The War of the Wills.


“Go out of the midst of her, my people!
    Let every one save his life
    from the fierce anger of the Lord!
Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful
    at the report heard in the land,
when a report comes in one year
    and afterward a report in another year,
and violence is in the land,
    and ruler is against ruler.

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming
    when I will punish the images of Babylon;
her whole land shall be put to shame,
    and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
Then the heavens and the earth,
    and all that is in them,
shall sing for joy over Babylon,
    for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north,
declares the Lord.
Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel,
    just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth.

“You who have escaped from the sword,
    go, do not stand still!
Remember the Lord from far away,
    and let Jerusalem come into your mind:
‘We are put to shame, for we have heard reproach;
    dishonor has covered our face,
for foreigners have come
    into the holy places of the Lord‘s house.’

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will execute judgment upon her images,
and through all her land
    the wounded shall groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to heaven,
    and though she should fortify her strong height,
yet destroyers would come from me against her,
    declares the Lord.

“I will make drunk her officials and her wise men,
    her governors, her commanders, and her warriors;
they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake,
    declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:
The broad wall of Babylon
    shall be leveled to the ground,
and her high gates
    shall be burned with fire.
The peoples labor for nothing,
    and the nations weary themselves only for fire.” – Jeremiah 51:45-58 ESV

We’ve all met strong-willed individuals. Perhaps you have raised or are in the process of raising a child with a stronger-than-normal will. They tend to want to get their way. They can be very demanding and are usually not afraid to let others know what they are thinking and what it is they think they deserve, want or need. Can you imagine how many strong-willed people God deals with on a daily basis? Consider the number of people He has run into over the centuries who thought their will was more important than His own. If you think about it, every person who has ever lived fits into that category. Because of the fall, all of mankind was born strong-willed and self-obsessed. We all came out of the womb like little gods, demanding our way as soon as we could make a sound. The human will is the battleground on which the war between mankind and their Creator wages day after day, and it has been going on since God made Adam. When God told Adam, “Thou shall not…”, there arose in the first man’s heart the spark of self-awareness that responded, “Yes, I shall…” And the battle over control began. Adam and his newly formed bride didn’t take long to decide that their wills were more important than God’s. Their passions and desires quickly took precedence over God’s commands. Their attraction to the forbidden fruit and all that the enemy said it offered them overwhelmed any desire they had to obey God. Their wills won the day.

As God continues His quite lengthy oracle concerning Babylon, it is important to note that much of what He is dealing with is man’s innate need to be in control, to be the master of his own fate. The nations God has addressed over the last few chapters of the book of Jeremiah are corporate representations of man’s fallen state, and Babylon holds the distinction of being the epitome of willful arrogance and pride. Nebuchadnezzar was the poster-boy of pride. The book of Daniel tells the story of his pride reaching its zenith and God’s divine response to his unchecked arrogance and self-adulation.

God had given the king a dream, which Daniel had interpreted for him. Daniel had given the king the meaning of the dream, warning him:

You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” – Daniel 4:25 NLT

But the king didn’t take Daniel’s words seriously. And in a relatively short period of time, Nebuchadnezzar would learn the painful truth behind what Daniel had told him.

“But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’

“While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” – Daniel 4:28-32 NLT

And it happened just as God had said it would.

“That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. – Daniel 4:33 NLT

He went from walking along the parapets of his palace, bragging about his many exploits and personal accomplishments, to crawling around on all fours, eating grace like an animal. What separates man from the rest of creation is the fact that he was made in the image of God. But when man attempts to replace God’s image with his own, he becomes little more than an just another animal. Mankind’s capacity for reasoning, while it may set him apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, can also be his downfall. That was the lesson to be learned in God’s ongoing oracle against Babylon. God warns the pride-filled residents of Babylon:

“Though Babylon reaches as high as the heavens
    and makes her fortifications incredibly strong,
I will still send enemies to plunder her.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 51:53 NLT

God’s wording brings recalls the days in which he destroyed the tower of Babel, a pride-motivated building project taken on by the ancient predecessors of the Babylonians. God had commanded Adam and Eve, along with their descendants, to fill the earth. But the book of Genesis tells us that the people decided to do things their way, according to their own wills.

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia[a] and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” – Genesis 11:1-4 NLT

Essentially they said, “We know better.” They decided their plan was better than God’s. They desired fame more than they did following God’s revealed will. So, God stepped in and, just as He did with King Nebuchadnezzar, God knocked the residents of ancient Babel down a few notches.

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. – Genesis 11:5-9 NLT

King Nebuchadnezzar had his thinking confused and literally lost his mind. The people of Babel had their language confused and literally lost the capacity to communicate. Adam and Even had their moral compass confused and literally lost their communion with God. And in each case, the human will was the culprit. They had decided to do battle with God over and engage in a war of the will – and they lost. Man will always lose that battle. Oh, there may appear to be times with man’s will wins out. It may look as though we are getting our way and reaping the benefits of our own self-centered, egotistical plan. But in the end, God’s will always wins. Adam and Eve got what they wanted: The forbidden fruit. But they lost what they really needed: Communion with God. Nebuchadnezzar got the joy of standing on his palace roof and marveling over the mighty kingdom he had built. But he lost his mind. The people of Babel began an aggressive building program to construct a monument to their own human ingenuity and corporate capabilities. But they lost the ability to understand one another.

Man’s ongoing attempt to win the battle of the wills is a lost cause. Any minor victories we enjoy will always end in defeat. Any attempt on our part to exert our wills and force our way on the sovereign plans of God will prove hopeless and futile in the end. And God’s dire warning to Babylon should be a sobering reminder to us all that God’s will always wins.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“The thick walls of Babylon will be leveled to the ground,
    and her massive gates will be burned.
The builders from many lands have worked in vain,
    for their work will be destroyed by fire!” – Jeremiah 51:58 NLT

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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