Judgement is almost a synonymous term in our minds with prophecy, at least in terms of Old Testament prophecy. However, there are many, many prophecies that point to the blessings God pours out on His people. Furthermore, and as we’ll look at below, some of those prophecies involve our response to those blessings.
In Jeremiah 50, the Lord is predicting the complete destruction of Babylon. The land was an idolistic country, and the one true God would prove His lordship by shattering the false gods of Babylon (Jeremiah 50:2). The language of the chapter is extremely vivid and leaves no doubt about what God was intending to do.
However, there is a stunning prediction right at the beginning of this section. Notice what it says.
“‘In those days and at that time,’ declares the Lord, ‘the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the Lord their God they will seek. They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.’”Jeremiah 50:4,5
The oracle then goes on to talk about the lostness of God’s people then, both spiritually and physically (if Babylon had already exiled Judah at the time of this prophecy). But this verse is so significant in itself.
As we notice this, we need to recognize that this is a Last Days prophecy. This comes from the opening language of the verse as well as the reference to “an everlasting covenant” (v. 5; Klein 480). Although Babylon was destroyed as a nation centuries before Christ and has not risen again as a world power, the Jews have not yet fulfilled this prediction. True, many have returned to their homeland, but not all of them. In Jeremiah’s day, Israel was divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. This is why both of these are referenced in this prediction—all Jews as a nation will return “to Zion” (v. 5).
Also, the fullness of this “everlasting covenant” has not been realized (v. 5; cf. 31:31-34). Therefore, this portion of the prophecy is still future. Yet with that said, there are some key points that should effect our lives even now.
First off, there is unity. As mentioned already, the divided nation would once again become one. The text also seems to imply that the whole nation would return, not just a few. They would come together with a single purpose, laying aside old divisions.
Also notice the repentance of the people. It says that “they will go along weeping as they go” (v. 4). Although repentance is not explicitly stated, I believe it is implied. After all, sin was the whole reason Israel and Judah went into exile to begin with. The people become broken over their sin as they finally realize what they have done in the sight of a just and holy God.
This should be highly convicting for us. We should repent of our sins and turn from them. There is forgiveness in Christ, thank the Lord, but we still need to “confess” and turn from them (1 John 1:9). We cannot treat this flippantly. Jesus died to save us from that, and we should remember this throughout our lives.
Also notice how the Jews “ask for the way to Zion” (v. 5). This brings up imagery from the beginning of the book, where “the Lord” calls His people to “ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16). We need to listen to the godly counsellors the Lord has placed in our lives. Are they fallible? Yes, every person is, “but in abundance of counsellors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14). We need to listen to the spiritual leaders God has placed around us and heed their counsel.
And then, here is the main thing that stuck out to me. When the Jews find out what way they are to go, they turn “their faces in its direction” for the purpose of joining “themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant” (Jeremiah 50:5). They turn their backs to their former life and intentionally set out to follow the Lord.
Now granted, this is specifically speaking of the end times event when Israel returns to Jerusalem, but it follows a pattern in the New Testament. For instance, Paul said, “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14). His other accolades and pursuits, things he could boast in—they were all forsaken in pursuit of the Lord Jesus.
Hebrews 12 is perhaps the clearest parallel. The author exhorts us to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1, 2). Once again, we see the theme of laying aside everything else for a wholesale pursuit of Jesus.
This theme has kept coming up again and again for me these past couple of weeks. There are so many things in this life we can get caught up in, even good things. But Scripture calls us to make “the most of your time” (Ephesians 5:16). As the ESV puts it, “making the best use of the time” (v. 16). Some things may not be bad, but they may be trivial and temporal things that distract us from our true purpose. God has set before each of us a path we ought to walk in. That includes how we act within a family, at church, and at our job. The point is that we must keep our eyes upon Jesus, learn how He would have us walk, and determine to follow Him alone until the end.
Klein, William W, Craig L. Blomberg and Robert L. Hubbard. Introduction To Biblical Interpretation, Third Edition, Kindle Edition. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017). Kindle, p. 480.
Quotations marked (ESV) are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.