For my light bedtime reading, I have been going through Winston Churchill’s 6-volume set on World War II.
Meanwhile, for my daily Bible reading, I had been reading Jeremiah. I finished Jeremiah at about the same time as Hitler took over France. The contrasts are interesting.
Churchill, of course, is famous for saying “Never Give up.” The first two volumes of his work show him urging preparation for war, and then, taking the reigns after Hitler took Norway, fighting a desperate battle with Nazi Germany, even though the British were completely alone and unprepared for war.
But Jeremiah’s message is, essentially, “Give up.” The Babylonians were sent as God’s judgement on Judah, and they were going to kick Judah’s butt. The people of Judah should recognize this, and then repent. Repentance did not mean going to the Temple, saying “I’m sorry”, getting really religious, and then expecting to win their next battle. It meant surrendering to Babylon, and letting them do their thing, which was going to mean that many people from Judah were getting a one way trip to Babylon, where they were supposed to pray for the city, build houses, raise families, and eventually be allowed to return to Judah. To show his faith in this eventuality, Jeremiah bought a field, which some heir of his would eventually inherit.
The people in Jerusalem heard Jeremiah’s message, but they did not listen. They decided to “get religion” instead, and keep fighting, until they lost, and Nebuchadnezzar put a governor over them. Then they assassinated their governor, assuring themselves of more wrath from Babylon. Instead of giving up, they fled to Egypt, against Jeremiah’s word from God, where Nebuchadnezzar would still catch up to them.
Somewhere in the middle of this reading I thought that the problem with Judah is that Babylon was not their real enemy. God was their enemy, and Babylon was just the weapon in God’s hand, much like Thor’s hammer. And then, around chapter 50, I see this:
“How the hammer of the whole earth has been cut apart and broken!
How Babylon has become a desolation among the nations!” (Jeremiah 50:23)
Babylon had been a hammer, and in fact it was the hammer that God used to beat down the nations. Israel’s problem was not with the hammer but with God who wielded it. But by Chapter 50 of Jeremiah, the hammer was going to be cast aside.
Is there a point to all this? Perhaps.
When you are fighting Nazis, “Never give up” is good advice, and you should expend all necessary “blood, toil, sweat, and tears” to win your battle.
But when you are fighting Babylonians, you need to look beyond the immediate problem and see what your real problem is.