“So from [God’s] presence the hand was sent and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: mene, mene, tekel, and parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; tekel, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
— Daniel 5:24-28 (NRSV)
Old Testament theology teaches us a great deal about the way God works. In present scope is the judgment against Israel for their idolatry and abomination, for their worship of idols, and their turning to pagan ways, where the Assyrians plundered the people of God, taking them captive, in 721 bce, and similarly, the Babylonians were used by God to carry Judah into exile in 586 bce.
But as is typical of the theological patterns within the Old Testament, which tell us how God works, the people of God turned back to the Lord. So the Lord brought a marauder against the marauders. As is seen through Daniel’s portrayal, the Medes and the Persians would break down the Babylonian supremacy.
God used a wicked people to break the wickedness of Israel and Judah. Then, when the people of God saw their sin and repented, God executed a pervasive judgment against Assyria and Babylon respectively. He delivered Israel and Judah.
The pattern of the Lord is to defend the weak; those who have turned back to God’s righteousness; and the people of God were intentionally weak; the Lord made it so, that the people would rely solely on God’s commandments and strength. When they strayed, God’s Presence would leave them.
So it is with us.
When we break with the holy tradition of obedience, God may bring a marauder against us. Our sin is judged this way. But then as we return in obedience, God brings an ultimate fall to that ‘Babylon’ he set against us.
Recognising the Marauder in Judgment
Most of us will sneer at the fact that we have been judged by God. But we are no different than the people of God in ancient times; we sin.
We may therefore find ourselves judged, and a marauder may be sent to highlight our disobedience.
But in returning to God in our weakness, God returns to us, and sets the motions in play, such that the marauder of judgment would come to an end.
The key truth in this theology is once we have been judged the invitation is to repent; to turn back to God. Then, as God turns back to us, the evil marauder set against us is humbled and crushed.
The end of the matter is this: if we can accept that God judges us, as he judges everyone irrespective, and we can recognise this judgment, and we turn back in humility, God will deliver us.
When our personal Babylons do fall, because we have turned back to God in repentance, we see God’s power and faithfulness come to fruition. And our faith is buoyed. Great is the Lord Almighty!
Obedience is our precursor to God’s deliverance by his judgment of the oppressor.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.