30 October – 5 November 2016.
All through the Book of Jeremiah we have listened to God’s announcements of destruction and punishment for Judah. Now at the end in chapter 49, we find prophecies about some of the other countries nearby. Interestingly, even though those countries worship other gods, and even though the prophecies speak of punishment, God still offers some personal messages of hope. God promises that he will restore the Ammonites. He gives his personal promise to the Edomites that he will protect and care for their orphans and widows. And Elam also gets a promise of future restoration. So if those foreign enemies of the Israelites can have hope, what about the Israelites?
At times in this book, things looked uncertain for the Israelites. God often spoke about refusing to take them back, and refusing to listen to their prayers. Jeremiah also encouraged the people to plan on staying in Babylon longterm, to settle down, and raise new families there. But as the years passed some of the people began to long to come home, and to return to God too.
In chapter 50, we see some beautiful images of this hope for future repentance by the people of Israel and Judah. In the past the people had rejected God and only pretended to be sorry. But in verse 4 we see the people really come back to God and repent in tears. After this true repentance, verse 5 looks forward to the day when the people will bind themselves to God. They will have an eternal relationship with God, and never forget God again. What a wonderful hope!
But that can be our goal too. Our lives and our hearts are influenced by sin, so it’s only natural that we too will turn away from God. As the Bible says, we are like sheep who wander away. Sometimes we do that on purpose. But most of the time we wander away from God without realizing it, getting distracted or led away by our work and worries. Then one day we look around us and find that we have left God far behind.
But when that happens, remember that it is never too late to come back to God. It is never too late to walk back into the welcoming arms of our Good Shepherd. Let’s do that today.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis