I’ve been reading in Jeremiah lately, and for days I felt discouraged by the doom and gloom as Jeremiah prophesied Judah’s destruction. Their sins were many, they had sacrificed their children to Baal, something that God condemns again and again as completely detestable to Him. Other prophets come in and paint pretty pictures of God’s blessing on their lives, but these prophesies are completely false. The future of Judah is filled with war, famine, disease, death, and slavery. They will be wounded with a wound that has no cure.
After 28 chapters of doom, its pretty clear that all hope is lost. God is incredibly clear, they have no hope. His anger is unshakable. If they had only repented! He’s very clear that He won’t scourge a people who repent, and those who do not will be completely destroyed. And then you reach chapter 29. Jeremiah writes a letter to the people in exile in Babylon. I’d like you to read it with me.
“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” This is what the lord of heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the LORD. This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jer 29:5-14
Wait, wait, wait! I just read 28 chapters of destruction here! This exile is meant to destroy Judah! Isn’t it? But here He is commanding the people to prosper in adversity because He is going to bring them back. In the next few chapters He promises that everything will be restored, and that He will fight for them and destroy all their enemies!
But what happened to the wound that had no cure? He’s very clear, He wounded them, He scourged them, He took the pot that was them, and He crushed it! In the same chapter He says that “Your injury is incurable- a terrible wound. There is no one to help you or to bind up your injury. No medicine can heal you.” Jer 30:12a-13 And then turns around and declares, “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds” Jer 30:17a
The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potters shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Jer 18:1-4
The idea of God being a potter and us the clay is not a new one, its a kind of pretty idea, that He is forming us into this beautiful vessel for His use. Except for that part where He crushes us… that isn’t so pretty is it? But if a clay pot is not formed correctly, if, for instance, there are air bubbles left in the clay, it will not survive the firing process. In fact, it may explode.
Sometimes God’s refining process is painful. It doesn’t seem fair or right. And to step back and trust that an unseen being up in the sky somehow knows what is best for us quite frankly seems insane. People look at the Old Testament, and this vengeful God who punished whole nations for a generations mistakes, and we say He’s an angry God, cruel and destructive. But if you look and are willing to see, there is so much depth here for you to mine.
In the past I deliberately uprooted and tore down this nation. I overthrew it, destroyed it, and brought disaster upon it. But in the future I will just as deliberately plant it and build it up. I the LORD, have spoken! The people will no longer quote this proverb: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and their children’s mouths pucker at the taste.’ All people will die for their own sins- those who eat the sour grapes will be the ones whose mouths will pucker. “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “When I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jer 31:28-33
What is this new covenant if not the Covenant written in Christ’s Blood? Now we are not judged as nations and generations, but as individuals. Everything before was God’s divine grace as He sought to protect the line that would bring Christ! Why did He have to remove so many nations from around Israel? Why did He have to deal with Israel so severely? To protect this line, to ensure that salvation could come.
He deals seemingly severely with us sometimes… doesn’t He? How often have you felt like that pot being crushed? You’ve messed up, you’ve made mistakes, and God allowed the consequences of those mistakes to bring you through a wine press… crushing you until you bleed. Or maybe it wasn’t even your sin that brought the pain, maybe it was the trials that come from living in a world ruled by sin. But God didn’t spare you the pain! Why didn’t He protect you in a bubble so that you would never get hurt? Isn’t He supposed to be loving?
What happens to a child who is never disciplined? Well unless they are exceptionally good tempered to begin with they will generally grow up and find out that the world outside their parents home doesn’t spare the punches. Their wrong and selfish decisions will, at one point or another, destroy them. What happens to a child who is over protected? Well… again, when they get out into the world they are going to find out that the world isn’t so nice. It might even destroy them.
The thing is, we live on planet earth, and its filled with sin and bad things. That wasn’t what God’s plan was, that wasn’t His intention, it’s just what happened when sin came into the world through man-kinds ill-use of freewill. A freewill God gave us because He is a God of grace who wants real relationship with us, not a god of robot minions.
But here is the fantastic silver lining:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly you will find me. I will be found by you,” Jer 29:11-12
God knew from the beginning that all this would happen, and He worked an answer to our mess ups into the story before the very first line. That Covenant! That Christ! That Blood! And no matter what, no matter what, He is not going to leave you in exile. He will not leave you crushed!
In fact, every negative the world throws at us, God has the amazing ability to turn into a positive! I’m not saying the negative IS a positive, but that God can use it to help us grow, use it to squeeze out the bubbles so we won’t explode in the fire, use it to cut out the impurities till we shine, use it to beat out the dust, squeeze out the grime, and then my friend, oh the things He has for you if you prosper in your exile!
He will bring such amazing fruit in your life! He will be able to use your life to reach so many with the beautiful testimony that will be you! And so many more will be there with you before Him in eternity!
You might be crushed now, but trust, because you’re going to be the most beautiful piece of pottery you could possibly imagine!
~Joy Aletheia Stevens