Jeremiah 52: Longing and Praise
October 21, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
And so we come to the end—or so it must have seemed to many at the time. What could be worse than the litany of destruction and defeat that we read about in this chapter? The horrors visited on Zedekiah and his family, the destruction of Jerusalem, the decimation of the temple, the killing of the priest, the people being taken into exile, the undermining of all the social structures to ensure no rebellion could come from this troublesome country again—even the king Jehoiachin sitting at the king of Babylon’s table with the other kings, albeit seated above them, and even as an act of grace on the part of Babylon, even that is pathetic. How the mighty have fallen.
It is no great encouragement to see the president of the country sitting at a foreign ruler’s table, dependent on him for grace and favor. It is a sign of utter and complete devastation and defeat. Clearly, part of the lesson of this story is to beware of treating the covenant grace of God as an excuse for sin. God disciplines the one he loves (Hebrews 12:6), and if we persist in rebelling against God, there will be consequences. Terrible consequences.
Another lesson, again on the negative side, is that idolatry is serious. Surely there are few Christians who literally bow to Baal or any other physical idol while also worshipping at church on Sunday morning. But idolatry is not such an unsubtle thing. The genius of idolatry, if I may use such a phrase, is that it appears to solve so many problems. Where is God? I cannot see him. Well, along comes the idol; here he is, right here in front of you.
If you find it hard to make God “real,” there are any number of physical idols today that offer more tangible benefits. The brand names of major corporations, the flashing neon lights of major prostitution, the children sacrificed to the gods of sex and career—the blood rising up to abortion and shed on the altar of sexual freedom, or financial ambition, or personal autonomy. Sometimes idols are hard to spot, but the way to notice them is to notice the personal cost that they are causing. Because they are both nothing and also demonic at once—that is, they do not really “exist” but they are tools of the devil to lead away the unwary, as well as being expressions of our own sinful ideals—because of this, they lead people to dead ends of disappointment. The “devil’s drink” of alcoholism is at once a disease, and also an attempt to dull the pain caused by some idol or other. Idols, and their genius, are to offer apparent solutions to our problems in order to trap us to make everything worse. Where you see pain, human sacrifice, human trafficking, brokenness, dysfunction—lurking somewhere likely as not is an idol or two.
But is there nothing more positive to learn from Jeremiah? Is there nothing positive with which he ends this chapter? Having said that, even the picture of this “king” being at the mercy of a pagan king is a sign of the ultimate defeat of God’s people. There is a little phrase which indicates what Jeremiah has also preached: that there will be a return from this exile. He was “graciously freed” (52:31), or more literally his head was lifted up. Throughout this book our head has seemed to sink to stare at our toes in shame. But now the head is lifted up. God is a God of love. And where he disciplines us, he does it for our good. “Lift up your heads, O gates!… that the King of glory may come in (Psalm 24:7).
And when he comes, all in his temple shall cry “glory!” For the Lord, striding in might, humble as a baby, lowly and powerful, shall come to pay for our sins and show us the way to follow him with integrity and truth. Jeremiah, in the end, should make us long for Jesus and praise God for Jesus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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