What makes us so stubborn, I wonder? Stubborn to the point that we can’t see how pathetically sinful we are? In The Story this week, God is fed up with the mocking and scoffing that’s heaped on his messengers and the atrocious behavior of his people, and he sends Babylon against the Southern Kingdom, Judah. Scripture says “…the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” (2 Chron. 36:17)
To my way of thinking, that pronouncement of “no remedy” isn’t quite true. But then I have the advantage of knowing the rest of the story, don’t I? No remedy, in the Lower Story, didn’t mean there was no hope and no plan in the Upper Story. It also didn’t mean that God was going to forget his covenant promise to David. The Messiah, as foretold, would still come from the tribe of Judah. But sin has consequences. It always has.
It must have been brutal to continually come against the wall of pride, mockery and deceit that Jeremiah and Ezekiel faced. I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster! And yet, in between the pronouncements of judgment, these prophets gave us some of the most eloquent words of hope and promise ever written. Jeremiah says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23) Ezekiel prophesies, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh…And I will put my Spirit in you…” (Ez. 36:25-27)
Our stubbornness is no match for the Lord’s faithfulness, is it? No matter how far we stray, the door is always open for our return. I think of the prodigal son (Luke 15) who squandered all of his inheritance. When he came to his senses and returned, he met his father running to greet him. I don’t know about you, but that tells me that God cares more about us than we can fathom.
Even after Judah fell to the Babylonians, God was still speaking to his people through Jeremiah. In what must be one of the all-time favorite verses in the Bible, Jeremiah writes to the captives these words from the Lord, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11) Can you imagine how those captives must have clung to those words!?
The Psalmist wrote, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5) It will be a good long time, but rejoicing will come again for the Israelites who were led away to Babylon. And when we come on our knees to Jesus, rejoicing inevitably will come for us, too.