Jeremiah’s opening chapters (like so many of the prophet books) is hard to read. The sin of God’s people. They left a God who provided everything for them. Israel found satisfaction in other gods and idols that could never match the satisfaction that Yahweh provides, yet they turned away and treated him like a rag doll.
Jeremiah 3:9 sums it up (from the NLT)…
“Israel treated it all so lightly—she thought nothing of committing adultery by worshipping idols made of wood and stone.”
What did she treat lightly? The answer to this question is imperative for the pilgrim, the follower of Jesus, to grasp.
She treated the person of God lightly. She treated God’s love for her lightly.
Mighty King, my wayward heart is weak. Thank you that you are faithful even when I am not. Thank you that you give me eyes to see your glorious love. Lord, keep my heart pliable so that I do not treat you lightly. And Lord, help me to not take your love for granted!! But you know me. You know that I do just what I don’t want to do. I do take your love for granted. My heart grows cold toward your love that burns for me, your purchased child. How can that happen? Is it the weariness? Is it the busyness? Is it the comfort? Jesus, thank you, because right now, probably more than ever, I am so aware of your love. Suffering does that. Pain brings us to you. Trials make us run to you. Grief. Tears. Suffering is required for me to know you in a way (and chase after you) that will not allow me to treat you or your love for me lightly. Thank you Jesus, that you love me in spite of my sin and wayward heart. So hard to fathom is your love, yet help me to find all my joy in the gospel — that you loved me enough to die for me!
Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet” because of his sorrow over the persistent message of God’s judgment, prophesied to the nation of Judah. Jeremiah’s task as a prophet was to declare the coming judgment of God. However, throughout the book we also see God’s concern for repentance and righteousness in individuals as well as nations. This dual focus is seen in God’s instructions to Jeremiah: he was “to pluck up and to break down” but also “to build and to plant” (1:10). Jeremiah sees a future day when God will write his law on human hearts, and “they shall all know me,” and “I will remember their sin no more” (31:33-34).
Hope. Hope for the wayward. Pilgrims who have traveled so far need hope. Pilgrims who stray need hope. Pilgrims who have a hard time seeing the shepherd need hope.
In the darks days that come with grief, it is often hard to see God and his character. Oh, we know all the right answers, but it is hard to really see and experience him. I wonder if the reason for this is not so much because we don’t sense he is with us as much as we are so focused on our desire to get out of the pain and back to a place of comfort (we already know how God needs to rescue us, the how, the when)…that our eyes are darkened to the way God is working right before us, even in grief.
It is as if we don’t recognize the God who is right beside us because we are looking for a different god to show up. Time to move on, because this is getting too close to revealing my heart….
Back to hope. Jeremiah 3 breaks forth with hope. God is always looking for his people to return….and he is always ready for that embrace that comes with turned hearts (from sin, to the arms of a merciful father).
Verse 12 and following….
“O Israel, my faithless people,
Come home to me again,
For I am merciful. I will not be angry with you forever.”
“Only acknowledge your guilt.
Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God
And committed adultery against him by worshipping
Under every green tree.”
“Confess that you refused to listen to my voice.”
God is waiting. That gives hope. Facing sin honestly is the hardest thing for us, for me. Knowing that my merciful father is waiting for the confession with his enduring love gives hope.
I have often thought that trials and suffering work in the way that we have to endure it, then we get God’s approval and embrace on the other end of the dark tunnel. I don’t think it works that way. Sure, there is some hope in that understanding, but there is more to it then that.
God walks on the path with us. His embrace, his mercy, encircles me now. Enduring the trial is holding on to who he is while in the trial. He carries us through the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel is, he carries us.
Thankful for or the moments of grace that always show up in the prophets messages of doom!