When one comes away from a study of the book of Jeremiah, one has experienced an emotion-filled account of the end of the southern kingdom of Judah. We read facts about the apostasy of the nation, led by kings who ignored God's promise to Abraham and Israel's ancient commitments to Him. Instead of leading their nation to honor and worship God, they led their nation in self-serving autocracy, fully immersed in the pagan world culture. At the same time, they still claimed to be the Chosen People and still claimed that God dwelt in their temple.
While they basked in their hypocrisy, the ancient Jews neglected another important part of God's promise to Abraham: God would give them the promised land if they would honor and obey Him: He would be their God, and they would be His people. However, when the nation turned away from God, they turned away from the promise, and the Promised Land would no longer be theirs. God's hand of protection that maintained their presence in the land of Israel was removed. The consequences of the sin of the nation would be enormous.
The land occupied by Israel stood at a crossroads between continents, an area that could have been a lighthouse to the world if Israel had honored the Lord and shared their knowledge of Him with those who passed through. As a crossroads of merchant activity, the area was of strategic interest to Israel's warring neighbors. Against God's will, as proclaimed by the prophet Samuel, the children of Israel demanded a human king instead of acknowledging the Lord as their King. Samuel prophesied that such a king would place them in bondage and lead the nation to destruction. It only took until the reign of Solomon for the king to turn the Israelites into bond-slaves and his son by increasing the bondage split the nation. The northern kingdom of Israel was led by arrogant and ungodly kings who led the nation into a pagan and secular direction as they also secured treaties and alliances with their neighbors. Consequently, when the neighbors went to war, Israel was caught in the middle and would ultimately be overrun. Israel was overrun by the Assyrians and destroyed as a nation.
The southern kingdom of Judah lasted a little longer when some of its kings attempted to honor the Lord and bring the nation back to obedience. The Lord's promise of protection was often exercised, and Judah survived. However, following the reign of Josiah, the kings followed the pattern of Israel, God's hand of protection was removed, and in 587 B.C. Israel was destroyed by Babylon because of its alliances with Egypt.
When we read the account, we find that Jeremiah, and other inspired writers of the period, referred to the part that Assyria and Babylon played during this period of History. Jeremiah prophesied to the people that Babylon was being used by God as an instrument of His purpose. We know this is true. So, if God "used" Babylon to destroy Judah as He had "used" Assyria to destroy Israel, were these two attacking nations lauded for their act? Human reason would probably argue that since this was God's plan, the two nations were immune to God's judgment, as they were only pawns in His great plan.
However, the mind of God is not the mind of Man, and God's plan and purpose is not quite so simple. Though Jeremiah was right, Babylon would be an instrument of God's purpose, it was not God who brought Babylon upon Judah, nor was it God who brought Assyria down upon Israel. The Jews brought the nations down upon themselves when they turned their backs upon God and became embroiled in this international intrigue and ignored God. The Assyrians and Babylonians did not destroy the Hebrew nations because of a command of God, but rather as a simple part of their own plans of conquest. These plans were to destroy the Chosen People of God. Their plan was to embarrass and discredit the God of Abraham. Their plan was to take on God Himself in battle, a skirmish that could only lead to their own demise.
Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;
These are the words of Jeremiah, written after the destruction of Judah had taken place. The spoils of war, and the leaders of the nation were taken to captivity in Babylon. The remnant that remained, in a last-ditch effort to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar was soundly defeated and retreated to Egypt. Jeremiah joined this last remnant in their exodus from the Promised Land, and looking back had some words of prophesy concerning the conquesting nations. We might recall that God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations, plural. In previous verses He had prophesied concerning the consequences of the arrogance of the other nations in the region, and saved his last of these for Babylon.
Verse 11 refers to the attitude and actions taken by Babylon as they destroyed Judah. Their destruction was brutal as they raped the cities and its people. They celebrated in the streets over their conquest of the land. The Land. Ancient cultures believed that gods were territorial, influencing only the nation that honored them. Consequently, their street victories were not so much celebrating their victory over the people, but the victory over their God. They celebrated their defeat over the God of Judah. The metaphors used here are instructive. The main characteristic of the life of a heifer is simple: eating. All heifers do is eat, and the metaphor describes a heifer that grows fat as it is fully satiated in its gluttony. Likewise, the bull is known for its primary characteristic: creating little bulls and heifers, a process that is often accompanied by the "bellow" the Jeremiah describes. Like the bull that is satiated by its gluttonous acts of procreation, the Babylonians bellow over the satiation of their own victory.
Though God, in His sovereignty, allowed the Babylonian nation to destroy Judah and take the tribe of David captive, the victors were not puppets of God's plan. Some of the Babylonian leaders understood this (Jer. 40:2-3). They were fully responsible for their atrocity against God and His people. Their arrogance would have profound consequences.
Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed:
We can see the parallelism of Hebrew poetry clearly in this statement. Babylonian culture referred to its own capital as its mother. "mother" and "she that bare you" is a reference to Babylon. What will happen to Babylon is described as another pair, "confounded" and "ashamed." These are words that refer to the disgrace that Babylon would experience as a consequence of their arrogance.
When one demonstrates arrogance against God, what are the consequences? We see here, that one consequence is humiliation. No person or persons can overpower God, and to think one is able to withstand Him is foolishness. Just as an arrogant fool would be crushed by the rushing train he thinks he can stop by standing in front of it, one can only be crushed when taking God on in battle. The only result for one's attempting to defeat God is humility, for no man can do it.
How do we demonstrate arrogance towards God? Babylon did it by simply thinking that God was not worthy of their worship and honor. Nebuchadnezzar's reign was at the zenith of Babylon's power. After the destruction of Judah, the nation fell fast in influence and power. In less than 50 years Babylon literally vanished. The nations no longer respected Babylon's power. The weakened leadership of the city opened the city to Persian infiltration, its citizens preferred Persian leadership to their own, and the city was taken quietly in the night.
...behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. 13Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.
Another consequence of arrogance towards God is the loss of the blessings that He gives to those who love and honor Him. Other than a few monuments to history, Babylon is a desert to this day. There is no city on the site of its ancient walls.
Those who have placed their faith and trust in God have been promised His hand of protection. He has promised to never leave those who love Him. Consequently, those who love Him have no idea of the impact of that decision on their lives. As we experience the random events of each day we have no idea of how God is blessing us. In our sinful heart we may focus on the bad things that we experience, fully ignoring the real blessings that we have in our lives. What would life be like if all of those promised blessings of God were suddenly removed? In Babylon it is described as " a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert." It is a land without life. There is no love and no sustenance. Those who witness the demise are "astonished" and "hiss at all her plagues," again a poetic parallel.
Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the LORD.
One who demonstrates arrogance towards God is standing against a very powerful enemy. Clearly, these verses focus on the loss of God's hand of protection. These are words directed towards Babylon's neighbors. It is interesting that the weapon used here is not the spear or sword: the tools of hand-to-hand combat. The only weapon used in this conflict is the arrow and bow, a weapon that shoots from a distance, from a position of safety. Babylon cannot defend itself against such a weapon.
We might be reminded of the "breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:12 ff.) that protects the faithful from the "fiery darts" of the evil one. When that breastplate is dropped, we are subject to those darts, those arrows shot at us from afar by those who would seek our hurt. We have witnessed the similar demise of many respected Christian leaders when their arrogant, unrighteous behavior was exposed by their enemies.
Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.
The fall of the arrogant is far and hard. When fallen, their enemies will voice only words of spite and degradation. When we consider some who have experienced this fall, we have also heard the charges and the hatred expressed towards them. Their name will never be thought of in the same way again. The consequence for their arrogance is a lifetime of shame and embarrassment.
Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his own land.
Arrogance against God has consequences that reach far beyond the circumstance of the sinner. When the nation of Babylon lost its respect among the nations, those who lived outside of the city walls lived in fear of their own safety when the city could not defend them adequately. Those who provided support for the city, giving it food and nourishment, left. When we stand against God, we also stand against those who are faithful to Him. We lose fellowship with the very ones whom God uses to bless us. The result can be a dry and lonely existence.
Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. 18Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. 19And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead. 20In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve. 21Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD, and do according to all that I have commanded thee. 22A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction. 23How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!
Jeremiah returns to prophesy specifically concerning the future of the city of Babylon, a future that will be realized because of their arrogance, because of their rejection of God. Assyria devoured the northern kingdom of Israel. The people and nation would never return. Babylon "broke the bones" of Israel, but did not destroy it. God still preserved the remnant in Babylon, as recorded in the books of Daniel and Ezekiel. The captives in Babylon would outlive Nebuchadnezzar and his nation. Persia would rise up and under king Cyrus, would take control of the region, and it would be Cyrus who would ultimately provide the opportunity for the remnant of Judah to return to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah.
I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against the LORD. 25The LORD hath opened his armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation: for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.
The snare that Jeremiah describes is that type used to capture a small bird. The bird does not have the capacity to recognize the danger of the snare, and its doom is assured once captured. In the same way, the one who stands against God is powerless, and any hoped victory against Him is met only with doom. The term Chaldeans is another name for the people of the region of Babylon.
Come against her from the utmost border, open her storehouses: cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left. 27Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation. 28The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of his temple.
Like the bird in the snare, one who stands against God fights in futility. The consequence of God's judgment is overwhelming. I am reminded of one of my favorite science fiction mantras: "resistance is futile."
Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel. 30Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD. 31Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD of hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee. 32And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.
What are the consequences of an attitude that treats God with arrogance? From the experience of Babylon we see an entire spectra of events and circumstances that result from removing ones self from God's hand of protection as one stands in disobedience.
All who reject the Lordship of God in their own life stand against Him in arrogance. God has promised eternal separation from Himself for those who take their rejection of Him to their graves. The plight of those who do not know God should be of grave concern to those who love the Lord. Like the bird heading for the snare, the lost are heading for destruction.
Consider this scenario: A mother and her child face the photographer who, instead of walking backwards to compose the picture commands the woman to walk backward with the baby in her arms. The photographer only sees her face, bosom, and child. The mother only sees the photographer. Both fail to see the cliff she is about to step off from. What would you do? Would you stand in silence as the mother and child drop to their death? It may be difficult to equate that mother and child to Babylon, but if that mother and child is lost, their death is just as assured. Yet we often remain silent.
Arrogance towards God takes many forms other than simply rejecting Him. We demonstrate arrogance when we willfully disobey Him. God has a plan for those who love Him, a plan that includes honoring and worshiping Him in spirit and in truth, a plan that includes honoring Him with our tithes and offerings, a plan that includes honoring him with our testimony of His love to those who are lost. When we fail to honor him in these and other ways, our lack of humility towards His Lordship is simply arrogance.
The consequences of arrogance toward God are assured. Let us look at the example of Babylon and be reminded of those areas in our own lives where we have and do demonstrate arrogance, repent of our sin, and find a restored peace with the God who loves us so.