“Servant” of God (By Les Kovacs)
Text: Jeremiah 51-52
Observe: Jeremiah continues to prophecy against Babylon in Chapter 51. Just as he had spoken the Word of God against Judah for all the wickedness they had done and the sins they committed against the Lord, he now prophesied the same kind of destruction upon the conquering Babylonians. God says that after all the damage and destruction that the mighty Babylonian empire had caused to God’s chosen people, He would punish them with the same fate and remove them from their land. He would bring all the armies of Babylon’s enemies against her and lay waste to her King, her cities and her people. Babylon would never rise again. These are the last words recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.
Chapter 52 is a historical record of the fall of Judah and Jerusalem, just as Jeremiah had prophesied for so many years. It records that King Zedekiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as the kings before him had done (vs 2) and so God removed them from His sight (vs 3). King Nebuchadnezzar marched against Jerusalem, lay siege to the city for 2 years and caused a famine so severe the Israelites had no food left to eat, and finally broke through the city’s defenses. His army captured King Zedekiah, and executed him in a most brutal fashion. The Babylonian army set fire to the Temple of the Lord, and looted absolutely anything and everything of value. They burned down every important building and broke the city walls. They carried into captivity all the military leaders, city officials, skilled workers and people, but left behind the poorest of the people to work the vineyards and fields.
Interpret: In previous chapters, God tells Jeremiah that He will bring His “servant” King Nebuchadnezzar against the Israelites as punishment. God would use His “servant” to carry out His righteous judgement on Jerusalem for their wickedness (Jer 25:8-9). The implication is that Nebuchadnezzar was doing the work of the Lord in punishing the people of Judah. Yet here we see God tell Jeremiah to prophesy the same find of judgement against Babylon for their wicked ways and for the damage they had done to God’s chosen people. So if the king of Babylon was simply doing God’s will, why was he being punished? The fact that Nebuchadnezzar was referred to as the Lord’s servant should not be taken to mean that he was a righteous king God often used wicked people and nations to do His work. It is not a sign of God’s approval of their behaviour, only of their usefulness in carrying out God’s purpose. The Babylonians would in turn be destroyed by God for their own wickedness. The usage here in Jeremiah is similar to that in Isaiah. The people of Israel and Judah are called God’s servants because God has chosen them to stimulate His redemptive purposes in the world. God often refers to “my servants the prophets” because He sent them to bring His word to the people and call them back to their chosen role. However, God also calls pagan emperors his “servants” because He is using them to fulfill His divine will.
Application: These verses remind us that it is not enough to simply play some role in God’s will for humankind. God can and does use people from all walks of life and in all circumstances to bring about His divine will. What we, as followers of Christ must do, is faithfully obey God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). If we fail to do this, no matter how significant we were during our lifetime, or how our actions impacted people and events around us, we will be punished just like the people of Judah and Babylon. Jesus tells us the things that He considers important for us do with our lives. In Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Then later in Matthew 25:35-40 Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And there is one thing more that is needed from us. John 20:31, “ But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” When you believe that Jesus came down from heaven to die in our place as a sufficient sacrifice for our sins, you will live your life according to His will, and the judgement that we rightly deserve is satisfied through His precious blood.
Questions: Do you really believe, deep down in your bones, that Jesus is the Messiah who sacrificed His life on the cross so that you might live with Him in eternity? How can you live your life as a living testament to His love, mercy and grace?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your mercy when we forget our place as Your adopted children. Forgive us and guide to us to seek You in every person we meet, and in every circumstance we encounter, so that we may reflect Your glory, and Your love for all of creation. In the mighty and merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: You Say: Lauren Daigle
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.