I’ve been posting a lot this year about the love of God because it seems as if Christians, even those who have served God for years, are so keenly aware of our own shortcomings and failures that we imagine God is disappointed in us. Sometimes we feel that this disappointment is so great He eventually will throw up His hands in disgust and turn His back on us. We read those judgment verses in the Old Testament and fear that God’s wrath is going to be poured out on us because we just couldn’t get our act together in our Christian life.
And then we read Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV) and wonder why the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament seem so different; we don’t understand how God’s love and His wrath fit together.
I’m reading through Jeremiah right now, and there are a lot of those wrath and judgment verses; but what I notice is that God is sending a message of warning and a call to repentance to those who ignore and disregard Him, not those who love and serve Him. It’s been approximately 850 years since God delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage in response to the covenant He made with Abraham, a man who followed and worshipped God in a land and time where God-worshippers were hard to find.
God delivered Abraham's descendants, protected them, provided for them, demonstrated His faithfulness time and time again, and gave them a code of living that taught them how to be in relationship with Him and with their fellow man. He displayed His love, grace and mercy and poured out blessing on Israel, but though there were individuals who loved and served Him and tried to faithfully follow Him, the nation as a whole continually turned away from Him to seek their own way, to seek other gods, to blend in with the society around them, to practice lifestyles that eventually led to their own destruction.
Sometimes the nation tried to hang onto their favored nation status as “God’s Chosen People” by continuing to “worship” God while ADDING the worship of other gods to their lives. We see this in Ezekiel 8 when they set up images of other gods in the Temple of the One True and Living God. I imagine their thinking went this way, “Let’s have all our gods in one place so people can choose to worship whichever god they feel will best serve them.” Whoa.
Through all of these 850 years the Lord continued to call to them, express His love for them, demonstrate His faithfulness. Finally, Jeremiah records this message from God: There’s an enemy coming who wants to destroy you. If you repent of your sin and follow me, I will continue to bless you, provide for you and dwell with you, but if you do not repent and turn to me, “disaster you cannot escape” will come upon you (11:7-11). The nation of Israel ignored this message just as many people who hear this message today ignore it. Disaster did come upon Israel. The northern kingdom of Israel was invaded by the Assyrian army and completely destroyed. The southern kingdom of Judah, who had broken off from Israel years earlier, was later invaded by the Babylonian army who destroyed everything of value and carried off her citizens to a land 900 miles away. All because the people rejected the offer of a relationship with the faithful God of holy love.
“Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when He led you in the way?” (2:17).
This is how we understand these 2 aspects of God’s character, His love and His judgment. Through *Jesus Christ God offers His love freely to everyone, often showering even those who don’t yet believe with His grace, mercy, and blessing. He knows that His desires for our lives are what will bring us the greatest joy and blessing. He knows we find true treasure when we experience a daily walk with Him. But for those who continually say, “I’m not interested,” He will eventually allow them to have what they’ve asked for – a life without Him.
Many of God’s people have been praying faithfully for a revival in the hearts of God’s people and a spiritual awakening in the hearts of those who do not yet follow Him. We see so many parallels between the United States and the Israel of the Old Testament. America has been a blessed nation for a very long time, but in many areas of our culture evil is rampant. We fear for those who continue to reject Him, and His message to them is still the same: There’s an enemy who wants to destroy you. If you repent of your sin and follow me, I will continue to bless you, provide for you and dwell with you, but if you do not repent and turn to me, “disaster you cannot escape” will come upon you (11:7-11).
I read somewhere that there are approximately 8,810 promises in the Bible! Here are two of God’s promises to His followers: “I will never leave your nor forsake you … Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5, 9; Hebrews 13:5). And “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). This is the life we want others to know – a relationship with the God who loves us and promises His constant presence with us. This is what we pray for when we pray for Revival. We pray that people would know God. We pray for others and testify about God’s goodness so they will see what they’re missing, repent of ignoring and disregarding God, and embrace the One who is waiting for them with outstretched arms.
*In my next post: a simple explanation about how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and His offer of salvation fit in with the Old Testament story of God and God’s people.
Beth Marie Bearden gave her heart to Christ when she was a young teenager and soon after felt God calling her to ministry.