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.
(Jeremiah 50:11-16 NIV)
Yesterday we began our journey through chapters 50 – 51, where the Lord pronounces His judgments against Babylon. The general theme introduced in verses 1-10 was Babylon’s defeat and God’s people being released to return to the Promised Land.
Today’s passage continues that same theme of Babylon’s demise, and God’s people released to return home.
In verses 11 – 13, the Lord draws a contrast between Babylon’s joy in conquering Judah and Jerusalem versus what ends up happening to Babylon as a nation. The same things that God had said would happen to Judah because of her disobedience to the Lord were now about to happen to Babylon.
Why did the Lord say He was judging Babylon? Verse 11 says the judgment has come because Babylon had pillaged His inheritance (God’s land and God’s people). Yes, God used Babylon to discipline His people. but the inhumane and brutal way the Babylonians treated the people and the land of Judah was on them, not on the Lord.
Verses 14 – 15 are God’s call to Babylon’s conquerors to position themselves for battle. Verse 15 says that this is God’s vengeance – to “do to her as she has done to others.” This is more about divine retribution for Babylon’s barbaric treatment of those nations and peoples they had conquered than vengeance. Babylon’s vengeance was not against Israel and Judah, but against God Himself.
Verse 16 is a continuation of verse 15. Remember from our past studies through Jeremiah that the Lord had said that there was no safe place to escape the wrath the army of the north? The people would not be safe in the cities, nor in the open fields – the enemy would attack them wherever they were. In the same way, the Lord said that Babylon’s farmers and shepherds would be killed and their crops destroyed, just as the Babylonians had done to the agrarian people and land of Judah.
The latter half of verse 16 reiterates the Lord’s release of Babylonian captives – each person free to flee back to their own country of origin and avoid the destruction of Babylon. Per verses 11 -15, there would be nothing left.
So what should our response be when bad things happen to bad people? Should we take matters into our own hands and deal justice (as we see it) to oppressors? No – God had told His people long ago that vengeance was His alone to repay (Deuteronomy 32:35). And in case anyone thinks that this is an Old Testament only principle, the writer of Hebrews refers to and repeats this same passage reference (Hebrews 10:30).
If we don’t take revenge, should we at least cheer for the oppressors when they get their due justice from God’s hand? A wise man addressed this also:
17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
(Proverbs 24:17-18 NIV)
So how should we live? If we are to let the Lord take out vengeance on those who seek to hurt us, or even cheer when bad people get their payback, what should we do?
In his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul lays out our standard of conduct:
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:9-21 NIV)