We have seen the love of God in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. We have seen the depth of that love suspended on the cross. Though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death we fear no evil because we know that God was, is, and always will be with us.
Joy! For the believer, this passage is charged with the realization that God’s love is everlasting, that it has been God’s attitude toward us from the very beginning, that it remains so now, and that it will be his attitude toward us forever. For the Jews of the Northern Kingdom, Jeremiah is expressing the joy that they felt as they traversed the wilderness on their way back home from the countries they had been exiled to by the Assyrians. The Lord had come to them there in the wilderness to guide them back to Jerusalem. This return from their Babylonian captivity was like a second Exodus to them.
Are we not always in the wilderness? Are we not on the Exodus journey every day of our lives? And is it not our experience that God’s love is always with us, especially in the hard times? Christians have every reason to be a people of joy. We have seen the love of God in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. We have seen the depth of that love suspended on the cross. Though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death we fear no evil because we know that God was, is, and always will be with us. He is with us, not just as a powerful presence to guide us, but as the very force of Divine love itself. It is this everlasting love that God has for us that was the force behind everything in creation. Creation was an act of Love par excellence. That self-giving love of God humbly took on our humanity, suffered, died, and rose again, so that our Exodus from the slavery of sin and death would be final and complete. It is that Divine love that remains with us in his Spirit, guiding us, supporting us, teaching us, and inspiring us with his grace every day of our lives. Yes. We are a people who are filled with great joy, because we know that we are loved with an everlasting love.
Though we are sometimes lost in the desert of doubt we are never alone. God watches over us and waits patiently. If our heart, worn out with the struggles of life, turns its attention toward him, even for a fleeting moment, he is there beside us in an instant. He, like the Prodigal Father, embraces us in his loving arms and does not just forgive our transgression, but forgets them entirely. The Apostle, John, tells us in his first letter that, “God is love.” (1 John 4:16) Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, that love is patient and kind, that it does not brood over wrongdoing, and that it bears and endures all things and that it never fails. How could we be anything but joyful? For all of this we give joyful thanks to our loving God.
Lord, lead us through the wildernesses of our lives. Increase our awareness of your love and fill our hearts to overflowing with the joy of that knowledge. We are your people and you have set us free. Help us to live our lives in a manner that reveals your love for us and for all of your children. Make us your instruments of joy in this wounded world. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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