“For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
by their God, the Lord Almighty,
though their land is full of guilt
before the Holy One of Israel.”
(Jer. 51:5, NIV)
The final chapters of the book of Jeremiah bring the promise of judgment for Babylon. The Lord’s words against Babylon seem harsh, and the prophecy recorded by Jeremiah is the longest of the prophecies against the nations. However, God’s precious people, his chosen sheep, have been led astray by the Babylonians and have “forgotten their fold,” and the Lord promises vengeance upon Babylon (Jer. 50:6). Yet do the people of Judah even deserve this defense?
Just take a moment to recall how the prophecy of Jeremiah began. The Lord voices this against his people: “Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God” (Jer. 2:22).
There are problems that are so big (sin) that good advice, warnings, and even time (the ever-popular salve) cannot resolve them. For you, these problems can become the prison bars from which you simply cannot seem to escape. Or perhaps you are instead trapped behind a revolving door of behavioral, substance, and attitude weaknesses. Either way, it feels as if your “captors hold [you] fast, refusing to let [you] go” (Jer. 50:33, NIV).
Here in your prison cell, perhaps this word for the people of Judah, in the midst of their Babylonian prison, is hope for you too. Temptation dwells ever before God’s people. No matter what word God speaks through Jeremiah, and no matter how disastrous their life becomes, they simply cannot kick the habit of their sin.
Therefore, the Lord God’s judgment against the wolves and lions who “rejoice” in exploitation is, for their prey, a light of hope. One day this great source of sin and temptation will sink and be no more. On behalf of his people, God will remove the trap of their temptation for today and forever.
So although the book of Jeremiah may begin and end in unresolved despair, as Christians we know that God has guaranteed that all sin will be destroyed. We see in Revelation:
“Alas, alas, for the great city [of Babylon]
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her!”
(Rev. 18:19-20 [italics mine])
For we see that just as the final chapter of Jeremiah ends and the sinfully weak and defenseless King Jehoiachin is released after thirty-seven long years of captivity, so we too have been released. One day, though we certainly shall not deserve it, we Christians like Jehoiachin will all “put off [our] prison garments. And every day of [our] lives [dine] regularly at the king’s table” (Jer. 52:33).
For indeed, our Redeemer has done what we could not do with “lye” and “much soap.” As the old hymn says, Jesus Christ has “washed me white as snow” and invited me to feast forever with him.