It's an interesting conundrum. As God led His people through the wilderness toward the Promised Land, He destroyed the nations ahead of them. He wiped out the peoples living in His chosen place. That's one way of doing it. But Babylon wasn't in the way. Babylon was completely out of the way, so completely out of the way that the exile of God's people there was quite a long journey.
The Babylonians were not God's people. They had their own structure of living, their own way of life, and their own set of gods, which for the most part, did not include Him. They are also the nation He chose to carry out His curse on His people. The Babylonians took the people of God. They blockaded them, attacked them, defeated them, captured them, burned their cities, and ransacked the Temple as God mourned the disobedience, the lack of love, of His children. And God allowed this to happen. It's not like the Babylonians took God by storm; He invited their invading armies into His towns because He told His people this is what would happen. Now, here it is. Here they are.
While in exile, the Babylonians corrupted the Israelites. They intermarried, you can imagine. Some of their other gods kind of crept in. Pretty soon, the nation of Israel kind of looks like the nation of Babylon, and God's people kind of look like not God's people. I'm not sure if that was part of the plan or not. We always see God hoping His people will stay pure amid distracting influences, but no such luck in Babylon.
And the Babylonians were hard on the Israelites. We see them willing and able and almost excited to kill the Jews. We see them blockading their captives even in their new towns. We see them destroying for the sake of destroying, defeating long after Jerusalem was defeated. It's just a mess.
God's not happy about the godless way the Babylonians are treating His people. Even though He sent them there. Even though He knew the nation was godless. Even though He could have anticipated this. Through the graces of a good king, He gets His people headed toward home and now there's this: what to do with Babylon.
Fast forward to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 51. This is the second chapter of a prophecy against Babylon. One-hundred four total verses about what God is going to do with this place that corrupted His people while He was redeeming them. I want to take you to verse 40.
I will take them to be slaughtered like lambs, rams, and male goats.
Have you heard some of those words before? These are the animals of the offering. These are the animals that God's people brought to the sacrifice to be an aroma pleasing to the Lord, an atonement for sin, a burnt offering. Contrast this with a feast or a celebration or even the simple act of eating, where we are told on numerous occasions that someone slaughtered a fatted calf. There's no fatted calf in God's plans for Babylon.
He wasn't preparing a meal; He was offering a sacrifice.
He was presenting the nation of Babylon to Himself as an offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. He was taking this nation that had served in His story and sanctifying it. It's kind of a cool thing to do with a nation. At least, I think so.
It just makes me think about the times in my life I've been less than pleasing. The times I've been godless. The times I've corrupted this or that thing, or worse, this or that person. It makes me think about the times when I have clearly been "not God's people." And it gives me hope. Because He can be angry with me. He can disagree with the way I've done things. It can seem like He and I have nothing more to say to one another, like revenge is coming, like judgement is here...and God can still be sanctifying me. He can still be making me holy. He can still be sacrificing me as an aroma pleasing to Himself. There's still something I can be.
I can be an offering.
It's kind of a cool thing to do with a person. At least, I think so.