S (Scripture): Jeremiah 32:15 The Lord says, “A sound is heard in Ramah, a sound of crying in bitter grief. It is the sound of Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are gone.”
16 The Lord says to her, “Stop crying! Do not shed any more tears! For your heartfelt repentance will be rewarded. Your children will return from the land of the enemy. I, the Lord, affirm it!
17 Indeed, there is hope for your posterity. Your children will return to their own territory. I, the Lord, affirm it!
18 I have indeed heard the people of Israel say mournfully, ‘We were like a calf untrained to the yoke. You disciplined us and we learned from it. Let us come back to you and we will do so, for you are the Lord our God.
19 For after we turned away from you we repented. After we came to our senses we beat our breasts in sorrow. We are ashamed and humiliated because of the disgraceful things we did previously.’
20 Indeed, the people of Israel are my dear children. They are the children I take delight in. For even though I must often rebuke them, I still remember them with fondness. So I am deeply moved with pity for them and will surely have compassion on them. I, the Lord, affirm it!
21 I will say, ‘My dear children of Israel, keep in mind the road you took when you were carried off. Mark off in your minds the landmarks. Make a mental note of telltale signs marking the way back. Return, my dear children of Israel. Return to these cities of yours.
O (Observation): So I wonder what caused these people to repent? As a matter of having faced God’s wrath, through neighboring countries coming in and conquering them and exiling them to Babylon? Was this simply God’s Way of allowing God’s people to try things on their own, and letting them reach the end of the round capacity, followed by an invitation by God to come back to their homeland?
This text was written while God’s people were in exile, so making note of the landmarks – the trail of breadcrumbs back home – was perhaps God’s way of bringing hope and grace in the midst of the sinfulness and waywardness of God’s people.
So what is God’s point: About the potential wrath of God, or about the promise of repentance and forgiveness? I find the more compelling notion (what I find in the whole of Scripture) is a call to repentance and forgiveness.
A (Application): Scare tactics are not helpful, nor do they lead to true repentance, in my mind. Responding to a scare tactic (the wrath of God) only causes us to want to save our own skin. With this tactic, we fail to consider the body of Christ, we fail to consider the fact that this isn’t just about me and God but about US and God.
With scare tactics, we live in fear only, with very little hope.
I believe the promise of grace and hope always exists for those who believe in Jesus Christ. That is what I see from Scripture. That is what I see in being part of the church. That is the gift of the Holy Spirit calling us back to God.
In the person and the event of Jesus Christ, everything shifted. Repentance and forgiveness still go hand-in-hand, but now access to God’s grace has shifted to being readily available to all people and to all races and tongues…and not as a scare tactic.
In Jeremiah, God’s people didn’t deserve to be brought back home. Their call home was only about God’s grace. They were not scared into submission. They were given hope of a new day, hope for a better tomorrow. (Wow, sounds like I’m writing for a politician, now : )
P (Prayer): Lord, teach us to move and pray and act out of joyful love for you. When we lack obedience, remind us again that we are intimately connected to you and to the rest of the body. Remind us of the fruit we are called to bear. Amen.