Look! An army is coming from the north; a great nation and many kings are being stirred up from the ends of the earth. They are armed with bows and spears; they are cruel and without mercy. They sound like the roaring sea as they ride on their horses; they come like men in battle formation to attack you, Daughter Babylon. The king of Babylon has heard reports about them, and his hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped him, pain like that of a woman in labor. Like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets to a rich pastureland, I will chase Babylon from its land in an instant. Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this? Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?” – Jeremiah 50:41-44
It has been a while since I have been “on the water”. It was a chapter from a book called The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer that finally got me out of my lounge chair and back on the water. I am just finishing a study of Tozer’s book with my siblings, It has been a true blessing both to share this experience with them, and to dwell in the wisdom that Tozer reveals. The last chapter of the book is called a “The Sacrament of Living” and it is about how we reconcile our spiritual and physical lives.
Tozer puts it this way “One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular.” This merging of the secular and the sacred streams of my life is one of the reasons I started this blog. For the last several weeks I have effectively maintained a levee separating these two streams. It is time to breach the levee and “free the river”. It is ironic that the language of today’s verse includes the idea of God “stirring up” something. He has certainly given me a good “stir” today.
When I think of something being “stirred up” what immediately comes to mind is a beehive or a hornet’s nest. When I was in High School I worked doing lawn maintenance and landscaping. This entailed lots and lots of grass cutting and, occasionally, pruning trees and bushes. I can still remember distinctly one day when I was pruning a large fruit tree on a warm spring day. I was happily clipping away when out of the corner of my eye I sensed movement in the tree. As I looked toward the movement I remember seeing a very angry hornet heading straight for my head. It seemed to grow larger as it approached. The hornet that I had “stirred up” was successful in finding my head and delivering a very painful sting.
I almost immediately began itching and breaking out in hives. It was then that I discovered that I am in fact allergic to bee and hornet stings. I was never allergic to bees as a child but I suspect my becoming so had something do do with an encounter with a beehive in third grade. We were on a field trip in the mountains and several of us boys headed into the woods to relieve ourselves. Four boys tromped down the path, the last one in line stepped on a beehive, and the end result was that each of us had 20-30 stings each before we made it back to the school bus. I am convinced that this occurrence is what made me allergic to bees stings later in life.
So…back to the passage. The word picture of God “stirring up” enemies from the north Conjures in my mind is an angry bunch of bees or hornets descending on Babylon. God, with his mighty hand, is shaking the hive of armies to the North and then allowing them to descend on Babylon. These armies are described as sounding “like the roaring sea as they ride on their horses”. My concept of a roaring sea is something wild, dangerous, and out of our control. A roaring sea can be a scary thing, especially if you are not comfortable with your position and safety in relation to this force of nature. I am pretty sure the Babylonians were feeling very insecure.
In the final part of the passage God uses a somewhat confusing mixed metaphor: “like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets to a rich pastureland, I will chase Babylon from its land in an instant. Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this? Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?” God compares Himself to a lion, which makes sense. Then God seems to be saying that He alone can accomplish the overthrow of Babylon.
I suppose one could view this metaphor in a broader sense, referring to the overthrow of the ruler of this world through a “chosen one”. Perhaps this is stretching this metaphor to the breaking point, but it is certainly sounds like God is saying He will send a chosen one to overthrow this world and this Shepherd will be without equal. Not a bad description of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Prayer: God help me to merge the sacred and the secular streams of my life in a way that will allow me walk upon the water wherever you may lead me.