At the conclusion of Jeremiah, the historical record grimly accounts how Babylon invaded Jerusalem, executed its leadership and burnt down the city. Yet in Lamentations, after recounting the brutal reality of Jerusalem’s siege, the agony of seeing children fainting in the street from starvation while the women wailed in grief, Jeremiah neverheless pens:
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him; Let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach. For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.
Despite his circumstances, Jeremiah knew the kindness of God. To strengthen himself in God, the prophet pastor remembered his God. Jeremiah recounted the goodness of God despite the trauma before his eyes. Faithful doesn’t budge. With faith and trust in God, Jeremiah reached up to cling to his Father and kept looking for the kindness of God that he had known all his life, certain help was imminent.
Jeremiah declared that with God, there is always hope. With God, faithfulness is a daily wake up experience, whether life is sweet or sore. Jeremiah knew from his prison experience, that patiently waiting in hopeful expectation was the only option, especially when circumstances overwhelm.
The prophet was in a difficult space. After years of warning Judah to repent and turn from their wicked idolatry, judgment came with the brutality of the Babylonian army. In the same spirit of ISIS today, the invaders raped the women, crucified the men, and forced the remaining poor into harsh labour. Starvation, rape and enslavement was daily reality with the Babylonian invasion. Solomon’s temple was razed to the ground. In the stench of decomposing bodies and smoldering homes, hope was dying quick. Jeremiah challenged his nation to remember the goodness of God, to remember their God did not change, despite their current experience.
As Jeremiah prophesied, seven decades later, Israel did return to its land. Cyrus, named by Isaiah 150 years before his birth, did release the Jewish exiles as king. With Zerrubabel leading the charge, Jews began life again in Judah, though the progress was very slow, and neighbouring rulers caused all kinds of pain. Seventy years later, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and with Ezra’s guidance, Israel was restored Israel back to God in holy covenant.
Centuries later, Jesus was born into a thriving Jewish culture, yet oppressed by Roman occupation. By the days of Jesus’ ministry, Jerusalem was a preeminent trade capital in the Middle-East. Herod, as political servant to Rome, ruled over Israel with harsh taxation, while the religious rulers corralled their people into harsh pens of legalism. Life was hard for Judah.
As Jesus ministered to the crowds, He offered a unique solution to His people:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Just as Jeremiah cried out, “Remember Your God! “ to the broken nation of Israel, so Jesus cried out, “Come To Me, and I will give you rest”. Here lies the secret to freedom in chains, joy in prisons, grace in places of dishonour: God helps us live inwardly in rest, a place of ease despite outward toil, when we push our raging emotions aside and choose Him.
Wherever you are, our God of faithful kindness offers you rest.
If like Jeremiah, you make the decision, despite stench and sorrow, to choose God as your only option, while your circumstances may not change, your countenance certainly will.
Since the beginning days in the wilderness, God has tried to teach His people the secret to rest. He required His priesthood to bless His people with this offer every chance they got:
The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
Perhaps like me, you are in process, learning how to build peace in the wilderness.
The God of the Universe calls you His. The Lord extends all His favour and blessing and virtue, like a loving Dad, just gazing with all His mercy at His kids, to give us peace.
Christ Jesus offers His followers a safe yoke of intimacy, His arm across our shoulder as He steers us through the fields of life. Today, may we reach past our heartache and reach for the Peacemaker, for strength beyond understanding.
Let’s Pray: Lord, lift our heads, that we may see past our present difficulties into Your eyes of love. Help us to search for the daily kindness You shower upon us, to live thankful lives, to delight in the yoke of intimacy which You have so graciously offered. Though sabers rattle, economics heave and the earth shakes, You are immovable, powerful, joyful and offer us much needed rest. Holy Spirit, help us to remember God’s mercies are new every morning! Faithful Father, as Your blessed children, forgive us when we live small lives, blind lives, with our hearts caught up in our constraints; lead us into the one hearted way of holy freedom. O God, we are blessed. We are loved! Draw us near to You as we lift up our thanks to You this day. Amen.
This Week’s Reading: Jeremiah 41 – Lamentations 5
Next Week’s Reading: Ezekiel 1-10
- 1000 Gifts is a powerful book and blog by Ann Voskamp, where she teaches the power and intimacy of living daily thankful. How do you live thankful daily?
- How did Jeremiah find kindness in the besieged city? He recounted God’s history. Today, begin a Kindness journal. Look for one kindness from God every day. Write it down, that you can arm yourself with a history worth remembering when the days are tough.
- Jeremiah knew our propensity to moan and complain in hard places. What does staying silent look like for you when things disappoint or blow apart at the seams?
- There is a place to lament with God. If you are suffering, talk to God. Share your broken heart. He is a good good Father. He wants to minister to your heartache.
The New King James Version. 1982 (La 3:22-36). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. 1982 (Mt 11:28-30). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. 1982 (Nu 6:24-27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.