The book of Jeremiah contains some marvellous passages which I love, but there are also some parts that I do not enjoy reading. I always feel personally encouraged to read of the call of Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations in the first chapter. When Jeremiah protested that he was too young, God told him not to be afraid. ‘Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you’ (Jeremiah 1:8). He was going to receive spiritual authority and was told that the LORD had set him ‘over nations and kingdoms to pluck up and to breakdown, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant’ (Jeremiah 1:10).
I find that I struggle to read lots of the passages which follow. Jeremiah had to give dire warnings of what would happen if there was no repentance from the idolatry and many sinful practices of the people. God was not going to allow sin, rebellion and the breaking of the covenant to continue without the penalty of severe judgement. Rather than listen to God’s word coming continually through the prophets, the people had listened to false prophets who told them everything would be just fine.
But the truth was that there was to be terrible suffering ahead. The Babylonians would capture them and take them away into exile in Babylon. It was going to be a long time of exile and many would never come back to their native land. The whole land would become a ruin and a waste, and they would serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
This severe judgement did not come upon them suddenly. There were so many opportunities given for them to avoid all the trauma and pain. Although God’s judgement is absolutely fair, He does not desire to see His people go through suffering. But His good redemptive purposes for the entire world would be worked out and that meant His people had to go through the painful consequences of their wrong choices at that time.
God had established His covenantal promises with the whole nation of Israel. Despite many of the people not putting their faith in God, there was still a remnant of people like Jeremiah who trusted in Him and remained obedient to His word, (as Abraham, Moses and David had done before him). The good news was that God was going to gather His remnant together and bring them back from their exile to the promised land. ‘I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart’ (Jeremiah 24:6-7). We see in this the true Father heart of God long before the time that our Lord Jesus walked upon the earth and gave us a living, breathing example of it.
There was also the wonderful promise of the coming of the Messiah, the ‘righteous Branch’, ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness’’ (Jeremiah 23:5-6). The coming of Jesus as Messiah fulfils God’s promises to Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets.
Later Jeremiah speaks God’s comforting words to the exiles, promising to bring them back to Israel, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11). God desires to bring them out of the darkness and suffering which have been the result of rebellion against Him. He wants a close heart relationship with them. And He is still the same today.
As we make the feeblest of responses, God reaches out to us and transforms our lives, creating a new heart within us. He brings us into our ‘promised land’. He builds us up and plants us. We know Him and belong to Him. We are able to respond to His love by giving Him our whole heart.
Prayer: Dear Father God, I thank You that You are a fair and righteous judge of all evil. You always do what is right. I know I don’t have to be afraid of you because You love me so much. I know I belong to You and I’m Your beloved child and daughter. I give my heart to You again today, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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