God’s Word for You
Susanna 1:3-5 Wickedness out of Babylon
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, June 25, 2023
3 Her parents were righteous, and they had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses. 4 Now Jehoiakim was very rich. He had a fine garden adjoining his house. The Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all. 5 That year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had said: “Wickedness came out of Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.”
Now our little fiction has fictionalized a message from God, which is a violation of the second and third commandments. An author should not dance around this line, offering up invented quotes from the Almighty as if they were actually his word. Although we take this to be a pious fiction with good intentions, the warnings of the true word of God must not be ignored: “Prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing’” (Ezekiel 13:2-3).
The elements of the mystery are building: First, the beautiful Susanna is shown to be trained in the law of Moses. Her wealthy husband has a large garden next to their home. The Jews of the area come to him for help and advice because he is wise and well-respected. Therefore, it will not be unusual that at certain points of the mystery that there are people about the house or garden, people who might not be well-known to the servants or anyone else there.
In verse 5 we are told that “in that year,” in other words, very recently, a pair of new elders had been appointed as judges of the people. New judges might have even more cause than many to frequent the home of this wise man. Now comes the supposed passage, which sounds plausible enough, from the Lord: Wicked judges will come out of Babylon.
In this way, the mystery is not a whodunit in the modern sense, but far more straightforward and therefore the answer might be hard to predict. We know who the wicked men are from the very beginning. Soon their wickedness will be revealed. Their plot to silence the noble Susanna will be hatched. The mystery is this: How will she get free from them? We will hear her say, “I shall not escape your hands” (1:22). In this way, the mystery is much closer to true life for most of us. When the believer is walled in without hope, the prayer of the righteous is simply, “Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers! Let the wicked together fall into their own nets, while I escape” (Psalm 141:9).
This is not the word of God, and so we won’t look for a definite proclamation of law and gospel here. But we know the word of God and his law and gospel. We apply them to life lessons like the one in the story. The law condemns the misuse of God’s name and God’s holy word. Even misusing the name of God for a good cause is a sin, a dangerous sin, in part because it sets the dangerous precedent of man (even an author) setting himself up in God’s place. This must not be done. But where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. And God promises to be with his people, with you, even in difficult days. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7).
Pastor Timothy Smith