Tuesday, June 13, 2006

And I Will Be Your God: Jeremiah 30-31

Jeremiah 30:18-31:14

After 29 chapters of warning and judgment, we now find ourselves in the middle of a section of Jeremiah where God promises blessing and wholeness for His people. Between chapters 30 and 31, the promised graces bestowed upon Judah and Israel are a redemption of the people’s behavior before the exile, and what was lost in the exile. Over and over, the curse is turned around as God blesses His people. In what might be the most radical of these reversals, God says:

“Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!” (31:4)

Keep in mind that for centuries, God has warned an adulterous people that their whoring after other gods would lead to their corruption and their destruction. Israel was anything but a virgin.

But that is exactly how deep the forgiveness of God goes. Israel was not suddenly worthy of this renewed status-God bestowed it upon them in an act of love that we can only vaguely comprehend. A wicked and adulterous people received the grace and forgiveness of God, returned to their homeland, and became the favored and forgiven people of God once more. That same grace is available to each and every sinner while they are still sinners.

As a powerful commentary on the reversal of the curse, God says:

“And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (30:22)

The phrase, “I will be your God” becomes a refrain for not only Jeremiah but for another prophet during the exile as well. In 36:24-31 Ezekiel says:

“You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all uncleanness.”

In this passage especially, the curse is reversed in terms of not only the specific sins and consequences perpetrated and suffered by Israel and Judah, but on a much deeper level as well. A deliverance from “all uncleanness” is a promise to not only modify my behavior, but to modify my desires as well.

Though I may not always commit certain sins, I may certainly be drawn to them. If I am smart I modify my actions and routines in order to avoid situations that put me in a position of temptation. That is behavior modification, and it is good as far as it goes. But the work of the Spirit in my life wants to go deeper.

Imagine a situation in which your natural inclinations-your natural and instinctual responses-are Christ-like. In some scenario in which you might have been tempted to rebel in the past, rebellion now actually cuts against the grain of your desires. In this position, it is hard to sin and easy to be Christ-like.

This is much of what the Spirit is at work at in my life, as I become one of the people of God and learn how to live like God has become my God. With the Spirit resident in my life, I have a taste of that final, blessed moment when we will see God face-to-face and the curse will be completely gone. What Jeremiah promised comes to fruition in Revelation 21:3-4:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

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