Love Came Down with an Extravagant Plan

We may not be able to cure this world of sorrow

but we can choose to live in it with joy. – Joseph Campbell

cuba purpleAs Jeremiah had prophesied, after three years of siege, the armies of Babylon overtook Jerusalem and ravaged the nation. Exiled and broken, some survivors wearily trudged to Babylon, torn asunder by circumstances beyond their control, unable to change their destiny. Others were enslaved in Judah, forced to work the land and bring the profits to their captors. Much of the nobility were executed, while others were forced into service of the king, eunuchs like Daniel.

In Babylon, the exiles were commanded to quickstep learn Babylon’s language and culture of their pagan captors or die. The Judeans agony was unabated as exiled, as Jews were denied access to their temple, their land and their loved ones. It was catastrophic.  Trauma ruled every life.

In Jerusalem, Jeremiah sat in prison, branded as traitor for prophesying the Babylonian victory and left behind to face the enemy. Ever leading, with compassion, Jeremiah wrote letters to the exiles, urging them to plant vineyards, get married, have children, and build their lives:  God had decreed it would be seven full decades before their return to Judah.

In direct disagreement with the word of the Lord, the priests prophesied a national return within two years, creating confusion and turmoil for a people reeling with despair.

Jeremiah released God’s merciful words to those in exile:

Do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the Lord,
‘Nor be dismayed, O Israel;
For behold, I will save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet,
And no one shall make him afraid.
11 For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to save you; [1]

Israel, as an agricultural nation,  understood the power of saving good seed. When we were farming,  my husband would carefully save the organic seed for the next season. Paul would harvest the seeds in the fall and dry them all winter, looking forward with anticipation to the next season each time he saw them drying on the newsprint.  As a good farmer, Paul only kept seed which produced healthy large crops, that he could plant and reap a superior crop the following season.

To the disenfranchised exiles, God cried, “Chin up! I will save you. I will bring your seed back to the land of Israel. I am with you. My job is to save you. You are worth something to Me. Your seed is irreplaceable and good. I have a plan because I am God and I am on your side.”

To the ravaged exiles, God’s promise for rest, peace and quiet would have been hard to take, let alone, believe. As slaves to Babylon, intimidation and oppression was their new reality. Yet God passionately desired to give grace to his beloved broken people.

cuba orangeJeremiah, imprisoned by angry officers and brokenhearted priests, graciously released God’s future plan for Israel:

Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob’s tents,
And have mercy on his dwelling places;
The city shall be built upon its own mound,
And the palace shall remain according to its own plan.
Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving
And the voice of those who make merry;
I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish;
I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.
Their children also shall be as before,
And their congregation shall be established before Me;
And I will punish all who oppress them.
Their nobles shall be from among them,
And their governor shall come from their midst;
Then I will cause him to draw near,
And he shall approach Me;
For who is this who pledged his heart to approach Me?’ says the Lord.
‘You shall be My people,And I will be your God.’ ” [2]

“Keep moving forward, my beloved people”, God declared through his broken prophet, Jeremiah.

Be merry? Offer thanksgiving in exile? Expect future glory? How bitter those words must have first felt to the disenfranchised captive in Babylon or the enslaved remnant left behind to work the land in Judah. Yet choosing to believe God was now Judah’s only option. By the time of the invasion, Israel’s wound of idolatry was incurable. Like a raging epidemic, the nation had forsaken God and exalted other gods to their eventual destruction. Now Israel was captured; only God Himself could save His people.

Hearing the cries of His people, God painted a picture for the exiles that seven decades ahead, Israel would come home and experience joy once more. In the meantime, there was grace for their wilderness, as God promised to meet the exiles there:

The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness
Israel, when I went to give him rest.”
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice[3]

The God of Love had no plans to forsake his children, for He had created Israel to love. God’s intended more than just the return of Israel to their land; God planned to return Israel to Himself. He had a new covenant in mind:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” [4]

“Know the Lord!” God’s delicious idea for His people was extravagant. God promised a covenant where His people would know Him personally; all would be considered sin-free in this arrangement. In that prison, Jeremiah must have wondered how God planned to secure this generous covenant and when this would happen.

From this side of history, we know how God established this new covenant;  Jesus Christ, God’s only beloved Son, died brutally on the cross, atoning for the sins of the world.

What could cause God to be so extravagant to a people who so plainly rejected him and His ways? He couldn’t help Himself. God created us to be loved.

Consider the joy of God’s plan, to write His ways on our hearts that we would be transformed into His kids through His Spirit. The chambers of the mercy are flung wide open, the new covenant beckoning all to experience the joy of His Big Idea, to know our God and be loved.

God’s new covenant is here, full of grace for every sorrow that would accost our day, that through Christ, we are adopted as His own kids. Sin prone, weary and blind, nevertheless, Love comes down with grace to our wilderness, a passionate Lover who never quits, leaves or forsakes.

dawnUnlike the exiles in Babylon, there is no need to wait through seven decades of misery before joy breaks upon our horizon. This very day, we can celebrate with thanksgiving our God’s determination to love us. Love comes down with grace, rest and peace beyond our understanding.

Let’s Pray: Holy Spirit, help us look up from our wilderness and see You coming with grace, as You give us  the deep rest of knowing Your love. We shout our thanks, declare our joy, rejoice in Your faithfulness, as we believe Your Word and delight to know You. O Father God Almighty, thank You for having a glorious plan for all of us. Thank you Jesus, that You chose to hang, bloody and bruised, on that wooden tree two thousand years ago and purchase our adoption. O Lord Jesus Christ, You are Love Came Down! You are beyond beautiful! You are worthy of every word, every act of praise! Holy Spirit bring your revelation of our Father’s love through Christ to us today.  Amen.

This Week’s Reading:  Jeremiah 21 -40

Next Week’s Reading:  Jeremiah 41- Lamentations 5

Study Questions:

  1. How do you see yourself in this story?  As a captive in Babylon, a slave in Judah, a daughter or son of God?  What does that look like on a Monday morning?
  2. Jeremiah was in rough shape when he was writing these words.  Check out his cry for vengeance in Chapter 18.  But still he penned incredible words of hope and mercy in Chapter 29.  How does your life impact what you share about your God?  Can you connect to both chapters?
  3. In your current situation, what season are you in?  Planting, reaping, exile, wilderness, embrace or battle?  How do you find the grace of God and His love in your circumstance?
  4. Moving forward is something all of us must learn to do.  How did God suggest the exiles keep moving forward?  What does hope have to do with shifting forward?
  5. The exiles must have been wrecked with grief in Babylon.  Why was worship crucial for the Jews?  Is is crucial in your life?

[1]The New King James Version. 1982 (Je 31:2-4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[2]The New King James Version. 1982 (Je 30:10-11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[3]The New King James Version. 1982 (Je 30:18-22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[4]The New King James Version. 1982 (Je 31:31-34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.