God’s Battle Ax

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 14

imagesNo man or nation is completely free to do as he or it wills. The fall of man has so short-circuited the wiring of individuals (and thus cultures) that every person or nation—left to him- or itself—will choose evil over good. Men choose evil out of the evil of their hearts, and those same men, elevated to positions of power, use their power for evil on a national scale. Over the centuries, Hittites, Assyrians, and Babylonians came against God’s people because of their desire for conquest and treasure. At the same time, the sovereign God used their base desires to accomplish His purpose of chastisement or awakening among His people by their coming.

A battle ax is made of wood and stone or metal and used against an enemy in close contact. God frequently used the oppression of pagan nations to discipline His own people. Though Babylon has freely attacked Judah, God promises to destroy them by raising up another pagan nation as his war club, “The LORD has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes. For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it, because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance for His temple” (Jer. 51:11b). He concludes,

”You are My battle-ax and weapons of war; for with you I will break the nation in pieces; with you I will destroy kingdoms; with you I will break in pieces the horses and its rider; with you I will break in pieces the chariot and its rider; with you also I will break in pieces man and woman; with you I will break in pieces old and young; with you I will break in pieces the young man and the maiden; With you also I will break in piece in pieces the shepherd and his flock; with you I will break in pieces the farmer and his yoke of oxen; and with you I will break in pieces governors and rulers” (51:20-23).

Here is one of the Bible’s great mysteries: God uses oppressors to accomplish His redemptive purposes for Israel, then punishes them for their willingness to destroy His people. The Babylonians freely and brutally attack Judah. God uses their lust for power and domination for His redemptive purposes. He also holds the Babylonians fully responsible for their brutality and punishes them for their cruel actions, “‘And I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea for the all the evil they have done in Zion in your sight,’ says the LORD” (Jer. 50:24).

God allows men to act in accordance with their desires, restrains them from doing more than He permits, uses their evil to accomplish His purposes, and brings glory to Himself through the entire process. He forged Abraham’s descendants into a community through the furnace of the Egyptian affliction and then punished and plundered the Egyptian for enslaving His people. This truth pervades Scripture—God holds people and nations accountable for their actions against His people. He uses the evil that men do to discipline His own and to accomplish the good that He loves. How great is our God!

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Jer. 51:15-58; 52:1-2; 37:1-10; 2 Kings 24:10-20; 2 Chron. 36:1-14; 1 Chron. 3:10-16):
What does God’s promise regarding the Babylonians, “The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor when it is time to thresh her; yet a little while and the time of her harvest will come” (51:33), reveal about God?
What instruction and warning accompany God’s promise to punish the Babylonians (51:34-53)?
Nebuchadnezzar takes Jehoiachin king of Judah captive along with the best and brightest of the land. Zedekiah succeeds Jehoiachin as king of Judah and aligns himself with Egypt in hopes that this alliance will protect him from the Babylonians. He then sends for Jeremiah to pray for him. How does Jeremiah respond to the king’s prayer request?