“See, I will defend your cause
and avenge you;
I will dry up her sea
and make her springs dry.

Babylon will be a heap of ruins,
a haunt of jackals,
an object of horror and scorn,
a place where no one lives.

Her people all roar like young lions,
they growl like lion cubs.

But while they are aroused,
I will set out a feast for them
and make them drunk,
so that they shout with laughter—
then sleep forever and not awake,”
declares the LORD.

“I will bring them down
like lambs to the slaughter,
like rams and goats.

“How Sheshach will be captured,
the boast of the whole earth seized!
What a horror Babylon will be
among the nations!

The sea will rise over Babylon;
its roaring waves will cover her.

Her towns will be desolate,
a dry and desert land,
a land where no one lives,
through which no man travels.

I will punish Bel in Babylon
and make him spew out what he has swallowed.
The nations will no longer stream to him.
And the wall of Babylon will fall.

“Come out of her, my people!
Run for your lives!
Run from the fierce anger of the LORD.

Do not lose heart or be afraid
when rumors are heard in the land;
one rumor comes this year, another the next,
rumors of violence in the land
and of ruler against ruler.

For the time will surely come
when I will punish the idols of Babylon;
her whole land will be disgraced
and her slain will all lie fallen within her.

Then heaven and earth and all that is in them
will shout for joy over Babylon,
for out of the north
destroyers will attack her,”
declares the LORD.

“Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain,
just as the slain in all the earth
have fallen because of Babylon.

You who have escaped the sword,
leave and do not linger!
Remember the LORD in a distant land,
and think on Jerusalem.”

“We are disgraced,
for we have been insulted
and shame covers our faces,
because foreigners have entered
the holy places of the LORD’s house.”

“But days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will punish her idols,
and throughout her land
the wounded will groan.

Even if Babylon reaches the sky
and fortifies her lofty stronghold,
I will send destroyers against her,”
declares the LORD.

“The sound of a cry comes from Babylon,
the sound of great destruction
from the land of the Babylonians.

The LORD will destroy Babylon;
he will silence her noisy din.
Waves of enemies will rage like great waters;
the roar of their voices will resound.

A destroyer will come against Babylon;
her warriors will be captured,
and their bows will be broken.
For the LORD is a God of retribution;
he will repay in full.

I will make her officials and wise men drunk,
her governors, officers and warriors as well;
they will sleep forever and not awake,”
declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty.

This is what the LORD Almighty says:
“Babylon’s thick wall will be leveled
and her high gates set on fire;
the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing,
the nations’ labor is only fuel for the flames.”

This is the message Jeremiah gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. Then say, ‘O LORD, you have said you will destroy this place, so that neither man nor animal will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring upon her. And her people will fall.’ ”
The words of Jeremiah end here.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Explore the Bible

 

Righteous judgement

Up to this point, Jeremiah’s prophecies have been directed towards God’s people. Today’s passage comes as part of a section in which God is revealing his righteous judgement against the surrounding nations.

Babylon with all its power was a pawn in God’s hand (v 49) but this did not mean that God excused the sin and idolatry of Nebuchadnezzar and his people (v 52). God will never overlook or pretend not to see sin.

A time of reckoning

Babylon’s idolatry was so abhorrent to God that he would destroy the city (vs 54,55,62,64), making it a desolate place for ever. The acts of war against Israel had not gone under the Lord’s radar; there would be a time of reckoning (v 49). In the midst of God’s wrath, there was hope for his people. God would avenge them (v 36) as they ran from his punishment of the Babylonians (vs 45–48).

The Jews had frequently been tempted either to ally themselves to the strongest surrounding nations rather than trust in God, or strike back against Babylon rather than wait for God’s judgement. How might this passage reassure us today when so much is wrong in the world?

Respond

 

‘Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death’ (Psalm 68:19,20).

James Davies

Deeper Bible study

 

Jeremiah’s dire warnings of the demise of Egypt came true 20 years after the Jews settled there. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt in 568 bc. History is silent about the fate of the Jews, but the Babylonians made no distinctions and all were caught up in the destruction. As Jeremiah predicted, remnants would survive as refugees (Jeremiah 44:28). Some no doubt eventually returned to Egypt. Many would be released when Babylon fell to Persia, some returning to rebuild Jerusalem. Scripture sees this as fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophesies of restoration (Ezra 1:1–5). Others remained scattered throughout the Babylonian Empire. Many more were resettled throughout the subsequent Greek Empire and extensively dispersed when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in ad 70.

Jeremiah’s graphic tirade against Israel’s ancient enemies in chapters 46–49 makes hard reading. Commentators disagree about the historical placement of these prophesies, but their literary placement suggests that the editor of the material gathered all prophesies dealing with foreign nations into one place at the end. They culminate in the longer prophetic utterances against Babylon, the last of which we read today.

Some people find difficulty reconciling Jeremiah’s picture of Babylon as God’s agent in history (eg Jeremiah 6:1,2,22) with his equally strong condemnations, but this thinking is to presume that we are privy to the mind of God. Hidden away in Jeremiah’s long diatribe is the clue: ‘We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed’ (Jeremiah 51:9). Babylon was briefly God’s chosen instrument but this did not excuse the people from the ultimate requirement that they seek God. We know they had clear opportunities (Daniel 3:28,29), but in the end they did not take them and they too came under God’s judgement.

John Harris

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