The Return of God’s People
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 50:1-46, Jeremiah 51:1-64, Psalm 140:12-13, Romans 12:19-21
A long time ago, maybe fifteen years or so, my friends invited me to watch a movie with them. I didn’t check on which movie was playing—who even cared? We settled in, giggling, with popcorn and candy. Then I lifted my eyes to the screen and saw the most terrifying previews of horrible things I had never even imagined—in the previews! I knew for certain that I was not going to stay in my seat, essentially paying my money and my time to be tormented.
The fun and the danger of the world are balanced on a thin line. I wouldn’t have forfeited my eternal soul by viewing such a harrowing film. God isn’t going to yank away my salvation because of a party I went to in college, but our little everyday decisions do set the course of our life. It’s tempting to follow the course of the world and leave the course of godliness for another day.
This passage foretells the judgment God brought against the Babylonian empire. We see its fulfillment in the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon during the time of Daniel. While Babylon feasted, the Medes and Persians invaded and toppled the wicked and unsuspecting empire.
While there is specific fulfillment historically recorded, we also see with great clarity the character of God and His judgments against wickedness itself. As God called His people to depart from wicked Babylon, so He has always called us to be set apart from the world. While we are in the world, we are not of it. We are called to be a peculiar people, a holy priesthood set apart for good works (1 Peter 2:9).
Jeremiah’s call to separate from Babylon is set amidst an overwhelming series of warnings and foretellings of doom. The destruction of Babylon is coming, an unstoppable and devastating judgment. Here we see God’s righteous character, which cannot ignore the wickedness of the world; again and again, He condemns them for their idolatry. He will punish their “carved images” because “the LORD is a God of retribution; he will certainly repay” (Jeremiah 51:52,56). This idea of justice can make us a bit uncomfortable, but it is inseparable from the deliverance that God promises to those who trust Him. He cannot abide evil, because it is evil.
The lure of worldliness promises us gorgeous wealth, pleasure, and power. However, it will ultimately and inevitably result in the loss of what really matters. Lot was lured by the appeal of worldliness when he settled in Sodom (Genesis 13:8–11). It was in a rich land and offered ample opportunities for economic benefit, but as Peter reminds us, “as that righteous man lived among them day by day, his righteous soul was tormented by the lawless deeds he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:8).
God’s call to His people to flee Babylon is a call not only to flee final desolation that comes to a wicked and perverse culture, but also to flee from the tormenting of our souls by a close association with worldliness. On the other side of this warning, we also see a welcome promise. God doesn’t simply call us away from Babylon; He calls us to something:
“I will return Israel to his grazing land, and he will feed on Carmel and Bashan;
he will be satisfied in the hill country of Ephraim and of Gilead.
In those days and at that time—this is the LORD’s declaration—one will search for Israel’s iniquity, but there will be none,
and for Judah’s sins, but they will not be found,
for I will forgive those I leave as a remnant” (Jeremiah 50:19–20).
His promise is this: while the world offers happiness it cannot fully deliver—not for long, anyway—we find in Christ every satisfaction. He calls us to a place of rest and goodness, where the stain and memory of sin itself has been removed. He is the Shepherd of Israel, who leads us to quiet pastures, and to streams of living waters (Psalm 23).