Lord, give us the wisdom to see when we have gone astray. Give us the insight to recognize our sins and the courage to bear, and to learn from, the natural consequences of our sinful actions.
These words were like the sweetest honey from the comb for the Israelites. They were in exile in Babylon. They were suffering this exile because of their own behavior. They were experiencing the sting of the punishment they deserved for having forgotten God, for having rebelled against him. In these words though, their hope is renewed. They are learning, once again, that God is true to his promises and full kindness and infinite mercy. They are learning again the nature of his love for them. And so it is with us.
Verse 10 tells us that God knows our frailty and our prodigality. He knows that we must often learn the truth the hard way. Jeremiah, as the oracle of God, gives us God’s words here: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” For us, seventy years is a long time. When Jeremiah speaks these words to the Israelites, seventy years would have been the span of at least two, maybe three generations. Many of those who would hear these words would live their entire lives in exile and never see Jerusalem. But in the crucible of their suffering, their faith would be revived and they would pass it on to their children who would finally experience that promised day. They would come to terms with their guilt, and return to their faith. They would come to believe, once again, that God really does have plans for them, “plans for [their] welfare and not for evil…” They could once again believe that they had “a future and hope.”
We, too, have to learn that God is God, that he is faithful to his promises, that he has our good always in mind. We, like the Israelites, often forget this because we are caught up in our own errors, in our own suffering. We have to learn to recognize that much of our suffering is our own doing. We need to, like the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time, turn back to God. God tells us through Jeremiah here that when we turn back to God, and when we call on him through our earnest and humble prayer, he will listen to us. If we seek him, we will find him waiting for us. God will not forsake us.
This is the nature of God. He loves his children with an everlasting love. Yes, chastisement is painful. We have all experienced that. But when we finally come to our senses, when we finally learn to see and take responsibility for our erring ways, and have true sorrow for our sins, we can turn to God with confidence and know that he will bring us back, that he will not only forgive our sins, but that he will bring us back “home.” He will bring us back to the home of our faith here and now, and he will bring us to that heavenly home he created for us from the beginning of time, when our time is ripe and full. This story in Jeremiah is our story too.
Lord, give us the wisdom to see when we have gone astray. Give us the insight to recognize our sins and the courage to bear, and to learn from, the natural consequences of our sinful actions. We humbly call on you and pray for your mercy. We know that you are the Father who waits patiently for the prodigal’s return. We come to you with tears of sorrow and you surprise us with the loving welcome of your open arms. We praise you, O God, and we thank you for your great kindness. In Jesus name. Amen!
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