When our sin has made us miserable enough to cry out for His mercy—God is there welcoming our return. His love has never stopped.
I've been stalled over Jeremiah 31 for a week or so now. It is a beautiful must-read holding out hope and reassurance of God’s love for ones who've resisted His overtures and sought satisfaction elsewhere. And who of us hasn't at one time or another?
It is of course directed specifically to Israel but points forward to the covenant God will establish in Christ, a covenant that goes well beyond Israel to include every one whom He has called to be His own. Despite Israel’s failure to keep God's commandments, despite her unfaithfulness and chasing after other lovers, God remains faithful to Israel. Yes, he has disciplined her severely; this is a critical part of His faithfulness. He will not allow her to find joy or satisfaction in her wandering. He sends her into exile. As a good father God disciplines his sons and daughters, for their own good. (Cf. Heb.12:7) Discipline is painful but never intended as a shunning from the Father. Rather it is intended to turn us back to Him, to bring us into subjection to Him so that we may find LIFE! and share His holiness. (See Heb.12:9,10) So it was with Israel. So it is with us.
And in this joyful passage the Lord makes all manner of promises to faithless Israel based on His tender love. The discipline of letting her be taken captive by her enemies has worked wonders. Joy is just ahead. He’s bringing her home!
But I will let His words speak for themselves. Let them be salve to your own heart if you have found yourself in misery far from any sense of God's pleasure in you. He welcomes your return.
"The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you..."
With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
"Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.' For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD."
Thus says the LORD: "Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.
I have heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God. ...
Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD. Jer.31:9-14,16,18,20
Jeremiah’s prophecy looked toward the time God would send Jesus and through Him provide forgiveness once and for all to all who believe. It pointed to a time when God's very own Spirit would reside in man—the promised Comforter, sent in token of Jesus’ ascension to the Father--writing His law upon their hearts, making them righteous, enabling obedience, inclining their wills to do His will out of love for the One who has so loved them.
We live on the other side of this event! We who are ‘in Christ’ are blessed indeed. I was reading Ephesians 1 the other morning. Have you pondered it lately?
- We’ve been chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.
- We’ve been predestined for adoption as sons which will bring him praise because of His grace
- We’ve been bought from the slave market of sin, forgiven all the ways in which we’ve violated God’s commands
- We’ve been lavished with the riches of his grace
- We’ve been made heirs of God!
- We’ve been marked as His by His Holy Spirit within us….
And all this so that we can be included in God’s plan to culminate all of history in the glory of the Son. We, as recipients of His lavish grace actually bring Him glory as we revel in His lovingkindness.
It is God’s design for us that we be satisfied with His goodness. He will stop at nothing less; His heart yearns that we return and find in Him our satisfaction:
“Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities. How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? … For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish." ... And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD. ...
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ...
Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD." Jer.31:21-22,25,28,33,37
Are you satisfied with the goodness of the Lord, or weary and languishing? He longs for your return.
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might… Eph.1:16-19