Grace in the wilderness
Does life sometimes feel like a wilderness, devoid of joy and comfort? What are the things that hold you in captivity? And where is God when life hurts?
In today’s passage, the prophet Jeremiah is speaking to the people of Judah who were taken captive by the Babylonians. He brings the weary exiles the words of the Lord. The words offer assurance that they are the people of God who has not forsaken them, but who is with them and loves them with an everlasting love. The words are ripe with expectant promise that the captives will be restored to their homeland and will once again enjoy the work of their hands and the fruit of their labors. And yes, the words leap with songs of joyful celebration and noisy merrymaking! For the day will come when those in captivity will hear the call to go up to Zion, to the Lord their God, and live in peace and freedom.
Not only have the captives survived the sword and been promised restoration, but the grace in the Babylonian wilderness is this: it is the assurance, comfort, promise and joy that God loves them and is with them, even here, even now, even in this captivity.
I’ve known the wilderness times. I’ve been captive to fear and discouragement, hopelessness and doubt. My natural desire is to get through, get out, get away as quickly as possible from the wilderness in which I’m held captive. But sometimes in my haste, I miss the grace of the wilderness times. I forget that God loves me with an everlasting love, that God is with me there – especially there. As sure as the promise that God will restore me is the assurance that God loves me even when life hurts. Perhaps it is this realization that is a greater grace than the speed at which I move on to freedom.
Indeed today, this is the grace to be found in your wilderness too. May it be so.
Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take your tambourines,
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’