The prophet Jeremiah was by called by the Lord to minister to the people of Judah and their kings in the line of David prior to their exile to Babylon. Despite many prophetic warnings, the people would not listen to God’s words or turnaround from their self-destructive ways. In the end, the Lord permitted King Nebuchadnezzar to defeat them and carry the people back to Babylon.
The core of their spiritual problem was a complete disregard for God, replaced by a worship of self and other false idols. This was evidenced by a lifestyle of blatant disobedience, accompanied by boasting about personal qualities and achievements.
We are all vulnerable to the temptation to boast at times. It is so easy to forget where our many blessings have come from. We view our accomplishments with great pride and forget about all the favor, opportunities, mercy, and grace that God bestowed on us to make them possible.
God spoke through Jeremiah to address the boasting problem:
23 This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV
Even mighty King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who God prospered as the most powerful person in the world and then used as an instrument of judgement on Judah, suffered for taking personal credit for the many gifts the Lord had given to him. We learn about this from the prophet Daniel, who God had sent to minister to His exiled people there.
29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 …until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Daniel 4:29-31, 32b NIV
We will take a closer look at the life of the people of Judah during their seventy-year exile in Babylon and the ministry of the prophet Daniel in a later meditation and will see exactly what happened to Nebuchadnezzar after God spoke this to him.
The suffering of both Judah and of Nebuchadnezzar had a very positive effect – it led both of them back to the Lord. Their burdens of prideful independence and idol worship were removed, and God’s true position as holy Creator of the universe was finally acknowledged and restored in their lives.
God loves each of us deeply. That is His nature. It is not something we have earned or deserve, it just is. He wants us to turn to Him and will use events in our lives to get our attention, draw us and encourage us to seek Him.
As evidence of His love for us, Jesus Christ voluntarily went to cross to suffer and die as the remedy for our sins. This opens the doors of heaven for us if we will receive it. He did it all, but we have a free will, and it is up to us to partake of it. God will never force us to believe in or obey Him.
Despite common misperceptions, the Bible tells us that we cannot earn our way into heaven. We can never measure up on our own to God’s holiness and holy standards. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul reminds us that even the very best gift we can receive, our eternal salvation, comes as a gift from God and is not something we can earn or achieve on our own.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
God tells us that if we must boast, let us boast about Him and the great things He has done for us and continues to do each and every day of our lives. That is proper boasting.
Lord, forgive us for the many times we have taken full credit for all that You have made possible. Teach us not to boast about ourselves, but to share our gratitude for You and Your gifts. Thank You for all You have done and help me to remember that You are the true source of our many blessings and salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.