Have you known someone who repeatedly makes poor, harmful, or irresponsible choices? Those choices often have consequences for themselves and for their family and friends. Jeremiah and many of the other Old Testament prophets were prophesying to a nation that were making these types of choices daily. Not everyone worshiped and made sacrifices to idols, but the majority of the people in Judah in the year 587 BC were guilty of that or even worse – sacrificing their children to foreign gods.
The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done–they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. They set up their abominable idols in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin. Jeremiah 32:32-35 NIV
For hundreds of years prophets like Isaiah, Elijah, Amos, and Hosea had been telling both Israel and Judah to stop worshiping idols, to repent, and to return to worshiping the Lord Almighty with their whole heart and soul. There were periods of time when both the king and the people would return to God, but for the most part, the people refused to listen to God’s prophets and continued to “turn their backs to me [God] and not their faces” (Jeremiah 32:33a). The time is now imminent – God will judge Judah, God will discipline them for their disobedience.
“You are saying about this city, `By the sword, famine and plague it will be handed over to the king of Babylon’;…” Jeremiah 32:36a NIV
This is what would happen within the year. But God does not judge us, discipline us, and correct us simply to be mean, or it to Lord over us – no he has something else in mind. Let’s look at chapters 31 and 32 of Jeremiah – to see God’s end game vision.
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Jeremiah 31:31 NIV
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33
…but this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. Jeremiah 32:36b-38 NIV
The Babylonian captivity was how God disciplined Judah for their repeated sinfulness, unrepentant hearts and disobedience to His laws. But God also knew the captivity would come to an end, Jewish people would return to the land of Israel, and fields would be bought and sold again. God’s goal was to bring about their restoration, to bring them into a new covenant, to provide a way for the Jewish people and, in fact, to bring all people into relationship with God.
Have you ever gone through discipline or correction from God? Each of us is responsible to confess our sin and repent and return to God anew. Just as a father and mother discipline their children to correct their faulty thinking or behavior, our God does the same. Take a look at Hebrews 12:1-12 this week. Look for God’s heart and desire for us in His correction and discipline. Pray, confess, and thank God that He is faithful to both correct us and to fulfill his promises, in His timing.