Jeremiah 51:1–64, Romans 13:8–14:12, Proverbs 28:1–28
What is the difference between the sins of God’s people and the sins of those who have no faith in Him? There is no difference — except in the way God deals with each. His people are chastened and restored, but those who reject Him do not fare so well.
For instance, both Babylon and Israel worshiped idols. Of this, Jeremiah wrote, “Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish. Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things, and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the Lord of hosts is his name.” (Jeremiah 51:17–19) The only difference in their idolatry was that Israel knew God and knew that only the Lord of hosts was worthy of their worship. The leaders and people of Babylon thought the Lord of hosts was someone they could conquer.
Jeremiah wrote, “Therefore, behold, the days are coming when I will punish the images of Babylon; her whole land shall be put to shame, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her. Then the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon, for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north, declares the Lord. Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth. . . . “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will execute judgment upon her images, and through all her land the wounded shall groan. Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify her strong height, yet destroyers would come from me against her, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 51:47–49, 52–53)
After Jeremiah wrote of all the disaster that would come upon Babylon, he told the quartermaster to the king, “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, and say, ‘O Lord, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted.’ ” (Jeremiah 51:60–64)
Historical records show that all Jeremiah prophesied happened. That nation fell and was never blessed by God. It is now Iraq. Many of the people in that area do not understand or consider the grace of God or the reasons behind the way they live. For many of them, it is as Solomon wrote, “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.” (Proverbs 28:5)
Justice is about receiving what we deserve. God says sinners must die, yet those who seek the Lord discover that Jesus died for us. The just penalty I deserve was paid by Jesus Christ. Because of what He has done for me, I want to serve Him. This is not to avoid justice for sin, but because I am grateful for my redemption. His love for me has changed everything.
God says that evil people do not understand or care to obey Him at all. For them, loving others as themselves is an utterly strange concept. Yet the New Covenant spells it out clearly: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8–10)
The ungodly person seeks their own pleasure and well-being, only putting on a pedestal people or concepts that will work toward that end. They love what makes them feel good, look good, and fills their wallet. This is modern idolatry and will meet the same end as promised to ancient Babylon.
At the same time, I’m warned to be careful about judging others, particularly those who are in the family of God. The Bible says, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10–12)
God says to me that if I am unloving in my attitude toward fellow believers, what will I do with those who are obviously not believers and involved in idol worship? It is okay to condemn the sin of idolatry, but another to single out those who I think should be chastened or destroyed.
One day I will give account to the Lord for my sins too. Without Christ, I would perish just as anyone else who sins. Only because of Jesus do I have hope – and my redemption is not about me; it is about Jesus.