The Patience of God.


“Go up against the land of Merathaim,
    and against the inhabitants of Pekod.
Kill, and devote them to destruction,
declares the Lord,
    and do all that I have commanded you.
The noise of battle is in the land,
    and great destruction!
How the hammer of the whole earth
    is cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become
    a horror among the nations!
I set a snare for you and you were taken, O Babylon,
    and you did not know it;
you were found and caught,
    because you opposed the Lord.
The Lord has opened his armory
    and brought out the weapons of his wrath,
for the Lord God of hosts has a work to do
    in the land of the Chaldeans.
Come against her from every quarter;
    open her granaries;
pile her up like heaps of grain, and devote her to destruction;
    let nothing be left of her.
Kill all her bulls;
    let them go down to the slaughter.
Woe to them, for their day has come,
    the time of their punishment.

“A voice! They flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, vengeance for his temple.” Jeremiah 50:21-28 ESV

Babylon would play a major role in the affairs of the people of God, so, as a result, they have the honor of receiving a much longer oracle of judgment against them from God. In fact, in these verses, God refers to the nation of Babylon as Merathaim, which, in the Hebrew, means “double rebellion.” This may refer to the fact that they were idolatrous and, therefore, worshipers of false gods, rather than the one true God. But it most likely  includes the role they played in the destruction of Judah. The lands of Merathaim and Pekod were actual places within the dominion of Babylon, but God seems to use these places for the convenient wordplay their Hebrew names provide. Pekod, in the Hebrew, refers to “punishment,” It is as if God is saying that these two lands within the mighty empire of Babylon, are aptly named because they represent the cause and the outcome of the nation’s fall: Rebellion against God and punishment at the hands of God.

The nation that had once been “the mightiest hammer in all the earth lies broken and shattered” (Jeremiah 50:23 NLT). But this prophecy, while partially fulfilled when the Persians defeated the Babylonians, has a much more important fulfillment that will take place in the end times. The Babylonians were not completely annihilated by the Persians, but were simply defeated and then absorbed into the Persian Empire. Babylon remained a significant city within that empire for many years to come.

God provides two pieces of evidence or points of accusation against Babylon for their coming destruction. The first is “You are caught, for you have fought against the Lord” (Jeremiah 50:24 NLT). While they had been commissioned by God to destroy Judah, that did not absolve them from the role they played. They did so willingly and eagerly. God did not have to force them to do what they did. He simply orchestrated the timing and ordained the manner in which their evil desires manifested themselves. But, in attacking Judah, they were actually fighting against God. They were attacking the people of God. the second accusation God levels against the Babylonians has to do with the temple. Jeremiah writes, “the Lord our God has taken vengeance against those who destroyed his Temple” (Jeremiah 50:28 NLT). In their sack of Jerusalem, the Babylonians plundered and completely destroyed the once-great temple that Solomon had built.

He burned down the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, and all the houses in Jerusalem, including every large house. The whole Babylonian army that came with the captain of the royal guard tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem. – 2 Kings 25:9-10 NLT

The Babylonians broke the two bronze pillars in the Lord’s temple, as well as the movable stands and the big bronze basin called “The Sea.” They took the bronze to Babylon. They also took the pots, shovels, trimming shears, pans, and all the bronze utensils used by the priests. The captain of the royal guard took the golden and silver censers and basins. The bronze of the items that King Solomon made for the Lord’s temple—including the two pillars, the big bronze basin called “The Sea,” the twelve bronze bulls under “The Sea,” and the movable stands—was too heavy to be weighed. Each of the pillars was about twenty-seven feet high. The bronze top of one pillar was about four and a half feet high and had bronze latticework and pomegranate shaped ornaments all around it. The second pillar with its latticework was like it. – 2 Kings 25:13-17 NLT

They would pay for what they had done. And it would not end with their fall to the Persians. God has a much greater and complete destruction in store for Babylon. The prophet, Isaiah, write of that coming day.

Babylon, the most admired of kingdoms,
the Chaldeans’ source of honor and pride,
will be destroyed by God
just as Sodom and Gomorrah were.
No one will live there again;
no one will ever reside there again.
No bedouin will camp there,
no shepherds will rest their flocks there.
Wild animals will rest there,
the ruined houses will be full of hyenas.
Ostriches will live there,
wild goats will skip among the ruins.
Wild dogs will yip in her ruined fortresses,
jackals will yelp in the once-splendid palaces.
Her time is almost up,
her days will not be prolonged. – Isaiah 13:19-22 NLT

That day, as described by Isaiah, will be one of worldwide judgment at the hands of God.

Look, the Lord’s day of judgment is coming;
it is a day of cruelty and savage, raging anger,
destroying the earth
and annihilating its sinners… – Isaiah 13:9 NLT

God will bring judgment on the entire earth, once and for all. He will put an end to the sin and rebellion that He has so patiently endured for so many centuries.

“I will punish the world for its evil,
and wicked people for their sin.
I will put an end to the pride of the insolent,
I will bring down the arrogance of tyrants.
I will make human beings more scarce than pure gold,
and people more scarce than gold from Ophir.
So I will shake the heavens,
and the earth will shake loose from its foundation,
because of the fury of the Lord who commands armies,
in the day he vents his raging anger.” – Isaiah 13:11-13 NLT

Obviously, none of this has yet happened. But Isaiah makes it clear that the coming judgment of God is unavoidable.

It is the Lord with his instruments of judgment,
coming to destroy the whole earth.
Wail, for the Lord’s day of judgment is near;
it comes with all the destructive power of the sovereign Judge. – Isaiah 13:5-6 NLT

He is the sovereign judge. He is God Almighty, and while He has allowed mankind to continue to live in open rebellion against Him, He will not endure their disobedience forever. The apostle Paul reminds us that God has been willing to put up with the sins of mankind for generations, because He had a plan by which He would provide them a means by which they might be made right with Him. He sent His Son as the payment for the sins of mankind. And all those who place their faith in Him as their Savior and sin substitute, receive forgiveness of sins and justification with God. They are restored to a right relationship with God. They are freed from future condemnation and assured of a place in God’s future Kingdom.  God could have wipe out all of mankind at any time, because all have sinned against Him. All are guilty of rebellion and disobedience to Him. And yet, Paul reminds us…

…even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. – Romans 9:22-24 NLT

God showed mercy. He sent His Son. He did for sinful mankind what they could not do for themselves. He provided a means of salvation. He paid their sin debt for them. He provided a source of righteousness they could never have produced on their own. And some would avail themselves of this incredible gift from God, while others rejected it. And there are still many yet to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. And there are many who will yet reject that gift of God’s grace. So, God’s patient endurance continues. He holds off His final judgment. But He will not do so forever.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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