Imagine with me a Hollywood perfect Valentine's Day. Breakfast in Bed. Roses. Dinner out. Dancing. And before bed a serenade, massage and chocolate. Swoon. Love. Amazing Love. However, in the next scene the lead in the story repeats wll the scenes with another partner. The image is wrecked. Why? Because love is worthless without faithfulness.
In her book, 31 verses to Write on Your Heart, Liz Curtis Higgs discusses this marriage of love and faithfulness in the verse Proverbs 3:3. "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart". Ms. Higgs writes that in other translations these pairings are loyalty and kindess, grace and truth, favor and firmness.
You have to have both. Love without faithfulness has no power. Faithfulness without love is dead. Grace outside of truth has no power. Truth without grace is crushing.
The entire book of Jeremiah is a nod to this idea. The justice of God and the mercy of God are ever entertwined.
Jeremiah was a priest whom God appointed as prophet to the people of Judah before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. The prophet speaks God's words of judgment to the nation for their worship of other gods, violence, treatment of the oppressed and their breaking of the covenant. Jeremiah also speaks words of judgment to the nations surrounding Israel who wish her harm. Like always, God also sends words of hope.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prohet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5 May I remind you that God knew you before you were born? That he loved you?
A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land; The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? Jeremiah 5:30-31 Oh how this verse scares me. May we be committed to both love and truth. Its such a temptation to write only the cheerful and happy truths and not be faithful to God's full message. Yikes. What will we do in the end? A prophet should cause people to pause. To ponder. To repent.
"Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush." Jeremiah 6:15a Ahem. Sound familiar? I laugh when people say the Bible has no bearing on today. Perhaps our society could use a little blushing now and then. A reminder to keep some things sacred?
The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have? Jeremiah 8:9 Good question. Its worth considering.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. The heart is decitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 18:7-9 There it is again the counter culture message. Don't trust your heart. Don't follow your hear. Don't listen to your heart! My guess is your heart is a mess. Mine sure is. Wandering and faithless and questioning and ungrateful. But you can lead your heart to the source. To the trustworthy One.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you see me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29: 11-13 Hope paired with trust. Hold to this verse in courtrooms and hospital rooms. It isn't a promise there will be no lawsuits or illness or heartache. Jeremiah knew hardship. He faced beatings and loneliness and prison. But he also knew the everlasting faithfulness of God.
Ah, Soverign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17 Nothing is too difficult for God. Not your past. Not your promblems. Not your doubts. Not your future. The key is turning to him for help not away from him in rebellion. Rebellion causes great heartache. The book of Jeremiah ends with the people hauled off to Babylon in captivity and their great city in ruins. Yet the promises remained. God would restore. Keep the book in context. The story isn't over.
Our storyline isn't over either. The incredible thing about God is he used his outstretched arm on a cross to make a way to heal the consequences of our unfaithfulness. That's a better love story than any Hollywood Valentine.
Jeremiah is a heavy book to take in it all in one sitting. If you want to try though, the guys at The Bible Project again serve up a good overview. Take the time to watch.
NewSpring church has a good list of devotionals to work through the book of Jeremiah. Read them HERE or check out their handy infographic below.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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