If You Love Me…

15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” – John 14:15-21 ESV

Jesus has been discussing some significant issues with His disciples. As the day for His crucifixion drew closer, He had begun intensifying His efforts to prepare these men for His departure. He wanted them to know what was coming. Jesus knew that His words would make no sense to His disciples, because they were still living with their own concept of who He was and why He had come. To them, He was still the long-awaited Messiah who had come to set up His kingdom on earth. Any hope they had of Israel being restored to prominence and the Romans being removed from power was tied to their concept of Jesus as Messiah.

But everything Jesus was saying and doing in these last days was creating confusion and concern among them. At supper, Jesus had surprised them by assuming the role of a household servant and washing their feet. And He followed this shocking display of humility with the words: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15 ESV).

His call to follow His example was accompanied by the reminder that “a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16 ESV). If He, as their rabbi, teacher, and Messiah, had been willing to humble Himself and serve them, what right did they have to see themselves as somehow exempt from such lowly service? Jesus was sharing important truths with His disciples that He fully expected them to hear and obey.

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” – John 13:17 ESV

Immediately after this exchange, Jesus had revealed that one of them would betray Him. And Judas, having been exposed by the Lord, had left the upper room to follow through with his prearranged plans to turn over Jesus to the religious leaders.

Jesus, knowing that His Father’s divine plan was in full motion and the time for His death was drawing near, told His remaining disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

Jesus seems to have picked an odd time to discuss this particular topic. He had just told them that His remaining time with them would be short. He would soon be leaving them, and they would be unable to accompany Him to His destination. This shocked and saddened them, and prompted Peter to ask where it was that Jesus was going. And Jesus informed him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward” (John 13:36 ESV). Peter, always quick to speak his mind, declared that not only was he willing to follow Jesus, but he was also ready to lay down his life for Him. But Jesus prophesied that Peter, rather than dying for Him, would actually deny Him, three times.

Do you see a pattern here? Jesus was talking about the future, while the disciples were stuck in the present. They couldn’t see past the moment in which they lived, and yet Jesus was thinking about the glory to come. That’s why He had told them, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once” (John 13:31-32 ESV).

Jesus had been sent by His Father to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind and to make it possible for the justly condemned to be released from their condemnation and restored to a right relationship with Himself. But not only that, Jesus’ act of sacrificial obedience was going make it possible for unrighteous men and women to live truly righteous lives. No pretense. No pretending. No hypocritical displays of self-righteousness. What Jesus was about to do was going to be a game-changer. Better yet, it was going to be a life-changer for His disciples.

It is essential that we understand the timing of Jesus’ words. Everything recorded in this portion of John’s gospel is prior to the cross and long before the resurrection. Jesus was speaking of things to come. And while the news He was sharing sounded grim to His disciples, He encouraged them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 ESV). Jesus knew that they were struggling with disbelief and doubt. None of what He was saying made any sense to them. But He called them to believe. He assured them that He was going to prepare a place for them and that one day He would return for them. But Thomas, speaking on behalf of the other disciples, expressed his confusion over where it was that Jesus was going. They didn’t know the way. So, Jesus told him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). 

Notice what Jesus is doing here. Thomas was asking about directions to a destination. and Jesus pointed Him to God. Thomas was focused on a point on a map, but Jesus was pointing Him to a relationship. Thomas couldn’t stop thinking about where, but Jesus was attempting to shift their focus to who. And Jesus reveals a powerful truth concerning these men who had followed Him for more than three years.

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” – John 14:7 ESV

They had seen Jesus perform miracles. They had heard Him speak, marveling at His wisdom and wrestling over the meaning of His parables. But Jesus reveals that they had not yet understood His relationship with the Father. While at one point Peter had confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV), he had not fully understood the weight of his own words. He had seen Jesus as a messenger from God, even as the long-awaited Christ or Messiah, but he had not understood Jesus to be the one who would reconcile sinful men to God. Peter and the disciples had not yet grasped the true nature of Jesus’ earthly ministry. But in time, they would.

Jesus was going out of His way to help the disciples understand His relationship with the Father. He asked them, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:10 ESV). Jesus was trying to convey to them the unity He enjoyed with God. His coming had not been about establishing an earthly kingdom, but about re-establishing man’s broken relationship with God. And He wanted them to understand that He was the key to that reconciliation taking place.

“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me…” – John 14:11 ESV

It was His union with the Father that was going to make possible mankind’s reunion with their Creator. The disciples were still under the impression that their relationship with God was perfectly fine. But Jesus was revealing that His whole earthly ministry had been about the reconciliation of sinful men with a holy God.

And that brings us to chapter 14. Look carefully and closely at Jesus words. Consider all that He has communicated to His disciples up to this point. And then think about the import of His statement: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

What a punch to the gut that must have been to His disciples. It had to have sounded like He was questioning their love for Him. And it must have come across to them as if He was tying their love for Him to their obedience to Him. In other words, their behavior, as evidenced by their obedience, would the proof of their love. And sadly, that is how most of still interpret Jesus’ words. We hear Jesus saying that our obedience to His commands will prove that we love Him. And our disobedience will demonstrate that we don’t. But is that what Jesus is saying?

Jesus was letting His disciples know that the kind of obedience He was looking for was beyond their capability to pull off. They didn’t have it within them. But they soon would. Because He was going to provide them with the capacity to love and obey. Don’t miss how Jesus follows up His question, “If you love me…”

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17 ESV

Their ability to love God had been marred by sin. Their capacity to obey God had been damaged by the fall. And Jesus had come to remedy that problem. His death was going to be the ultimate display of God’s love for sinful mankind and His selfless sacrifice would be the key for men being able to love in return. Take a look at the words of John, written long after Jesus’ death and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. – 1 John 2:3-6 NLT

Don’t miss what John says: “In him (the one who keeps God’s commandments) truly the love of God is perfected.” It is God’s love for us that allows us to obey. It is God’s love, as displayed in His Son’s sacrificial death, that made it possible for sinful men and women to be transformed into loving, caring children of God, who not only have the capacity to love Him, but one another. And to live in willful obedience to His commands.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:2-3 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



Everyone Is Godless.

The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
    and it will fall on Israel;
and all the people will know,
    Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
    who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen,
    but we will build with dressed stones;
the sycamores have been cut down,
    but we will put cedars in their place.”
11 But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,
    and stirs up his enemies.
12 The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west
    devour Israel with open mouth.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still.

13 The people did not turn to him who struck them,
    nor inquire of the Lord of hosts.
14 So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail,
    palm branch and reed in one day—
15 the elder and honored man is the head,
    and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
16 for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,
    and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.
17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,
    and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;
for everyone is godless and an evildoer,
    and every mouth speaks folly.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still.Isaiah 9:8-17 ESV

Isaiah has just prophesied about the light that would dawn, illuminating the lands of Naphtali and Zebulun in the northern region of Galilee, and eliminating the spiritual darkness in which they would exist. But that great day was in the far-distant future. In the meantime, the darkness would continue to increase because the people of God were refusing to honor Him. It was going to get far worse before it got better.

Isaiah makes it clear that God’s anger is against all the tribes by referring to them as Jacob, the man who 12 sons comprised the 12 tribes of Israel. But this particular warning was going to be against the ten tribes that made up the northern kingdom of Israel. It is important to remember that the nation of Israel had been split in two by God after the reign of Solomon. His unfaithfulness to God, exhibited in his erection of idols to false gods, had led God to divide his kingdom in half. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin comprised the southern kingdom of Judah, and the remaining tribes became the northern kingdom of Israel. And not long after the split, Jeroboam, the king of Israel had chosen to make his own false gods in the form of golden calves and erect them in the cities of Dan and Bethel.

Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. – 1 Kings 12:30 ESV

The apostasy of Israel increased over time, and led to God’s eventual determination to punish them. And Isaiah warns them that they must repent or face the wrath of God.

But their greatest problem was their pride and arrogance, which had led them to create their own gods. They didn’t need Yahweh. Instead of relying on Him for help, they had made alliances with pagan nations like Syria. They were operating in their own power and according to their own wisdom. And they displayed an over-confidence in their ability to survive even the judgment of God.

“We will replace the broken bricks of our ruins with finished stone,
    and replant the felled sycamore-fig trees with cedars.”
 – Isaiah 9:10 NLT

Their prideful confidence in their own abilities would bring ever-increasing judgment from God. They would find themselves surrounded by enemies, sent by God, to punish them for their rejection of Him as their God.

The Syrians from the east and the Philistines from the west
    will bare their fangs and devour Israel.
But even then the Lord’s anger will not be satisfied.
    His fist is still poised to strike. – Isaiah 9:12 NLT

And here is the saddest part of the story. In spite of God’s fully justified punishment of them, they will refuse to repent. They will stubbornly stick to their rebellious ways, continuing to reject God, the very one who had called them and formed them into a nation to begin with.

For after all this punishment, the people will still not repent.
    They will not seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. – Isaiah 9:13 NLT

This incredible display of stubborn obstinance should not surprise us. It is displayed throughout the Scriptures, as mankind continually bows its back and digs its feet in the ground, arrogantly stiff-arming any offer from God of a relationship with Him. What makes this case so remarkable is that it involves the people of God, the descendants of Abraham – the very ones God had promised to bless if they would only remain faithful to Him.

But they had refused and, as a result, God was going to take His judgment to a whole new level, removing those in whom they relied for leadership.

Therefore, in a single day the Lord will destroy both the head and the tail,
    the noble palm branch and the lowly reed.
The leaders of Israel are the head,
    and the lying prophets are the tail. – Isaiah 9:14-15 NLT

Isaiah points out two distinct groups: The leaders of Israel and the prophets of Israel. The political leaders were misguiding the people by encouraging an attitude of self-reliance. Rather than calling the people to turn to God, they were modeling a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mindset that was based on a false sense of self-confidence.

And the prophets of Israel, rather than speaking the truth of God, were telling the people what they wanted to hear. Unlike Isaiah, who was willing to deliver tough news, these men were contradicting the warnings of God, telling the people that all was well and everything would turn out okay. The apostle Paul warned Timothy of the rise of this very kind of mindset in their own day.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. – 2 Timothy 4:3 NLT

Trusting in man rather than God is always a dangerous game to play and the Scriptures make that point very clear.

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. – Psalm 146:3 NLT

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. – Psalm 118:8-9 NLT

And the leaders of Israel were going to be hold accountable by God for their actions.

For the leaders of the people have misled them.
    They have led them down the path of destruction.
– Isaiah 9:16 NLT

The problem with lousy leadership is that it negatively impacts the lives of all those under its care. The misguided leader ends up dragging the innocent and the defenseless down the perilous path he has chosen to walk. The misguided leaders of Israel had actually led the people under their care to sin against God. To the point to where Isaiah was able to say: “For they are all wicked hypocrites, and they all speak foolishness” (Isaiah 9:17 NLT). Like a single cancer cell, one godless leader can infect the people of God, spreading the devastating disease of rebellion through the whole body and bringing the judgment of God to bear. And like a physician facing an aggressive form of cancer in a patient, God will do whatever He has to do to eradicate the disease from among His people.

…even then the Lord’s anger will not be satisfied.
    His fist is still poised to strike. – Isaiah 9:17 NLT

This image of an angry, wrathful God is uncomfortable to most of us. It seems to contradict our understanding of His ever-present, irrepressible love. But the reality is that God’s wrath is an expression of His love. He cannot and will not allow the deadly disease of rebellion to exist in His people. He will talk the scalpel of His divine wrath, motivated by His love, and do radical and invasive surgery to remove it.

For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. – Proverb 3:12 NLT

For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. – Hebrews 12:6 NLT

I know, O LORD, that your regulations are fair; you disciplined me because I needed it.
 – Psalm 119:75 NLT

Though he slay me, I will hope in him… – Job 13:15 ESV

Remember what Isaiah said just prior to this statement regarding God’s coming judgment. A light was going to shine in the darkness. A day was coming when God would illuminate the people of Israel again and eliminate the darkness in which they lived. They had chosen to live in the dark. They had rejected the love of God. And while He would be forced to judge them for their rebellion, He would one day bring to them the light of the world in the form of His Son.

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

Love Like God.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? – Matthew 5:43-47 ESV

Jesus has just finished addressing His listeners’ wrong perspective regarding the “law of retaliation” or lex talionis. The law, as they understood it, said “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” In other words, it gave permission to seek retaliation against an enemy as long as it was equal in weight. But Jesus gave them a whole new interpretation of that law, saying, “Do not resist the one who is evil” (Matthew 5:39 ESV). And He follows up His counsel to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile with something even more shocking. He tells them to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. Jesus is attempting to move their emphasis off of retaliation and on to love and reconciliation. But not just toward their friends and neighbors.

Once again, Jesus clarifies what was a wrong perception on their part regarding the law of God. And it is essential that we know what the law actually said. The specific law regarding love of your neighbor is found in the book of Leviticus.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:18-19 ESV

Notice that there is no mention of hating your enemy in this passage. And also notice that the law prohibited hatred for a brother and clarified that hatred emanated from the heart. Hatred wasn’t necessarily a visible action, but was most certainly an inward attitude, and its source was the heart. Yet the Jews had somehow taken this law and added to it an addendum that prescribed hatred for their enemies. Where the law was silent, they gave it a voice, and one that was loudly and vociferously hateful to all those who didn’t meet their definition of neighbor. Because, as far as they could tell, the law only required them to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

In their simplistic way of looking at things, they believed this law taught that love has its limits. The kind of love it demanded was reserved for neighbors, not enemies.  Enemies were unworthy of our love. But as He has done so many time already in this message, Jesus dismantles their false arguments and replaces it with the reality of what God was demanding when He gave this law. Jesus was trying to get them to understand that godly love knows no bounds. The law of God provided no place for partiality or personal preferences regarding who your neighbor might be.

This passage brings to mind a story that Jesus would later tell to an expert in the religious laws of the Jews. Luke records it for us in his gospel.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? – Luke 10:25-29 NLT

The man’s question to Jesus had to do with eternal life. More specifically, he was asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He was wanting Jesus to tell him what actions he must take to be approved by God. And, as Jesus was so often prone to do, He answered the man’s question with a question. He asked the expert in religious law what he thought the law of Moses actually taught. And the man answered by quoting from part of the Shema, the morning and evening prayer recited by all faithful Jews.

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  – Luke 10:27 ESV

And while Jesus affirmed that the man’s answer was correct, He also told him that it would require living it out in real life. So the man asked Jesus the next logical question, “And who is my neighbor?” What do you think this expert in the religious laws of the Jews expected Jesus to say? He was looking for Jesus to agree with his understanding of of the word, “neighbor.” But instead of answering the man’s question, Jesus told him a story.

A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On his way, he was attacked by robbers and left for dead. In the course of the day, three men saw him lying on the roadside. A Jewish priest came by, but crossed to the other side of the road. Next, a temple assistant, another Jew, saw the man, stopped to look at him, but left him there. Finally, a Samaritan, a non-Jew, saw the man, and stopped to offer him aid. Not only that, he paid to provide for the man’s ongoing care until he could get back on his feet.

After telling His story, Jesus asked the expert in the law, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” (Luke 10:36 NLT). And the man responded, “The one who showed him mercy.” And, once again, Jesus affirmed that the man had answered correctly, but told him, “now go and do the same.”

What makes Jesus’ story so compelling is that it presents a Samaritan as the hero. Samaritans and Jews hated one another. Samaritans were considered half-breeds by the Jews. They were the descendants of Jews who had been left behind when the Babylonians had conquered Judah and taken tens of thousands into captivity in Babylon. Many of those who were left intermarried with the pagan nations. The Samaritans were looked down on by the Jews and were often referred to as dogs. They were enemies of the Jews. But in Jesus’ story, it was the Samaritan who showed mercy and love to a Jew. He treated him as he would a neighbor, or fellow Samaritan. But the two Jews in the story refused to do anything to assist their fellow Jew.

So what does this story have to do with what Jesus had to say that day on the hillside in Galilee? In essence, Jesus was telling the Jews in His audience that they don’t get to choose who they love and hate. He was presenting a new paradigm, a new way of life, in which those who are approved by God will love in the same manner and with the same intensity as they had been loved by God. And the apostle Paul reminds us of just how great God’s love really is:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – Romans 5:8 NLT

And he tells us we are to imitate God, following the example of love He provided through His Son’s sacrificial death on the cross.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT

And Jesus takes this kind of love one step further, encouraging his listeners to pray for those who might persecute them. The natural human response would be to curse them and ask God to bring down hurt and heartache on them. But Jesus says, don’t curse them, don’t wish ill on them and don’t seek revenge against them. And Paul would pick up on Jesus’ strange-sounding counsel, telling the believers living in pagan Rome:

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. – Romans 12:14 NLT

Peter would also echo the words of Jesus:

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. – 1 Peter 3:9 NLT

It would be natural to ask Jesus, “Why?” What purpose is there in loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us? What possible good could come out of living and loving like that? And Jesus gives us the answer.

…so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven… – vs 45

This takes us back to verse 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” 

Those who are blessed or approved by God will emulate Him. They will reflect His character. They will love like He loves. God is indiscriminate is His goodness, “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45 NLT). He shows His love even to those who hate Him. He bestows His blessings on those who curse Him. He sent His Son to die for all who had rebelled against Him. Jesus Himself, while hanging on the cross, was able to pray, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT). And while He prayed that prayer, the Roman soldiers who nailed His hands and feet to the cross gambled over His clothes right beneath Him.

The love Jesus came to reveal was not a reciprocal kind of love. To love those who love you in return is an insufficient, earthly love. It is a selfish, what’s-in-it-for-me kind of love. But Jesus would later say, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). And Paul would clarify that even our friends are undeserving of the kind of love to which Jesus is referring.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8 NLT

Jesus is calling for a love that emulates the love of God Himself. It is a selfless kind of love. It is a non-discriminatory kind of love. It is not based on the loveliness or lovableness of the other person. We are called to love as we have been loved by God. And our love is not to be reciprocal in nature, but redemptive. Our goal is restoration and reconciliation, not so much with us, but between our enemy and God.

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

Hope For Your Future.

Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
    she refuses to be comforted for her children,
    because they are no more.”

Thus says the Lord:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
    and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the Lord,
    and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your future,
declares the Lord,
    and your children shall come back to their own country.
I have heard Ephraim grieving,
‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined,
    like an untrained calf;
bring me back that I may be restored,
    for you are the Lord my God.
For after I had turned away, I relented,
    and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh;
I was ashamed, and I was confounded,
    because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
Is Ephraim my dear son?
    Is he my darling child?
For as often as I speak against him,
    I do remember him still.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
    I will surely have mercy on him,
declares the Lord.

“Set up road markers for yourself;
    make yourself guideposts;
consider well the highway,
    the road by which you went.
Return, O virgin Israel,
    return to these your cities.
How long will you waver,
    O faithless daughter?
For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth:
    a woman encircles a man.”  Jeremiah 31:15-22 ESV

Rachel, the wife of Jacob, is pictured as weeping for her children. She was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. This was in spite of the fact that she had been barren. And in her frustration over her barrenness, she had demanded of Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” (Genesis 30:1 ESV). And Jacob responded in exasperation and anger, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (Genesis 30:2 ESV). But God gave her a son and she named him Joseph, saying “God has taken away my reproach” (Genesis 30:22 ESV). But she was not satisfied. She wanted more. “May the Lord add to me another son!” (Genesis 30:23 ESV). And God would grant her wish. She gave birth to Benjamin some years later, but would die in childbirth. Jacob would bury her and the town of Ramah is recognized as the location of her tomb.

Rachel would become the grandmother of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons born to Joseph in Egypt. Their descendants would become two of the major tribes in northern Israel. So this imagery of Rachel weeping for her children is a metaphor for the sorrow associated with the defeat and deportation of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians. The image of a mother weeping over her lost children is a powerful one. It portrays a deep sorrow and a inconsolable sadness that nothing can assuage. But God speaks into this situation of deep despair, saying:

“Do not weep any longer,
    for I will reward you,” says the Lord.
“Your children will come back to you
    from the distant land of the enemy. – Jeremiah 31:16 NLT

He is going to reward her. For what? In the Hebrew, the reward or wage is tied to Rachel’s work. Her weeping is seen as a form of effort being expended on behalf of her lost children. It is a picture of repentance and remorse over their fate. And God says that He is going to reward her for her efforts. And that reward will be in the form of hope in the midst of her helplessness and sorrow.

“There is hope for your future,” says the Lord.
    “Your children will come again to their own land.” – Jeremiah 31:17 NLT

A woman’s posterity was wrapped up in the lives of her children. Remember, Rachel had been barren at one time, and God had blessed her with two sons. But now, she is pictured as having lost all that was important to her: Her grandchildren and her future. But God provides assurance that her children, once lost, would be found and returned to the land.

The prophet, Hosea, paints a sad picture of how Ephraim and Manasseh ended up in Assyria.

“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
    I took them up by their arms,
    but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness,
    with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
    and I bent down to them and fed them.

They shall not return to the land of Egypt,
    but Assyria shall be their king,
    because they have refused to return to me.
The sword shall rage against their cities,
    consume the bars of their gates,
    and devour them because of their own counsels.
My people are bent on turning away from me,
    and though they call out to the Most High,
    he shall not raise them up at all.” – Hosea 11:3-7 ESV

But Jeremiah provides an encouraging counterpoint to Hosea’s prophecy. He records the words of God saying, “I have heard Ephraim grieving” (Jeremiah 31:18 ESV). The exiled Israelites are pictured as calling out to God in sorrow and repentance, crying, “bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God” (Jeremiah 31:18 ESV). And God responds with words of grace and mercy. “Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:20 ESV).

God promises to bring Israel back to the promised land, but more importantly, back to Himself. And He tells them to mark the path they took to get to Assyria. It would be by that same path that they would return. They would be required to reverse the direction of their previous journey, illustrating their repentance and return to God.

“Set up road markers for yourself;
    make yourself guideposts;
consider well the highway,
    the road by which you went.
Return, O virgin Israel,
    return to these your cities. – Jeremiah 31:21 ESV

This brings to mind another mention of paths and highways mentioned earlier in the book of Jeremiah.

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” – Jeremiah 6:16 ESV

The people of Judah, the southern kingdom, had refused to walk the way of God. They had chosen disobedience over obedience. They had wandered from the ways of God, choosing to follow the ways of the world, pursuing false gods and seeking pleasure in those things forbidden by God. But God was going to bring them back. They would one day walk in the right direction, headed back to God rather than away from Him. He would return them to the land, but it would be their return to Yahweh that made the difference.

In verse, God shifts the imagery from that of a son to a daughter. He speaks to Israel as a faithless and adulterous daughter. Throughout the writings of the prophets, you see references to Israel’s spiritual adultery. The Hebrew word for apostasy is the same word used to describe an adulterous wife. Israel had prostituted herself with all the false gods of the lands around her. But now God calls His wandering bride back:

“Return, O virgin Israel,
    return to these your cities.
How long will you waver,
    O faithless daughter?” – Jeremiah 31:21-22 ESV

He refers to Israel as a virgin, cleansed and purified from her sins. Her adultery would be forgiven. Her spiritual defilement would be removed. And then God makes a rather enigmatic statement: “For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man” (Jeremiah 31:22 ESV). This is a difficult verse to understand and there have been a lot of different opinions over the years as to its exact meaning. But if we consider the context, it would seem that God is referring to an adulterous wife who returns to her husband. The Hebrew word that is translated as “encircles” in the ESV is cabab and it has a range of meanings, including “to turn towards, change direction, return”. It would seem that the “new thing” to which God is referring is an adulterous woman returning to her husband. That would have been a rare occurrence in those days. In fact, for a man to take back his adulterous wife would have, according to the Mosaic law, made him an adulterer as well. In the book of Hosea, we have recorded the real-life story of Hosea, whose wife committed adultery on numerous occasions. But God commanded Hosea to take her back.

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” – Hosea 3:1 ESV

And that unlikely act of a husband taking back his adulterous wife was to be a real-life example of what God was going to do with the nation of Israel.

“For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.” – Hosea 3:4-5 ESV

Wayward Israel would return to God. The adulterous wife would return to her faithful husband. It would be out-of-the-ordinary. It would unprecedented and unheard of. It would be a new thing on the earth. God would make the impossible and improbable happen. He would provide hope for the future when there was none. He would provide restoration when condemnation seemed to be the only option. He would show forgiveness where none was warranted. He would show mercy when none was deserved. Because He is faithful and His love is everlasting.

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≠≠

The Fear of Losing Focus.

O Lord, you have deceived me,
    and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
    and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
    everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out,
    I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me
    a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.
For I hear many whispering.
    Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
    say all my close friends,
    watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
    then we can overcome him
    and take our revenge on him.”
But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
    therefore my persecutors will stumble;
    they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
    for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
    will never be forgotten.
O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous,
    who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
    for to you have I committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord;
    praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
    from the hand of evildoers.

Cursed be the day
    on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
    let it not be blessed!
Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
“A son is born to you,”
    making him very glad.
Let that man be like the cities
    that the Lord overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
    and an alarm at noon,
because he did not kill me in the womb;
    so my mother would have been my grave,
    and her womb forever great.
Why did I come out from the womb
    to see toil and sorrow,
    and spend my days in shame? Jeremiah 20:7-18 ESV

This particular section of chapter 20 reflects a kind of spiritual schizophrenia that Jeremiah was undergoing. In just a few short verses he goes from accusing God of deceiving him to praising God for delivering him. Then he goes back to the emotional low point of wishing he had never been born. This reflects a man under extreme pressure. He is stressed out. His emotional battery is running is dangerously low and the daily responsibilities of his life as a prophet of God are catching up with him. He faces constant mocking from the people. They view him as a laughing stock and nobody takes him seriously. So, part of Jeremiah wants to just keep his mouth shut and give up his duties as a prophet. He feels a strong desire to never mention the name of the Lord again. But that feeling gets overwhelmed by an even greater, more pressing sense of responsibility and accountability. He describes it as “a fire in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9 NLT). His God-given job is too much to bear, but it’s also impossible to walk away from. And when Jeremiah attempts to ignore the role God has given him, he finds it impossible and states, “I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it” (Jeremiah 20:9 NLT).

One part of him wants to give up. But another part of him can’t help but continue to speak up, despite the fact that he is losing friends left and right. Everyone wants him to fail. Nobody wants him to be right. Because if he is right, then they are all in trouble. His accusations of sin and pending judgment are not anything anybody wants to hear. But he knows in his heart that this is the word of God and it must be shared. It is the truth and it cannot be ignored, even if it is costly. Stuck on this emotional roller coaster, Jeremiah does the only thing he can do: Call out to God. He expresses his feelings to God. He shares his frustrations, but he also conveys his trust in God. He refers to God as his dread warrior.

But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior.
    Before him my persecutors will stumble.
    They cannot defeat me.
They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated.
    Their dishonor will never be forgotten. – Jeremiah 20:11 NLT

Even though Jeremiah is despondent and frustrated with his lot in life, he knows he can turn to God. In a way, Jeremiah is simply reminding himself that his God can be relied upon. In spite of the circumstances of his life and his feelings of abandonment and failure, he keeps rehearsing his long-held beliefs about God.

O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
you test those who are righteous,
    and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets.
Let me see your vengeance against them,
    for I have committed my cause to you. – Jeremiah 20:12 NLT

Jeremiah was practicing a bit of self-motivation, but based on the character of God. His God was the warrior, the Lord of Hosts. His God was all-knowing and all-seeing. His God was fully capable of seeing into the hearts of men, including Jeremiah’s, and determining who was right and who was wrong. Based on that knowledge, God would do the right thing. Of that, Jeremiah was confident. Well, as confident as any human being can be. Jeremiah was just a man and susceptible to the doubts and fears we all face. But he knew the key to overcoming his despair and despondency was concentrating his thoughts on the character and nature of God. So he reminds himself:

Sing to the Lord!
    Praise the Lord!
For though I was poor and needy,
    he rescued me from my oppressors. – Jeremiah 20:13 NLT

He speaks in the future tense, as if God’s deliverance of him has already taken place. He is still in the same spot he was in before. Nothing has really changed about his circumstances. But he is attempting to change his perspective, by focusing on what he knows and believes about God. The key to overcoming our times of despair is not always immediate deliverance by God, but increasing reliance and trust in God. The reality of Jeremiah’s less-than-pleasant situation was going to have to be replaced by what he knew to be true about God. The apostle Paul had a similar expectation regarding God and His Son.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. – Romans 8:35-37 NLT

Earlier in the same chapter, Paul asks the rhetorical question: “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” And the answer is an obvious, “No one.” Oh, don’t misunderstand, there will always be those who are against us. Jeremiah had plenty of opposition, including people like Pashtur. But they were no match for God. They can hate us and even attack us, but in the end, God is for us and we will experience His will for us – despite them. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. That doesn’t guarantee us a trouble-free life. It simply means that we have someone on our side who will never leave us or forsake us. And Paul reminds us:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NLT

But how easy it is to forget all that. How quickly we can find ourselves taking our eyes off of God and putting them back on our circumstances. In a way, that is exactly what we see Jeremiah doing in this passage. Right after praising God for His coming deliverance, Jeremiah resorts to wishing he had never been born.

Yet I curse the day I was born!
    May no one celebrate the day of my birth. – Jeremiah 20:14 NLT

Why was I ever born?
    My entire life has been filled
    with trouble, sorrow, and shame. – Jeremiah 20:18 NLT

Like Peter, when he stepped out of the boat in the midst of the storm and began walking on the water toward the outstretched arms of Jesus, Jeremiah took his eyes off of God. And when he did, he began to sink under the waves of despair. The gospel of Matthew records what happened to Peter when he took his eyes off of Jesus.

But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. – Matthew 14:30 NLT

When he stopped trusting Jesus and started believing his circumstances were greater and more powerful than his God, he sank. And it was only when he cried out to Jesus that he was saved. Jeremiah was going to continue to experiencing rough days. His job was far from finished. There were going to be more threats and increasing resistance to his message. And to survive, he was going to have to keep his eyes on God. He was going to have to constantly remind himself of the power and presence of God, even in the midst of the storms of life.

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

Lies About the Love of God.

Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.– Jeremiah 14:13-16 ESV

Contradicting God is a dangerous game to play. But even more dangerous is to claim to speak on God’s behalf when it isn’t true. To say, “Thus says the Lord” when He has not spoken is to put false words in the mouth of God and to make Him out to be a liar. That is not something God will tolerate. Even Jeremiah, a prophet himself, was a bit confused by the words of those who claimed to be speaking for God. Their messages contradicted his own and, more than likely, caused him to question whether he might not be the one who was wrong. If nothing else, Jeremiah recognized that their message was a lot more acceptable, making them far more popular with the people.

“O Sovereign Lord, their prophets are telling them, ‘All is well—no war or famine will come. The Lord will surely send you peace.’” – Jeremiah 14:13 NLT

They were telling the people what they wanted to hear. They were promising that God was going to rescue them, not punish them. And the people swallowed their message like a kid eating candy. It tasted great, but in the long run, was going to be very bad for them. And God makes it clear to Jeremiah that these false prophets did not speak for Him. He had not sent them or given them any words to speak on His behalf. They were nothing more than self-appointed prophets and bold-faced liars.

“They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts.” – Jeremiah 14:14 NLT

If these individuals had bothered to read the covenant that God had made with the people of Israel, they would have known that their messages of peace did not gel with God’s warnings of curses for disobedience and unfaithfulness. But perhaps they did know, but they preferred to tell the people what they wanted to hear. It was messages of God’s mercy that resounded with the people, not Jeremiah’s warnings of doom and gloom. Painting God out to be all love and no wrath would prove to be popular, but it was anything but accurate. God is loving, but He is also just and righteous and must deal with sin. He cannot tolerate it or overlook it. It would violate His holiness to turn a blind eye toward sin – especially when it comes to His own people. Many of the laws He had given His people were prohibitive in nature, bearing the words, “Thou shall not…” These commands were not suggestions. They were not optional or discretionary in nature. They were to be obeyed. God’s love for the people of Israel was not going to supersede His holiness or His justice.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:11-12 NLT

Telling people that God loves them while ignoring their sin is to present God in a false light. It is to offer up a one-dimensional god whose love is overly tolerant and dangerously lenient. The god of many preachers and teachers today is more like a doddering old grandfather than a holy, righteous deity whose love is best expressed in offer of salvation from sin through the sacrificial death of His own Son.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – Romans 5:8 NLT

Ignoring the sins of mankind would not be love at all. Tolerating our sins and allowing us to continue in disobedience to His just and holy commands would be nothing less than a form of hatred. But God loves us too much to allow us to continue in sin unchecked. So He sent His Son to die on our behalf. And then He sent us to spread the message of the good news of salvation through faith in His Son. And part of that message is the reality of sin and the inevitability of death, eternal separation from God that sin produces. Failure to recognize our sins makes it difficult to accept the need for a Savior. Telling sinners that God loves them and would never punish them is not love, it is nothing less than a form of hatred. It is a lie. It creates a false sense of assurance and presents sin as non-dangerous and God’s wrath against it as non-existent.

But God told Jeremiah that the false prophets were in for a surprise.

“They say that no war or famine will come, but they themselves will die by war and famine!” – Jeremiah 14:15 NLT

They could deny God’s wrath, but that wasn’t going to make it go away. Pastors today deny the existence of hell or the reality of eternal punishment, but that doesn’t eliminate either one. Telling people that a loving God would never send anyone to hell will make them feel better, but it won’t prevent the inevitable from happening. Telling people the truth about God is the best way to express the love of God. It won’t make you popular, but it will give people a realistic view of who God is and how their own sins have separated them from the love of God. But God sent His Son to fix what was broken, to pay the penalty for sin and to provide mankind with a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. That is love. Anything less is a lie.

Contrary to popular belief, God is not going to save everyone. There is a heaven and a hell. There is a penalty for sin and that penalty is death – not just physical death, but eternal separation from God. You can deny these facts. You can downplay them. You can try to wish them away or contradict them with your own version of the truth. And while you may find yourself with a following, you’ll still be wrong and responsible for misleading others with lies. The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day would suffer the same fate as everyone else. They would painfully discover that their words were false and that God really does despise sin. And all He asks is that we confess our sins.

People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
    but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. – Proverbs 28:13 NLT

It is the acknowledgement of our sin that makes it clear we need salvation. Our sin separates us from God and only He has the remedy for that problem: His own Son. Salvation is found in no one else. He alone provides the means by which sinful men can be restored to a right relationship with a holy God.

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

Doom, But Not All Gloom.

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
    Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
    I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
    the alarm of war.
Crash follows hard on crash;
    the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are laid waste,
    my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard
    and hear the sound of the trumpet?

“For my people are foolish;
    they know me not;
they are stupid children;
    they have no understanding.
They are ‘wise’—in doing evil!
    But how to do good they know not.”

I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
    and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
    and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and behold, there was no man,
    and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
    and all its cities were laid in ruins
    before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.Jeremiah 4:19-27 ESV

As has been discussed before, the role of a prophet of God was far from easy. They were not automatons who mechanically went about their business. They were not heartless, unfeeling robots who simply mouthed the words given to them by God. They were flesh-and-blood human beings who were being required by God to deliver devastating news of pending destruction to their own people. In this section, we have the first of Jeremiah’s laments or confessions of anguish over what is about to happen to the people of Judah. He fully believed that what God said He was going to do, He would do; but he found no joy in that fact. He was emotionally distraught over the prospect of his people having to endure the suffering that was headed their way. His description of his physical condition speaks volumes concerning his mental and emotional state:

My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain!
    My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still. – Jeremiah 4:19 NLT

Whether God had given Jeremiah an actual vision of the coming invasion by the Babylonians is not clear. But Jeremiah describes those future events as if he has already witnessed them.

For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets
    and the roar of their battle cries. – Jeremiah 4:19 NLT

For Jeremiah, the future events that God has prescribed were unavoidable, but also unbearable. He was already tired of hearing about them and having to constantly describe them to the people. So, he calls out to God:

How long must I see the battle flags
    and hear the trumpets of war? – Jeremiah 4:21 NLT

It was all too much for him. But God reminds Jeremiah not to forget why he is having to suffer so much inner turmoil. There is a very good reason for his visions of destruction and his personal grief. Rather than point the finger at God, Jeremiah needed to recall the true cause of his unbearable sorrow. So, God tells him:

“My people are foolish
    and do not know me,” says the Lord.
“They are stupid children
    who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
    but they have no idea how to do right!” – Jeremiah 4:22 NLT

God speaks a powerful word of accusation over the people of Judah, claiming that they don’t even know Him. He describes them as ignorant and devoid of understanding. The only thing they know how to do well is sin. But they lacked the capacity to do what is right. This is a description of a people who had gone off the moral cliff and plunged themselves into a black hole of sin and immorality. They were not coming back. God knew that they were not going to repent of their sins and return to Him. Their destruction was not inevitable, it was unavoidable. As a righteous, holy and just God, He was obligated by His very nature to deal with their sins and keep the covenant He had made with them. He had told them that disobedience would bring curses upon them and He had been quite explicit in what those curses would entail.

“Because you have not served the Lord your God joyfully and wholeheartedly with the abundance of everything you have, instead in hunger, thirst, nakedness, and poverty you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. They will place an iron yoke on your neck until they have destroyed you. The Lord will raise up a distant nation against you, one from the other side of the earth as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of stern appearance that will have no regard for the elderly or pity for the young.” – Deuteronomy 28:47-50 NLT

God had done what He had promised to do. He had brought them into the land of promise. He had given them victories over their enemies. He had blessed them in innumerable ways, just as He had said He would do.

“The Lord will designate you as his holy people just as he promised you, if you keep his commandments and obey him. Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you belong to the Lord, and they will respect you. The Lord will greatly multiply your children, the offspring of your livestock, and the produce of your soil in the land which he promised your ancestors he would give you. The Lord will open for you his good treasure house, the heavens, to give you rain for the land in its season and to bless all you do; you will lend to many nations but you will not borrow from any.” – Deuteronomy 28:9-12 NLT

But the people of Judah and Israel had proven to be unfaithful and disobedient. They had not kept their side of the covenant. And so, God was bringing on them the very judgment He had said would come. He was keeping His word. And, evidently, God gave Jeremiah a look at the pre-release trailer of the coming destruction.

I looked at the earth, and it was empty and formless.
    I looked at the heavens, and there was no light.
I looked at the mountains and hills,
    and they trembled and shook.
I looked, and all the people were gone.
    All the birds of the sky had flown away.
I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.
    The towns lay in ruins,
    crushed by the Lord’s fierce anger. – Jeremiah 4:23-26 NLT

This was not going to be a slap on the wrist. What Jeremiah saw was total and complete destruction. The Babylonians were going to leave behind when they were done was a barren wasteland that was full of destroyed cities, but void of life. This was going to be an apocalypse. The once-great city of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, would have its walls completely destroyed. The city would be laid waste. Even the beautiful temple built by Solomon would be turned into a pile of rubble. Anything of value would be taken as booty by the Babylonians, and the people of Judah would be gathered up and marched off as slaves. And it would all be the result of God’s righteous anger. But the cause of His anger would be the sins of the people. This was not going to be some arbitrary, unprovoked outburst of uncontrollable anger from God. It was going to be His judgment against the open rebellion of the very people He had set apart as His own and blessed in unprecedented ways. The nuclear winter-like vision Jeremiah saw was the direct result of the sins of the people. They were getting what they deserved.

But wait. There is a silver lining to this dark cloud. God gives Jeremiah a glimpse of the good news that lay hidden in all the darkness.

This is what the Lord says:
“The whole land will be ruined,
    but I will not destroy it completely. – Jeremiah 4:27 NLT

It’s not much, but in this one verse lies a message of hope. As bad as things might have appeared in Jeremiah’s vision, there was a glimmer of light. God was not going to destroy the land completely. This was not going to be a complete destruction. While the people of Judah deserved nothing but total annihilation for their sins, God was going to show them mercy. He was going to extend them grace. A remnant would survive the coming holocaust. Not all would be killed or taken captive. God was still going to bless the people of Judah – in spite of them. His love for them would not fade. Yes, He was going to punish them for their sins, but He was not going to abandon them. He was not going to give up on them. Because He is faithful. And because He had a plan for the nation of Judah that was bigger than that one generation. He had a purpose for them as a nation for which they were unaware. He was going to raise up a king from the nation of Judah who would rule and reign in righteousness. God had made a covenant with King David, telling him:

“Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’” – 2 Samuel 7:16 NLT

And that promise would eventually be fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ, as Gabriel made clear to Mary:

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” – Luke 1:30-33 NLT

Judah would be preserved. Yes, they would end up in captivity in Babylon, but God would one day restore them to the land. Why? Because He had made a promise and He was going to keep it. He had a much bigger plan in store for the world. He was going to bring a Savior into the world who would bring a solution to the very sin problem that got Judah in trouble in the first place. Through His Son, God was going to provide a means by which mankind might find release from their slavery to sin and death. So, while Jeremiah saw only doom and gloom, God wanted him to know that this story was going to have a very happy ending.

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

Forgetting God.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,

“I remember the devotion of your youth,
    your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
    in a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
    the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
    disaster came upon them,
declares the Lord.”

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me
    that they went far from me,
and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
    who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
    in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
    in a land that none passes through,
    where no man dwells?’
And I brought you into a plentiful land
    to enjoy its fruits and its good things.
But when you came in, you defiled my land
    and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
    Those who handle the law did not know me;
the shepherds transgressed against me;
    the prophets prophesied by Baal
    and went after things that do not profit. – Jeremiah 2:1-8 ESV

God has been speaking to Jeremiah, but now, he gives the prophet his first message to deliver to the people living in Jerusalem, Judah’s capital city. These were God’s words, not Jeremiah’s. He was simply God’s spokesperson or mouthpiece, tasked with the responsibility of delivering God’s message faithfully and accurately. And the first thing God had Jeremiah say to the people was a stark assessment of their apostasy in the form of a stinging indictment. It starts off in the form of a reflection on God’s part, as He looks back on His relationship with the people of Israel. He recalls the early years of their relationship, when He delivered them from captivity in Egypt and led them through the wilderness. God describes Israel as His bride, lovingly following Him as their husband and redeemer. And God describes Israel as “holy to the Lord” (Jeremiah 2:3 ESV). They had been chosen by God and set apart as His own. The Hebrew word for holy is qodesh and it refers to something as having been deemed sacred by God and separated out for His use. Israel, in being redeemed from slavery in Egypt by God, had become His possession. They belonged to Him and to Him only. Like a bride and groom becoming one flesh, Israel and God were to be inseparable, with the people of Israel living in faithful submission to their loving redeemer. And God reminds the people how He had protected them in those early days. He refers to Israel as the “firstfruits” – a reference to the firstfruits of the harvest. Under the leadership of Moses, God had commanded the Israelites to give Him the firstfruits of their harvest each year. They were to take the first of what they harvested and present it to the Lord as an offering. It belonged to God and was not to be used for anything or by anyone else. The firstfruit offering was used to feed the priests of Israel and was not to be consumed by others. So, God refers to Israel as the firstfruits, belonging to Him and not to be given to anyone else. And God reminds Israel that He had protected them over the years, punishing those who tried to take what belonged to God.

But then God goes from reminiscing to questioning. He asks the people of Israel, “What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves?” (Jeremiah 2:5 NLT). It’s important to recognize that, while Jeremiah is delivering this message to the people of Judah living in Jerusalem, God keeps referring to them as Israel. You may recall that the nation of Israel had been split in two by God after the less-than-ideal end of Solomon’s reign as king. The nation of Israel was comprised of ten tribes to the north and the nation of Judah was made up of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, in the south. By the time Jeremiah came on to the scene, the northern nation of Israel had already been destroyed by the Assyrians because of their apostasy toward God. But God saw the tribe of Judah as the true Israel, because He had promised King David that a descendant of his would one day come to reign on his throne in Jerusalem forever. That promise referred to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. So, all throughout the book of Jeremiah, God will refer to Judah as Israel. And in spite of them having watched the fall of the northern kingdom, the people of Judah learned nothing from it. They followed in their footsteps, committing the same crimes against God that had led to Israel’s destruction. In fact, in the very next chapter, God will indict the people of Judah for their blatant disregard for what He had done to their neighbors to the north.

“Have you seen what fickle Israel has done? Like a wife who commits adultery, Israel has worshiped other gods on every hill and under every green tree. I thought, ‘After she has done all this, she will return to me.’ But she did not return, and her faithless sister Judah saw this. She saw that I divorced faithless Israel because of her adultery. But that treacherous sister Judah had no fear, and now she, too, has left me and given herself to prostitution. Israel treated it all so lightly—she thought nothing of committing adultery by worshiping idols made of wood and stone. So now the land has been polluted. But despite all this, her faithless sister Judah has never sincerely returned to me. She has only pretended to be sorry. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 3:6-10 NLT

They had completely forgotten about God. They no longer asked where He was or recalled all that He had done for them. They acted as if He didn’t even exist. Rather than living in grateful obedience to God in the land He had provided them, they defiled it by living in willful disobedience to and open disregard for Him. Even the priests and leaders failed to seek God.

“Those who taught my word ignored me,
    the rulers turned against me,
and the prophets spoke in the name of Baal,
    wasting their time on worthless idols.” – Jeremiah 2:8 NLT

The book of Ezekiel contains a stinging accusation from God against the people of Israel. In very graphic terms, it portrays Israel as a newborn baby, unwanted and left in a field to die. But God found Israel and provided care and nourishment. Israel grew up into a beautiful woman and God chose Israel to be His bride.

“I gave you expensive clothing of fine linen and silk, beautifully embroidered, and sandals made of fine goatskin leather. I gave you lovely jewelry, bracelets, beautiful necklaces, a ring for your nose, earrings for your ears, and a lovely crown for your head. And so you were adorned with gold and silver. Your clothes were made of fine linen and costly fabric and were beautifully embroidered. You ate the finest foods—choice flour, honey, and olive oil—and became more beautiful than ever. You looked like a queen, and so you were! Your fame soon spread throughout the world because of your beauty. I dressed you in my splendor and perfected your beauty, says the Sovereign Lord.

“But you thought your fame and beauty were your own. So you gave yourself as a prostitute to every man who came along. Your beauty was theirs for the asking. You used the lovely things I gave you to make shrines for idols, where you played the prostitute. Unbelievable! How could such a thing ever happen? You took the very jewels and gold and silver ornaments I had given you and made statues of men and worshiped them. This is adultery against me! You used the beautifully embroidered clothes I gave you to dress your idols. Then you used my special oil and my incense to worship them. Imagine it! You set before them as a sacrifice the choice flour, olive oil, and honey I had given you, says the Sovereign Lord. – Ezekiel 16:10-19 NLT

After all God had done for them, Israel had treated God with disdain and disrespect. They turned against Him, forsaking His love and giving their devotion to false gods. They had been set apart by God as His own. They had been deemed holy by God and dedicated by Him to a life of faithfulness to Him. But they had chosen to reject their Redeemer and give their love and affection to someone else.

“What a sick heart you have, says the Sovereign Lord, to do such things as these, acting like a shameless prostitute. – Ezekiel 16:30 NLT

They had forgotten God. They had turned their backs on the very One who had rescued them from slavery and graciously given them a land they didn’t deserve and a love that was undeserved. And they treated it all with contempt. The grace and mercy of God meant nothing to them. The love of God was not enough for them. Their status as God’s possession was meaningless to them. They treated God’s devotion with disregard. They responded to His love by loving others. They reacted to His faithfulness with unfaithfulness, and to His unmerited favor with unimaginable forgetfulness. “What a sick heart you have!”

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

Light In the Darkness.

Now Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. And when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” And Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?” And Hushai said to Absalom, “No, for whom the Lord and this people and all the men of Israel have chosen, his I will be, and with him I will remain. And again, whom should I serve? Should it not be his son? As I have served your father, so I will serve you.”

Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your counsel. What shall we do?” Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house, and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof. And Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom. – 2 Samuel 16:15-23 ESV

Absalom entered Jerusalem. His carefully and patiently planned coup had come off without a hitch. Without lifting a sword or shedding a drop of blood, Absalom had stolen his father’s throne and elevated himself to the highest position in the land. And yet, from God’s perspective, nothing had changed. David was still the anointed king of Israel. God had not chosen Absalom to replace David. But God was using Absalom to fulfill the words He had spoken against David for his sins of adultery and murder. The prophet, Nathan, had given David the bad news:

“This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.” – 2 Samuel 12:11-12 NLT

And in keeping with His word, God saw to it that this was exactly what happened. Based on the counsel of Ahithophel, Absalom took the ten concubines who had been left behind by David to maintain the palace, and had sexual relations with them. This was intended to be an insult to David, showing that Absalom had not only taken David’s kingdom and palace, but everything that had once belonged to him. And this final slap in the face to David was done in public view so everyone would know exactly what was happening. A tent was erected on the roof of David’s former palace and the news was of what Absalom was doing was spread throughout the city. But it is essential that we recognize this all part of God’s will. He had warned David this very thing would happen. From that very same roof top, David had spied Bathsheba bathing and lusted after her. He had sent for her and slept with her. Then to cover his sin and the unexpected news that she was pregnant, he would have her husband executed. David’s sin had been done in secret. But God’s discipline of David would be for all to see.

Like so many other times in the Scriptures, God was using an enemy to teach His child a lesson. God was using an unexpected source as a means of discipline in the life of one of his children. And it would seem that the counsel Ahithophel provided to Absalom came directly from God Himself. God was using this former counselor of David, who had treacherously aided Absalom in his overthrow of the kingdom, to accomplish His divine will concerning David’s punishment. This was all part of God’s plan. At no point was God out of control or up in heaven shaking His head in surprise at all that was taking place. God was using these events to accomplish His will and He had more in store for Absalom than his surprising ascension to the throne. While, from a human perspective, all looked lost, God was in complete control of every single aspect of this entire affair. As demoralizing and humiliating as all of this was to David, God was at work. He was simply fulfilling what He had promised and accomplishing all that He had planned. What appeared to be an unmitigated disaster was actually part of God’s sovereign will.

There is an invaluable lesson in this chapter for each of us who claim to be children of God. When we encounter difficulties and trials in our lives, it is so easy for us to automatically assume that God is somehow out of control. We have somehow convinced ourselves that the presence of difficulties in our lives is a proof of the absence of God. When we see our enemies celebrating their victories over us, we jump to the conclusion that God doesn’t care. It would have been easy for David to assume that God was now with Absalom. After all, he had won the hearts of the people. And David could think of plenty of reasons why God would want to replace him as king. But David didn’t have access to the mind of God. He had no idea what God was doing behind the scenes. And one of the hardest things for the child of God to do is to trust God, regardless of what we see happening around us. From a human perspective, it all appeared as if Absalom’s plans had succeeded. But the Scriptures would have us remember that God’s plans trump those of men each and every time.

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. – Proverbs 16:9 NLT

You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. – Proverbs 19:21 NLT

The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has spoken – who can change his plans? When his hand is raised, who can stop him? – Isaiah 14:27 NLT

Absalom believed his plan had succeeded. And it had. But only because God had a greater plan in store for all involved. While Absalom gloated over his victory from the throne in Jerusalem and David mourned over his fate somewhere along the banks of the Jordan, God was working His plan. He was orchestrating affairs in such a way that both men would be in for a surprise as to how this whole affair turned out. God had chosen David to be king, and nothing Absalom did was going to change that fact. He could take over David’s throne temporarily, but not permanently, and only because God had allowed it. David found himself defeated, dethroned, and demoralized, but God was not done yet. He was still God’s choice to be king. His son, Solomon, would be God’s handpicked successor, not Absalom. And while things looked bleak, God was in full control.

When our circumstances create uncertainty and leave us in a state of doubt and confusion, we are to look to God. He is always on His throne. His power is constant. His will is unavoidable. His plans are unstoppable. His love for us is inescapable. It was during this difficult time in David’s life that he penned the words of Psalm 3. They reflect his trust in God’s unfailing love for him – even in the darkest moments of life.

O Lord, I have so many enemies;
    so many are against me.
So many are saying,
    “God will never rescue him!” Interlude

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side.

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
    May you bless your people. – Psalm 3

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

The Joy of Forgiveness.

Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and took the royal city. And Joab sent messengers to David and said, “I have fought against Rabbah; moreover, I have taken the city of waters. Now then gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called by my name.” So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah and fought against it and took it. And he took the crown of their king from his head. The weight of it was a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone, and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. And he brought out the people who were in it and set them to labor with saws and iron picks and iron axes and made them toil at the brick kilns. And thus he did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem. – 2 Samuel 12:24-31 ESV

Because of his sin, David lost a son. Because of his repentance, David was given a son. And he named him Solomon (Shĕlomoh). The name David gave this second son born to he and Bathsheba is a derivative of the Hebrew word for peace – shalowm. There is little doubt that, after having received his punishment from God, David was grateful to have been restored back to a right relationship with God. Psalm 51, written by David as a result of his sin with Bathsheba and the forgiveness he received from God, reflects David’s heart at this most difficult period of his life. First of all, he knew his sin.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. – Psalm 51:5-6 ESV

But he wanted to be made right with God. He wanted to enjoy God’s presence and pleasure again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit. – Psalm 51:10-12 ESV

And David pledged that if God would restore him fully, he would praise him.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise. – Psalm 51:14-15 ESV

So, with the birth of Solomon, David was obviously feeling a sense of restored peace with God and that most likely explains the name given to his newborn son. But he also gave his son another name, Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord”. This name too, reflects David’s understanding of God. Yes, God had punished David for his sins. But He had also forgiven and restored David. David had been broken by God. He had been disciplined for his sins and brought to a point of repentance, which resulted in his restoration. And he had learned a valuable lesson.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:17 ESV

David had experienced the truth found in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In another one of his psalms, David penned these encouraging words:

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:5 NLT

The apostle Paul reminds us: “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4 NLT). He wrote a similar thing to the believers in Corinth: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT). God loved David, so much so that He was not willing to allow David to remain in his sin. He disciplined him because He loved him. He sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. He brought David to a point of brokenness, because He loved him. And when David confessed, God restored him. In spite of all he had done, David once again enjoyed peace with God and knew that he was loved by God.

David was given a second chance. He was provided with a second son, whose name was Solomon. And it should not escape our attention that, even though Bathsheba had become David’s wife through sinful, deceptive means, God gave David a son through this very same woman. And that son would become the heir to the throne and enjoy the pleasure of God and know what it means to have the hand of God on his life.

It should not escape our attention that Bathsheba is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus found in Matthew 1.

…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah… – Matthew 1:5-7 ESV

In fact, there are three women mentioned: Rahab, who had been a pagan prostitute; Ruth, a Moabitess; and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. God used these seemingly unfit, unqualified women to bring about the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. What a timely reminder that our sins cannot derail God’s plans. His providence can overcome our proclivity to sin. Even our greatest periods of unfaithfulness are always met by His faithfulness.

The rest of the chapter reflects this fact. God gave David victory over his enemies. And David had learned an invaluable lesson.  Once again, we see Joab going to war against the enemies of Israel, but this time, David took part. No more staying back in Jerusalem while his troops did all the work. Joab effectively captured the Ammonite city of Rabbah, but called for David to bring the rest of the troops so that he might receive the glory of taking the city. He jokingly chided David, saying, I have fought against Rabbah and captured its water supply. Now bring the rest of the army and capture the city. Otherwise, I will capture it and get credit for the victory” (2 Samuel 12:27-28 NLT). And David took the city and captured the king, his crown, and all the people. And the text tells us, “thus he did to all the cities of the Ammonites” (2 Samuel 12:31 ESV). David had returned to his primary role as the warrior-king of Israel. He went back to doing what God had chosen him to do, and God gave him success. David had sinned. God had brought discipline. As a result, David repented and God restored him. This amazing reality didn’t escape David. He would later write a psalm that reflects his understanding of and appreciation for God’s love and forgiveness:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:8-12 ESV

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even our greatest sins, when confessed and repented of, bring God’s forgiveness and complete restoration.

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