Jeremiah 50:8 “Flee out of Babylon;
leave the land of the Babylonians,
and be like the goats that lead the flock.”
Goats often get a bad rap, particularly in light of Jesus’ famous story in Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats, but here they are used with a very good connotation. The line about “Flee out of Babylon” is famous, but the “goats” part is important too. In Jeremiah’s prophecy there was a specific geographic designation to Babylon, but today we do much better to think of it in terms of “the world system.” After all, not many of us live in Iraq! Many people have, rightly I think, connected “Babylon” with “the world” that John warns us about in his first letter. (1 John 2:15) It’s interesting that John wrote that when he also wrote John 3:16, but I think it’s clear that he was talking about different meanings of “world” in the two places. If then we connect “Babylon” with the “world” of 1 John, then the command to flee becomes quite applicable to us today. We aren’t to be seduced by society around us. A recent study found that a shockingly small percentage of professed Christians in the US have a Biblical world view. In other words, they have violated Paul’s express instructions: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Many Christians seem to have trouble discerning God’s will about many social and societal issues, but the second half of that verse clears that up. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” But now we’re back to the goats in Jeremiah’s prophecy. Sheep are famous for following the leader, for being led around. Through Jeremiah, God is telling us to stop being sheep but be leaders, to go the right way whether anyone goes with us or not. Recently “sheeple” has become a popular term in political circles for those who decline to do their own thinking, and I think it’s appropriate. Not just in politics but in all areas we are to seek God and His truth, regardless of what is being pushed on us by media (social and antisocial) and society in general. If we will do that, not only will we “get out of Babylon,” we will lead others to do so with us.
Of course this applies to me as much as it does to anyone. I have a bit of an advantage because as a Missionary Kid I never did “fit in” completely in just about any setting, which made it easier perhaps to chart my own course, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to fit in, whether the group was good or not. I am not to be obnoxious for the sake of being different, but I am to take my values from God and His Word, and not from the world around me. That’s easier said than done, but I know that as God makes me successful in it, others will be encouraged that it is at least possible. As a teacher and as a pastor I am seen as a leader, whatever I feel like, and my leadership must be submitted to God, following the Holy Spirit and not the spirit of this world. I can’t do it right on my own, but God is able to do it in and through me, and that is to be my goal and my desire.
Father, thank You for this reminder. You know the struggles I have with leadership and authority! Right now we’re planning a church BBQ as an outreach, and being in charge of that is very much outside of my comfort zone. Keep me from trying to run away, but help me do each thing You want me to on Your schedule so that people will be blessed, and above all drawn to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!