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‘INTO THE BOTTOM, AS A STONE’
‘Thus shall Babylon sink.’
I. In every age of the world Babylon has had its counterpart.—Babel’s tower cast its shadow over the primitive races of mankind. Over against Israel, Nineveh; over against Jerusalem, Babylon; over against the Church, Rome; over against the New Jerusalem, Babylon the Great; over against the Bride of the Lamb, the scarlet woman, riding upon the beast. Wherever God has built His Kingdom, the devil has counterfeited it with his travesty.
II. Jeremiah comforted his heart, amid the desolations that fell thick and heavily on his beloved fatherland, by anticipating the inevitable doom of the oppressor.—And his words, read amid the exiles of Babylon, as they hanged their harps upon the willows, inspired them with faith and hope. In the same way, throughout the persecutions of the empire, when paganism made ten awful efforts to stamp out Christianity, and afterwards, when the Roman Catholic Church endeavoured to extinguish the true light of the Gospel—the suffering children of God have turned to the Book of the Apocalypse to read the doom of that anti-Christian power, which under the guise of papalism or paganism has always set itself against God. Her doom is assured. As Seraiah cast a stone into the Euphrates, so a strong angel casts a great millstone into the sea, saying: ‘Thus, with a mighty fall, is Babylon, the great city, cast down, and shall be found no more.’ Then shall be heard the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, saying, ‘Hallelujah! for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth.’
(1) ‘When we wish to preserve an archive safely, we deposit it in a record-office where it is kept in a dry place that no moisture may get to it. Seraiah throws his book-roll into the waters of the Euphrates, which must wash it away, dissolve and destroy it. But this was of no account. The main point was that he, Seraiah, as representative of the holy nation, had taken solemn stock of the word of God against Babylon, and as it were taken God at His word, and reminded Him of it. In this manner the matter was laid up in the most enduring and safest archive that could be imagined; it was made a case of honour with the omniscient and omnipotent God. Such matters can, however, neither be forgotten, nor remain in dead silence, nor be neglected. They must be brought to such an end as the honour of God requires.’
(2) ‘The main thought of the picture is that no dead or living wall can save Babylon, for the Lord, the Righteous Recompenser, has determined upon its fall. The dead wall of Babylon will not avail, because the Lord will send destroyers, as first expressed in Jeremiah 51:53. In the following verses the fulfilment of this declaration is exhibited: great noise is heard from Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:54). Whence comes this? Hence, that the Lord has begun the work of destruction on Babylon—destroying both the great masses ( Jeremiah 51:55) and the élite of the population. His justice requires this ( Jeremiah 51:56). Substantially the same thought closes the discourse as began it, and both the beginning and conclusion appear as the verba ipsissima of Jehovah, so that in form also the end reverts to the beginning. The princes and wise men of Babylon may be designated as its living wall. They shall be made drunk with the cup of Jehovah’s wrath, and sleep an everlasting sleep ( Jeremiah 51:57). The dead wall, with its lofty gates, shall be subjected to fire, so that it will be made manifest that the immense work, the fruit of the labour of many nations, was achieved in vain, to be consumed by fire ( Jeremiah 51:58).’
(3) ‘We may assume that this journey of Zedekiah was the occasion of the prophecy against Babylon. For homage, if not the only object, was certainly one of the objects, of the journey, and it therefore involved a deep disgrace to the theocracy. How fitting it was that the prophet should make use of this journey to furnish the medal with an appropriate reverse. While the king of Judah, in view of all, was casting himself in homage before the throne of the Chaldean king, Seraiah was to cast a roll in the Euphrates, on which was recorded as a Divine decree the destruction of Babylon and deliverance of Israel.’
(4) ‘Israel was founded on everlasting foundations, even God’s word and promise. The sins of the people brought about that it was laid low in the dust, but not without hope of a better resurrection. Babylon, on the other hand, must perish for ever, for in it is the empire of evil come to its highest bloom. Jeremiah owns the nothingness of all worldly kingdoms, since they are all under this national order to serve only for a time. We are to be subject to them and seek their welfare for the sake of the souls of men, whom God is educating therein; a Christian, however, cannot be enthusiastic for them after the manner of the ancient heathen nor of ancient Israel, for here we have no abiding city, our citizenship is in heaven. The kingdoms of this world are no sanctuaries for us, and we supplicate their continuance only with the daily bread of the fourth petition. Jeremiah applies many words and figures to Babylon which he has already used in the judgments on other nations, thus to intimate that in Babylon all the heathenism of the world culminates, and that here also must be the greatest anguish. What, however, is here declared of Babylon must be fulfilled again on all earthly powers in so far as, treading in its footprints, they take flesh for their arm and regard the material of this world as power, whether they be called states or churches.’
(5) ‘God remembers His people. They, too, suffer from the results of their sins. And as they hear of all that has befallen greater nations than themselves they may well fear that their own fate will no less be irremediable and final. If the great kingdom of Babylon is to receive its death-wound, from which it must slowly bleed to death, what hope can there be for Israel, captive in Babylon, while Canaan lies waste? To such fears God speaks words of tender comfort and reassurance. “Fear not thou, neither be dismayed; I will make a full end of all the nations, but I will not make a full end of thee; I will not leave thee unpunished, but will correct thee in measure; I will save thee from afar.” Oh, blessed words! If we have become the children of God by faith in Jesus, if God has ever entered into covenant with our souls, if He has taken us to be His and to give us His best—then, though we suffer chastisement, we shall not be overwhelmed by it: though we are corrected, diminished, and brought low, God will not make a full end of us: though we are pruned, we shall not be cut down to the ground. We may look out on the irretrievable disasters which overtake the ungodly with a quiet mind, for God will keep whispering in our hearts, “Fear not, I will save thee from the land of thy captivity.” ’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19