The prophets are amazing books and unique to scripture. They are not for the most part the books you want to read if you’re looking for the warm fuzzies of the Bible. However, I am reminded of something wonderful about the nature of God. Jeremiah’s book begins with a bleak picture of Israel. The nation has (yet again) turned from her God, and Jeremiah’s opening chapters are, well, pretty graphic. The warnings are scary. Political and military ramifications are promised, and one biblical word comes to mind – judgment. I seem to hear this word a lot today, too. When we see patterns in our nation and the world for which there was judgment in scripture, we warn of the same judgment today. Here’s where the hope comes in.
A refrain appears at the beginning of Jeremiah 4 that I seem to recall in virtually all the Prophets – “If you, Israel, will return…” God’s judgment, even in the sternest chapters of Old Testament history, was always paired with an offer of mercy and restoration. God has never been limited or restrained in His desire to extend mercy, grace, restoration, and offer a chance to start again His way. (This is certainly a lesson the prophet Jonah learned the hard way.) We learn in Romans that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4), not His wrath. This is our chance to participate in God’s activity, model His nature, and have an impact on our community, nation, and world. Our job is twofold: first, begin with ourselves. Are we finding fault with God that we would stray and get distracted by other things (Jeremiah 2:5)? Are we confessing and repenting that we might live in the obedience of faith? Second, are we influencing those around us with our witness and prayers? I thank God for His mercy today, and that He can even use a handful of people in remote parts of the world to wake others up to the reality of His presence and love.