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Does it ever seem to you like the good guys get left behind while the bad guys flourish? In Jeremiah 38, we talked about how doing the right thing sometimes leads to punishment. That raises a question: What about the people doing the punishing? When Babylon destroys our city or we get thrown into a cistern of mud, what happens to the guys doing the destroying or throwing? Will the bad guys get what’s coming to them? And, is it okay to want that to happen?
Jeremiah began his ministry as the dominant world power, the Assyrians, descended into civil war. As the Assyrians began to lose their power, Babylon and Egypt sought to occupy the power vacuum that the Assyrians would leave. In the midst of this political turmoil the Lord calls Jeremiah. His job is to predict and warn of the coming Babylonian invasion and the restoration that would follow the exile.
If you are living in Jerusalem during the seige, you might ask, are Babylonians going to destroy the holy city of God and then just go their merry way? Jeremiah 46-51 deal with the enemies of Israel and what’s going to happen to them, with Jeremiah 50-51 focusing on Babylon.
- The Lord will judge Babylon.
- The Lord will restore Israel.
- Biblical prophecy is often in the past tense to express the certainty of the events predicted. Because the Lord said it, it is so certain that it will happen, it’s as if it is in the past.
- 50:2 – Bel and Marduk are gods of Babylon.
- 50:4 – “in those days” is a very vague and general time reference. Specifics are determined by context.
- 50:12 – “Mother” is a metaphor for their capital city.
Jeremiah 50:9, 13-14 predict that Babylon will fall in a great battle and its inhabitants flee. Yet we know from history that Cyrus entered the city as a liberator and took the city without a fight. “In 539 B.C., the Persian Cyrus II (the Great) entered Babylon without a fight. Thus ended Babylon’s dominant role in Near Eastern politics (Holman Bible Dictionary).”
In Jeremiah 18, when the Lord sends Jeremiah to the potter’s house, we learned that God will change His plans when and if His people change their behavior.
“If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.” – Jeremiah 18:7-8
Daniel 4 records the story of Babylon’s greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar, repenting.
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. – Daniel 4:37
It is quite likely that the Lord was merciful in His judgment of Babylon because of Nebuchadnezzar’s change of heart.
Will the bad guys get punished? And is it okay to want that to happen?
- We are asking for a vengeance when we want the bad guys to get punished. Jeremiah 50:15; 51:24; 52:35
- Vengeance is a measured response that fits the crime (e.g. an eye for any eye, a tooth for a tooth).
- Leviticus 18:18 tells us not to TAKE vengeance and Deuteronomy 32:35 tells us that vengeance belongs to the Lord.
- Establishing justice or taking vengeance needs to be left to a just, fair and wise judge who is outside of the conflict.
- It is right to ask the Lord for justice, but wrong to take matters into our own hands.
- Babylon is still guilty (50:7) even though their were instruments of God’s judgment on Israel.
- Sin always has consequences and evil is always judged.
But I’m one of the bad guys…
- The Lord will not forsake His people even though they are guilty (51:5).
- Judgment is a means to bring about restoration (50:4-5; 50:20).
- The Lord can both judge and forgive because of the cross.
- At the cross of Jesus Christ, the Lord judged the bad guys once and for all, but His judgment fell on Jesus rather than on us, who deserved it.
- Jesus was forsaken on the cross so that you and I — the bad guys — might not be forsaken.
The bad guys will not get what’s coming to them, if they believe in the blood of Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
Previous: 15 Jeremiah 38:1-13 Why do I get punished for doing the right thing?
Series: Questions Jeremiah Answered
Resources: Jeremiah Resources
Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Version of the Bible.
Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.