Therefore this is what the Lord says: “See, I will defend your cause and avenge you; I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry. Babylon will be a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, an object of horror and scorn, a place where no one lives. Her people all roar like young lions, they growl like lion cubs. But while they are aroused, I will set out a feast for them and make them drunk, so that they shout with laughter— then sleep forever and not awake,” declares the Lord . “I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams and goats. “How Sheshak will be captured, the boast of the whole earth seized! How desolate Babylon will be among the nations! The sea will rise over Babylon; its roaring waves will cover her. Her towns will be desolate, a dry and desert land, a land where no one lives, through which no one travels. I will punish Bel in Babylon and make him spew out what he has swallowed. The nations will no longer stream to him. And the wall of Babylon will fall. – Jeremiah 51:36-44
I feel like this passage is giving me water whiplash. First the sea and springs are dried up; then the sea rises over Babylon, and in the end “Her towns will be desolate, a dry and desert land.” Why such a mixing of metaphors? What is it about Babylon that warrants a punishment of such an unusual mixture of thirst and drowning?
In the last couple of verses of Jeremiah I have explored the idea that Babylon is a metaphor for all those who reject God. If we accept this metaphorical equivalency then the juxtaposition of drought and flood makes more sense. This passage is describing a nation and a people out of equilibrium, oscillating from one extreme to another, drought and flood. One of the benefits I have realized since I began my pursuit of God is that he provides stability to my emotions and my spirit that I was lacking before.
Perhaps God is making the point here that without him life is full of spiritual and emotional extremes. The only remedy to this is to keep God at the center of our lives no matter how twisted and confusing the path becomes. The Labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, which was the model for the one pictured above in the forests of Oregon, was a symbolic way of looking at our journey through life. Life is full of twists and turns and it only when we have a clear destination that we can see these twists as a positive things leading us toward the ultimate goal of being with God in the “center”.
The Babylonians lack a center to provide stability in their lives and so do the people of Israel. God has continually shown the people of Israel a different way. In the midst of hardship, droughts, and floods God has asked them to plant themselves near the River and send their roots deep into the water table so they can access the Living Water that is the only true source of lasting stability and equilibrium. They are still in the process of grabbing a clue here.
The take home message for me is that no matter how dry I feel or how much I feel like I am being inundated by life’s floods it is always going to be easier with God at the center.
Prayer: God thank You for being my center of stability and equilibrium in times of adversity and undcertainty