Yesterday we looked at Jeremiah 2 and saw ourselves in Israel’s rebellion. Like the Israelites, sometimes we choose to abandon God and go find substitute gods. We stop trusting the Lord and trust ourselves instead. We lose our awe of the Lord; we harden our hearts; we refuse to call sin sin.
We leave God with every right to abandon us. We have not loved Him well. In some cases, we have not loved Him at all. He has given us everything we have, including our lives themselves… but our twisted hearts have chosen to dishonor Him. We’ve opted to do things our way instead, loving ourselves and others more than God.
The Lord would be totally justified to wash His hands of Israel and of us forever.
But He doesn’t.
Instead, He says, “Return, faithless Israel…I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful…I will not be angry forever,” (Jeremiah 3:12).
What kind of God is this that loves the undeserving? How can anyone, much less the GOD OF EVERYTHING, extend this kind of mercy to the very people that have abandoned Him?
My brain cannot process this love. It makes no sense to humans. We don’t practice this kind of love, so we’ve never experienced it. It cannot be real. There must be some kind of catch. The verse says “return”… but that can’t be all one has to do to receive God’s mercy.
God goes on to say, “Only acknowledge your guilt–you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,” (Jeremiah 3:13).
Jeremiah 2 gives us the two-step plan to commit idolatry.
- Abandon God
- Find God Substitute
And Jeremiah 3 gives us the two-step plan to receive God’s mercy.
- Return to God
- Acknowledge Your Guilt
Simple. But not easy.
Oh, how my pride flares up at that second step! I know I have sinned, but I refuse to admit it. God knows I have sinned, but I still refuse to admit it. WHY?
I am not the only one who struggles with step two. Many people will never accept Jesus’ gift of salvation because they staunchly refuse to acknowledge their guilt – their need of such a gift.
I’m sure a psych major could confirm there are several reasons why we dig in our heels when it comes to acknowledging guilt. Some of us have egos the size of China, and we are actually unwilling to believe we can do wrong. Some of us have the self-esteem of Eeyore, and we are afraid people won’t love us or value us if we admit we did something bad. Those of us who are particularly depraved oscillate between these two extremes.
But if we get hung up on “acknowledge your guilt”, we miss God’s heart in all of this.
Hear what God is saying.
“Return, faithless people…I will choose you…I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding…No longer will [you] follow the stubbornness of [your] evil hearts…How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation…Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding,” (Jeremiah 3:14, 15, 17, 19, 22).
Look past “acknowledge your guilt” and see the mercy and love God offers us! I want Him to choose me. I want knowledge and understanding. I want to stop following my stubborn heart. I want the blessings He has for me. And I want to be cured of my backsliding!
When we begin to understand the richness that can be ours, acknowledging guilt doesn’t seem so terrible. And when we start to realize, “Surely the [idolatrous] commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel,” the less we want our own idols (Jeremiah 3:23).
Whatever idol you are choosing – yourself, another person, another thing – it is a DECEPTION. Salvation is in the Lord. Return to God. Acknowledge your guilt. And feel His mercy and love wash over you afresh. He will frown on you no longer. He is merciful.
It struck me when you said we don’t understand this love because we don’t practice this kind of love, that I must practice this kind of love, I must experience it from God and others and practice it with others. Thank God that He and several people have loved me this way. But now I have no excuse.