I have recently been spending a lot of time in Jeremiah laboring to see Jesus Christ in the midst of the impending Babylonian conquest. And I must say that it has been quite wonderful. Specifically one passage has been laid on my heart for quite some time now. Jeremiah guarantees the eventual demise of Babylon, the nation that will pile high the bodies of the Israelites in the Valley of Slaughter (7:32-33), in the concluding chapters of the book. Jeremiah promises the glorious truth that Babylon will sink in the Euphrates like a millstone.
However, the prophecy precedes the exile.
So while Israel may rejoice in the destruction of Babylon while dwelling securely in Jerusalem, once the siege works surround the city and women begin to eat their own children for lack of food, rejoicing flees with all their hope. Babylon, the mighty ruler of the world, will consume the Holy City.
So doubts run rampant. Where is God? Who are these gods that are sacking the city of our God? Surely they possess power; ours is impotent, enfeebled by these deities.
But Jeremiah promises in 51:15-18,
“It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
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.
Though Babylon’s gods seem to decimate the very dwelling place of the living God there comes a day when “they shall perish.” God made the heavens; Babylon’s gods have “no breath in them.” God is wise; he stretched out the heavens by his understanding. Surely he has planned and purposed this. As Moses tells the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”(Exodus 14:13-14) Though Babylon soar to the skies, they will soon fall. Be silent. God will work what he has purposed.
And then Jeremiah moves to a glorious contrast between the false gods of Babylon and the one, true God in v. 19,
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.
God isn’t like those gods. He made everything. But take time to notice that the pronoun is a personal pronoun. Jeremiah’s promise is not “Not like these is that which is the portion of Jacob.” Jeremiah promises that the portion of Jacob is a he. The portion is a person!
Israel doesn’t get stuff.
Not brand spankin’ new clothes.
Not the latest iPod-take-over-the-world device.
Not a robotic personal attendent.
Israel, and thus all who are spiritually Israel, gets God. Our portion is the eternal God who formed the heavens. We inherit him who stretched out the expanses of space. While idols remain mute, wasting away, God rules supremely the entire created order, and we get Him!
Moreover, God gets us. “Israel is the tribe of his inheritance.” Us, wicked wretches, are God’s inheritance. God desires his people. We see here in the promise of the destruction of Babylon a continuation of the eternal promise that “I will be their God and they will be my people.” God loves to dwell with his people and this is seen most lucidly in the incarnation of God in the man Jesus Christ. God dwells with his people.
So praise the God that never rots. Praise the God who stretched out the expanses of space. Praise the God who is your portion.