July 11, 2021
"As for My servant, Jacob, do not be afraid – this is the Lord’s declaration – and do not be dismayed, Israel, for I will without fail save you from far away..."
“As for My servant, Jacob, do not be afraid – this is the Lord’s declaration – and do not be dismayed, Israel, for I will without fail save you from far away, your descendants from the land of their captivity! Jacob will return and have calm and quiet with no one to frighten him. For I will be with you – this is the Lord’s declaration – to save you! I will bring destruction on all the nations where I have scattered you; however, I will not bring destruction on you. I will discipline you justly, but I will by no means leave you unpunished.” Jeremiah 30:10-11
In many Orthodox Jewish homes, whenever a family member chooses to follow Jesus as Messiah, the family has a funeral for them. They tear their clothes, weep, and mourn the required amount of time. They do this because, to the ultra-religious, following Jesus is apostasy. They see a choice to follow Jesus as a choice against God and the Jewish community as a whole, so the community rejects them. This type of funeral communicates more than the death of a person; it signifies that they are dead and will not be seen in paradise. They are gone forever. It is meant to evoke shame in apostates.
This must have been the way the Israelites in Babylonian exile felt as if they had rejected following the Lord with their whole hearts by leaving the Jewish community in Jerusalem behind and were suffering the consequences of faithlessness. Many had supplemented proper worship with idolatry, while others completely forsook the Lord. Either way, God is looking for whole-heartedness. Lukewarm faith is not saving faith at all.
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
Today’s passage bears a message of hope. God is telling the descendants of Jacob that they are not cursed; their sin is not so great that there is no longer any means of salvation. If they would turn back to Him and obey His Word, God promised to restore His people to the land of Canaan. It was not their righteousness, which would trigger this restoration. Instead, Israel’s return would be by God’s Grace, through their faith in His Word.
“For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, the Messiah died for the ungodly. For it is rare for anyone to die for a righteous person, though somebody might be brave enough to die for a good person. But God demonstrates His love for us by the fact that Messiah died for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:6-8
That said, God’s Grace is seldom extended without His Mercy nearby! Grace is getting something you don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what you do deserve, to the extent that you deserve it! But mercy comes with pain to remind us not to sin that way again. Israel was not getting a free pass. God said His discipline was just, and “Jacob” would no longer avoid stern discipline. Still, compared to what the other nations underwent, Israel was shown God’s mercy. They were not completely destroyed. Let’s thank God for both His grace and mercy extended towards us through Messiah Jesus!