If you’ve ever read the Old Testament, you might know that the Israelites weren’t God’s shining example of perfect living. Sure, you have guys like Abraham and Moses, Joshua and Josiah, men who sought the Lord and desired to live for him, to have communion with him, and to remain faithful to his covenant with them. But most of the kings were real punks. The Israelites actually spent more time in exile, living outside of their land under the rule of another nation, than they did actually in possession of the Promised Land from God. Most often, their trips into exile were a direct result of disobedience and unfaithfulness as they worshipped other gods, embraced the worldly culture around them, and forsook the God who had rescued them and called them his own.
It’s quite depressing, really. I have spent the past 8 months reading through the Old Testament chronologically and over and over again, it’s heartbreaking. The books of 1 and 2 Kings is full of names and descriptions of the kings, summarized by statements like “and they did evil in the eyes of the Lord” or “They did not obey God nor keep his commandment”.
And then comes a passage like Jeremiah 31:2 – 3:
This is what the Lord says: “The people who survived the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Despite the Israelites’ unfaithfulness, disobedience, and worship of other gods, Yahweh remained the same. He continued to forgive, to offer his unfailing love and kindness. Their actions were not without ramifications and punishment. They suffered and struggled, faced persecution and oppression from greater nations. They revealed their storehouses of treasures to the Babylonians and, lo’ and behold, the Babylonians later raided those very storehouses.
And yet, and yet.
And while the above passage from Jeremiah 31 was indeed spoken to a specific group of people at a specific time, we know that God’s character never changes (Malachi 3:6, Psalm 33:11, James 1:17).
Therefore, the above promise is just as true for us today in 2016 as it was for the Israelites thousands of years ago.
God is gracious. He is steady and just. He is quick to forgive, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. He offers rest to those who seek him. And he promises, again and again, that if we seek him with our whole heart, he will be found.
He is the Prodigal God.
For the times we fail, for the times we stumble. For the times we worship at the altars of consumerism, of greed, of selfishness, of busyness and not rest. For the times we do not love our neighbor as ourselves, when we lash out at our spouses or children, when we are not slow to anger or quick to seek forgiveness. God’s love remains the same, a steadfast foundation of grace, rest, and forgiveness.
And He loves you, precious son and daughter of the Most High, with an everlasting love. He has drawn you with unfailing kindness. May you find rest and peace in that love today.
// What verse are you playing over and over in your head this morning?