Scripture: Jeremiah, chapters 50-51; 3 John
Jeremiah 50:29-32 (NASB) – “Summon many against Babylon, all those who bend the bow: Encamp against her on every side, let there be no escape. Repay her according to her work; according to all that she has done, so do to her; for she has become arrogant against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel. Therefore her young men will fall in her streets, and all her men of war will perish on that day,” declares the Lord. “Behold, I am against you, arrogant one,” declares the Lord God of armies, “for your day has come, the time when I will punish you. The arrogant one will stumble and fall with no one to raise him up; and I will set fire to his cities, and it will devour all his surroundings.”
3 John 9-11 (NASB) – I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with malicious words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brothers either, and he forbids those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does what is good is of God; the one who does what is evil has not seen God.
Observations: When we read the book of Jeremiah, we need to pay attention to his indications of when the various prophecies are made. The text of Jeremiah does not proceed in chronological order; the prophecies are thus not “in order.” This can be confusing, but there are clues to help us. For example, in today’s passage, Jeremiah 51:49 says that these things were written “when he [Seraiah] went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign.” That means that this prophecy was before the final fall of Jerusalem.
It would have been easy for the people of Judah to think that this prophecy meant that Jerusalem would not fall, that God would overthrow Babylon before it could destroy Jerusalem. But this prophecy wasn’t delivered to the people of Jerusalem. Jeremiah wrote it down, and gave it to Seraiah to read in Babylon as a prophecy against it.
These prophecies repeatedly identify Babylon’s arrogance. The verses I’ve quoted above tell us: She has become arrogant against the Lord…The arrogant one will stumble and fall with no one to raise him up.
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT HE GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE” (1 Peter 5:5, NASB [capitals in NASB text indicate a quotation of Scripture]). We need to recognize the principle behind the prophecy against Babylon: God opposes the proud. There are times that God uses people in certain situations to fulfill His purposes. That does not mean that those people are godly. He used Babylon to bring forth his judgment against Jerusalem and Judah, but Babylon was not a godly nation. Their arrogance at being used by God ultimately brought their destruction.
Application: Lest we think that followers of Jesus are exempt from this problem, consider this passage from our reading from 3 John today: “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say…Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does what is good is of God; the one who does what is evil has not seen God.” We can humble ourselves before God, and allow Him to decide whether to exalt us, or we can exalt ourselves, and leave it to God to humble us. That’s never a pleasant experience!
I believe that God wants us to remember that he judges us by our hearts. Arrogance – pride – sets itself up against God, and God will always oppose anything and anyone which challenges His authority. John warns us in 3 John to not imitate what is evil. Pride and arrogance are evil, just as lust and greed and anger are evil. God does not need us to adopt evil means to achieve His purposes!
Prayer: Father, it is so tempting for us to “fight fire with fire” and adopt the ways and attitudes of the world in trying to achieve your purposes. Thank you for reminding us that we should NEVER do that. You are able to bring your purposes to pass while shaping us in the image of Jesus. Help us to reflect the fruit of the Spirit rather than the acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-23). Help us to live so that you may be glorified in us. Amen.