As I’ve written in my other blog posts, I teach a women’s bible study each week at my church. We have been reading for 33 weeks and have come to the darkest time in Israel’s history…God’s judgment as the people are exiled to Babylon.
We’ve been reading God’s call to repentance and to follow after Him, but the hearts of the people were hardened and as God says in Scripture, evil. What was the offense? The first was that they had begun worshiping other gods and had failed to worship God, His way. The second was that the people had failed to live out the call of God to treat their fellow man with the love and compassion they had been given.
The leaders were evil and uncaring in regards to the people, especially to the least of them…orphans, widows, foreigners…you know, the very people God had commanded them to take care of when He conveyed the Law to Israel.
Each leader, including the spiritual leaders, seemed to do what was right in their judgment and disregarded all that God had said to them. Remember, they were called to live differently so that the surrounding nations would KNOW that Yahweh was the ONE, TRUE God. Sadly, they failed in this calling and God’s mercy was coming to an end…but not for all.
In Jeremiah 24, we read the vision that God gave to Jeremiah regarding good figs and bad figs. Of course, judgment and destruction was to fall upon the bad figs, those Israelites that refused to repent and follow God. But to the good figs, mercy endured. It’s how that mercy endured that has captured my attention today.
God told Jeremiah that it was through captivity that He would plant them and build them up and that He would give them a heart to know Him! God said that these good figs would be His people and He would be their God because they would give their whole heart to Him!
Now, I don’t know about you, but being taken into captivity doesn’t really sound like a great salvation plan to me! I know that if I had been one of these people, I would have been afraid and questioning God as to why I had to endure this horrible event. I am sure that the exiles did question God as to what was going on…and maybe that is exactly what God wanted in the first place.
You see, if we are self reliant and independent, we have no need for God. If we are holding on to our name, Christian, as the Israelites did to theirs as, God’s chosen people, as if it were a talisman with magical powers to prevent the wrath of God, we have missed the boat at the dock!
Each of us, apart from the grace and mercy of God, deserve the full wrath of God. Israel did. They were placing their faith in everything but God and claiming to still be His chosen people. They desired to do what they wanted to do and still expected God to bless them even though they acted in complete rebellion to Him. So what about us? Don’t we do this very thing? We demand that God allow us to live our lives our way and then cry and complain when we don’t receive His blessing.
We are just as dependent upon God for our redemption as the Israelites were. The only thing that we have in this life or the life to come is our relationship with Christ! Just as God wanted His people to acknowledge Him as the only God and to be fully committed and faithful to Him, the Son of God, Jesus, our Savior and Messiah calls us to the same commitment. And I have realized that it is through trials and struggles that I come to the realization that I need Him.
Yes, it is quite possible that all the heartache, pain and despair we face on this earth is to remind us that this world holds nothing for us. It is our exile until we are finally rescued to live with our Savior forever! Just like the Israelites, God’s eye is on us and He is planting us and building us and giving us a heart to know Him! May we surrender…for our good!
As I read this chapter, the song, Blessings by Laura Story began playing on my mental play-list. It is the perfect example of what God was saying to Jeremiah. As I listen to this song and read the Words of God, may I never look at pain the same way. May I always see it as an opportunity to depend more fully upon, to fall more deeply in love with and to have greater faith in my Savior, Jesus!