9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:9–11, NKJV)
The souls of martyred saints cried out to the Lord for righteous judgment against those who drew their blood and took their lives because of their faith. His promise to execute His vengeance against evil would prevail (cf. Rom. 12:17-19). But other Christians would face distress and death before God judged and removed the persecutors. With elaborate imagery, The Revelation tells of Rome’s defeat and the victory of the faithful (cf. Rev. 17:14). We must patiently endure and remain faithful to Christ when we face pressure and persecutions “for the word of God and for the testimony” we hold (Heb. 10:32-39). God will reward our patience (1 Pet. 4:12-13; Rev. 14:12-13). The Lord will defeat evil, just as He did in the days of Rome (which was “Babylon, the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth,” Rev. 14:6-11; 17:5-6, 14, 18; 19:1-6, 11-21). When our faith is tested, let us be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
15 Thus says the Lord: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” 16 Thus says the Lord: “Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. 17 There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border.” (Jeremiah 31:15–17, NKJV)
The horrors of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.) and exile were followed by a remnant of the people returning to their land (Ezra 1-2). God gave hope to the exiled people through Jeremiah, assuring them their “work shall be rewarded” and “your children shall come back to their own border.” It is telling the Lord said their “work” would be rewarded. (See Jeremiah 29:1-11 for a description of their “work” and God’s promised reward.) Many teach any rewarded work of man is meritorious and against the purpose of God. This verse teaches otherwise. So, the “faith only” people have a problem because Jeremiah said God would reward their work. There are Messianic undertones to the passage. Matthew applied verse 15 directly to Herod’s slaughter of the young male children in Bethlehem and its districts (Matt. 2:16-18). Jesus survived that horrific event, and our hope is redemption from sin’s captivity in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:1-2, 8-11). Works of faith do not merit the reward God promises us any more than the remnant’s faith earned their return to the land. Works of obedience show our faith in God and the hope we have in Jesus (Jas. 2:17-18; Heb. 10:36-11:1). Remember, God rewards the faithful (Heb. 11:6).
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12, NKJV)
Satan is not given the name “Lucifer” in the Bible. The word is a Latinized translation of Hebrew that means “day star,” “bright one,” or “light-bearer.” The “son of the morning” in Isaiah 14 is undeniably the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:4). Isaiah 14:3-23 is an oracle of judgment against Babylon’s king. Although his oppressive conquests exalted him over many nations, the Lord God of Israel would extinguish his brightness. He who cut down nations would be “cut down to the ground.” God would bring down the king (who had exalted his heart and his throne “above the stars of God”) “to the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:13-15). This “man” (the king of Babylon) was a waning luminary, soon to be snuffed out by God’s righteous judgment (Isa. 14:16-17). God used the Medes to do just that (Isa. 13:17; Jer. 51:11-14, 28-29; Dan. 5:30-31). Our lessons include these: 1) God rules over and judges the nations (Dan. 4:25-26, 35; Acts 17:26); 2) No one can exalt himself above God without incurring wrath (Isa. 14:14-15; Rom. 1:18-23); 3) Do not add to the Scriptures things are not there. The king of Babylon is Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12, not Satan. 4) Christ overthrows Satan (Lk. 10:18; Jno. 12:31; 1 Jno. 3:8). Why choose to be ruled by Satan, a defeated foe? “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
4 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4–5, NKJV)
Jeremiah was unique before his birth. (The unborn baby is new human life, not merely a blob of tissue connected to a woman.) The Bible repeatedly upholds the dignity of life as from God, formed and sustained by Him. In Eden, sin interrupted life and brought death. God’s plan to redeem sinners (us) from death would involve the death of His Son. But, His power of life over death would resurrect Jesus (Rom. 1:4). God chose Jeremiah before He formed Him. He set him in place as a prophet of God’s redemptive purposes. He would speak God’s word to a Judah, a sinful nation on the verge of destruction for her sins (Jer. 1:6-10). Judgment was coming, but divine mercy and redemption would also come (Jer. 21:1-10; 23:1-8). After God’s judgment against Judah (the seventy-year Babylonian exile), God would restore a remnant to the land (which occurred under Cyrus, King of Persia, Jer. 29:10-14; 25:11-12; Ezra 1:1-4). God would send “David” (Messiah) to be their King, vastly different from the kings who rebelled against God (Jer. 22). He would be “a Branch of righteousness” who would “reign and prosper” God’s people with salvation and safety (Jer. 23:1-8; 30:8-9). Messiah indeed came, but they killed Him. Yet, Jeremiah’s prophecy came true – Jesus now reigns over His kingdom at God’s right hand – “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6; Acts 2:30-36; Heb. 1:8-9). Believe and obey the King and share in the salvation Jeremiah anticipated (1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 2:36-41).
And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. (Jeremiah 29:7, NKJV)
Judah was in Babylon, exiled by the Lord God because of her sinful rebellion against Him (Jeremiah 29:1, 4). In this letter to the elders of the people, God’s prophet instructed them to build houses, plant gardens, maintain their families, and be at peace with those who ruled over them. Like them, we live in a strange land as we live for heaven. In times of societal distress we are tempted to become militant against unrighteous governing powers, forgetting that God rules over every nation (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:17). During times of peace as well as turbulence, Christians supplicate heaven, giving thanks and praying “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:2). While the mobs gather, we live for a better country, a heavenly one. Instead of repaying evil for evil, “have regard for good things in the sight of all men” so that, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17-18). In His time, God rights every wrong with just vengeance (Romans 12:19). We are to promote peace in righteousness. That is what sojourners do while living in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11-12).
“And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil.’ Therefore their goods shall become booty, and their houses a desolation; They shall build houses, but not inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards, but not drink their wine.” The great day of the Lord is near; it is near and hastens quickly. (Zephaniah 1:12-14)
The inhabitants of ancient Jerusalem, prior to its Babylonian invasion and destruction, had reached a point of moral depravity and spiritual indifference which led them to conclude the Lord God was complacent toward them. He was not. God is never apathetic toward His purposes and His people. Those who trusted in their wealth would see them brought to desolation in the day of God’s judgment, executed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Our lesson from their history is clear: be diligently faithful to God. His majesty demands it. He will not reward the apathetic neglect of His will.