“In the End . . .”
Much of Jeremiah’s prophecy clearly lays out the punishment coming for God’s people as a result of their sinfulness, but those prophecies are always mixed with assurance of God’s faithfulness to restore them. Yet following this robust collection of prophecies about God’s people, one of the last things we hear in the Book of Jeremiah is a judgment on their enemies, Babylon. Babylon is the nation God has most directly used as a tool for bringing about the difficult days of exile for God’s people. However, God allowing it to happen does not excuse the actions they took and the way they mistreated his people. Jeremiah’s last words lay out how God’s justice will be handed out to Babylon. As punishment for all they had done, God will utterly destroy Babylon. There is no future for them. There is no hope.
It is wild enough that God would even have Jeremiah offer this prophecy while God’s people are still prisoners oppressed in Babylon, but the most amazing part of this prophecy is God’s instruction that it be read aloud in Babylon, including the dramatic demonstration of Babylon’s future—tied to a stone and sunk to the bottom of the Euphrates. God wants to publicly remind both the exiles and their captors that he has the final say. Babylon has only had success against God’s people because God allowed it. Their dominance will not last forever. God will bring an end to exile and an end to Babylon.
As certain as is Babylon’s destruction, so certain is the future God has in store for his people.
“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” (Jeremiah 51:5 NIV).
As bad as it has been for God’s chosen people (and they certainly deserved it!), it will be worse for Babylon. Despite their sinfulness, God has a future hope for his people; the same is not true for Babylon.
In the same way God destroyed Babylon, in Christ, God destroyed sin and death on our behalf. God’s people were assured, even while they were still in exile, that he would bring about the destruction of their enemies and their ultimate salvation. In the same way, we live in an already-but-not-yet timeframe of salvation history. God has put all enemies—even death—under Jesus’ feet; even still, the world is not yet all that it will be. In a way, when we publicly affirm our faith together by declaring Jesus is alive and Jesus is Lord—even in a world where death and evil seem to hold so much sway—we join a longstanding tradition of God’s people. We declare—even in the presence of God’s enemies who seem to be winning the day—our trust that God has the final say. As it was before, so it shall be again: God will destroy every enemy and bring us salvation.