God Wants to Forgive.

Flee for safety, O people of Benjamin,
    from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
    and raise a signal on Beth-haccherem,
for disaster looms out of the north,
    and great destruction.
The lovely and delicately bred I will destroy,
    the daughter of Zion.
Shepherds with their flocks shall come against her;
    they shall pitch their tents around her;
    they shall pasture, each in his place.
“Prepare war against her;
    arise, and let us attack at noon!
Woe to us, for the day declines,
    for the shadows of evening lengthen!
Arise, and let us attack by night
    and destroy her palaces!”

For thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Cut down her trees;
    cast up a siege mound against Jerusalem.
This is the city that must be punished;
    there is nothing but oppression within her.
As a well keeps its water fresh,
    so she keeps fresh her evil;
violence and destruction are heard within her;
    sickness and wounds are ever before me.
Be warned, O Jerusalem,
    lest I turn from you in disgust,
lest I make you a desolation,
    an uninhabited land.”

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“They shall glean thoroughly as a vine
    the remnant of Israel;
like a grape gatherer pass your hand again
    over its branches.” Jeremiah 6:1-9 ESV

There are those who might find the book of Jeremiah a bit redundant and repetitive. After all, it does seem that God is belaboring the point regarding Judah’s sin. It would appear that by this time, the people of Judah would have gotten the message – loud and  clear. But the very fact that God continues to point out their sin and warn them of coming destruction unless they repent, is more a sign of God’s patience and an indicator of their stubbornness. He continues to point out the horrific nature of their sin and warns them of what is going to happen to them because of it. God takes no delight in this message. He finds no pleasure in describing the fate of His own chosen people. But He is brutally blunt in His call that they repent.

“Listen to this warning, Jerusalem,
    or I will turn from you in disgust.
Listen, or I will turn you into a heap of ruins,
    a land where no one lives.” – Jeremiah 6:8 NLT

God was serious. But the people of Judah were not taking Him seriously. Despite Jeremiah’s dire depictions of their coming destruction, they were making no efforts to change their ways. So, God was forced to up the ante and increase the intensity of His accusations and warnings. He calls out the people of the tribe of Benjamin and the citizens of the cities of Tekoa and Beth-hakkerem. The coming destruction was not going to be isolated to the city of Jerusalem. It was going to impact all those living in and around the southern nation of Judah. The Babylonians, when they came, would spare no one. No city, town or village would be safe. Because the sins of the people of Judah had not been restricted to the capital city. Sin was everywhere. The disobedience and unfaithfulness, like a contagious disease, had spread throughout the land. All were guilty.

And God lovingly describes Jerusalem as “my beautiful and delicate daughter” (Jeremiah 6:2 NLT). He was about to destroy the city and the people He loved. All because of sin. His holiness and justice demanded it. He could no longer overlook it. While He loved the people of Judah, His justice required that the sins of His people be punished. Their failure to repent was going to bring His wrath down on them. But He continued to warn. He kept sending Jeremiah back to them with further messages of coming judgment.

He tells them that He loves them, but that He will destroy them. They are not immune to His judgment. They can’t just live in unfaithfulness to Him and expect to get away with it. He is God. He is holy. He is obligated by His very nature to deal with sin, which is nothing less than open rebellion against His sovereignty. Where once there were shepherds and their peaceful flocks camped outside the city walls, there would now be Babylonians troops bent on destruction. And they would be so anxious to pillage the city, that they would fight well into the night. They would cut down all the trees surrounding the city to build their siege engines and ramparts. The devastation would be great. And the fall of Jerusalem would be complete. God even describes the Babylonians as a grape harvester who makes another trip through the vineyard to make sure he left no fruit on the vines. The Babylonians would be excrutiatingly thorough in their pillaging of the city. Nothing would be left. No treasures would be overlooked. The city would be stripped clean. All because of sin.

It would be easy to read these passages and focus on what appears to be the unchecked wrath of God. But the thing that should grab our attention is the devastating effect of sin. God hates it, and for a very good reason. It is like a cancer that spreads through the human body. It is destructive and has no redeeming qualities about it. It brings no worth or value with it. It grows and spreads, but adds nothing to the body that will bring life. Sin brings nothing but death, because it separates man from God. But like the people of Judah, we can grow comfortable with our own sin. We can become complacent and completely at peace with life-threatening, joy-stealing, peace-shattering presence of sin in our lives. But God hates it. And He is out to eliminate and eradicate it. He cannot and will not tolerate it. And when He points it out in our lives, we should thank Him for exposing the very thing that brings death, so that we might enjoy the life He has promised us. God prefers repentance over punishment. He longs to see His children return to Him in brokenness and contrition. He loves to forgive and restore.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson