An armed invasion from the north constitutes a “hot wind” that will breathe down the Israelites’ necks. The people of Jerusalem and Judah exist in an atmosphere of constant threat, violence, and revenge. In their honest struggle to relate to Yahweh, they understandably wonder how God fits into this dismal picture. The prophet Jeremiah has plenty to say about that.
In the poignant poetry of the prophetic tradition, Jeremiah expresses this oncoming destruction as God’s judgment against the foolish, faithless people. In the language of their culture, God’s justice is understood in terms of reward and punishment. The prophet says in effect, “You brought this situation on yourselves through your sinful ways.” He lets the Israelites know that their lack of harmony with God’s purposes will lead to painful consequences.
Not surprisingly, they experience God through the filter of their own imagination and cultural understanding. In a world where kings routinely wielded power through vengeance and retribution, they assumed that the heavenly King operated the same way. We often follow a similar line of reasoning. We make a mess of things through our own willfulness and pay the price, wondering where God was in our story.
But there’s another side to the story. Through years of God’s revelation, especially through Jesus, we have come to a different experience of the divine nature. Certainly God wants to put things right, to be the harbinger of justice. Rather than the “furious God in the sky” that humans often depict, we understand that God metes out justice not through overt punishment but through grace that invites us to replace judgment with love.
When have you made a mess of things and suffered the consequences? Imagine it not as God’s punishment but as an invitation to move into harmony with God’s purposes.
The apparent message of Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 is total despair, but verse 27 offers a soft note of grace. God’s redemptive purposes for the people will not ultimately be thwarted. Psalm 14 suggests that foolishness and perversity characterize all humanity, but God can gather from among sinful humankind a community of people who will nd their refuge in God. In First Timothy, the writer points to his own life as an example of God’s ability to reclaim and redeem persons. Luke 15 suggests how far God is willing to go to reclaim the lost. The par- ables of the lost sheep and the lost coin portray God as remark- ably and even recklessly active in pursuit of wayward persons.
• Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. When have you made a mess of things and suffered the consequences? What invitation surfaced from that situation?
• Read Psalm 14. How do you feel when you are out of touch with God’s call? What practices or disciplines do you employ to recognize God’s faithfulness?
• Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. What can you do today that will show mercy and compassion to another?
• Read Luke 15:1-10. When have you felt God pursuing you? How did this feel like a gracious invitation rather than con- demnation?
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