From Jeremiah 21
The priests ask the prophet to inquire of the Lord regarding His deliverance for them from the king of Babylon and his invading army.
"Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us." They presume that the great God of Israel will arise as He did in Egypt and deliver them from their enemies."
But Jeremiah doesn’t give them the answer they are looking for.
"Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls. And I will bring them together into the midst of this city. I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence. Afterward, declares the LORD, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword. He shall not pity them or spare them or have compassion.' "
Not exactly what they were expecting. God was not happy with them. He loved them, they were His chosen, but they were in a place of unbelief and rebellion. They had been in idolatry, and the other sins it inevitably leads to. So… He was going to be faithful to His promises. Moses had given them severe warnings regarding disobedience to His ways, and He was going to follow through with what He had said.
“Even when we are faithless, He is faithful.” He will be true to His word, one way or the other.
“I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath.”
Now, many people today would write this whole thing off as “Old Testament.” That’s the law, they say. We are under grace now. Hmmm. I am thinking of a couple of New Testament “promises.”
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote”You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
Let me see. In this “New Covenant” passage we are told that a wrong attitude toward this world can make us an enemy of God, and that pride will put us in a position where He, God, will oppose us. That sounds a lot like the situation we find in Jeremiah. The Israelites had been unfaithful to the Lord, and become “friends” with the idols of this world. In His perfect love and wisdom, God had to discipline them. He couldn’t leave them in their deception and rebellion. He had to do whatever was necessary to bring them back to a place of complete trust in Him, and the obedience that is always the result of that trust. We know from His own word that He delights in mercy. However, He will turn to discipline if that is what it’s going to take to restore our hearts back to Himself. That hasn’t changed. Remember Hebrews 12. His first choice is to win us with the revelation of His kindness. But, if we turn back to the deception of darkness and sin, He will still do whatever is necessary to wake us up to a place of repentance.
Why? Because He loves us… more than we could ever understand.
Have your way, Lord. In mercy, have your way.
The psalmist tells us many times, “He is good, and His mercy endures forever.”
I believe it.