The message of the Lord through Jeremiah and the other prophets to Judah was very clear. The time for the people to decide who God was to be in their lives was at hand.
5 “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your ancestors for ever and ever. 6 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.”
7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the Lord… Jeremiah 25:5-7a NIV
As a result of the failure of Judah’s people and their kings to do the right thing, they were facing a seventy-year exile in Babylon – an incarceration of sorts. God would permit the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar to be used as an instrument of discipline and judgement against them, yet later, would punish Babylon for their evil motives in doing so.
12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. Jeremiah 25:12 NIV
As always, God’s motives were completely holy, just, and pure in the matter. He longed for His people to turn away from evil and return to His Light. After years of sending them His prophets, many of whom the people killed, He determined that Judah’s defeat and exile were the only ways to save them in the long run.
5 …I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. 6 My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:5b-7 NIV
The Lord promised that He would watch over and protect His people during their seventy-year exile to Babylon, and regard them as good. Many exiles would gather by the river there to worship Him, something they were not doing back in their own land. But He emphasized to them that His power and presence were not at all limited by geography.
23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
“and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:23-24 NIV
Many people around the globe are currently facing incarceration. Most are there because of something they have done in the past. But geography does not limit the Lord. He can be found behind prison bars just as easily as on the banks of a river in Babylon, on a remote island anywhere around the globe, or in the deepest part of the universe. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, wherever we are.
But what about my past? Am I doomed to an eternal judgement by the Lord because of the crimes I have committed?
The beauty of God includes a bounty of forgiveness and love for each one of us, no matter where we are or what we have done. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to wipe away all of our sins if we will humbly take them before Him. If we refuse to accept that Christ has forgiven all of our sin, we are implying that His sacrifice on the cross was not enough to get the job done. That is a false belief.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV
Notice the words “all unrighteousness”. It is not “some”, it is not “most” – God’s word says “all”.
If we humbly and sincerely confess our sin and seek to turn away from our sinful acts, He will gladly wipe our slate clean and cover us with pure garments and a citizenship in heaven. All He asks is that we try to do the next right thing, that we love others, and seek to forgive those who have harmed us. That is not always easy to do, but it is well worth the effort.
No one wants to be incarcerated. But for many, including the people of Judah at the time of their exile, it was the only way to slow them down from a lifestyle of death and introduce (or re-introduce) them to the life-giving care of a loving God. Whatever your situation today, may you enjoy His presence and peace and recognize His great love for you.
What false gods am I clinging to today? These can be anything that draws our heart and devotion away from the Lord.
We are all striving for something – what is it? Has an obsession to achieve something hardened our heart or crowded out room for the Lord?
Father God, I trust that whatever my situation is today, You are here, You love me, and You want the very best for my life. Thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross to take away all of my sin. I humbly confess my wrongs and ask for Your help in forgiving those who have hurt me. Reveal to me the areas where I need to trust You more and to surrender my needs to Your care. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.