by Pastor David Groendyk
This prophecy that Jeremiah speaks is his last, and it is surely one of his greatest. The theme verse for this chapter is verse 5a: “For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the Lord of hosts.” God has not left his people behind to wallow in despair, but, in fact, he will vindicate them by taking out vengeance on Babylon. Vengeance and vindication characterize this chapter.
Jeremiah 51 is a fantastic reminder for us of a principle we see all over Scripture, namely, that vengeance belongs to the Lord. God is the only true avenger (Deut. 32:35; Psa. 99:8; Rom. 12:19; 1 Thess. 4:6). Yet that is a hard truth to remember in the moment of injustice. No one likes to be wronged. Whether it’s being cheated out of millions of dollars in a ponzi scheme or being cut off in traffic, we hate it when someone takes advantage of us and gets away with it. And don’t we always want to take matters into our own hands? Don’t we always want to see immediate payback? Unfortunately, that’s not always how the world works. But even more than that, that’s exactly what we’re told not to do in Scripture. We should not ever seek revenge for ourselves. The Lord is the avenger against all wrongdoing, and, trust me, it is far better that way. If you don’t believe me, examine today’s passage. God is far more powerful and far more complete in his vengeance than we could ever be. The Lord is the Lord of the universe, infinite in power and authority, controller of every army and weapon in existence (vv. 15–23). More than that, God has already purposed ahead of time this total and complete vengeance (v. 12). God already knows the injustices that will occur thousands and millions of years before they ever happen, and he is more than well-equipped to handle them appropriately. Nothing ever escapes God’s sight, and every injustice ever done will be poetically given back to those who have committed them (v. 49). More than that, no enemy of God can ever escape his recompense (v. 53). So often, the justice and judgments we want to bring about are incomplete, easily-escaped, and tainted by selfishness. Wouldn’t you rather leave your matters of personal injustices in this God’s hands? What matters do you need to give over to God and ask for his peace to rule your heart rather than anxiety or anger or revenge?
A theme very closely related to vengeance is vindication. More than just having our enemies taken out, God promises that his people will be vindicated (v. 10). They will be exonerated, acquitted, and defended. The Hebrew word translated as “vindicated” in verse 10 carries with it the idea of “justness” or “righteousness”. In other words, the destruction of God’s people’s enemies will be fair and just. It will be fair and just for all those who condemned and destroyed God’s people to be destroyed themselves. Why? Because God’s people are unique and special (v. 19), and because if God has credited to his people the righteousness of Christ, then they do not deserve any kind of punishment! To be sure, the Israelites had sinned and brought on themselves the destruction they got. But this nation was still God’s “treasured possession” (Ex. 19:5); they were special to him. And more than that, to vindicate the people on whom God had placed his name was also to vindicate God’s name itself. Everything God does is for his own glory, and rightly so. He deserves all the glory!
We as Christians will also receive this kind of vindication. Surely this chapter looks forward to Revelation 18 and the ultimate destruction of the wicked. Again, the repeated phrase “the days are coming” (vv. 47, 52) points us forward to a certain work that Jesus himself will do or accomplish. And here we are reminded of the last Day when all people will stand in the courtroom of God. For the believer, that will be a good day for many reasons. As our Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment…” (WSC 38). One of the benefits we will receive on that last day of judgment is that we will be publicly vindicated in front of the eyes of all people who sought to condemn and destroy us. Truly, “with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isa. 11:4). But as with Israel and Judah, he vindicates us not just for our sakes, but for his own glory. On that last day, God will worshiped, honored, and magnified because of his power and authority and grand plan of salvation. All men will finally recognize that and bend the knee to him. Believer, look forward to that day when your God will be glorified by every human being the way he finally should be!