Monday, April 02, 2007

The Goodness and Mercy of God: Jeremiah 44:1-14

Jeremiah 44:1-14

In many ways, this chapter is like letting the air out of a balloon. After all the build up in Jeremiah’s life and career, and after everything the Judean people experience, we find them finally in Egypt where they will literally fade into the sands of time. We might not be too surprised that a group of rebellious Judeans have disobeyed God again and headed to Egypt, but we are saddened for Jeremiah when we learn that this chapter represents the final chronological scene we have in his life. He followed God’s people to Egypt to speak God’s Word to them, and he died in a foreign land among obstinate people.

But he still has things to teach us before we let him go. In fact, as soon as Jeremiah is able to gather a crowd of Judean refugees, he preaches another sermon. The first point Jeremiah makes is something like, “some people never learn!” As he says:

"You have seen all the disaster that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah. Behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of the evil that they committed, provoking me to anger,...Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, 'Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!' But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods." (44:2-5)

A few of the things Jeremiah has to say tell us a lot about God and his relationship toward us. First of all, God told the Judeans exactly what they did wrong. They made offerings and served other gods. They refused to listen to the prophets when God sent them. God did not, and God does not, hide his intentions from us. He does not allow judgment into the path of our lives for no reason: God has told us exactly why these things happen.

Secondly, God gave them plenty of opportunities to stop their rebellion. He told them, “Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’” (vs. 4). And, to us, God is still speaking. The author of Hebrews tells us that while God spoke to our forefathers in the faith in many ways, he now speaks to us by the life of his Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2).

And third, we discover that the Judeans witnessed the entire cycle of rebellion and consequences Jeremiah is bearing witness to. In other words, they have first-hand knowledge of what happens when the people of God rebel. God said, “You have seen all the disaster that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah.” (vs. 2) There should be no surprise, no sudden shock of self-righteous horror when they suffer the consequences of their own sins—they know what is coming.

The bottom line in this story is quite possibly the bottom line to the book of Jeremiah. God is a God of steadfast love and enduring mercy. Look at it through Jeremiah’s eyes: God is so good to me, that he makes it explicit what I need to avoid, I get to read stories of rebellious people who refused to avoid them, then God is patient with me while I work it out in my life and then he gives me his Spirit so that I can draw on His power to avoid them.

The goodness and mercy of God cuts through all the anguish and judgment of Jeremiah’s book if we are willing to pay attention to him speaking. God speaks in many ways: through his prophets and apostles, through his Son, Jesus Christ, and through the stories of our lives.

1 comment:

Christopher Dart said...

In His mercy, He brought me from a life of rebellion to a life which is most concerned His Kingdom come, His will be done. It was by His mercy and goodness I am still here today.
By His everlasting love and grace He has called me to the top of the mount to be with Him, though once I was allowed only to worship afar off.
He promises to send a cloud, pillar and talk face to face with me as I stay out of the place of defilement, fear Him and regard the seeking of His face as the most important thing I can do.