It’s time. God has had enough. Judah is on a path of destruction and will not listen, even to Jeremiah, one of God’s greatest prophets. Wrath time.
This reminds me of something I used to do with my children. We called it ‘crack down time’. When they would go through seasons of continuous misbehavior I would pull out this tool. The first time I did it we were driving down the freeway and they were fighting in the back of the van. They were totally ignoring my instructions to stop. Having had all I could stand, I pulled over on the side of the road and stopped the car. I turned to face them all.
“Right now, I love you more than words can say but I don’t like you at all. Your behavior is going to stop NOW. From this point on, until you prove you can listen again, you will get no more chances. I will tell you to do something ONCE. I will remind you ONCE if you didn’t hear me the first time. There will be NO second chances. If you don’t do as you are told you WILL get a spanking. Do I make myself clear?”
Four heads nodded as shock and tears filled their faces. Crack down time reigned for about two weeks before they proved they once again were the caring children I dearly loved. This wouldn’t be the last ‘crack down time’ in their lives. They knew what I meant whenever I uttered those words to them again. I will say it now, I raised some amazing kids and ‘crack down time’ was an important part of it. I did NOT enjoy it but it was necessary.
God’s wrath was MUCH stronger than my ‘crack down time’ but it was as necessary. His children were out of control! They were completely ignoring His corrective efforts and then some. They were actually killing the messengers! They had gone beyond not listening to active rebellion against Him. This wasn’t their first time in that ‘territory’ either but the other times He was able to bring them back to Himself. He used ‘crack down time’ through godly kings to get them back in line. But they had gone too far a while back and had used up their last ‘second chance’ in Manasseh. This time was the ‘last straw’.
God didn’t have a captive audience that He could pull over and reign back in with words. He had a people out of control, running about doing whatever they felt like. It was time to round them up and lay down the law.
When it comes to doing things in our lives, God uses people to be His hands and feet. Not that He can’t reach down and perform supernatural wonders, but that this is His preferred method. This time He used the nation of Babylon as His instrument. Discipline through Babylon was HARD as His anger had come to a boiling point. EVERYONE got the stick. No carrots allowed this time. Even those who were still faithful to Him found themselves being rounded up with everyone else. Their ‘stick’ was a bit gentler but they didn’t escape His corrective work.
If you don’t believe me here are a few names you might recognize from His ‘caught being good list’. Daniel, Jeremiah, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They went into captivity with the rest of Judah. They also went through trials alongside their brothers. They never lost faith in God, even in the worst of their circumstances. God didn’t abandon them in their captivity but neither did He make their lives butterflies and rainbows. Their stories are for another day.
Our text today tells us that God’s wrath had an expiration date. It wasn’t so all consuming that He never got over the hurt He endured. Even in the moments of His promise to pour out that wrath He spoke of hope. There would be an end. There would be a time when the lessons would come home fully to the people and they would call out to Him again, and He would listen. It took seventy years to get to that point. ‘Crack down time’ was over and the people were ready to be released from such restraints. HOPEFULLY they learned their lesson well.
I have a feeling that some of the hardest points in my life were ‘crack down time’ instances. I needed ‘redirection’ like the rest of His children, AND the rest of the world. MY resistance made those times probably tougher than they had to be. But I learned lessons in those times that I still carry with me today. And I’m better for the journey. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). THANK GOD that He loves me enough to discipline me! I don’t even want to think about where I would be without Him.
Thank You Father for Your steadfast love. Thank You that You NEVER give up on me, no matter how hard headed I get. You didn’t give up on Your people either. Yes, many of them lost their lives in this process but they had already made their decisions on where they stood. Those who trusted in You were still safe in Your arms, whether in death or life. The same can be said today. No matter what happens, You don’t lose ANY of Your children. Captivity and even death can’t pry me from Your hands. And ‘crack down time’ only means that You are still working on me. I don’t enjoy it but I’ll take it when it comes. And I’ll pray I DON’T need it again; at least any time soon.