Prophecies Against Elam
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 49:1-39, Zephaniah 2:8-11, 1 Timothy 6:17-19
What’s the opposite of a banner year? Whatever it is, that’s what our family has experienced in the last year. Grief, frustration, brokenness, envy, death, and sickness stretched us out like a rubber band, taking us further than we thought we physically had the capacity to go.
At some point, every response started to seem rote, even the biblical ones. I stopped talking to certain people, because I knew they would offer a platitude that did nothing to assuage the torrent of grief and sadness. I longed for a true reprieve, a glimpse of the promise that I know in my bones is true: that one day there will be no more sadness and no more death (Revelation 21:4).
The brutal prophecies against the nations in the final few chapters of Jeremiah feel like that: unrelenting, devastating, impossible to withstand. Chapter 49 unwinds the devastations that were to come: the land of Ammon would be like a desolate mound; the chief city Bozrah would be destroyed, “an example for cursing” (v.13). Edom would become insignificant among all nations and uninhabitable (vv.15); fires would consume Damascus (v.27); Elam would lose the source of their power and be finished off, their kings destroyed (vv.35, 37–38). But then we read this:
“Yet, in the last days, I will restore the fortunes of Elam.
This is the LORD’s declaration” (v.39).
There are short verses tucked in each chapter that promise restoration—the Egyptians (Jeremiah 46:26), the Moabites (48:47), the Ammonites (49:6), and the Elamites. And earlier in Jeremiah, God made a promise to His people, the people of Judah who had betrayed Him: “‘I will restore your fortunes, and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you’—this is the LORD’s declaration. ‘I will restore you to the place from which I deported you’” (Jeremiah 29:14).
This is because our just God is also our merciful God. Even in the midst of judgment, executed in His perfect justice and righteousness, He promises to restore His people. He promises to restore their enemies. God is so big and so good.
Jeremiah is a study of God’s character. The reality of His grace and His justice is too much for our brains to comprehend. How, after all the things the Elamites and Ammonites and Egyptians and Moabites did to the people of God, could He promise to restore them? How, after all the ways His people betrayed Him, could God show them mercy? I do not understand it. But I know I need that same mercy.
Charles Spurgeon, a British theologian and pastor, said: “God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God.” It is this great mercy of our good and just God that we see woven throughout this chapter of desolation. Thanks be to Him.