TIME TO MOVE 

1.      Reading the Weather 

How long you have stayed at and enjoyed a place does not always mean that you can continue to remain there and be safe.  ‘Safe hitherto’ in any place may not mean ‘safe forever’ there.  Read the weather.  Ask Lot (Genesis 19:15).  Every future bliss is not guaranteed by every pleasant past.  That is one implication of Jeremiah’s prophecy when he said, about Babylon,  

Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD’S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence (Jeremiah 51:6). 

2.      Evacuation Notice 

Not every judgment we suffer is because of a wrong thing that we had done.  Some is because of the wrong place that we were at; a hitherto right place no more so, because a different ‘time’ had come for that hitherto safe place, “the TIME of the LORD’S vengeance.” 

Take another look at the passage above: two objects are directly and indirectly addressed: the first, Babylon; and the second, those in “the midst of her” – her residents.  In other words, the place and the people at the place.   Of the two objects, whose iniquity is the ‘topic’ of the prophecy?  The iniquity of the people or the iniquity of the place?  Clearly, the answer is: the iniquity of the place; yet the pure people stood likely to suffer the same fate as the guilty place if they remained in that place as they had done hitherto without adverse incidence. 

In the last Israel-Hamas conflict, Israel usually gave notice in advance of their attacks, so that civilians could move out of the way of a targeted place.  In other words, they made a distinction between the place and the people.  If anyone remained in such a place after the notice, and got killed or injured, they had only their stupid delay to blame (Genesis 19:15-17). 

In our text, the righteous God, not willing to judge the innocent people along with the guilty place, gave notice through His prophet to the people, and provided a ‘safe corridor’ of time for them to “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul,” so that THEY would not be “cut off in HER iniquity.”   In other words, again, how long they had been safe in that place was no guarantee that they would still be safe there.  

2.      An Inconvenient Exercise 

That was a very unusual message from the prophet.  Nothing like it had ever been heard in all the years that they had been there.  There had been no prophetic or other political or seismic indication that that place would ever be unsafe.  Besides, no other prophet but Jeremiah only was the one singing that minority tune.  Furthermore, the prophecy was going to be inconvenient to obey, as the recommended swift ‘flight’ out of town had been unplanned.   So, obeying that prophecy was going to be a tough choice between present convenience and predicted disaster, while the clock clicked on. 

3.      The Babylophobic Prophet 

If Jeremiah had given that prophecy today, he might have been accused of ‘Babylophobia.’  Yes, an alarmist Jewish prophet 500 miles away making hateful predictions of doom against another people; giving a prophecy not confirmed by the ‘fact-checkers’ or verified by any other ‘specialist’ apocalyptic prophet!  But, alas, despite their majority and the spread of their popular media, those antagonists would all have been dangerously wrong. 

4.      Collateral Casualties 

As if by the mouth of a second ‘witness,’ Jeremiah’s alert is echoed in the New Testament, with a slight variation:  

4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities (Revelation 18:4-5). 

In this case, the people in question are identified as “my people.”  For so long, God had let them stay there.  A holy people of God in abominated Babylon?  Yes, no problem; but no longer.  Sin was about to be judged in that place; sins that “have reached unto heaven.”  Whose sins?  The sins of “my people”?  No, “her sins,” as well as “her iniquities”; but “my people” are ‘in’ her that is about to be judged, hence the notice and the delay.  If they did not leave, and do so early enough, they would become “partakers of HER sins” as well as receiving the judgment for “HER plagues,” innocent though they were of those “sins.”  If that happened, they could die and still go to heaven, but they would have gone before they should have gone.  They would have been the sluggish collateral casualties of friendly fires when their God judged where they were.   

It is not of every time that prophecy says, “this is THE TIME….”  Every time is not the same time.  It is suicidal stupidity, not faith, to remain in ‘Babylon’ making ‘positive confessions’ of being “my people” when the “time” comes to “flee out of the midst of Babylon.”  

There are judgments that are negotiable, and others that are inevitable, which have no respect for whoever stands in their way (Genesis 19:14-17; 2 Peter 2:7-8).  Even of the prophetic Mother of the man-child in the book of Revelation, it is said, “And the woman fled….”  Was she a coward, or was her God weak?  No.  Helped by God as she was, the ‘time’ came for her to leave that place where the Great Red Dragon was in destructive operation, to a different address where God Himself “hath a place prepared” for her – in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6).  She could never have found God’s place if she never left the Dragon’s place. 

5.      Three Types of Judgments  

Sometimes God judges a place (Jeremiah 51:29); sometimes He judges the people in the place (1 Samuel 5:6-9); and sometimes He judges both the place and the people, as when He announced, “Behold, I will raise up [1] against Babylon, AND [2] against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying wind” (Jeremiah 51:1).  

When God is about to judge a PERSON, it doesn’t matter how far they run or to what holy place they flee.  They could never escape the judgment (Psalm 139:7-13; 1 Kings 2:28-31).  When God is about a judge a PLACE, one can save their soul by escaping that accursed place, as Lot did.   When such a season comes, even if ‘my people’ lingered there, they would get swept away by the flood, not for their sins but as “partakers of HER sins” (Genesis 7:23).  How serene the streets seem, how green then the gardens, is not a sure index for choosing where to stay, and still stay, when Jeremiah warns.  Amen. 

6.      A Prayer 

O Lord, order my steps this day and ever.  Deliver me from the error of Lot who got fooled by luxuriant appearance into fore-doomed Sodom where he lost all that he had had in life.  Abide with us, O Lord, “for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent” (Luke 24:38).  Amen. 

From The Preacher’s diary, 

April 15, 2022. 

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